We spent the whole day doing a cooking class. We met lovely Emilia and her husband in the morning and went shopping at the Sunday market. The market was an astounding array of fruits and vegetables of all shapes and sizes, as well as meat and the freshest fish and seafood. It was great going with a local and being able to ask what different things were. We bought enough for a small army and stopped off for a bite to eat before heading to Emilia’s.
We took the boat across the Sarawak River to Emilia’s village (kampung) on the north shore. The village was a small collection of houses, a number at the water’s edge. We spent quite a while preparing all of the ingredients – I have never peeled and chopped up that much garlic or shallots in my life! As Emilia explained, being a part of the whole process including preparation, gives us more of an insight into the culture and all that is involved in putting together such a feast. It was also interesting hearing a little about Emilia and her family – her mother is Bidayuh and her father half Bidayuh and half Melanau – two of Sarawak’s ethnic groups.
The three dishes we made were beef rendang, a true Malaysian favourite, pansoh manok (tapioca leaves and chicken marinated in garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, and then stuffed in bamboo sticks and cooked over the fire – in the absence of a fire and bamboo sticks, you can just steam it in a pot), and midin (jungle ferns – this particular type specific to Sarawak – cooked with prawn paste and dried fish). Kylie and I, Emilia and her mother were busy most of the day preparing and cooking the food, interrupted every so often by playing with or disciplining Emilia’s gorgeous 3 year old son. Emilia’s husband also spent a long time outside patiently tending to the pansoh over the fire.
The process of cooking the rendang was particularly interesting. We gently toasted the coconut in a wok until it was golden brown, then grinded it in a mortar and pestle until it was a deep brown and slightly oily. Then the gradual cooking of the beef with chilli, ginger, garlic, turmeric, shallot, galangal with coconut milk. Right towards the end the ground toasted coconut and turmeric leaves (I believe) are added.
Late in the afternoon we sat down to feast with Emilia’s family – her children, mother and father. The rendang tasted delicious, tender and full of favour. The pansoh was deliciously moist and succulent and flavoured by the bamboo. The midin had the texture of mesclun and tasted of the shrimp paste and dried fish.
Overall, a great experience and an enjoyable day’s cooking. Anyone interested should definitely look into it (it’s only on Sundays) – you can get in touch about the course via this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.