BOOK MY STAY

SHARE

The Ins and Outs of Malay Cuisine Decoded
Activity
The Ins and Outs of Malay Cuisine Decoded
WRITER: Natalie Joy Lee PHOTOS BY: Ryan Loh
The Ins and Outs of Malay Cuisine Decoded 22. May 2019, by Natalie Joy Lee, Photos by Ryan Loh
We learn the art of Malay cuisine at Casa del Mar Langkawi’s popular cooking class, taught by ‘skinny’ Chef Khairul Ghazali.

We are standing as a light breeze ruffles our poolside wear, all comfortable and ready to get our hands dirty. The grill is set up facing the pearly sands of Langkawi’s Cenang Beach, and next to it are two tables jammed from end to end with all manners of cooking related gear—neatly laid clean crockery, disposable gloves, and some sort of printed instructions on paper.

And then the visual feast: fresh fish, tender meats, and a smattering array of fragrant spices such as tamarind juice, fresh galangal (not to be confused with ginger), cumin, coriander, turmeric, fennel seeds…all in preparation for our three-course Malay cooking class.

This is none other than Casa del Mar Langkawi’s popular cooking class, taught by ‘skinny’ Chef Khairul Ghazali himself —but don’t let his lean frame fool you. He’s the man responsible for pulling in packed dining crowds daily at the beach facing La Sal Restaurant; we hear even non-hotel guests can’t resist! For faithful patrons who have repeatedly chosen to holiday with the hotel, cooking up a Malaysian feast aided by Chef Khairul is an oft-picked part of their return trips.

The personable Executive Chef earned his stripes training seven years under local Chef Zabidi Ibrahim, widely considered as the pioneer who elevated the then-raw Malay cuisine into a package suitable for today’s modern diners. Chef Khairul still vividly remembers his “very stern mentor”, and how “while apprenticing as Commis 1 in 1997, I wanted to cook a frozen fish—he threw it back at me!”

Cooking classes at Casa del Mar are available upon request (best booked before arrival).

One of the immediate things you’ll notice about Malay cuisine, is the sheer amount of spices used to bring out a dish’s flavour.

One of the most often heard complaints by his students? How skewering satay ayam looks deceptively simply, but in fact takes much skill.

One of the most often heard complaints by his students? How skewering satay ayam looks deceptively simply, but in fact takes much skill.

At the tail end of preparing a crowd favourite: satay ayam (chicken on skewers), best paired with fragrant peanut sauce.

Gulai ikan dengan bendi (Malay fish curry with okra).

Always use fresh ingredients to get good results, Chef Khairul advises.

Menus can be curated to fit culinary preferences and specific needs, with Chef Khairul there every step of the way so even beginners can fit right in.

Back to our menu for the day and feast fit for any foodie: satay ayam (chicken on skewers) with traditional peanut sauce, gulai ikan dengan bendi (Malay fish curry with okra) and butir nangka (jackfruit seeds in coconut milk).

While I consider myself a fair cook, halfway through class, a word of advice chef shared at the beginning suddenly began to make much sense. “Skewering meat for satay looks simple but it’s hard,” was his sagely advice, as I clumsily tried to navigate the uneven chunks of meat. I later learnt the key is to thread through with the meat flat on my fingers, and leaving no parts of the skewer exposed, to prevent the bamboo from catching fire while grilling.

The biggest surprise, however, had to be just how easy Malay fish curry was to whip up. It’s all about having the right spread of ingredients at your fingertips, faithfully adding them in the right sequence, and always, tasting before turning off the gas. Much later, seated before Langkawi’s magical sunset of dancing purples and pinks, even my regular routine of dining became sweeter, as we tucked into this delicious labour of love.

Stand a chance to win a 2-night stay in a Seaview Studio Suite at Casa del Mar Langkawi.

Click on this link to our Contest Page and answer the questions. Contest ends on 31 July 2019.

EXPLORE MORE