I was getting withdrawal symptoms. I hadn’t been to Lazat cooking school for six whole weeks when until September I’d never managed more than a month without a return trip to the Malay house in Penchala Hills. I had the perfect excuse.
Sue and Pete have come to stay. They are one half of the ‘bestest Oman friends’ crew of the previous post about Langkawi. It was Sue who co-authored a cookbook called Dates with me back in 1995. Sue the food scientist. Sue the foodie. Sue the fabulous cook. And Sue just had a rather large birthday. So Gill (our other ‘bestest Oman friend’ and who just came to Langkawi with us all) and I had the perfect present for her – a cooking class at Lazat.
Mondays are Vegetarian Indonesian Day over there and my mouth watered at the prospect of learning how to made gado-gado at long last. I’d already heard how delicious a pineapple curry could be and had been longing to make bananas in coconut milk for some time. The fact that a fourth dish, of pumpkin and spinach curry in coconut milk, was also on the menu made this a wonderful choice.
I’d invited my fairly-newly-arrived-in-KL friend, Anne, to join us, too. Anne had first been introduced to the delights of Lazat when I’d booked the special roti canai course back in August and was eager to go again.
Sue, Pete, Anne and I met at the TTDI market as usual and Sue (teacher Sue, not my friend Sue, I know it’s going to be confusing) introduced us to salty eggs (they look like spiny black sea-urchins) and kerasik (a roasted coconut purée). Even though this was my second trip to TTDI with Lazat, it was a completely different experience with a different guide. This time, oh joy, we finished off with an impromptu trip to the roti canai man and all stuffed our faces with the rich bready pancakes that cost just a ringgit for plain or 2 ringgit for one with a filling. That’s 40p. I had a banana one. Pete and Sue (friend Sue) went for onion and egg. Best find on the market, I can tell you, though I did get excited by the fat bunch of tree fern Sue found me for 4 ringgit and that the six of us (Gill and Pete, from the Langkawi holiday are still here you see) enjoyed later for supper.
Back at Lazat we discovered that our menu was all about the pounding. Our poor old pestles and mortars were washed up and re-used four times. We pounded peanuts, chillies, shallots, fresh chillies, fried chillies, kerasik and goodness knows what else. But when we poured our peanutty, spicy, oniony, kaffir limey, chill-laden sauce over a mix of blanched veg, hard-boiled eggs, tofu and tempeh I tell you the taste was lip-smackingly divine. I mean, so delicious you want to grab that mortar back out of the sink and lick it clean.
The other curries we scrumptious and I’d never have believed pineapple would be so brilliant in a savoury dish that had no other main ingredient. Sue (teacher Sue) told us that you could use eggplant instead if you wanted. I shall.
Sue (teacher) is a hilarious teacher. She’s only about four foot nothing but has a personality the size of the KL Menara Tower. Not only does she burst into song at unexpected moments but it does not take much persuasion to get her to do her Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver impersonations either.
Finally, I can’t call it the piece de resistance, because every dish was utterly fab, but the crowning glory was those bananas in coconut milk with palm sugar. Oh boy oh boy, you even cook them a little and the resulting pudding makes you sink back in your chair and sigh. It’s a little salty and caramelly and squishy and sweet.
“Imagine this hot on ice cream!” suggested Sue (friend). Oh Sue, now you’re talking.
That evening our leftovers (with the addition of my garlic wokked tree fern) stretched easily to feed all six of us. Pete B really did lick out both the gado gado and the banana bowls. Yep, Lazat, you did it again. And boy will I never forget that lazat means delicious.
When I told our son, Joshua, about our fourth trip to Lazat he was green with envy. He’s now back in London and our first, second and third trips there had all been his idea. While Malaysian food is catching on in England now, he is much miffed that a roti canai costs ten times the price. I know what I’ll be making him and his brother, Sam, over Christmas!