Cooking classes in Langkawi are generally limited to the occasional resort and hotel recreational activity and non-guests are often allowed to participate for a not-so-small fee. But with the influx of new tourist traffic this may soon change, as local cuisine is once again embraced as part of the ‘cultural’ experience tourism package that is growing in popularity throughout Malaysia.
The pioneer in Langkawi culinary arts is Chef Shukri, who for years has held cookery classes at his family home in the jungle, complete with the traditional preparation of Malay food and interesting background histories. These days, Chef Shuk, of ‘Cook with Shuk’ fame, keeps a rather busy schedule but if your travel time allows a possible waiting period his culinary expertise is worth the wait from the praises we’ve heard.
But for a unique and more affordable option, we chose the recently introduced ayurvedic vegetarian cooking class easily available through Ishan Malaysian Spa and adjoining Ambong-Ambong Rainforest Retreat in Pantai Tengah. This open-to-the public class includes an introduction to Langkawi medicinal plants and nutrition as well as the finer nuances of extra-healthy vegetarian food options, for just 180 ringgit. This also includes a delicious lunch made possible by the class production line.
Cooking class director and spa owner Baskarin Kosthi and his wife Sathia are on hand to answer questions about medicinal herbs or explain how certain food combinations work. They start the class with a short intro-to-local-plants walk around the retreat and spa grounds, smelling and tasting various leaves. From smelling the aromatic crushed up leaves of the mango tree to tasting the bitter leaves of the flavour enhancing curry tree, each plant is highlighted for its unique medicinal or useful properties.
The class itself is two to three hours long depending on the astuteness and dexterity of the students — the class won’t however need to be cut short for slow learners, because most prep work is taken care of prior to class, so no dicing and slicing needed. As space is limited to four or five students tops, each student is guided through an assigned recipe one-on-one style. This particular class focused on preparing a delicious Indian feast. The various herbs and vegetables obtainable at Langkawi’s local wet markets and specialty shops are all carefully combined under the guidance of Sathia.
For the uninformed the idea of an ayurvedic food may conjure images of tasteless sun-baked bread and wheat grass shakes, but ayurvedic cooking can embrace wellness philosophies in many tasty ways — and this class may sway the minds of any naysayer.
By Vanessa Workman
Last updated on 24th August, 2014.