Last week my friends and I visited a lovely little retreat, Bayan Indah, hidden away in a little kampung (village), for a cooking class. The house was lovely, and even though we were just a few miles away from IKEA and one of the biggest malls in Kuala Lumpur, you’d never know it from stepping onto this calm little pied-a-terre.
Top, left: an outer petal of the banana flower, peeled away, reveals undeveloped tiny bananas inside; top right: I’m holding a banana flower to show you just how huge they are; bottom right: an onde-onde (Malaysian-style mochi) with gula melaka (palm sugar); bottom right: toasting freshly grated coconut in a wok
Our focus on the day was local Malay food (not to be confused with Malaysian Chinese or Malaysian Indian, which are totally different and also have subcategories of cuisine with each). I was the most excited about learning how to break down and cook a banana flower, which are gargantuan. I’ve always wanted to buy one from my local wet market, but I chicken out at the last minute because it’s such a beast of a plant to work with, and up until last week I didn’t have the foggiest idea what to do with it.
The fruits of our labor: nasi kerabu (rice salad); chicken and pineapple simmered in coconut milk; and ayam percik (a delightful, saucy barbecued chicken)
It turns out the banana flower, when simmered gently, peels away to reveal a mild, pleasing flesh not unlike an artichoke. It’s delicious this way as a salad, which our class prepared both with spicy hot chillies, grated coconut and shallots and with a steamed fish.
Top left: an assembled banana flower salad; top right: black rice, lychee and swirls of coconut milk; bottom right: one of my favorite fruits here, the rambutan
The best part of the day’s class was that we incorporated fresh herbs growing right outside Bayan Indah’s front door, and we were able to learn about how they’re incorporated into a variety of local dishes. But, as always, the best part was eating the fruits of our labor. That’s always the best part, isn’t it?
Don’t forget to enter the giveaway here!
Bayan Indah | Kuala Lumpur | Malaysia