On my visit to Singapore I did some research on cooking classes that focussed on the local cuisine and couldn’t go past a Nonya / Peranakan / Straits Chinese class at Cookery Magic. As I walked up the driveway I was greeted by a couple of friendly felines who made me lonely for my own puss cats. The intimate class was held at the home of self-confessed food sorceress and cat lady Ruqxana Vasanwala.
Having advised Ruqxana when booking that I’m vegetarian, she kindly altered the plan for my dishes so on the menu was a claypot pineapple curry, a spicy stuffed tofu and veg and noodle dish, chap chye.
Ruqxana is incredibly friendly and as she’s a home cook and not a showy chef, it made for a relaxing class with dishes that seemed easy to achieve back at home.
We split up into pairs and each team made a sambal, otherwise known as ‘rumpa’. I got to make a vegetarian version without the shrimp paste consisting of dried chilli, shallots, garlic, peanuts, turmeric, tamarind juice, palm sugar, salt, aromatic kaffir lime leaves and sunflower oil. Ruqxana had also made me a fabulous peanut sambal for a bit of variety.
These are some of the handy tips I learnt about the tofu stuffed with sambal:
- There’s no need to season tofu as it’s already salty
- When making sambal you can use peanuts or cashews instead of lemongrass but be sure to dry roast the nuts first
- You can use a blender but pounding in a mortar and pestle creates better flavour
- Finely chopping the ingredients makes them easier to pound
- You can add the sambal to the tofu before cooking but it tastes better if the sambal is fried first
- Once the tofu is stuffed, shallow fry both sides in a wok on low heat
The pineapple curry, which is a lovely warm soup, contained a pounded fine paste made from shallots, galangal, turmeric, red chilli and candlenuts. To that tamarind paste, vegetable stock, pineapple, sugar and salt is added plus dark green wintermelon for me in lieu of prawns.
Chap chye is a Chinese vegetable dish made with oil, garlic, soy bean paste, vegetable stock, soy sauce, salt, rehydrated dried mushrooms (it’s the perfect dish for shiitake), black fungus, bean curd skin, cabbage, red dates, glass or mung bean noodles and dried lily buds which we tied into knots to create more texture.
As complicated as these dishes sound due to so many ingredients, they were actually quite simple and quick to make. After preparing all three dishes we sat together at the table on Ruqxana’s front balcony and enjoyed the fruits of our labour. It was a great day and the food was wonderful!
Friends, what local dishes have you learnt to make in your travels?
Want a dose of vegeTARAian in your inbox?
Click here to subscribe to the weekly newsletter!