comfort food to-go

LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassLaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassIn Malaysia, food is everything. Food is the center of family and friend gatherings, celebrations, and everyday conversation. It’s such a hot topic that even while you’re enjoying a meal, you’re already discussing what and where your next one will be. Malaysians are serious about their makan-makan – or “eat-eat” – and we’ve happily joined them, full bellies and all.

But now that we’re leaving Kuala Lumpur soon, we’ve been loading up on our local favorites like roti canai, nasi lemak, char kway teow, beef rendang, chicken curry, and pandan flavored treats. What will we do when we can’t simply walk down the street to grub on our newly adopted comfort food? The only option is to make it ourselves!

Enter LaZat, a local enterprise offering Malaysian home-cooking classes set in a typical Malaysian home nestled in the trees just outside of KL. I took an Indian cuisine class with them last year so when Joe said that he couldn’t leave Malaysia without learning how to make his beloved beef rendang and curry chicken, I knew exactly where to go.

From the moment you arrive, you feel like family. Owner Ana and home-cook chefs Sue and Saadiah are warm, welcoming, and are equally excited to learn about where you’re from (and where you’ve been) as they are to share their passions and skills in the kitchen. They take great pride in using fresh ingredients and have a way of making even the most intimidated wannabe-cook feel at ease. Everything for the day’s menu is pre-measured and pre-arranged, laid out beautifully on woven straw trays and decorative dishes.

As soon as I saw (and smelled) the colorful and fragrant spices, I was ready to get down to business, work that mortar and pestle, and heat things up in a traditional brass wok. We spent the next few hours switching from watching how it’s done to getting it done all while teasing our grumbling stomachs every time the wind picked up the aromas coming from our stove tops.

All of that teasing was worth it. We had our grand feast in the end but the true beauty was in the process. The simple things like remembering that some of the greatest food takes the longest time (patience is key), learning that it’s okay to throw in whole spice seeds, rather than ground or crushed, and realizing that for any meal to be Malaysian, it probably has to have a decent dose of coconut milk (yum and yum).

Now that I’m a LaZat alum, I’m excited to take the confidence I got there and bring it into my own kitchen. I’d love to push my boundaries beyond olive oil and salt and pepper and get more creative with spices and herbs. I took a baby step a few nights ago while making applesauce and I was quite proud of my small kitchen victory. Instead of adding ground cinnamon for flavor, I let the apples boil and reduce with whole cinnamon sticks, a few star anise, and lemon juice for preservation. The results? Amazing. The Malaysian recipes we learned have a bit more to them but I think I’m on my way to being able to prepare the dishes we’ve come to love. We have a brass wok ready to go so the next step will be to buy a mortar and pestle. Hopefully we get a chance to use it before we have to pack it in a box but regardless where that box ends up, we’ll know that we have the tools to satisfy our cravings and makan-makan our honorary Malaysian hearts out.

 

 

aaanndd i’m back!

Three bags, three different crash pads, five rental cars, and too many miles in a car (and in the air) … this girl has left LA and is back in KL! It’s so good to be home. I arrived yesterday morning and have been unpacking and re-organizing everything in between hug and kiss attacks from Joe who can’t seem to believe that I’m actually here.

It was a great two months in LA though it was certainly a different kind of visit than I’ve had before. I was focused on work versus play so I left feeling shocked that for the first time in a loooooong time I didn’t go to a single Dodger game, a show at the Hollywood Bowl, and – gasp – not even a flea market. The first two are a very sad thing for an Angeleno to admit and the third one is just sad for me personally (see this if you’re new to the blog). But, if I had to be away from Joe for so long I had to make it worth my while and that worth was all about pushing Ring Cozy forward.

The moments that I did take to be with friends and family were few but really treasured. I had missed their hugs, their smiles, their way of “knowing” me. It’s pretty awesome to feel that there’s a group of people somewhere else in the world who love and care about you regardless of seeing you once in a blue moon. There were definitely moments where I wanted to toss the expat towel in and be back with familiar faces. Like the one day I went wedding dress shopping for two of my friends and had so much fun doing something so girly. But then when I remember that everyone is so busy with their own lives now that I probably would see them just as often as I do now, I don’t feel so bad. It wasn’t uncommon to go months without seeing certain people when I still lived there nearly three years ago. We’re traveling more, focusing on family, getting busier with work … it’s a rare treat to just call someone up on a random day/night and say “let’s do X and Y” and have them actually be available, or willing. If you’re under 25 and reading this…enjoy it while it lasts!

Now back in KL I’ve been welcomed home via texts and emails by the friends I’ve made here. They’re a part of a different chapter in my life and I’m so thankful that they fill the pages with new and amazing experiences. They remind me why I love being an expat: the simple fact that albeit challenging, you can make a home and build a community anywhere you are. I can’t imagine anything more comforting than that. It’s so good to be home.

 

 

 

 

old school brunch

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Old Kuala Lumpur

Yut Kee is a KL institution and now that we’ve finally given it a try, we’re wondering why on earth it took us over a year to do so. It was simple, charmingly old, and the kind of place that has its routine so down that even in the chaos of seating throngs of patrons and serving their coveted pork dishes faster than you can say non-halal, you feel like you’re in someone’s home enjoying a good meal.

I think our timing was just right for our first visit … like maybe now I can appreciate the beauty of such an institution in a different way. I’m more in love with the food, the people, and can better understand how special it is to have such a long-lasting place like Yut Kee in KL where so much comes and goes and continues to move towards the more western and modern. You’ll never hear me complaining about those western and modern necessities (and indulgences) being here when I need them but at the end of the day, I love enjoying the original bits of KL that make living here the unique experience that it is. You know, like wearing skirts made out of kampung house curtains. That sort of thing.

weekend we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? We had a hot one here but that didn’t keep us from going out to enjoy a few new spots. KL is getting more interesting by the week and I’m loving discovering the more creative side of it. It definitely took a while as it’s still very small compared to other cities but it is out there!

Other than a bit of local shopping, the weekend was perfectly restful and productive…can’t complain.

For more deets, hover over the Thinglink dots on each image.

Have a great start to the week!

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? Ours was the kind that “home” is made of. We spent time with friends, went out on the town, relished in lazy lounging, and simply enjoyed the slow pace that comes with Saturday and Sunday.

In just a few days we’ll be marking our one year anniversary of living in KL (say whaaa?) and just like our time in London, this place has really become home. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about living here permanently as I did in London (apples and oranges, I tell ya) but I do love what we’ve been able to make for ourselves so far. On Wednesday I’ll be sharing a little KL anniversary round up where I’ll spill my loves and dislikes about living here. It’s not all fun and palm trees sometimes but it has been amazing.

And with this anniversary, I was reminded that my sidebar photo was two years old and in dire need of an update. I honestly couldn’t find a decent “profile” photo that didn’t involve me wearing a hat and/or sunglasses so this one from Cartagena will have to do for now!

weekend, we <3 you

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Hey guys, how was your weekend? I’ve been trying to balance working on the computer and resting my eyes since I got LASIK done several weeks ago. I guess my sensitivity is taking longer to clear up :/. So, in efforts to get away from the screen we spent a lot of time out and about in KL enjoying new-to-us cafes and shops. I was thrilled to find a vintage furniture shop since I’ve been aching for the thrill of the hunt lately. We didn’t leave with anything but just getting the heart flutter of excitement was plenty for the day. God I miss flea markets and vintage shops! For now, I’m just happy that we continue to find new nuggets of things and places to enjoy until one day we may be back somewhere where I can get my treasure hunting fix.

ditching the fork

dining in the dark

Hi guys, how was your weekend? We had a good mix of fun and taking care of business on the home front. The main event was dining in the dark with some new friends. Have you ever done it before? It was our first time and we loved it.

Before entering the blacked out room we had to surrender our phones and watches (anything that could glow). We were then guided by our server, who is blind, to our seats. Plate by plate, our food was brought out with each item having different textures and smells. I quickly abandoned my utensils and just ate with my hands. It was like I couldn’t get passed sticking my fork around and then seeing what went into my mouth – I needed to feel what I was about to eat since I couldn’t see it! I ate a lot faster than I thought I would. I had hypothesized that I’d eat slower because of my other heightened senses but nope, I was on a mission to taste and explore and for some reason it all happened really fast. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have anything or anyone to look at in between bites but it was definitely interesting be so incognito while sitting and chatting with a table of eight. Anyone could be doing anything and no one would know the difference! There were a few couples so we did joke about playing footsie beneath the table and not really knowing who’s foot it was.

Post dinner we had a few drinks at The Establishment and enjoyed the new vibrant scene emerging on Jalan Mesui with it’s recent openings of unique bars and restaurants. KL nightlife definitely just got more exciting and that makes me really happy :)

 

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? In short, ours was all about eating, boozing, and R&R. We discovered a new bar, The Establishment, and checked out an event they had with local musicians and DJs (hosted by creative collective, The Deer Society). It was so great to find a spot with a scene like this. I knew that KL had to be more than just shopping centers…just had to dig a little (okay, a lot). After the party, we crossed the street for some yummy Roti Cani and as we sat there and watched the warm rain I felt so very much at home. Between finding a Syrian baklava bakery, meeting up with some new friends via Instagram, and hanging out at a great new spot, I fully realized how much I’ve fallen in love with KL and Malaysia. It took a while but this weekend really sealed the deal for the warm and fuzzy feelings I’ve been having these past few months. So so happy and grateful to be here.

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? We had lunch at the new Mexican restaurant in town, La Mexicana, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was authentic in every way from the food to the decor…so much so that I did a little happy dance as soon as I took a bite of the pork tacos! I know it’s crazy to want/expect authentic anything that isn’t Asian but it sure is awesome that there are expats doing a great job of bringing bits of their own culture to KL.

To burn off our Mexican food binge, we decided to check out the nearby walking trails of Bukit Nanas, an eco reserve park in the center of the city. We were all set with our hats, comfy walking clothes, and water bottles but when we got to the entrance we were greeted by a locked gate and a notice of the park’s closure for construction. Wah wah. By that point it was too late for a plan b involving a relaxing hike so we opted for the next best thing: cold beers. Never a bad alternative on a warm day and certainly perfect for a leisurely Sunday out.

Cheers to a good week ahead!

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? Overall ours was good but I didn’t get to the Christmas crafting I had planned since shopping for supplies was a huge disappointment. I definitely miss places like Michael’s, Joanne’s, Staples, Target, The Container Store…you name it. Even just looking for tapered candles for our new vintage holders proved to be an impossible mission. You have it real easy, America. Real easy.

On the bright side…

- I used what bits of Christmas we had from London and created a mock-fireplace with the help of this awesome video.

- I found berries at our florist and paired them next to a giant local leaf (mixing traditional and tropical :)

- We ate brunch at a restaurant that serves real bacon. Non-Halal places (at least those serving western food) are very rare in KL so the meal was a really nice treat.

Did any of you start decorating for Christmas this weekend?

to the cave

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Ancient limestone, trees, scurrying monkeys, and Hindu shrines – the Batu Caves felt a world away while being only forty minutes out of KL. The colorful steps with their layers of paint made the 272 step climb a bit easier and every now and then we’d stop to observe the monkeys. Not feed, just observe, because people who feed them are just asking for their hands to be mangled! I’ve never been inside anything like this grand cave turned religious temple before and with water from recent rainstorms trickling in through the cracks it felt like we had gone back in time. Sure it was touristy with trinket shops not quite fitting into the scenery but for a simple and free afternoon adventure it was great. There were a few people who were there to worship and I’ve heard that the Thaipsusam pilgrimage is quite the sight if you’re there early in the year. I’m glad we got to experience it on a quiet day though, in all of its ancient cave glory.

 

to all of my east coast USA readers and to those who have loved ones there, i’m thinking of you and praying for a safe end to the storm and quick recovery. hope you’re staying warm and strong. sending lots of love your way.

friday pic & pin

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Happy Friday guys! I’m so excited to enjoy KL this weekend…I’m really starting to fall in love with it here. I had a few key moments yesterday where I just thought “yes, this feels good” like when I helped guide a lovely couple visiting from Europe (felt like such a local), discovered a Colombian restaurant (hello soul food!), and enjoyed dinner under a canopy while it rained like crazy and the skies turned white with lightning. I recently made a list of things to see and do in/near the city and the goal is to do at least one of them each weekend that we are home. Top on the list is to visit a palm oil plantation so when I saw this vintage pattern of palm tree varieties I was instantly attracted to it. We’ll see what we cross off the list this weekend. I hope you have a great one!

This week’s three rad links…

• at least one xmas gift for joe is taken care of with this new kind of wallet

• it’s not too late to celebrate + shop for fair trade month

• great feature on one of my fave london shops/makers. they opened a second store in our neighborhood one week before we moved – darn!

(image left: palms and towers, KL by Ana Maria Muñoz, right: Pin via Calsidyrose)

cultural bits

mooncake

I was lucky to be able to catch up with a lot of friends in LA but one of the hardest parts of catching up was answering the question “so, how is living in Malaysia?”.  Though most of my friends keep up to date with my blog I realize that I haven’t been sharing as much of the everyday moments and things that really make up the collective experience of living here. “Where do I even start?” I’d ask myself. On the surface level it appears to be like any other city (fancy skyscrapers, high-end shopping, trendy bars and restaurants) but how do I describe the nuances that make my walk to the grocery store that much different that it was in London or LA? And what about what happens inside of the grocery store? How do I give examples of things without making KL sound like a completely strange foreign place while acknowledging the fact that it is a thriving city straddled between old customs and modern western ways?

I found myself answering with surprising optimism that I LOVE it. I’ve realized that yes, it would be easier to live in a more mature city like Singapore but KL is rad. It feels like it’s five to ten years away from being like other major cities and we have a front row seat to the action. Construction is everywhere, locals seem to be hungry for new and exciting retail and dining experiences, and the tourism board is on overdrive – with good reason, too. Just like London is to Europe, KL is the perfect launch pad to the rest of South East Asia, Asia, and Australia. Malaysia may not have it all (yet) but what it does have is worth celebrating: heritage cities, modern cities, jungles, beaches, unique street-food, colorful religious festivals, and best of all, friendly people. I encountered more openly friendly strangers in the first three weeks here than I did in a year in London if that tells ya anything.

As for the little details? The ones that aren’t so great are made easier by the details that I have fallen for: the giant rainforest trees spared by new constructions, the black and white striped curbs on the roads that make me feel like I’m in a race car game, and the dangerously delicious baked goods that are hot and fresh anytime of the day (in the mall bakeries, of course ;).

I don’t recall if I managed to recite all of the above to my friends in response to their question but I did give them a few fish out of water type stories. I want to share those with you, too, so moving forward I will offer up some “cultural bits” so you can gain a little more insight as to how different (or not) living here can be.

Oh and the photo? They’re Chinese Mooncakes in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. I initially had a totally different direction for this post but naturally I went off on a tangent so now the image is kinda random. Oh well, c’est la vie!

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? Mine was fantastic. I feel like I’ve turned a new leaf and am ready to really enjoy living here. I’ve started craving local food, I’m making new friends, and I’m starting to see the beauty in this totally imperfect city. I’m done criticizing what it’s not and just want to enjoy it for what it is right now, what it is today. On Saturday we walked around Merdeka Square and the surrounding old part of town. We marveled at the giant flags draped everywhere and took time to appreciate the derelict yet beautiful buildings (see Singapore for their potential).

Between celebrating Malaysia’s independence from British rule just over fifty years ago, and the Muslim festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri (the end of Ramadan, the fasting month), KL is buzzing. It’s been so fascinating to see the Malay Muslim version of Christmas decorations in the malls and try new foods that are only available during this time of year. There’s so much to take in and I’m finally feeling 100% open to it. It feels good.

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi how was your weekend? A nearby wildfire made the air quality awful so we only left the house once to collect a package from the main post office. Navigating the collection center should have been adventure enough for the day but since it was near Chinatown we decided to stop by a cafe/art gallery that I had read about called The Warehouse. Right across the street is the oldest Hindu Temple in the city,  Sri Mahamariamman. We didn’t go inside but wow is it striking, definitely worth going back to.

We then headed to the mall to pick up the dress shirts Joe had custom-made for him because he’s too tall for the off-the-rack options here (ha!). I’m glad we had to pick them up because a few floors below is our new favorite donut shop, J. Co. They have crazy good concoctions but the best is simply their giant cups of coffee served with a free glazed donut. When they’re fresh out of the oven they taste better than Krispy Kreme, no lie.

The donuts were a definite highlight but nothing felt better than opening up our snail mail and finding two drawings from my nieces. I immediatley held them to my chest and starting crying. I’m such a sap. I pictured them both holding the crayons with their tiny little fingers, scribbling around, and chit chatting like they do when they get excited about something. Did you notice the creative corner foldings on Juliana’s art work??? Oh my sweet girls. Being away from them is the toughest part of this expat adventure we’re on. I miss them like crazy but I am thankful for every digital kiss I get from them when we talk via FaceTime. Isabella even hugs the iPhone and I of course hug it her right back.

If you got to spend time with your family this weekend I hope you enjoyed every moment of it! Those truly are special moments.

I gotta love my sister for sending me a recent J.Crew catalogue, too. She knows me well.

weekend, we <3 you

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Hello, how was your weekend? If you’re reading from the States then I hope you’re still enjoying the extended break today! We did a lot of lounging and good eating but the best part was organizing and cleaning the apartment. It was difficult to get the motivation to start but once we got into the flow it was great. We moved all of the existing furniture around for a more cozy and functional feel and we finally arranged our wardrobe and storage items. Thank god we have a second room with built in closets to keep the things we won’t be using (i.e. winter clothing) – it makes our other spaces much more simple and usable. Now it really feels like home sweet home.

new city, we <3 you

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Hello hello! How have you been? It’s good to be back…writing, sharing, catching up. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning and despite having the airline lose one of six checked bags for nearly two days, everything went smoothly. We’re all settled into our temporary serviced apartment as we wait for our first batch of home necessities to arrive via freight – I just pray that everything makes it over here and in one piece. In the meantime I’m loving living in a place where if we need honey for our yogurt and granola all we need to do is press a button. Also, I’m getting really spoiled with daily house keeping and a breakfast buffet with tons of cut fresh fruit (I’m the laziest when it comes to cutting my own but I will eat it all day long if it’s there – anyone with me?).

It’s day four here and while I can’t say that I’m in love just yet (never mind the post title – I make a city work for it) I can tell you that I won’t be lost for inspiration anytime soon . Between the lush vegetation, patterns and textures of modern buildings, and the juxtaposition of Islamic and Colonial British design everywhere you look, it’s going to be pretty sweet. I think I’ll be able to do an entire photo series on Islamic patterns found on pavements, fences, entryways…seriously, my geometric pattern-loving heart is in heaven.

We got into the local swing real quick by hanging out at … uuhh…hate to say it…do I need to say it?…yeah, okay: at three different malls. There are so many malls here but we get it, it’s just not very comfortable to do anything outside for longer than 30 minutes during the day. We’ll just have to re-wire our anti-indoor shopping center brains and succumb to being mall rats. It’s almost like being in Vegas where every Casino is a self-contained air-conditioned world. The three malls we visited had a post office, day care centers, art galleries, spas, gyms, full-serviced restaurants, medical clinics, movie theaters, you name it. You can practically live there and many people do. As difficult as this is to say, I may eventually set up office on the fourth floor Coffee Bean or Starbucks like the locals do. In LA or London this would have been cringe-worthy but until I find something more my style, I think it’s gotta be my norm.

Another thing we did that we otherwise wouldn’t was buy tickets for the local hop-on hop-off buses. You know, those double decker buses that every touristy city has that follows a points-of-interest route? We’ve always dismissed them by preferring to explore via foot and the local transport systems. However, with KL being a bit more spread out – and not the most pedestrian and public transpo friendly city – we opted to go for the big bus to get a lay of the land. It was a good move because we got a glimpse at Chinatown, Little India, the Lake Gardens, and other cultural and commercial areas that would have otherwise each been a full day trek. There’s a lot to take in here – yes, obviously the cool sights but also the cultural norms and personal lifestyle adjustments. I’ve always been proud to say that I take change very well and adjust easily but let’s face it, London was a piece of cake. KL is certainly very new and different but one comforting thought is that if any city-woes do arise, we’re only a cheap airplane ticket and hour away from the most beautiful beaches in the world. They can cure anything, I’m sure.

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