Malay Cuisine Cooking Classes In Penang
Nazlina Hussin is no stranger to the overseas market and is curious to know the tricks of the trade of traditional Malay cuisine.
Traditional Malay food in Nazlina is defined as cooking with ingredients that do not need to be imported into the country. Namely, coconuts, chilies, pineapples, curry leaves or anything that can be grown locally.
“Some might say, ‘okay no, it’s Thai, or it’s Indian,’ but Penang is a melting pot, so I would say it’s Penang food!” She rang when teaching Masterchef UK host John Torode how to cook pineapple curry in 2016.
His name has been mentioned in the New York Times, the Weekend Telegraph and the BBC. The Home Cook’s fan and student base is 85% foreign at her cooking school, Nazlina Spice Station.
At 51, she has stolen the hearts of audiences in the UK, US, Italy and South Korea with her expertise in local Malaysian cuisine.
Who is Nazlina Hussin?
She is a young woman with a rich history. She first quit an engineering job to own a scuba diving business with her ex-husband, which they bought at a reasonable price after his bankruptcy.
Now a single mother with 2 children, Nazlina couldn’t seem to balance returning to a 9-5 engineering job.
She shared, “So I became a WAHM: work-at-home-mom. I did direct sales, English-Malay translation work, and even found references for a real estate agent. ”
Nazlina started her own cooking blog, Pickles and Spices, in 2007 as a hobby to archive her projects in the kitchen. The home cook has written about the ingredients – especially the spices – enlightening readers on Slow Food.
Slow Food is a movement born in Italy to counter the idea of fast food. Think about what meals your grandmother would cook at home with ingredients from the market.
Soon the blog gained traction and her inbox was flooded with requests from potential students eager to learn from her. Having no place to host the classes, she put the idea on hold.
In the meantime, she volunteered with the Penang Heritage Trust, which held regular workshops in which webmasters like her were invited to participate. At 39, that opened doors for her that led her to her success today.
Securing a cafe terrace at Tropical Spice Garden, it became his cooking class location. An Australian journalist was her first student in 2009, recruited by Tourism Malaysia.
Back home, the reporter wrote a centerpiece for publication in The West Australian. From then on, crowds of Australians came to attend Nazlina’s classes.
“The timing was also perfect because that year my youngest daughter was enrolled in her primary school, and I had 6 hours to concentrate on my cooking lessons while the children were at school,” said she told Vulcan Post.
“At 1:00 pm my classes ended and I took them to school and ran the household like other single mothers. When they went to bed after dinner and homework, I would answer emails and maintain my websites. “
Nazlina had already sold the scuba diving company at this point. It was something she was grateful for. Organizing cooking classes on his own brought him a much higher profit. This is also why she decided to continue teaching rather than creating a restaurant.
Its classes occupied a niche in the market when there were no Malaysian cooking classes around Penang in 2009.
“The locals prefer to learn about Western cuisine rather than traditional local cuisine, while foreign tourists are the opposite, they love our local cuisine and want to learn how to prepare it,” Nazlina said.
Maybe Malaysians might not be inclined to take local cooking lessons, as they could just learn them from their elders at home.
But the cook nonetheless embraces his target audience. She smartly capitalized on the interest she generated and the Nazlina Spice Station classes eventually landed on the Eastern & Oriental Express route as a tourist stop.
For an amount of RM250 you get a 5 hour lesson starting at 8:00 am. The teacher would invite her students to take walking tours to ChowRasta and Campbell Street markets to buy fresh ingredients.
Back in the classroom, the ingredients are processed with traditional tools like batu giling, lesung batu (pestle and mortars) and kukur nyiur.
“Everything is handmade. We do things together gotong-royong style with me as a guide. Then we share the food together like a little one Kenduri (banquet), ”said Nazlina.
His efforts have earned him recognition from TripAdvisor, which has earned him a Certificate of Excellence winner 5 years in a row.
12 years later, Nazlina Spice Station has seen an exponential increase in student numbers from 2009 to January 2020.
“Having an average of 4 students per week, I taught 60 students per week at its peak. On average, I teach 120 students a week, ”she says proudly. Nazlina herself makes a profit of 75% for her business.
During the AGC, classes were discontinued, but private lessons were sporadically provided at the CMCO. To reach a wider audience, it now organizes Zoom courses for Airbnb Experiences while creating a Facebook community.
“Of course, the income is only a fraction of what we had before the pandemic, but you just need to cut your expenses and get by,” she concluded.
- You can read more about Nazlina Spice Station here.
- You can read more F&B articles that we’ve covered here.
Featured Image Credit: Nazlina, General Manager of Nazlina Spice Station
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