Who is Jackie M? Jackie is a self-taught chef. Her restaurant, Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine, is one of the best Malaysian restaurants in Sydney. The restaurant is only open three nights a week, but Jackie and her team can also be found at Leichhardt, Marrickville, Concord Hospital and Hornsby-Kuringai Hospital markets most weekends of the year (see the schedule for more information).
Malaysian food is not a cuisine Dylan and I cook at home often, yet it is something we’re interested in learning more about. Anyone who has tasted Jackie’s CKT wants to know her secrets! And so when Jackie launched her cooking classes in November we were thrilled to be invited along.
I don’t think I can recall a windier day than the Sunday afternoon we made our way into the city for the cooking class. I felt I was going to be swept off my feet as we walked along York Street towards The Grace Hotel and felt relieved once we reached the safety of the building. It was the perfect weather for noodles and laksa.
Jackie’s cooking classes are held at the Grace Brasserie on level 2 of The Grace Hotel. Once everyone arrived Jackie ran through the schedule for the day, outlining the dishes we could choose from – char kway teow, KL hokkien mee, otak-otak, laksa nyonya, oh chien (oyster omelette), kuih pisang (banana kuih) and kuih dadar (crepes filled with coconut).
Portable gas stoves were set up for each pair and all of the ingredients were laid out on a table – minced, chopped, shredded and ready to go. All we had to do was find a partner and a workstation, choose which dishes we wanted to cook and get to work.
But before we were let loose on the temporary kitchen, Jackie demonstrated a few of the dishes, taking only minutes to whip up CKT and an oyster omelette. Jackie talked easily while she whipped up the dishes and I took as many notes as possible to ensure our rendition of CKT would bear some resemblance to Jackie’s.
Jackie explained there is no one traditional version of CKT, but rather each area of Malaysia has their own version. While I know little about the origins (or authenticity) of Malaysian dishes around town, what I do know is Jackie’s version of CKT is damn fine. And my Malaysian friends agree.
CKT literally takes minutes to cook. Like any stir-fry everything needs to be prepared before the heat is turned on otherwise there will be a disaster. All you have to do is fry noodles, garlic and your choice of meat, add the sauce, an egg and bean sprouts and you’re done. There is no time to do anything but stir-fry (and hope for the best).
One of the key tips I took away from the class is that heat is very important. Jackie has the advantage here with a commercial gas stove-top and a lot of experience. She doesn’t think much of domestic stove-tops but she does tell us that the portable high-heat wok burners available in Cabramatta are pretty good. You must adjust the heat to char the noodles without stewing or burning them. I also learn it is important to add the sauce in batches because it has a tendency to burn due to its sugar content. And for the perfect texture the egg should be folded in, not scrambled.
A few minutes and a couple of dishes later the demonstration was over. It was our turn to cook. Everyone paired off and took their places at the portable gas stoves. As we weren’t going to be eating until later in the day, Dylan and I decided the CKT would have to be done right at the end. We would start with the laksa.
Dylan set to work combining all of the ingredients which would form the paste and I gathered the other bits and pieces needed. The volume of ingredients used to make the paste produced far more than what we needed, yet we decided to cook up the whole lot and just double the rest of the ingredients.
We fried the paste until browned, aromatic and oily.
Once the paste was fried we added water, coconut milk and coconut cream to form the soup.
A handful of tofu puffs was all we needed to add before we reduced the heat and allowed our laksa to simmer away.
Jackie and her crew took care of the noodles and seafood so we could focus on our next dish.
Dylan was on wok duty and I was in charge of the order of proceedings. It was my duty to ensure Dylan threw everything in in the correct order and at the right time.
We didn’t quite achieve Jackie’s awesome char level, but I was still rather impressed with our first attempt at making CKT.
As we finished our laksa and CKT ahead of schedule we decided to give the oyster omelette a go. The problem here was Dylan wasn’t feeling very well and I shied away from the wok. We ended up putting things in the wrong order with too much oil and everything quickly went pear-shaped. It was an absolute disaster and looked like mush. To be honest it tasted ok but we weren’t willing to serve it up so in the bin it went.
As dishes were finished everyone placed their plates of deliciousness on the serving table (except for the guy who decided to eat a dish as soon as he’d finished cooking it and then make another and eat it). My main qualm with the class was that we had a really long time to make the dishes but anything that was cooked early on went cold. Luckily the noodles still tasted great and our laksa was piping hot.
Of all days to be unwell, poor Dylan came down with something and felt terrible all afternoon. His illness left a lot of the photography to me, hence the poor quality. But as far as the cooking went he pushed through and I think the end result was rather fabulous.
We also sampled otak-otak, hokkien mee and crepes filled with coconut that were all absolutely delicious.
While it was the least structured cooking class I have ever attended it was all in Jackie’s style and a lot of fun. Everyone I spoke to learnt quite a lot and although the levels of experience varied all of the dishes we sampled tasted wonderful. Now we just need to recreate them at home!
Jackie M’s fun and educational cooking classes are also being scheduled for 2013. I’d recommend the classes for anyone who wants to learn a bit more about Malaysian cuisine and Jackie’s secrets. Email Jackie, follow her on Twitter or check out her website to learn more.
A Food Story attended the Jackie M Malaysian Cooking Masterclass courtesy of Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine.
Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine
85 Majors Bay Road
Concord NSW 2137
(02) 9743 0390
Jackie M Malaysian Cuisine Website