Malaysia / Borneo: Kuching – Bumbu Cooking Class


One thing I really wanted to do on our holiday was a cooking class.

Before we left Melbourne, I did a search online and found Bumbu Cooking School. After a couple of emails back and forth, I had booked Alastair and myself into a morning class. Alastair and I wandered down to Carpenter Street early one morning and met Joseph, and our teachers for the day, Bernadene and her mother Elise. We also met the other couple participating that day (who were from South Australia).

As posted previously, part 1 of the class involved a market tour, during which we picked up a couple of items for the class: midin, freshly grated coconut and curry paste.

Curry paste

The curry paste contained candle nut, rice flour, salt, cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and possibly other ingredients that I wasn’t fast enough to note down!


It was a hands on class, and all four of us participating cooked each dish (with supervision and guidance of course). We made three items: Sarawak chicken curry, sambal midin, and tako.

Chicken curry powder

Chicken Curry

Before we left for the market, Bernadene marinated chicken thighs so it would be ready to cook when we returned. She made up a marinade with a teaspoon each of curry powder, salt, sugar, and some water.

Shallots garlic

When we returned from the market, we started the base of the curry. In addition to the purchased curry paste, there was lemon grass, galangal, ginger, garlic and shallots.

Ingredients in mortar

Fortunately these had been pre-measured and cut for us, so all we had to do was pound them together in the mortar and pestle.

Pounded ingredients

We pounded them until they were broken down and in a paste. The ingredients on the left was for the curry, and on the right is sambal for the midin.

Stir frying onions etc

The pounded ingredients went into a hot wok to be briefly stir fried, along with onions and curry leaves.

Curry paste being stir fried

Then we added the curry paste and fried it until it was very dry and fluffy.

Stir fried curry paste

This took much longer than I expected – at least ten minutes – and over time it became dark dark brown and stopped sticking to the wok.

Curry in wok with pandan

After that we added the chicken, water and a fresh pandan leaf.

Curry in wok

The curry was left to cook until it was thick and fragrant and the chicken was tender. Just before it was ready we added potatoes (which had been previously deep fried – so they didn’t fall apart in the curry).


Sambal Midin

While the curry was cooking, we moved on to the sambal midin.

As mentioned in previous posts, midin is a fern, native to the jungles of Sarawak.

Midin heads

We cleaned and picked the heads off the midin and then made the sambal in the mortar and pestle. The sambal was made of dried chillies, shallots, shrimp paste and dried prawns.

Stir frying vegies

The midin and sambal was all stir fried very briefly in a hot wok so the midin retained its crunchiness. It was a very quick and easy process. It probably took us longer to clean and pick off the midin heads.

Pandan boxes


Dessert was tako – a type of kuih / kueh. We began by weaving little baskets from fresh pandan leaves and secured with toothpicks. So cute!

We made tons of boxes, enough to fill a couple of trays. We all got a bit excited with the box making.

Making coconut milk

The main ingredients in tako is coconut milk, sugar and green pea flour.

Making coconut milk

So our next step was to make coconut milk from the freshly grated coconut purchased at the market.

The coconut flesh was put into water, and then the flesh was squeezed out and discarded. The remaining liquid was strained, resulting in coconut milk.

Measuring coconut milk

Sweet pea flour

The next ingredient was sweet pea flour – something that I’d never seen before. The sweet pea flour thickens the coconut milk and also adds an aroma. This can be substituted with cornflour and vanilla essence.

Thickened coconut

The sweet pea flour was whisked into the coconut milk with some sugar, and then the entire mixture was heated on the stove until it was nice and thick.

Pandan boxes with corn

Moving back to the boxes. Before pouring in the coconut milk mixture, we spooned in fresh corn kernels into the middle of the boxes.

We actually ran out of corn (because we made so many boxes) and had to redistribute the kernels. That’s why you can see one box with four kernels.. hah.

Scooping in the coconuta

Once that was done, we spooned the coconut milk mixture on top. And they all went into the fridge to set.

Puddings ready

The tako was delicious and very moreish. It had a smooth and pudding-like texture, but it was still firm, and there was a little burst of corn every now and again.

Preparing pineapple

Along with the tako, dessert also included fresh pineapple.

Cutting pineapple

We had to slice it ourselves but fortunately Bernadene showed us how to cut out the eyes of the pineapple with minimal waste.


That was some good pineapple.


After everything was cooked, we settled in for lunch.

Chicken curry

Because we’d each cooked a curry each, we all had a whole pot to ourselves. Of course, none of us could finish an entire pot – there was a lot there. Bernadene did offer to pack up the leftovers for us to take away.

Pineapple and pudding

We didn’t take any curry, but we did take some tako back to the hotel with us.


Class was really fun. It was all very chilled out and relaxing, and Bernadene and Elise were lovely and helpful. It was a long morning: we arrived at 9am and didn’t leave the kitchen until after 1pm, but the time flew by.

Bumbu Cooking Class
Time: 9AM – 1PM (Daily); 2:30PM – 5PM (Daily) – if you want to do the market tour, you need to do the morning time
Address: No 57 Carpenter Street, Kuching, Sarawak.
Email: Joseph at [email protected]
Phone: 019 8791050)
Cost: (in July 2013) RM150.00 pp (with market tour) / RM120.00 pp (without market tour)