Rohani Jelani – a name I have known and respected since the 1980’s. Yes, 1980’s. Her food column in Her World magazine was my favourite read every month when I got hold of that magazine. I remember I used to drool over her glossy yummy photos and cut out her recipes to keep.

Rohani Jelani – food writer, food styler, recipe consultant, cook, cookery teacher, resort owner all rolled into one delightful vivacious package. So recently when I got an invitation to spend an afternoon with her at her gorgeous Culinary Resort – Bayan Indah, I practically whooped for joy! (Thank you, Babe_KL, for the intro!) It was a special “Private Class” organised for several bloggers to experience Bayan Indah first-hand and boy, were we a lucky lot!

Driving through the narrow and winding roads of an idyllic little kampung in Bukit Lanjan, we followed her super-detailed map to the dot and had no problem locating Bayan Indah. Beyond the white garden wall at the entrance, we were greeted by this…

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Beautiful breath-taking lush greenery – every tree and plant in this place look darn happy & healthy… the fish in this natural pond were practically frolicking in joy too…

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We were welcomed warmly by our gracious host, Rohani…. plus these….

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Yummy cake, pastries and Linkin, the comedian cat (he used to perform with Linkin’ Park, his namesake)

A tour of Bayan Indah… gasps of admiration were heard all round … how not to be wow’ed by these beautiful rooms, luxuriously fitted with modern amenities, yet retaining a warm rustic charm with Asian antiques and art pieces … so inviting and so comfortable…

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I’ll let the photos do the talking…

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Bayan Indah … a culinary resort, a beautiful homestay with a difference – check them out for the unique activities that are available…

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The lush garden is thriving …
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Fruits, flowers, vegetables, herbs…
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The view from the top…
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Rohani is a wonderful host, regaling us with amusing stories and anecdotes of her experiences. We had so much fun chatting with her at the coffee table that we didn’t realise a good hour had passed and the cooking hadn’t even started! I mean, who would notice time passing when we were so enraptured with banana spirits and how to maim someone with permanent stains and stuff like that!

Taking cue from her able assistants (otherwise we won’t finish even by tea time!), we then donned the denim aprons provided, which immediately transformed us into VHRCs (Very Hip & Rocking Cooks). Of course we had to look the part, you know … because we were going to work in this very modern and professional kitchen…

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This is everyone’s dream kitchen. It’s fully equipped with a whole range of modern cookware and every imaginable kitchen tool and gadget. Oh, there’s also the not-so-modern tool… the traditional “batu lesong”… for pounding your chillies, onions and stuff… which you really must use if you’re cooking “Kampung Cuisine” like we did! Pounding with your hands will yield more delicious paste, I kid you not! Ask Rohani and see!

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I was impressed by the preparations that had gone into the cooking class. All ingredients for the recipes had been washed, peeled, measured and labelled in containers – all ready for us!

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VHRCs at work … paying attention when Rohani showed us “this is how you clean a prawn… and this is how you fold the leaves of the herbs to shred them in an acceptable way”!

We worked in teams of 2 or 3, so that everyone got to cook his/her chosen recipe and also get to taste all the dishes cooked by everyone. I had the privilege of teaming up with Audrey Cooks and Alice Jom Makan and among the 3 of us, we did 4 recipes.

So… what did we cook?

Let’s start with the Kerabus.

Kerabu Jantung Pisang
Jantung pisang (banana flower)… do not use the outer tough layers, use only the pale tender part…. boil that till tender before cutting it up and mixing it with sambal and shredded herbs, toasted coconut, lime juice… a wonderful local salad!

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Serve your Kerabu Jantung Pisang on the “petals” of the flower… taaa daaa!

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Nasi Kerabu … a pretty easy recipe except that you have to cut and shred the herbs very very thinly… otherwise Rohani will tell you that your herbs are thick enough to make blankets! All herbs used came straight from Rohani’s herb garden – they can’t get any fresher than that!

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Toss all your superthinly-cut herbs and some fried salted fish flakes with cooked rice and you’ll get this plate of gorgeous fragrant Nasi Kerabu… every mouthful is a sensory orgasm on your palate, I guarantee you.

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Now for the mains…

Ayam Percik. Everyone of us chose this recipe because it is such a popular and delicious item… we see lots of this being sold in Ramadhan bazaars but how do you actually cook it ahh? It seemed like lots of work, you know…

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… but at Rohani’s, it’s made really easy! In fact it was so easy that I did not hesitate to replicate this at home the very next day and my family had a verrrry satisfying Ayam Percik dinner!

Now, tell me…. isn’t this the most beautifully-yummy plate of Ayam Percik you’ve ever seen? :-)

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We’re so proud of our Ayam Percik that we really must show you more… hehe!

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Prawns Masak Lemak with Pineapples … this perennial Malay favourite was pretty easy to cook. We did ours in quite a jiffy and I hand-pounded the chillies/garlic/onions/turmeric too! 😉

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These were cooked by the other 2 teams comprising A Whiff of Lemongrass, Babe in the City_KL, FBB and A Lil Fat Monkey

Masak Air Cekur Manis – sweet green vegetables cooked with pumpkin and some prawns for flavour…

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Dessert – Onde Onde!
No fake colouring or essence in this. The natural colour and flavour came from freshly-picked pandan leaves and its juice extracted manually. Of course this tasted heavenly, especially when it’s made lovingly by friends amidst laughter (and some “fun-poking”)!

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So, what do you think? Do you think we VHRCs did a good job?

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Once everything has been laid out and adequately photographed, it was makan time! Dig in, everybody! Ohhh… it was so good! The food, the company, the ambience… we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves immensely! This was not merely a cooking class – it was a total experience of food enjoyment at its best.

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Truth be told, the goodbyes were done with much reluctance… hugs of appreciation went all round to Rohani and her friendly hospitable team – Wati and many thanks to Li Hsian too for organizing that lovely experience we all had.

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I am definitely going back to Bayan Indah for more of Rohani Jelani, hehe! The problem is… I don’t know which theme class to choose because she has so many (more than 50) up for selection!

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