When you are in desperate need of a getaway but can’t afford to take time off work, a weekend staycation with your loved one can do amazing wonders for your wellbeing and leave you feeling all revved up to take on whatever new challenges life may present. But do you know what’s better than a regular staycation? A staycation that involves cooking, that’s what!
Wait, wait, hear me out. As part of the SG50 celebrations, Hotel Clover has rolled out Be A Clover Wok Star, a unique room-stay package at three of its properties in Singapore – Hotel Clover Hong Kong Street, Hotel Clover The Arts, and Hotel Clover Jalan Sultan. The package includes a specially arranged limousine car transfer to the home kitchen of Ruqxana Vasanwala, Asian culinary expert and owner of cooking school Cookery Magic, where you will spend three hours learning how to create three to four local dishes from scratch.
When I received the invitation to try out this room-stay package, I wasted no time in forwarding it to fellow Go Away editor Deborah Tan since she and her husband enjoy cooking. “No, you and your boyfriend should go instead! It would be the perfect opportunity for you to finally learn how to use a stove, ” she replied in all seriousness.
To give you some context, the last dish I created before I went for the staycation was scrambled eggs … made in a microwave.
And so my boyfriend and I found ourselves checked in at Hotel Clover The Arts not too long ago, with nary a clue as to what to expect at the cooking class. Before our cool limousine ride to Cookery Magic, we had a quick tour within Hotel Clover The Arts, and were mightily shocked to learn that all 44 rooms are individually themed, each featuring the artwork of either professional or student artists! Colour us impressed!
It was around 11am when we arrived at Ruqxana’s home. I knew I like her the moment we stepped inside – she has cats! And a cat house at her front garden! And she fosters cats! Anyway, there was another couple – a pair of adorable and friendly Australians holidaying in Singapore to celebrate their 19th (if I recall correctly) wedding anniversary – who wanted to learn how to create Singapore’s favourite dishes. We made our way to the back of Ruqxana’s house to her spacious outdoor kitchen, where she would spend the next three hours schooling four eager students.
Our lunch menu of the day consisted of three types of curry dishes: prawn curry, spicy lime chicken, and fried green beans with green chilli. (The menu for Be A Clover Wok Star differs from time to time; other dishes can include satay and peanut sauce, Nonya laksa, chilli crab, and even roti prata.) One dish at a time, Ruqxana very patiently took us through the preparation process, every so often sharing interesting tips on how to enhance flavours and release the aroma of the spices.
Not surprisingly, my boyfriend and I spent a long time chopping and cutting the ingredients. How the two of us managed to leave Cookery Magic without accidentally slicing our fingers or toes is still a miracle to me.
Next came the gruelling but fun part. I wasn’t joking when I wrote about creating the dishes from scratch; we had to pound our own paste for each curry dish! We’ve certainly developed a newfound respect and appreciation for those who prepare homemade chilli paste using mortar and pestle.
Once the paste and ingredients were ready, we moved on to the cooking. I’d always thought frying would be the easiest part, but I couldn’t have been more wrong – we had to watch the flames, know when and how to add the next ingredient/mixture, make sure nothing is over- or undercooked, and constantly taste the food to ensure the flavours are perfectly balanced.
And all that was just for the first curry dish!
About two hours later, we finally finished with the cooking, and it was time for lunch! Together with Ruqxana and the other couple, we brought our dishes to the dining table at the front porch and had a lovely time eating the fruit of our labour and chatting about food, past travels – and, of course, cats.
Really, signing up for a cooking class was something that never once crossed my mind, least of all my boyfriend’s, who considers McDonald’s his staple food. But I’m glad I didn’t insist on passing on the invitation to Deborah. We left Cookery Magic with silly grins on our faces – not just because we actually created edible, delicious food, but also because we felt closer and more connected from working together to create said edible, delicious food. Perhaps there is some truth to the saying that couples who cook together, stay together, huh?
Book a minimum of two nights’ stay for two at any of Hotel Clover’s three properties in Singapore – Hotel Clover Hong Kong Street, Hotel Clover The Arts, and Hotel Clover Jalan Sultan – from now till September 30, 2015. Reservations must be made five days in advance. The package is valid from Mondays to Saturdays (subject to availability of classes), from now till October 31, 2015. For bookings and enquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org and quote Clover Wok Star.