Tropical Spice Garden
Asia,  Food,  Malaysia

A visit to the Tropical Spice Garden, Penang

Tropical Spice GardenThe Tropical Spice Garden is a wonderful eco-tourism site to visit during a trip to Penang. Set on the site of a disused rubber plantation, the garden is beautiful place to explore, with over 500 species of tropical flora and fauna.

There is also a hands-on cooking school on site, allowing you to have a go at creating your own tasty local dishes using fresh ingredients from the garden.

During our trip to Penang we were kindly invited to attend a cooking class with local celebrity chef Pearly Kee, renowned for her Nyonya delicacies, and we were very excited to have a go at cooking some of the regional favourites!

Sham, Tropical Spice Garden Penang
Sham, our guide at the Tropical Spice Garden.

A tour of the Tropical Spice Garden

Our morning began with a tour of the garden, where our guide, Sham, spent a good hour or more walking us around and showing us just some of the many beautiful plants and spices they have. We learnt a lot about their use in medicines and cooking as well as getting to taste a few of them fresh and meeting some of the garden’s wildlife inhabitants!

We learnt a lot from Sham, and it was lovely to just wander through this natural setting, as we discovered so much about the local plant life – including the ‘five o clock tree’!

After a sit down and chance to try out a freshly brewed herbal tea, we then made our way to the Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School, where we were welcomed by Pearly and her husband and got set up at our individual cooking stations.

Tropical Spice Garden map
This map gives you a feel of the size and variety of herbs and spices at the garden.
Tropical Spice Garden Cooking Scool
At work during Pearly Kee’s cooking class.

The Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School

The venue was ace – clean and fully equipped with everything we would need for our class. The school has a variety of local chefs that come in, focusing on different styles of cooking and dishes. Pearly’s speciality is Nyonya cooking, and on the day of our visit we were taught how to cook chicken curry, roti jala and stir fried lotus root.

She was a great teacher, explaining the history behind the dishes and guiding us through the preparation, step by step. She also went around and gave us one-on-one support when needed, showing us the best way to slice vegetables and teaching us about the different levels of heat in chillis.

The class was a lot of fun and it was great to discover how the locals cook in Penang. I particularly loved the clay pots used to cook the curry, and how families have dedicated pots for each dish so that the spices infuse the bowl itself and over time add the flavour of the meal. It was also great fun attempting to make roti jala, which is a lace-like bread/pancake, using a traditional roti jala cup. It took a couple of goes to master the lacy patterns, but whether or not they looked any good, they tasted great!

Nyonya cook Pearly Kee.
Nyonya cook Pearly Kee.
Curry spices
Beautiful curry spices.

Delicious Malaysian food

After our cooking was done we were then invited outside to sit and enjoy the fruits of our labour. It was interesting to see how different everyone’s curry’s looked as we all used different amounts of chilli, and the food was downright delicious!

For anyone that loves food and cooking, a trip to the Tropical Spice Garden shouldn’t be missed. We found it a wonder way to spend a morning, and the food was some of the best we enjoyed in Penang!

Cooking my delicious stir fried lotus root dish.
Cooking my delicious stir fried lotus root dish.
Roti jala
My attempt at making roti jala.
Meal cooked at Tropical Spice Garden cooking school.
The results – very tasty if I say so myself.


Our thanks goes out to the Tropical Spice Garden for the chance to take part in a tour and cooking class. Find out more about the Tropical Spice Garden on their website and follow them on Twitter @Tropical_SpiceGÂ .

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)

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