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Learning to cook the local cuisine is a great way to mix life’s greatest pleasures of good food and travel. Here’s a wonderful account of a cooking class in Thailand!
Thai food is simple, and at the same time, tantalizing to the senses. We love a good Pad Thai noodles dish. That’s why, when the opportunity to do a crash course in Thai cooking came up, we grabbed it. We were acclimatized to Thailand and the smell of lemon grass that followed us everywhere, in the three days we had spent in Bangkok and Phuket. Our next stop was beautiful Krabi. We came to know about a cooking class Smart Cook Krabi which had a one day course in Thai cooking, followed by a tour of the local market.
Thai cooking, like Indian cooking, is curry dominated. They have yellow curry, red curry, and green curry, which are unimaginative names of the original names of the dishes in Thai. Thai cuisine can get very spicy to handle, and Thai spicy can mean, volcano-erupting-in-your-mouth level spicy. Though spice is integral to Thai cooking, unlike India (where we use dried spices like chilly powder, turmeric powder, etc.) Thai cooking requires fresh chillies and turmeric, which is then ground into a paste.
Thailand is tourist-friendly and the competition between local businesses is high, so most activities aimed at tourists have pick-up and drop facilities. The car from Smart Cook picked us up from our hotel and took us to the class for a day of cooking, eating, and lovely company. After alighting, we realized that the lady who drove us was also our cooking instructor. The location of the class was the long verandah of her home, with a lovely garden beside it. Smart cook needs pre-booking and they take small batches of 6-8 people.
We had signed up for a seven-course cooking class, and there were two options for each course. So, us being clever and all, we divided up the menu such that me and my husband made different items for each course. The class started with teaching us about the different unique ingredients in Thai cooking like galangal, basil leaves, lemon grass, chilies, tamarind, fish sauce, etc, all required for the sweet, sour, spicy, and salty taste that Thai cooking requires.
We started with making red and green curry paste with a pestle and mortar . Red and green paste is used in the soups and curry, and it moderates the spice levels in Thai food. There is a Thai folk saying which says “a man would know if a girl would make a good wife (read cook) by listening to the sound of the pestle on the mortar”.
There is a Thai folk saying which says “a man would know if a girl would make a good wife (read cook) by listening to the sound of the pestle on the mortar”.
Tom Kha soup, which was the first item I made, was surprisingly easy – as the ingredients and prep was already done and ready for us. We then took our soup bowls to the dining table and had soup, and got to taste each other’s culinary prowess too. The next item on the cook and eat menu was spring rolls for starters with yummy tamarind sauce. After we wolfed down the spring rolls, it was time for some salad with glass noodles.
The main course was green, red, or yellow curry with rice which is my eternal favourite. Since we were our own cooks, we could add as much or as little of the spice. This course gave me a deep understanding of how little cooking time chicken and prawns actually need, because the Indian cook in me is prone to slathering anything non-veg in spices, and cooking it till the chicken forgets that it used to be a chicken.
This course gave me a deep understanding of how little cooking time chicken and prawns actually need, because the Indian cook in me is prone to slathering anything non-veg in spices, and cooking it till the chicken forgets that it used to be a chicken.
We then got a taste of Thai fried rice and Pad Thai, and I was in Thai heaven. I wanted to continue cooking, but eating it was the problem. My cooking skills were decent but my stomach didn’t have the space for all this yumminess. Thankfully, we didn’t have one sit down meal, it was staggered, and we cooked and ate alternatively.
For dessert, we had sticky rice and mango which was cooked in coconut milk, rice pudding, and banana fritters with condensed milk. At this stage, I wanted a take-away box, but I managed to finish it with some help from the husband.
After all this eating and cooking, we got some much needed exercise at the local market tour.
At the market, we got a whiff and feel of all these unique and wonderful ingredients, some closer to home some not as much. There was basil, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, chillies, tamarind, fish, prawns, chicken,mango, galangal ,and water bugs all for the Thai culinary pursuits. It was a day well spent, and I can claim to have learned Thai cooking with lovely class mates from countries like Singapore and Australia!
This post was first published here.
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