Kate and Judi are big fans of Thai food. One weekend about a year ago at home, we decided to have girl’s night where we’d cook Pad Thai and watch a movie. We got a recipe, followed it as best we could but the Pad Thai was awful. That will never have to happen again.
Here Judi talks about their wonderful experience at cooking school. Being in Bangkok was the perfect chance to not only eat our favorite Thai food but learn to make it. Kate and I signed up for a half day class at the Silom Cooking School based on Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor reviews. We took the ferry across the main river, water taxi down to the Central Pier and then SkyTrain to the Silom district. Our class was scheduled for 1:30pm and we met our teacher, Nam, and the rest of our group near the school. Nam spoke good English and led us all to an outdoor market where she bought vegetables and herbs for the dishes we would be cooking. Nam explained that she had gone to the market earlier and had bought everything for the class because it would all be sold by the afternoon. It was packaged up in nice baskets for us.
The market shop was an adventure…mostly learning that there is a difference in Thai garlic and garlic at home; Thai limes and limes at home, etc. You can substitute—it’s not ideal but it will work. Nam, sadly told us that the students from Hong Kong were the only ones of our group who could find the exact ingredients at home. It was an international group with other students from Korea, Italy, Germany as well as Hong Kong. Kate loved that she met lots of people from around the world.
We used all fresh ingredients. Those were the best, Nam advised. Canned coconut milk? No way. We shredded Thai coconuts and squeezed the meat. The result was wonderful, fresh tasting, non-canned coconut milk. Make the coconut milk was Kate’s favorite part of the class. Dried rice noodles like we use at home? No way. Nam had the fresh ones. You soak them for 15 minutes to perfection unlike the dried ones you get at home. You must use Tamarind, Nam advised. She pulled out some root-looking thing and added water while Michael, from Germany, kept squeezing the Tamarind into the water. I asked Nam if she could suggest a substitute if I couldn’t find one at home and she suggested vinegar. I later asked Michael if he could find Tarmarind in Germany—Michael said no…and that he would resort to using vinegar like I would. If you are wondering what Tamarind is, so was I so I had to read about it here http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/20/tamarind_n_5999376.html
Kate really appreciated that Nam made her feel like an equal part of the class and even though it was hard for her to prepare some of the ingredients (12 year old girl, large chopping knifes, yikes) Nam always waited for her to be right with the group before moving on.
We had a prep room where we all gathered with individual portions and prepared the ingredients for what we were about to cook. We would cut, chop, squeeze or stir the ingredients and then Nam would explain to us, step by step, how we would cook the dish. We would then take the prepped food to our individual cooking stations (gas stove) and cook the dish as Nam walked by coaching us on stirring, etc. Nam explained that the only temperature in Thai cooking is high. You turn your stove on high, cook until the dish is finished, and then turn it off. Nam also told us that Thai cooking (once you have your ingredients prepped) was very fast. She said if you go into a Thai restaurant, you should wait no longer than 15 minutes for any dish to appear.
From the cooking stations, we put our food item on a lovely dish and went into the dining room to eat our creations. The best Thai food ever.
In the end, we made Tom Yum Goong (soup with coconut milk) – this was Kate’s favorite part of the meal, Kang Khiao Wan Gai (Green curry with chicken), spring rolls with sweet chili sauce, Shrimp Pad Thai, and mango with sticky rice. I left totally stuffed and excited to try the dishes at home. We headed back home and our ferry driver saw us on the dock and was kind enough to come back, mid-river and get us for his last run for the day. It was one of the best days of our trip so far.
Kate and I feel brave enough to cook a Thai food dinner for the family during our time in Thailand (at Patong Beach on Phuket Island where they have everything you could want – except, even with the help of three Thai women in the grocery store, we still couldn’t find the mint leaves so we substituted basil in our spring rolls). Our condo only has two electric burners but we will do our very best and will report the results! Alan and John comment on the meal the girls made – John says, “it was really good. The noodles in the Pad Thai were my favorites.” Alan says, “I am so impressed that they made an entire meal following the instructions from the cooking class. This means good things to come even when we get back home.”
In Case You Go: Silom Cooking School
Phone: 084 726 5669
$35 per person
Various sessions during the week slightly alter the menu; there is a morning and afternoon session. We did the afternoon. Easy to sign up via the on-ling booking service which sent an email confirmation with good directions on where to meet.