Well, I’ve learned my lesson : I won’t be getting my hair dyed, nor a bikini wax in Bangkok this trip. But there is one thing I have been meaning to do for a long time, and today was the day. Learn how to cook Thai food from a proper academy.
I’ve loved Thai food for as long as I can remember. My first memory of it was finding a small import shop in San Luis Obispo, California. I would buy the premade curry paste and a can of coconut milk, thinking I was Thailand’s next top chef.
I routinely burned the bottom of my rice and always left the coconut milk for too late. A lot has changed since that day.
Today my cooking journey begins with Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy. Our wonderful chef, Lek, just returned from her latest stint in Sweden where she worked as head chef for a Thai restaurant.
We started in the market, looking for the right ingredients for all the dishes on the menu. Look at this beautiful, fresh produce!
Back at the academy, I met the two other students in the class Stephanie and Amanda who both work for LUSH cosmetics and were great cooking company. They regaled me of their last project volunteering to build houses in rural Cambodia through LUSH’s non-profit charity. I was thrilled to learn that LUSH is doing so much good outside of making us hippie kids cleaner.
Our menu for the day was:
Massaman Red Curry
Sweet & Sour Vegetables
Stir Fried Tofu with Basil
My favorite part about a cooking class is that all the necessary items and ingredients are all ready for you upon your arrival (oh, and they do the dishes, too). Look at how beautifully the class is laid out!
First, our instructor taught us how to make the curry paste by hand. Hint: it involves a lot of arm strength. In the mortar we added our spices and ground them into a fine paste, awaiting further instruction.
Next, we diced up all our ingredients : julienned onions and red pepper, cubed tofu, minced garlic and birds eye chilies, smashed cardamom pods, nutmeg… all the spices!
The hardest part was not motor boating my mortar; the smell was so incredibly wonderful. Imagine the pungent lemongrass beaten into the earthy ginger and galangal… and then, the sharp lime juice and shrimp paste (or in my case, a tofu paste). Whew, so delicious.
Getting to use a large wok in the open air was an experience in and of itself : as if it’s not hot enough in Thailand, the blazing heat coming from the pan was enough to send a bead of sweat down to my ankle. Yikes.
My respect and admiration for the hordes of food vendors in South East Asia just went up another notch!
Now for the fun part : devouring our hard work. Why is it that a meal that takes two hours to create takes only 30 minutes to demolish? My favorite was the curry : the spiciness rounded out with the sweet coconut milk was just what I was craving. A close second was the papaya salad – it was refreshing, crisp, cool, and fresh as can be – I just loved it!
I’m most looking forward to when I can bring these recipes back home and share them with my friends and family. Who wants a second hand cooking class back in Madrid?
Please note : we were guests of the academy for this course however my opinions are always my own and cannot be bought. For more info on how this works, check out my disclaimer.