Learning to cook Thai food in Krabi

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Traveling often implies a few things about food. In Thailand, for example, it’s assumed that visitors are interested in diversifying their palates and will order Thai iced tea, pad see ew or panang curry, eschewing plain old burgers and pizza. And so, it is a given that most meals will be eaten at a restaurant or a street cart. It makes sense that you’d opt for local fare to taste what the country grows, what they typically eat, and how deliciously they prepare their food. Sometimes, you walk away from your table at the end of the night and wonder how dishes like the ones you tried are even possible to make!

Could they have been delicately marinating that meat for days? Did they make all those thin noodles by hand? What spices could possibly have produced such an unusual and delectable flavour? These are questions I find myself asking (to nobody in particular) whenever I travel.

Another implication from travel is that you will not have an opportunity to cook anything yourself until you get back home. Hotels rarely have kitchens for guests to use, and when they do, the price is often out of reach for the average traveller. Quenching this desire to cook and answer any lingering questions about Thai food can be done by booking a very entertaining and inexpensive cooking class.

In Ao Nang, a beach town in Krabi province in southern Thailand, many companies offer half-day cooking classes at a reasonable price, usually about 1200-1700 baht ($36 – $52 US), and will have you prepare between five and seven different dishes. Any┬áhotel worth its salt will have a few pamphlets near the front desk that advertise various classes around town, and they’ll all offer a wide range of options on what one might like to learn how to cook. I settled on a nearby class called Thai Charm Cooking School, nestled in the jungle near the main highway of Ao Nang. When I arrived, the first thing our instructor Heng did was introduce himself, reject our names, and give us all nicknames in Thai. My new name became Peht with a soft e, which he said meant “expensive like diamond“.

Heng jumped around excitedly, teaching us all about each vegetable, demonstrating his remarkable chopping skills, and pretending to accidentally cut off his own fingers. I followed along, not going quite as quickly with the cleaver, chopping up herbs, vegetables, and curry paste ingredients for my four main dishes. One thing I learned is that if anyone ever needs to get a decent upper-body workout, consider making some curry paste from scratch. Everything is tossed into a mortar and pestle, and is pounded vigorously for upwards of ten minutes until it becomes something wholly unrecognizable. This workout, however, is not without considerable reward; at the end of the class, it’s expected that everything each student has cooked will be consumed immediately. And, having made green papaya salad, pad thai, coconut chicken soup, and a chicken panang curry, I found the reward quite satisfying. Maybe overwhelmingly so.

Dessert (yes, there was even more food to come) consisted of sticky rice sweetened with palm sugar and served with sliced mango, and then a bowl of poached bananas in coconut cream. It is rich, pleasurable, and a perfect ending to a Thai cooking class. The desire to cook has been filled and the questions have been answered: chicken was not marinated and instead took only minutes to cook; noodles were not made by hand; and those spices that produce such wonderful meals? You may have to attend a class of your own to find out how they’re made. And once that has been accomplished, friends will start begging to be invited over for dinner.

Posted by | Comments Off on Learning to cook Thai food in Krabi  | February 25, 2015
Category: Food and Drink

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