Now anyone who knows me, knows that (a) I don’t try to cook & (b) when I try, I am terrible. However, I was in Thailand and thought it would be a fun experience to learn. I was apprehensive about making three dishes in 1.5 hours from scratch knowing my cooking abilities, especially when thai dishes have about 20 ingredients per menu item. But I do recommend you participate in a class as it is much easier than you first think, it is enjoyable and you might just prove yourself wrong, like I did.
Kata Thai Cooking Class by Sally is located in Kata, just on the hill as you head down into town. Open Monday – Saturday, they offer a morning (11am-1:30pm) or an afternoon session (3:30-6pm) for approximately $1700 Baht (at the moment that’s around $70). The cost includes the ingredients for cooking including meat, a cooking station, recipes, chefs hat, the meal, a soft drink & water as well as the chef’s time. It also includes free transport if coming from the kata and karon area.
Sally was in Bangkok for a work conference/cooking seminar so her business & life partner Jim taught my class. The class can be mixed in numbers depending on the day, sometimes big and sometimes small. On the afternoon class I visited, I was the only one there, so it was especially good for me to learn. It has a table set up to prepare the food and workbenches to cook the meals once preparations have been finished.
The menu options change depending on which day you visit, but they are predominately popular thai choices like a Red or Green Curry, Massamun (though as I learn, this isn’t typically Thai), cashew nut chicken, tom yum soup, pad thai and spring rolls to name a few. The classes are also possible for vegetarians as the choices can be adjusted.
Jim is entertaining and I find his banter most suitable to the experience. He quizzes me on each ingredient before explaining what it is, a little bit of the history and how the ingredients grow and where they can be found. What I find extremely interesting is that you simply swap out a few ingredients only and you’ve got yourself a whole new curry. Basically, you prep the ground work and can make 3-4 different curries at home. For example, basically the difference between a green and red curry is the green uses green chilli (not dried) and the red uses dried red chilli for the paste. Then for a green curry you also add dried roasted coriander seed, cumin seed and a basil leaf. That is the simple difference! A penang curry is similar to the green without the basil leaf and add more green chilli.
So I begin with the Red Curry, and after we’ve discussed each ingredient, I soak the dried chill in water, then pound the dried chilli, black pepper and salt, followed by the galangal, lemongrass and a skin of kaffir lime. Later, add the garlic, shallot, turmeric and add the fresh chilli and shrimp paste (keep the paste out if vegetarian). It is awesome that you are making your own paste. You add as much chili as it pleases your taste buds.
Once this is done, you can cook. Jim took me to the cooking station and taught each step, one by one. I heat up the vegetable oil, add the coconut milk and dissolve the curry paste, once it starts boiling, pour the rest of the milk in. Add the meat, veggies and wait until it thickens. It was interesting to cook as I was able to watch the curry thicken and taste the flavours as they developed.
Once it was cooked, it was served in a bowl and ready to eat, they provided some rice too. I wasn’t a fan of the thai eggplant and probably at home would use carrot or broccoli. But the taste of the red curry was superb and despite it’s colour, really wasn’t that spicy at all.
The chicken cashew nut is my favourite. A very easy one to make – prepare your ingredients and chop up the vegetables. At the cooking station you lightly fry your nuts and chilli and remove, then add and lightly fry your chicken. Add your sauce (fish paste, chilli paste, water and sugar), as well as all your other ingredients and it is ready in no time. Garnish with nuts and dried chilli and it’s ready to eat. This had a beautiful taste and so much better than ordering from the store.
The last dish was the pad thai. Also, very easy to make once you know how. The noodles had been previously soaked and softened and so then prepare all your ingredients to cook. The sauce is made with tamarind paste, fish sauce and palm sugar. When you’re ready to cook, remember this takes a lot of tossing the noodles to get it all to mix without breaking the noodles. This dish has egg, tofu and I had shrimp. It can be vegetarian if you please. Once it is ready, top it with chives and serve. Another delicious meal.
I thought the whole experience was wonderful. It was great to learn about Thai cooking and how to make the meals from scratch, in particular the curry pastes, prepare the ingredients and make step by step. Jim was a great teacher and made it an enjoyable cooking class.
I’ll probably go home and make some thai food when I have time (you can even freeze your curry paste to use later if you are time poor)!
When you come to Thailand, I thoroughly recommend this as a worthwhile activity.
Kata Thai Cooking class by Sally
1/4 Patak Road, Karon, Muang Phuket 83100 – THAILAND E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org