Friday, March 19, 2010

Bangkok: Cooking Class, Day 1

The main purpose for my trip to Thailand was to discover one of my favorite cuisines in its home country. So, my mom planned a series of three cooking classes! It was such an amazing experience! Now when I plan trips, I'm always going to see if there are cooking classes for tourists. It is such an educational and hands-on way to learn about cuisines.

On the first day, we went to the The Oriental Thai Cooking School at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. Here is a slideshow of pictures from the Mandarin Oriental. It has properties on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. On one side is the main hotel, and on the other side is the restaurant, spa, and cooking school.

My mom and brother took this class when they visited the city two years ago. It was such an enjoyable experience, that my mom signed up for it again. The classes are repeatable because each day has a different lesson. The chef/instructor, Chef Nahrain, is so knowledgeable with the ingredients. We learned so much about Thai cuisine in a matter of hours. The format of the class is to learn one dish at a time, and then make that dish together as a class at our cooking station. After all four dishes have been learned and created, we enjoy our creations for lunch.

The Classroom
There was only four of us (My parents, myself, and a Japanese lady) for the day's session. So we all were able to sit in the front row to enjoy Chef's instructions.

The Prep Kitchen
The intern chefs help prepare ingredients for the class in this kitchen.

The Class Menu
Each day has a different menu. If you go, check out the menu on the website so you know what you'll be learning and cooking on the day you attend.

The Spices
All types of Thai spices and ingredients were laid out in front of us. Many were used, while others were out just to expand our knowledge.

The Produce
Fruits and Vegetables and Chilis. We learned that bigger chilis are less spicy, while the tinier the chilis are more potent.

Fresh turmeric. The flesh is bright orange and can stain anything it touches.

Key Limes and Kaffir Limes. Key limes are tart, yet mellow. Kaffir limes have such a deep lime smell and a more distinct lime taste. Appearance-wise, key limes skins are smooth, while kaffir limes skins are wavy.

Kaffir Leaves
They come in twos. The smell is also distinct. The taste and aroma help to enhance fresh and cooked dishes. Chef taught us how to cut the leaves: take out the leaves by holding the stem, then rolling the leaves in a bundle, then finely chopping them. Chef cut the leaves so finely!

Coriander Root
Until this class I only ate the green part of the coriander (also known as cilantro). I didn't know that the root was also usable. You have to take the inside part of the root, and then you can use it to enhance the flavor of broths, sautes, or sauces.

The purple part of the lemongrass is the only usable segment. It has all the aroma and taste. The green part doesn't have any of that.

Palm Sugar
Natural sugar from the palm trees. It's mellower than other types of sugars.

Fish Sauce
Southeast Asia has so many varieties of fish sauces. Thailand produces some of the best. This is the Chef's brand of choice.

Treats to Start
We had some treats to start the lesson! Mango jelly - a fresher version of my childhood Fruit Roll Ups. Coconut covered sticky sweet rice balls. Rice popcorn with nuts.

Sakhoo Sai Moo
Tapioca Balls with Pork Filling.
We started with the ground pork and peanut filling to make sure it cooled. Then we made the tapioca. After both parts were made, we formed the pork balls, which were covered by a tapioca layer. We then boiled the balls until cooked. It's chewy on the outside because of the tapioca and full of flavor on the inside. This was a delicious appetizer and fun to make!

Yam Nuea Yaang
Thai Spicy Grilled Beef Salad with Grapes.
The beef is pre-cooked and cooled, then the ingredients and dressing are blended together. This is such a spicy dish, but it can be controlled by the amount of chilis you put in the dressing. I love the fresh taste of the lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and mint leaves.

Pad Thai
Thai Stir-fried Noodles
The most known Thai dish. There are three parts to this: the paste, the sauce, and the whole ingredients which are all mixed together before serving. After learning and tasting this recipe, it made me realize that so many of the orders I've had in the states were not authentic at all. Now I know what's real and what's not. It was another spicy dish that can also be adjusted by the amount of chilis you include.

Mun Thawd
Sweet Potato Fritters
This can be made with sweet potatoes, bananas, taro, pumpkin, etc. The batter wasn't overly sweet nor oily. The addition of the sesame seeds provided a nice taste and texture. It makes for a nice dessert or afternoon snack.

Certificate of Completion!
We were presented with certicates of completion after we completed our lesson! We also received a fresh apron and Thai spices as a starter kit for when we cook. This was such a great class! When I go back to Bangkok, I will definitely look into taking another set of classes here.


Zinnia said...

So how can I tell if the pad thai I'm eating is authentic or not? Educate me, masta!

Angela said...

It's not overly saucy nor oily at all and it doesn't have non-Thai ingredients like tomatoes. I'll email you the recipe that I got from the cooking class!

Zinnia said...

GOOD. I don't like tomatoes hahahaha.

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Bangkok Trip