Today I went to the Thai Cooking School in Khlong Phrao. A 10 minute bike ride away, the cooking school is set back off the main road into the jungle and during high season can get very busy, being low season, however, I could just turn up on the day and get onto the course. The course lasts approximately 3 hours and costs 1200THB (£23).
The course teaches you to cook 6 traditional Thai dishes, including Tom Kha Gai (Hot sour soup), Chicken and Vegetable spring rolls, Red Curry, Green Curry, Yellow Curry and a King Prawn Penang Curry (my favourite!)
Each dish is made form scratch using fresh ingredients. It was really good because aside from being taught what herbs go well with which meat/fish or which flavours go into which curry, we learnt about what else they can be used for to make other dishes like soups, salads and pastes.
Dish 1: Chicken & Vegetable Spring Rolls
I really enjoyed making these as you get to flatten out the pastry, cook the mixture, then add it to the pastry. The rolling technique was a little more difficult than I expected it to be, but hey, every day is a school day! Once rolled they are placed into a wok half full of palm oil and gradually turned until brown. Once cooked, we used a strange knife I've never seen before to slice them into segments and made a Thai Sweet Chili sauce consisting of Garlic, Salt, Sugar, Chili, White Wine Vinegar and Coconut Sugar reduced down over a high heat. Simple and tasty.
Dish 2: Tom Kha Gai.
This soup is made with Coconut Milk, Galangal (Similar to Ginger) Lemongrass, Chilli and Chicken. The fried chillies add a smoky flavor as well as texture, color and heat, but not so much that it overwhelms the soup. We were told that the key is to get a taste balance between the spices, if you get it wrong it is easily corrected with an extra chilli or extra Lemon Grass.
Dish 3: King Prawn Phanaeng Curry
Phanaeng curry is a type of Thai curry that is milder than other Thai curries. It traditionally includes dried chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, and salt, and sometimes also shallots, peanuts, and shrimp paste. All of these ingredients you can get from Thai Shops back home. The curry paste was made by smashing the above mixture together in a Pestle and Mortar until is resembled a paste. We then added the paste to the wok (without oil) and fried with Coconut milk, then added fresh raw peeled King Prawns. It takes 10 minutes to cook and is my personal favourite. Thai people like to crush peanuts and sprinkle over the top. Very very tasty.
Dish 4: Tom Yum Soup (very hot)
Similar to Tom Kha Gai, this soup is clear and and sour. It is made with about 6 birds eye small chillies and makes your nose run like hell! If you don't like hot food, steer clear of this one!
Dish 5: Kaeng Luaeng (Yellow Curry)
This curry is richer and creamier than other Thai curries, since coconut cream is used in addition to coconut milk. This richer curry tends to tone down the overall spiciness of the dish and I found that it tasted much more like an Indian Curry - Hence its popularity on menus outside of Thailand. The main spices/ingredients we used in this were cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, garlic, salt, bay leaf, lemongrass, cayenne pepper, ginger, mace (YES, MACE!) and cinnamon. Mace is the leaf which grows on the Nutmeg.
Dish 6: Banana and Coconut Soup:
I'm not keen on deserts, but this was very simple to make. Chop a Banana and sick it in some simmering coconut milk with LOTS of palm sugar. That's it!
There are Thai cooking schools all over the country so if your ever here, it is really worth doing. You get a certificate, a recipe book and you can take your cooked food home.