God I love to cook! And Jesus knows I love Thai food. There’s a saying in Thailand, mai phet mai arroy – meaning, If it ain’t spicy, it damn well ain’t delicious!
Despite what Dale is telling me, I definitely would have been open to doing a cooking class with him when we were traveling together. But as our schedule was super tight, it probably wasn’t a feasible option to take. The air is clear, I can continue with my life.
The dish I was most excited to make was Som Tum, spicy papaya salad. Have you ever tried it? Then you’ll know what I’m going on about. My friend, Tim, and I chose the cooking class based on the dishes that were on offer. My must do’s were: som tum and pad kee mao. So off we went on this class.
They picked us up from the hostel and took us to a nearby fresh produce market. The vegetables with which we were cooking were being shown and passed around. The group leader was trying to make a joke when she showed us the long beans, because the Thai name sounds like FUCK. Repeat after me: Tua Fuk Yao. Nobody laughed, perhaps it was an uncomfortable blague, but perhaps it went straight over their heads. She said that the cooking teacher would test our memory and ask us the name later on (good thing I am like a sponge, soaking up all that sweet information).
First order of the day was to decide which dishes we would cook. I selected the following:
- Soup : tom yum gai (sweet and sour chicken soup)
- Noodles : pad kee mao (drunken noodles, the most spicy dish on offer)
- Curry : kaeng phet (red curry with eggplant)
- Dessert : khao niew ma muang (mango sticky rice)
It was a very well-orchestrated class. As everyone had chosen different dishes (for soup, noodles, curry and dessert) and we were all cooking at the same time – the instructions came to us via “Tom Yum team, do this” or “Pad Kee Mao team, do this”.
The soup base is practically the same for any Thai soup. Start with a stick of lemongrass, a kaffir lime leaf, galanga (Thai ginger) and chilli. For Tom Yum, add kaffir lime juice, tomatoes, shallots and coriander.
Some sort of paste was added to the soup, she called it the tom yum paste… Whatever… My soup tasted exactly how I wanted, sour, spicy and oh so delicious!
Next was the pad kee mao. Borne from the messy mind of a drunken chef, the cooking starts off with a bang! The oil is heated until super hot and then the garlic and chilli is thrown in – a scientist could tell me what processes are behind the instant fireball explosion, but I would just tell you to back away… By the way, this is a spicy dish and you start with ten chillis and add more to taste (assuming you have no taste buds).
The dessert was fun to cook, though mine took a little longer to reach a pudding consistency. You might find mango sticky rice being sold by street vendors, but nothing compares to fresh homemade stuff. The street vendors at more water to make the rice last through the day, at home you have the luxury to make it 100% coconut milk and sugar. What a delightful combination? Can I eat this everyday?
Last, but certainly not least, we made a curry paste. There was a lot of banging going on, the pestle against the mortar, pounding and grinding all of the colourful ingredients into a homogenous paste. The smell of the chillis so strong you could feel it in your eyes. In fact, I did get some on my eye, bloody hell!
For the curries, they all start with the same basic ingredients – to make a red curry paste, you simply add more of this ingredient, to make a yellow curry paste, you add more of this ingredient, to make a green curry you use green stuff and for massamun curry paste you add some fancy spices, blah blah blah.
Worth it? Yes. But sadly, no som tum. That was enough to make me cry, or was that the 10 chillis I added to my pad kee mao?