There's still 10 months to go until our honeymoon adventures, yet Thailand is taking over my life. My evenings are spent scrolling from travel blog to travel blog, browsing everything from luxury beach resorts to backpacking tales from this tropical paradise. When I'm not banging on about elephants, it's the food I'm obsessing over!
Stories of glorious street food markets buzzing with vibrant colours, and all sorts of scents and flavours have got me excited. Mango sticky rice, fresh fruit, soups, noodles, pad thai, peanuts, peanuts everywhere! And all for just a couple of quid - no wonder they call it the Land of Smiles!
Cooking classes are a recurring theme when looking for things to do in Thailand. You'll find them everywhere from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and even the party islands of the South. Some include trips to the local market while others will take you to a private herb garden to pick ingredients. It doesn't get any fresher than that! I'm pretty sure we'll check out a class at some point in our two week trip.
Researching all these cook schools brings me back to my first experience of Thai cooking. Back in October I went along to Aberdeen's very own Thaikhun with Lynne. She'd bagged some vouchers from itison and we made a day of it, starting with brunch at Rye & Soda, a spot of shopping and a cocktail (or two) before we headed for the Sunday evening lesson. We were welcomed with warm smiles and the offer of drinks. A refreshing, watermelon flavoured Full Moon cocktail was the perfect start.
We were seated in a sectioned off area at the entrance to the Union Square restaurant, around 8 of us in total, each with our own individual gas cooker in front of us. Separated into two smaller groups, ours kicked off with a mini geography lesson. A lovely lady explained the various areas of Thailand, and the differences in ingredients, spices and cooking styles between them.
Up next was a short but sweet cocktail lesson...
A brief introduction to the classic mojito led us on to crafting our very own coconut variations. We muddled together fresh limes and mint, adding white rum, Malibu, coconut syrup, and topping it up with crushed ice. A slice of lime, a sprig of mint and a sprinkle of coconut flakes later and our masterpieces were ready. Imagine relaxing on the white sandy beaches of the beautiful Phi Phi Islands, exotic cocktail in hand... Perfect.
All the while our chef was bustling around, preparing ingredients ready for us to get stuck into the main event. The class included two classic Thai dishes - Tom Yum Soup and Phad Thai. Some of the ingredients I'd never even heard of, nevermind seen before (galangal, anyone?) but luckily we got a brief introduction to each one, with tasters of various spices and herbs being passed around the group - some seriously challenging our spice tolerance!
The end result of our first dish was spot on! A hot and sour soup, most commonly served with shrimp, Tom Yum is full of flavour. Ours was made with chicken, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf, fish sauce and evaporated milk, sweetened with sugar and spiced with chillies. Thai food is so fragrant, and you could say this soup is an acquired taste. I made it at home a few days later and Gordon was not impressed with the smell but quickly changed his mind after tasting!
The phad thai was my personal favourite and I love that you can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. I guess this is the beauty of street food when it's made fresh right before your eyes! I piled the peanuts on while only sprinkling a small amount of chilli flakes.
My only negative note from the experience was the waiting times between cocktail making, soup and phad thai. With only the chef himself and one other person to help, the clear up process in between took a bit longer than we expected. The dishes themselves were surprisingly quick and easy to make, and the evening was fun and light hearted in keeping with that Land of Smiles ideology!
We left the class two and a half hours later, with happy bellies, goodie bags and a new found love of Thai. The goodie bags included vouchers, recipes cards and even the fresh herbs and spices we'd need to rustle up some tom yum soup at home. While I can't yet compare or comment on how authentic the experience was, I can say that if it's a taste of what's to come in Thailand, I can't bloody wait!