Before ever touching foot in Thailand I was most excited about visiting for two reasons: 1. To gluttonize myself on delicious Thai food and 2. To take a cooking class and learn how to make some of the tasty dishes myself. After looking around a little on TripAdvisor, I signed up with Silom Cooking School. It set me back 1000 Baht (about $34, which was more than an entire day’s budget for most of the trip), but I decided it would be worth it.
The class started with a short tour of a nearby open-air market where Chef Jay explained the difference between basils and showed us a variety of eggplants.
“This one pea eggplant. This one wata-melon eggplant. This one junior eggplant,” he recited in his sassy Thai accent, handing each one to me until I cradled 8 different varieties. It wasn’t long before an old desire to be teacher’s pet rose up within me and I was shouting out the names of the different vegetables and herbs as Chef Jay held them up to quiz us. I couldn’t help it. I wanted his chef-ial praise.
We moved on to chili peppers. Chef Jay held up a basket of red and green jalapeno-sized peppers. “These ones not so spicy. But these?” he asked, indicating another basket that was brimming with miniature peps. “Yes,” we answered. “Hell yes,” he corrected. “Spicy. Spicy!” pointing at his mouth and rear respectively.
We then followed Chef Jay’s distinct sashay across the streets and around the corner like a line of ducklings following our momma. The class itself was easy peasy (aimed at beginners). We made our own coconut milk and chopped some vegetables. Then took turns working with the mortar and pestle to make curry paste.
(Side note: Jay told us back in the day men used to sneak over to home of a potential spouse and spy on her while she used the mortar and pestle. If she was good at grinding things down to pulp and powder, it was a sign she would make a good wife. Take note ladies.)
For each dish we would walk out to the porch where a line of woks stood prepared, with most of the ingredients already in the pan and waiting for us to just turn on the fire. We tossed them around for no longer than 7 minutes, then dumped them onto a dish and ate our creations. They were all delicious, but I didn’t feel any real sense of ownership or pride in them as I sometimes do when cooking on my own.
What I took from this class was more what I learned about the culture through cooking. Thai people love aromatics, so they use a lot of ingredients you aren’t actually supposed to eat, but that add a lovely fragrance, such as lemongrass and ginger and kefir lime leaves. They use fish and oyster sauce in abundance because they enjoy the fishy smell. They don’t really use salt because it has no scent. They love colorful dishes, so sometimes scarlet chilies or verdant lime leaves make their appearance as a garnish, just for fun. All these things support the general impression I got of the Thai people during our short stay there. They are colorful and genuine, spicy and fun.
Also, in Thailand Taylor got a sunburn in the shape of the batman sign.
Some other highlights from Thailand…