Thai food is one of my all-time favorite cuisines. It’s our go-to for takeout and my favorite lunch-time treat. So when Brendan announced he had to attend a conference in Bangkok, I was left with only one option – crash the party and book as many cooking classes as possible.
Bangkok is quite the city. It is flippin’ huge (over eight million people), littered with all sizes of beautiful temples, street food vendors and sprawling shopping malls, connected via a super clean and efficient sky train, and counts motorcycle taxis (available as an option via Grab, southeast Asia’s “Uber”) as legit transportation.
It’s also hot as Hades, making cooking multiple courses every day an experience for the books of this mild-weather lover, and left me feeling consistently overfed.
While Brendan worked during the day, I took three classes – two groups (both of which ended up being private lessons since I was the only person booked) and one private lesson, which I ended up sharing with a delightful couple and proved to be my favorite day in the city. Evenings were filled by dinner and drinks throughout Bangkok with Brendan’s delightful coworkers, including one memorable evening involving seven of us, one cab, and no AC.
But onto the food!
This class took place above the non-touristy, wholesale Yodpiman Flower Market. Alyssa, my instructor, took me on a tour, introducing me to vendors and picking up fresh ingredients for our class, before we started in on the good stuff – miang khum (an appetizer consisting of seven or eight fresh ingredients tucked into a betel leaf and eaten in one bite), fruit salad (rose apples, mangoes, dragon fruit and guava tossed with crispy chicken and a lime dressing), pad thai with purple noodles, and red and green curry made from scratch.
I learned two valuables lessons that first day: 1) What makes authentic pad thai red is not a specific sauce. Nope. It’s squished shrimp heads. And 2) Do NOT eat breakfast. Stomach room is way to precious to be wasted on the most important meal of the day, especially in Thailand.
Kare met me at the sky train station and took me on a tour of her decidedly local market. She already had everything for the class, so she told me the history of the area while we wandered around her neighborhood. Then we got down to the cooking: pork & dill egg rolls, fried rice, noodle salad, and green curry. By the way, curry making is not for wimps. I manually mortar-and-pestled so much curry paste, my biceps ached and my hands were covered in blisters. And it was sooooo good.
Halfway through class Kare mentioned she is converting the cooking space by day into a bar by night, and was working on a few test cocktails and would I like to try one? Heck yes! For the rest of class, I sipped a delicious ice-cold combination of coconut milk, sugar and local Thai rum, garnished with peanuts.
My only regret is not coming a month later – per the website, looks like the bar is up and running!
This experience was simply perfect. I was unexpected joined by Grace and Hector, a wonderful couple from The Philippines who were in Bangkok for a few days. Angsana, our host, met us at the sky train station and drove us to the On Nut market, where we hopped from vendor to vendor, stocking up on cooking necessities and treats alike.
Angsana graciously acted as our translator and introduced us to a local salted orange juice that blew our minds.
Before we could slip into sugar comas, she whisked us away to her home, where everything was set up for our day of cooking and her lovely mama acted as assistant.
Since I knew I would be cooking plenty of curry and pad thai during my other classes, I selected items from Angsana’s family recipes that I had either never heard of or never tried before, and Grace was completely on board. We spent the next four hours prepping fried duck breast with tamarind sauce, banana leaf salad, and fried golden bags (which turned out to be stuffed with minced pork and shrimp and topped with a homemade sweet chili sauce).
Laughter and bike deliveries of forgotten ingredients punctuated the lesson. At one point I confessed to never having tried durian, known as the “blue cheese” of fruit and smells so bad to most people – including Angsana – that its banned in public transportation, airplanes and hotels and recently caused the evacuation of a university library. Ten minutes later one was delivered via bike messenger. Angsana fled the room as we cut it open. I braced myself for what was sure to be the worst smell of my life, but was surprised by the scent of melon, common to those who actually enjoy the fruit. Whew!
By the time the prepping and cooking was complete, we students realized we had just put together one of the best meals of our lives – a true testament to Angsana’s cooking and teaching skills. We gorged ourselves on all our delicious food, then on the sweets we had each picked up at the market.
It was all over too quickly, and we agreed we’ll be cooking with Angsana every time we return to Bangkok.