Saturday morning I got picked up in this:
The converted bed of a pick-up truck. They’re really common here and there’s even a type of hop-on cab/bus service that is made up entirely of red trucks with their beds converted into seating. I was on my way to an all day cooking class. Our first stop was the market, so they could explain the ingredients we were going to use. I was pretty excited about this but it ended up being a little bit disappointing. I really would love to have someone walk me through the market and explain all of the foods in it, but we just went over a few things that we’d be using and then were given ten minutes to walk around.
We then piled back into the truck to go the school. I had the choice between three different dishes each, for each of these categories: curry, stir-fried, soup, appetizer, dessert. It was hard to choose but I opted with kao soi, a red curry; pad thai for my stir fry (so I know for sure how to make it when I get home); seafood in coconut milk soup; papaya salad for the appetizer; and water chestnuts in coconut milk for dessert. Mango sticky rice was another option and it was hard to pass it up, but I figured I’d made it in my last class, and I’d been eating enough of it on the street, that I should try something new.
The stations were well set up, with everything we’d need on hand. I think that will be the hardest part of trying to cook these dishes at home, not having everything laid out for you ahead of time. Plus having to wash my own dishes. 🙂
I actually think I liked the version of the pad thai I made at my last cooking class better. In that one we incorporated the peanuts and chili while cooking, and used tamarind paste and palm sugar. At the class here we used oyster sauce instead of tamarind, and white sugar instead of palm. We had pickled daikon radish in the first class too, which I though added a nice element.
We used a special Y shaped serrated peeler to shred the papaya and the carrots, and then muddled lime juice, palm sugar, long bean, chili and fish sauce in a mortar and pestle. Palm sugar can be bought fresh or hard, and in it’s fresh state looks a bit like slightly crystallized honey. It has a honey-like flavor as well. We then added the papaya, carrot, tomato, dried shrimp, and peanuts into the mortar and mixed everything up.
The finished product was delicious: a little spicy (I only put one chili) salty, tart, sweet, and crunchy. It might’ve been my favorite dish of the day.
This was pretty straightforward, we cooked, lemon grass, tomato, lime, scallion, chive and chili together and added a mix of seafood: shrimp, squid and fish balls at the end. Again, delicious.
For the kao soi we made our own curry, starting with dehydrated red chilis that had been soaked in water, we then chopped and mashed them to make a paste. There was also galangal, a relative of ginger in it as well as a “kao soi” mix of dried powders: coriander and cumin and tumeric. Being able to make our own dishes and control how much of each ingredient (especially the chilis!) really helped. It also had coconut milk in it, it’d be tough to be Thai if you had a coconut allergy!
The instructors were good and the other people were great. We all tried each others dishes, so I got to sample all 15 options, even though I only made 5. I totally forgot to take a picture of the water chestnut dessert I made, it was a little odd. They soaked chunks of water chestnut in grenadine, so they were bright red and sweet, and then we rolled them in tapioca flour (starch?) and boiled them. At the end they were sort of like a jelly, and we put them in water to cool before straining them and serving them in coconut milk sweetened by palm sugar. I liked it but mostly because I like sweet coconut things, the water chestnuts themselves were more texture than flavor. But Thai people seem to really like jellied things, they show up in lots of their desserts, and drinks.
Both classes gave us cookbooks to take home, and I’m excited to try them out when I get back. I may pick up an ingredient or two before I leave, but I’m hoping the rest won’t be too hard to find.