Today, we opted to learn more about Thai food by cooking it. We arrived in the Silom neighborhood of Bangkok about 30 minutes early, and started off by exploring the area. It was incredibly diverse, building upon our understandings yesterday of Thai food as having influence from several cultures and religions. This area of town was similarly mixed, featuring a beautiful mosque and a very ornate Hindu temple which we were able to enter.
After that, we wandered to the market, where coincidentally, we went again for our cooking class to learn about the ingredients that we would be using before tuk-tuking to the class site. Of course, the class was also relatively diverse, featuring us, 4 Spaniards (who spoke some English, but not much), three Koreans (spoke 0 English) and a Mexican who has been living in Bangkok (the sister-in-law of the Spaniards, we would discover). As you can expect, shenanigans ensued as our Thai guide attempted to get all of us on the same page language-wise.
We started the class off with a tuk tuk ride, and because we were the smallest group, the instructor rode with us. He quickly learned that we love the food and warned us that no matter what, just proceed as normal (apparently the language issue can cause some weird classroom dynamics). We agreed and continued chatting about our previous travels in Asia. We started the class by prepping the fresh coconut milk and cream we would be using throughout the meal for curries and the sticky mango rice.
Then, we started on the appetizer, which was Tom Yum Goong soup. Of course, the Spanish folks weren’t able to tolerate the spice, which led to some amusing takes on the dish.
Then, we made Pad Thai, a dish we were informed Thai people never eat, because it requires too much work, has too many ingredients, and is too balanced to taste flavorful to their palate. Thai food must include sweet, salty, spicy, and sour, but if you keep all of them at the same level, it gets boring. Instead, you need to make sure certain dishes – like Tom Yum Goong – are sour, while others, like certain curries, are spicy. That being said, it was fun learning how to make the Pad Thai.
Another pro tip: unlike any pasta, rice noodles should never be boiled – instead, they should be soaked in cold water for about 20-30 minutes before being thrown into the pan and cooked dry. We then started on the Paneng curry, which is a sweet peanut curry. We only did it to taste, learning that most Thais prefer to use store-bought curry paste and coconut milk (and apparently KFC has pretty good green curry!). Amusingly, the instructor gave everyone the same amount of curry paste to begin, but because the Spanish couldn’t handle the heat, he ladled off parts of the curry paste to avoid overwhelming them… and put it in my wok. I was very proud my odd heat tolerance was appreciated.
Then, it was on to the main attraction, which was green curry. We started from scratch with the curry paste, which was a fun activity if only because we had some time to talk more with our classmates. We ground the curry paste using a mortar and pestle, and everyone contributed to the process.
Since the green curry took the longest to cook, we of course had to take some group photos.
The final product was great, and very creamy. We followed it up with the sticky rice and mango that we had prepared coconut cream for at the very beginning of the class.
After class, we took a free taxi to a nice market up the river, which was basically a more permanent and clean version of several of the markets we have been to both in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Perhaps most notable to me was the fruit stand, and the vast amount of Durians (not pictured: the durian store, which sells everything from durian chips to durian brand face creams).
Overall, it was a great day and a ton of fun learning more about cooking Thai food. Tomorrow, we have a final day in Bangkok and are starting with a spa morning, then we’re headed to explore the royal palace and some of the famous temples.