Learning at Issaya Cooking Studio: Day 2

I had another amazing day learning to cook Thai food at the Issaya Cooking Studio. This time I was the only student so I had a private lesson with Nat (the instructor). There are definite benefits to living in Thailand because during the non-tourist season you can find yourself receiving one-on-one instruction as opposed to when it’s tourist season and you participate in a full class.

Today I learned how to make yam sam o (pomelo salad), kradak mu ob (red curry-glazed baby back ribs), tom sab (a soup made with the pork stock from the ribs), chicken green curry, and khoa ob mo din (a clay-pot baked multigrain rice and beans).

We tossed some baby back ribs into a stew pot to boil and soften for a couple of hours and then started our first dish: pomelo salad. If you are not familiar with pomelo is kind of like a large grapefruit but the fruit itself is much sweeter. I am not a fan of grapefruit–but I am a friend to pomelo. It was super easy to make but as you can see we made an interesting presentation of it! Basically you take an edible betel leaf and put it at the bottom of the pot, then pile the pomelo salad in the pot, then top the pot with crushed peanuts and put a couple of betel leaves and stems to make a “plant”. Super cute. I want to try this when we have folks over at the house. Leave a flower pot as a center piece on the table and then spring it on people that it’s the appetizer! 

After the salad we made the green curry. This is one of my favorite dishes and I’ve tried to make it at home using those instant seasoning packages with pretty unimpressive results. Today I made it with the homemade green curry paste and it rocked my world. I will never use another cheap instant seasoning package again. One of the things that we used in the making of the curry was slices of “coconut heart”. Nat said that it was the tops of coconut trees and it had a texture like bamboo shoots and a taste of coconut meat.  I’ve never heard of it before. I will have to keep a lookout on it when I go to the Khlong Toei market,

My very best green curry!

After the chicken green curry was made we checked on the ribs. They were softening nicely and the broth had reduced a bit and looked pretty rich. I asked Nat if the broth could be used as a soup base. He got super excited and starting naming off the many kinds of soup that could be made with it and how easy it was to make a soup with it. “I will show you!” he said, and he ladled out 3 scoops of soup broth. He added a bit of the softened rib meat, a couple of shallots, some herbs, spices, and toasted rice powder. Voila! Tom Sab soup (which was like having laab but in a soup form). You can bet this will be in my kitchen recipe repertoire as I am always looking for ways not to waste food.

Next it was time to make the khoa ob mo din (a clay-pot baked multigrain rice and beans). This was made easy as all of the grains and beans were already cooked and portioned off. Nat made the recommendation that it’s best to take an afternoon to cook all the beans and grains and then combine them, portion them, and then freeze them. The freeze well and can be thawed out and used when needed. I’ve never seen a dish like this in Thailand before. It reminded me of African fare but with purple rice. We finished off the dish with a teaspoon of hazelnut oil (this was not on the provided recipe brochure so shhhhh!) It was delicious!

Finally we came to the ribs! Kradak mu ob (red curry-glazed baby back ribs) is exactly what it sounds like, tender baby back ribs that are coated with a red curry based sauce and baked in the oven then finished off with a butane torch to caramelize that delicious sauce. I think the below picture pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

It’s okay to eat with your hands and lick your fingers…no judgement here.

Anna wasn’t feeling well so I got everything as take-away and was able to make a nice lunch for us! She gifted the two courses to me so it seems right she share in the results! I turned the take-away into a pretty good spread–no flower pot presentation, though!

Lunch is served!

I learned a lot during this course and plan to start cooking more Thai food at home. Why not? The ingredients are cheap and readily available!

If you are in Bangkok, or are visiting Bangkok and interested in a cooking class I highly recommend the Issaya Cooking Studio at Central Embassy. You will learn how to cook high quality Thai dishes, presentation techniques, and kitchen hacks that you will find useful when cooking other dishes.

If you have any questions about the cooking school or the recipes to make these dishes, then please feel free to contact me.

Learning at Issaya Cooking Studio: Day 1

Learning to Cook at Issaya Cooking Studio: Day 1

I had such an amazing time today learning to cook Thai food at the Issaya Cooking Studio at Central Embassy! I first made a spicy green papaya salad (Somtam) with salted egg–why am I not making this everyday? I often eat somtam but this is the first time I had it with salted egg. It gives it a creaminess I dig.

The instructor, Nat, shows off a freshly deseeded young papaya.

Then I made a spicy minced chicken dish called laab gai–and I learned how to make it pretty with cucumber slices and edible butterfly pea flower petals.

Not as pretty as the instructor’s creation but pretty tasty!

After snacking on these two dishes I learned how to make a stock for Tom Khlong Thalay soup. It has similar ingredients to Tom Yum soup but the galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, and dried fish are intensely roasted before they are simmered to make the stock. I think I like this soup better than Tom Yum as I like that smokiness and depth to the broth.

A long time to make, but absolutely worth the effort!

Finally I learned to cook stir-fried chicken and rice with holy basil (ka-phrao kai cham ron). This is definitely going to be in my kitchen recipe index. I shall never waste rice again–it will be turned into this dish instead! I was completely stuffed by the time I made this so I got the last dish as take-away and it will be on our dinner table tonight!

Never waste leftover rice again!

This cooking lesson was a gift from Anna for my birthday (she just gets me!). I have another lesson tomorrow. It’s my understanding that pomelo salad and green curry will be on the menu. I am super excited!

Learning at Tamarind Cooking School (Luang Prabang, Laos)

During a recent trip to Luang Prabang, Laos (a full article on that adventure here), I had an opportunity to learn how to create a few typical Lao dishes through the Tamarind Cooking School (official webpage). Note: Tamarind is actually a restaurant that also happens to offer cooking classes.

In the jungle…

The Tamarind Cooking School is not located at the Tamarind restaurant. The site for the “school” is actually outside of the town of Luang Prabang in a jungle setting. Students get a chance to get out of the city and dine amongst the cacophony of jungle noises. These noises seem to grow louder and louder as the night falls (we participated in the later class which went from 4:30pm – 8:30pm). 

We learned to cook Oua Si Khai (Chicken Stuffed Lemongrass), Mok Pa (Fish Steamed in Banana Leaves), Jeow Mak Keua (Eggplant (Aubergine) Dip), Jeow Mak Len (Lao Tomato Salsa), Khao Niaow (Sticky Rice), and Khao Gam (Purple Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk).

Tamarind Cooking School – Learning the Basics

The first thing we learned to cook was the sticky rice (both white and purple). I’ve made a few attempts at home to try and make sticky rice and found the easier and failsafe method is to just go and buy it from somewhere already made! This course illuminated many of the errors I’ve been making (not soaking it long enough, using too much water to steam it, not rotating it properly as it steams). It also encouraged me to get the proper steaming equipment (bamboo baskets). As the rice was steaming we learned how to make a couple of “jeow”.

Tamarind Cooking School Jeow
Just about every culture has their version of “salsa”!

Jeow is the Lao answer to salsa!

A “jeow” is basically a dipping sauce, and in Laos there are many kinds of dipping sauces. My favorite being one with chili paste and strips of water buffalo skin. This course taught us to make two different kinds of jeow: a fiery roasted aubergine one, and a tomato based dipping sauce that was very similar to salsa. I was surprised at how simple they were. You roast the ingredients over a coal fire, peel of the charred skin from the eggplant, then put everything in a mortar and pestle and smash it to a paste. It was very therapeutic, actually! The dipping sauces go with everything really. We rolled small balls of sticky rice and dipped that in the sauces.

Next we learned how to make fish in banana leaves. The marinade for this fish was incredibly flavorful. It combined garlic, shallots, chili, lemongrass, kaffir lime, basil, and dill. Steaming the fish filets in tied banana leaves made them incredibly tender and flavorful (sorry no pictures!).

Impress your friends with chicken stuffed lemongrass!

The highlight of the Tamarind Cooking School lesson menu is learning how to make chicken stuffed lemongrass stalks. This is one of Tamarind’s most popular dishes and should you ever find yourself in Luang Prabang I highly recommend giving it a try! It’s also a pretty simple dish to make at home, that only looks like a lot of effort. Basically you make small incisions into the lemongrass so that it begins to separate (you have to pound it a bit to loosen it up, too). After awhile you have a segment of the lemongrass stalk that has thin ribbons of stalk that can be formed into a basket. You stuff the minced chicken mixture into this “basket” then pull the ends of the stalk to close it up. These are then dipped into beaten egg and deep fried in oil. Delicious! 

Tamarind Cooking School Feast

Let’s feast!

After we finished cooking the chicken we prepared small bowls of sticky purple rice with coconut milk and fresh fruits for our dessert. All of the cooking completed we were finally able to eat the results of our labors. As a bonus the workers had cooked up some additional dishes to add to the feast. Included in our feast was: Soop Pak (Steamed Vegetable Salad with Sesame), Orlarm (Luang Prabang Stew), Koy (Minced Water Buffalo Meat and Salad), and fresh local fruits. It truly was an incredible meal and a fantastic learning experience! I felt that this was one of the highlights of our Luang Prabang adventure.

It was also an amazing deal. For all of the recipes we learned (recipe book included), and the huge feast we enjoyed at the end of the cooking session, it was an incredible value at 218,000 kip (about $26). If you have any questions about the recipes or the course offered by the Tamarind Cooking School please feel free to contact me.