Phuket Day 4
April 12, 2006
Today is the day I've set up for us to do a cooking class in Phuket town. I've worked in the restaurant industry for over 16 years, the first half of which I was a professional chef. So, I like to take cooking classes when we travel as a way to do something different and get to know a little bit more about the culture. Even though I frequently cook Thai food at home, I'm always looking to learn something new.
I've booked a cooking class at "Pat's Home", a B&B and cooking school in Phuket Town. Pat and I corresponded via email before we left and because our hotel is so far away, she's set up a taxi to come pick us up at 8:00 AM so we can be there by 9 AM. Around ten to nine, we go up to the lobby area to wait for the driver. By 8:15, I'm starting to get nervous and at 8:25 I call Pat. She says the driver made a mistake and picked up the wrong people; he will be there "in 10 minutes". I tell her we might want to cancel because we don't want to get there too late and delay the class. She assures me everything will be fine and begs me not to cancel.
The Taxi driver finally shows at almost 9 AM with the people he has picked up by mistake inside. Apparently the woman of the couple thought he said her name, not mine. They are very apologetic as they come in and have missed their trip to the Similan islands because of her mistake. From what we can tell, they made it halfway across the island before they realized they were going the wrong way.
The Taxi driver sets a land speed record to get us to Phuket Town by 9:45. Pat is genuinely welcoming when we arrive and the other 7 members of the class are understanding at our tardiness. We discover it really is a small world; when Pat lived in the US 18 years ago, she lived about a mile from where we live now.
The class is held in an open air pavilion on the outside of Pat's house. There are 5 cooking stations and everyone gets a chance to help cut, prep, and cook their own dishes. It's very professionally done with written recipes provided for us to keep (except for one or two) and Pat has three assistants to help her with the clean up as the class progresses (crucial to keep the class rolling).
Kristina, making coconut cream.
We chop garlic, grind chilies and peanuts in a mortar and pestle, pluck basil leaves, and slice vegetables. We even squeeze freshly grated coconut to release the coconut cream for our curry. All the ingredients get prepped before the actual assembly and cooking begins. Then we move over to the woks and cook all the food for our lunch. When we are finished cooking, we sit down at a large, beautifully laid round table inside the house and feast on the food we made. Everyone gets to eat their own dishes; the assistants making sure nothing gets mixed up. In the end, we've made Pad Thai noodles, Som Tam salad, Red Curry with roasted chicken and grapes, chicken with cashews, and bananas in coconut milk.
This class would be a really good introduction for people who have never cooked Thai food before. If you've already taken classes elsewhere you might be bored, but you could try asking her to cover something different; had I known the menu ahead of time, I would have. The class is 1500 baht per person and an additional 800 baht for transportation.
Above, Pad Thai Ingredients, cooking and the final product.
Above, Red Curry with Roasted Chicken, Grapes and tiny Thai Eggplant.
Above, Chicken with Cashews.
Above, Som Tam ingredients and salad.
We get back to the hotel a little after 1:30 and spend the afternoon relaxing on the beach. There is drink service on the sand and we finally figure out what "happy hour" means here; two for one drinks. There's no explanation on the menu and I can't get the young woman who comes to take our order to explain it in a way I can understand. Happy hour is in the bar from 6 to 7 PM, but on the beach, it's from 2-3 PM. I learn this by default when I order a Pina Colada for David and an ice blended tropical juice for myself and four drinks arrive. Lucky us. :-)
Dinner is in the Thai restaurant where I have the Spicy Beef Salad and again I am impressed with the flavor of the dish and the quality of the meat; it's excellent. David has Gnocchi with Gorgonzola from the Italian restaurant menu, also very good. The "Chocolate Pudding" for dessert turns out to be warm, gooey, chocolate bread pudding with a creme anglaise sauce. Our dinners have been averaging 1000-1300 baht total, about 25-35 USD which is high for Thailand, but not a lot for a luxury resort in general.