Our second day in Bangkok was the most fun. This is my fourth time in Bangkok and we wanted to do something different and fun (not that shop ‘till you drop activities were not enjoyable).
An officemate suggested to attend Mandarin Oriental’s cooking class, taught by its master chef, Nahrain Kiattiyotcharoen.
Cooking enthusiasts that we are, we jumped at the chance and pre-booked on Mandarin Oriental’s website prior to our arrival.
Mandarin Oriental, Bankok is one of the swankiest hotels in Bangkok. Just look at this grand flower arrangement at the lobby.
The cooking school is located across the scenic Chao Praya River, at the Oriental Thai Hotel. Our adventure began by riding a traditional boat across the Chao Praya River.
The Oriental Thai Hotel is the oldest hotel in Bangkok and it certainly provide such a welcoming and happy environment for learning Thai cuisine.
Our class starts with Chef Nahrain discussing the plate of desserts served to us prior to the actual cooking. Don’t let these desserts fool you. Each one takes a lot of effort to make and one should really know how they are made for you to appreciate the art and loving touch that go to making each one. For example, the white and green jelly dessert that you see, took all day to make, agar-agar is flavoured with pandan, put in a single layer, allowed to set, steamed and then another layer of coconut flavoured agar-agar is laid on top of it, allowed to set and then steamed again. This goes on for at least nine layers. Amazing!
The yellow mung dessert is cooked like a pudding, placed in a mold, unmolded and smoked using a special candle infused with herbs and spices. It is smoked for three hours. Here's chef Nahrain showing us the candle and explaining how it is used. Another amazing and wonderfully flavoured Thai dessert. I wish I remembered all their names!
Each student is given a copy of all the recipes that you will make plus some backgrounder on Thai herbs and ingredients. They gave us a cool apron too :-)
Our first lesson for the day was dessert, Banana in Coconut Sauce, Gluay Buad Chee made with coconut cream, bananas, and palm sugar. Palm sugar is so much more delicious than brown sugar. Tip when buying palam sugar, always buy the light colored ones because that means they are fresh and not oxidized.
The second dish that we made was Deep fried herbed Corn and Minced Chicken or Khao Phoad Thawd. You will need a mortar and pestle for this. The fresh corn, chicken and cilantro root and other ingredients are pounded together to make the patties. I’ve also learned that the healthiest oil for deep frying is Rice Bran Oil. If you can find it in your grocery store, I suggest you use that. I bought two bottles in Bangkok since I haven’t seen Rice Bran oil in Manila. If you know where to find it, please let me know!
The next dish is the most iconic dish in Thailand, Spicy Prawn Herbed Soup, Tom Yom Goong and the most difficult, I thought. Little did I know that it was so easy to make as long as you have all the authentic ingredients! Chef Nahrain’s version is the best and the most refreshing that I’ve ever tasted.
The next dish is called Stir Fried Pork with Chilis and Holy Basil, Phad Graphrao Moo, this is very simple to make with just some basic ingredients. So yummy! The fried holy basil on top provides a nice crunch to the dish.
We were divided into 3 groups and was given our own kitchen station to prepare, cut slice and cook all the above dishes. Chef Nahrain and a sous chef were on hand in every step of the way, if we had questions, they were very helpful.
Another thing that I love about the Oriental Thai Cooking School is that it is such a sensory experience, each herb and root used in the class were passed around for us to smell, touch, taste, differentiate from the many varieties available in the school's herb garden. For one thing, I realized that galangal is so much different that a ginger! A lemongrass bulb is so much more fragrant than it’s stalk. There are also so many varieties of basil, lemon basil is the most fragrant. Oh, I just want to inhale it all day long!
Each lesson was insightful, fun and full of useful information for any cook, professional or beginners alike. It was such a wonderful and fulfilling experience. I am so happy that I took that class. What a wonderful way to spend my Saturday morning (and lunch)! Yes, we ate everything that we made that day.
The Oriental Thai Cooking School is L-O-V-E!