The Thai Cooking Extravaganza
The main Christmas present for our son George and his fiancée was a Cooking Class. They both love cooking and we were thrilled that they hadn’t done a Thai class already.
Our present wasn't any ordinary Cooking class to George and Laura. In similar sultry tones of Dervla Kirwan announcing "this is not just a chocolate pudding, this is a Marks & Spencer chocolate pudding", I’d say that “this is not just a Thai Cooking class, this is Aoy’s cooking extravaganza class.”
I found Aoy’s experience on Airbnb, and it sounded great. We sent George and Laura the present with the proviso that we’d be tagging along, and in the end, Rosie, Laura’s sister, joined us.
As I was flexible with times, Aoy kindly picked us up from our Airbnb as a favour, and as soon as we met her and her assistant Goy, we knew we were in for a fantastic day.
She drove us to a wholesale market, chatting away, explaining about Thailand and sharing fascinating stories of her childhood. She was such a delight, full of laughter and took an interest in us all, finding out what we wanted to cook and tailoring the menu to our taste.
The wholesale market was intriguing; plus it was good to see it so clean. Both ladies showed us various foods and bought some for us to sample such as mung bean paste coated in egg yolk.
We loved how Aoy informed us what foods she ate as a child and how this compares to produce now available. As she had lived in Europe for many years, she could also share what ingredient we can substitute if it’s not available back home.
Our second market was Wat Don Wai, which is over a hundred years old. It used to be a floating market, but no vendors sell from their little wooden boats now. It’s away from the typical tourist area so caters for the local people, selling fresh produce and Thai snacks and sweets. We tried some Jack fruit here which reminded us of the yellow section in Rhubarb and Custard sweets and the youngsters were all tempted to buy some coconut sugar, tasting of thick caramel – yum.
Once our shopping and food tasting was complete, Aoy transformed from our guide to our captain, taking us down the Tha Chin River on her boat with Sawai fish (like freshwater catfish) leaping out of the water. We passed farmers collecting Morning Glory or Pak Boong as it’s known here in Thailand. There was certainly plenty of it here. I love this water spinach stir-fried with garlic, plus it is healthy for you; it is said to improve eyesight and memory.
We arrived at Aoy’s award-winning Aoywaan Riverside Thai Cuisine Restaurant and were greeted with a welcome drink and snack. Last year, Aoy received the coveted Thai Select award given by the Ministry of Commerce to restaurants that have the highest of standard for traditional Thai cuisine. Aoy informed me that there are only 117 restaurants in all of Thailand that have received this award.
Now the fun really got going. We walked across the road to Aoy’s personal garden to pick fresh herbs, tiny green aubergines and Tim climbed a tall ladder to cut off a green Papaya. I held onto the ladder tight.
In the kitchen with hands washed, apron and hats on we began preparing the food. Laura did an excellent job making Thai green curry paste, grinding the ingredients for ages in a large pestle and mortar. We all shared duties slicing, crushing, chopping and I was instructed to smash garlic, chilli, ginger and lemongrass with the flat of a big knife. Goy gave me a demonstration; crikey, I needed to attack those poor foods.
Finally, we were ready for cooking. We mixed up the Papaya salad, Laura and Rosie created a delicious Pad Thai flavoured to perfection, George and Tim stirred up a fine Prawn Green Curry and Coconut spicy soup while I made a poor impression of food photographer Steve Hansen.
Aoy gave us lovely bowls to serve our food in and flowers and banana leaves for decoration. Laura and Rosie did a great job creating a fish design for their Pad Thai, but sadly Aoy wasn’t too impressed with my garland of flowers around the Papaya salad.
After our cooking class, we sat by the riverside and dined on our creations with noodles and rice added and delicious drinks to follow.
Our stomachs were full to the brim, and we were driven back to our Airbnb with a box full of our leftover food, plus Aoy gave us ingredients to make a Pomelo salad, how kind.
Yes, this was a lot more expensive than other cooking classes, but that is because it is far more than a cooking class, it is an enriching experience with a highly informative and brilliant teacher and chef, and we all left full, tired and with many happy memories.