We enter the dining room at Silom Cooking School. Immediately, the smell entered my nostrils and gave me a euphoric sensation.
“What is that smell?” I asked the cooking instructor.
The instructor, Nusi, a petite Thai woman with curly auburn hair, a neon green polo shirt with matching geek glasses, answered, “It’s lemongrass.” With a Thai smile, she said after, “You’ll be cooking with that later.”
I smiled in return.
Introduction to Silom
It’s one thing to love eating a certain type of cuisine. It’s another to learn how to properly make it. That was the appeal of taking a Thai cooking course for me. This trip would mark my third visit to Bangkok in a year and I wanted to do something special. After finding a CNNGo article on Thai cooking schools upon doing a Google search for them, I navigated my way to Silom Thai Cooking School’s (STCS) website.
Like a good website, STCS’s was inviting, easy to navigate and had the relevant links and information I needed to make an informed decision about the school I’d sign up for. Each day offered different types of food you could learn to prepare and signing up for a class was as easy as filling out the online reservation request (no fee required until the class is over). Through email correspondence after my reservation request was received, I was given a lot more great information, like, what to expect, how to get there and what they expected of the students.
Silom is Bangkok’s financial district. It’s a hub of Thailand’s banking industry and other financial institutions. The Dean & Deluca cafe where I went for breakfast before I met the class, was filled with foreigners in business suits who were local enough that they didn’t have to make their coffee orders.
As the agreed upon meeting time approached, I walk back up the steps to the BTS station and spot Nusi talking to a group of farangs (foreigners). Judging by the mix of Korean, Australian, American and East European appearances in the group, I correctly assume that I have met my instructor and fellow classmates.
Beginning Thai Cooking
The class of seven, including myself, is split in two. My instructor for the day will be the friendly Koong. She lets us know that we’ll be going to the local talaat (market) to purchase the ingredients we’ll be cooking with.
Although she may be an expert many times over in Thai cooking, Koong makes us feel as if she is here to learn as well. She ask questions at each stand we stop at. She seemed to really come alive at our last talaat stop where we purchased the varieties of vegetables we’d cook with.
“Tell me the differences in these peppers,” Koong asked in Thai, translating for us as the seller explained. From here questions, we learned why a certain type of peppers, ginger, onion or spice might be used as opposed to another.
In the classroom setting, we prepared our food the traditional Thai way: Sitting on the rugged floor with our shoes off and hands clean, we began doing things like turning the coconut meat into a paste, grinding chili peppers, pinching pieces of palm sugar (very sweet and tasty I might add), and rolling spring rolls.
Once the initial ingredients were prepped, we went outside to where our individual ovens were set up and started cooking. Although I love cooking at home and can follow recipes quite well, if I were someone who never cooked, I believe that the way the class is instructed, even the most novice of cooks would enjoy it and learn a lot.
Throughout the four-hour course, we made and cooked dishes like Thai fried noodles (Pad Thai), green papaya salad (Som Tum), Musamun curry with chicken (kang Musamun gai) and desert fried banana (kluay thod) with vanilla ice cream. Of course, you get to eat every thing you make (vegetarian courses are also offered).
The food wasn’t delicious because you made it yourself, it was delicious because you used the absolutely freshest ingredients you could get and it was a group effort filled with love. I saw smiles on every class member and the instructors, Nusi and Koong, were energetic and constantly smiling.
If you’re traveling and looking for new ideas, I highly recommend taking a cooking course wherever you are. I found it to be a great way of learning about the culture and history of the people where I am visiting. It’s also a great way to meet fellow travelers and make new friends. If you happen to be in Bangkok, visit Silom Thai Cooking School.
***My class was not sponsored and nor was I compensated for writing a blog about Silom Thai Cooking School
Have you ever taken a cooking class while traveling or living abroad?