Today’s post comes to you from Phuket, a destination I’m hoping to prove is more than beaches, buckets and English breakfasts in 34 degree heat. This is our first ‘family’ holiday – that is, a holiday with two under-4’s in tow. It would’ve been a lot easier to skip over to a Pacific Island, given that getting to Thailand involves around 14 hours flying time from NZ, but I, and my husband, do have an undying obsession with SE Asian cuisine that makes it very hard to look to other beachy destinations.
Previous trips to Thailand have involved a lot of ‘intrepid’ journeying round, but long bus or train journeys really are hard to contemplate when you factor in the kids – now the lure of a kids’ club and a big playground is more important. But at the same time, we want good Thai nosh, not the bland, toned down stuff you can find anywhere round the world. So keep following me over the next wee while to see what I might find.
Thus far I’ve done one cooking class, with Chef Pachon at the beautifully appointed Dusit Thani in the Laguna Complex. Laguna is a wee way north of the madness of Patong, at Bang Tao Bay, about 20 minutes drive from the airport. Set on an abandoned tin mine that was painstakingly regenerated, it’s now home to several 5-star resorts, of which we have stayed at Dusit Thani and, across the lagoon, Angsana.
Anyway, the cooking class: I’d recommend this class for true beginners, as for me it just wasn’t a challenge, but I did learn a few tips that I found useful. This is one of the things I love about about taking a few different classes, you get different tips and tricks from every instructor – some of those tips, of course, clash – but that’s culinary art for you.
With Pachon I made laab gai, tom yum goong, roast duck red curry and bananas in a coconut sauce. I’ll post recipes at some stage but the tips I came away with were:
-When making tom yum, gently fry off the aromatic ingredients (galangal, lemongrass) before adding the stock, as this draws the flavour out faster. As soon as the stock hits the pan it’s infused with the fragrant deliciousness.
-When making a curry, no need to fry the curry paste off in hot oil, just do so in a little of the coconut milk – there’s enough fat content in it to do the same job and get all the flavour from the paste incorporated into the dish.
-In a curry, if you add pineapple or grapes (as is traditional in a duck curry, to balance the rich meat), you’ll need less sugar to balance the salt, sour and spicy, as this will come from the fruit. The pineapple will also tenderise whatever meat you are cooking with.
-Thais love banana desserts like the simple bananas in coconut sauce that we made, and it’s best to use ladyfinger bananas, as they hold their shape much better during cooking.
Here’s some photos of those dishes: