Cooking Class in Bangkok: Our Foray Into a Thai Kitchen
We followed our instructor, Carole, down a dimly-lit Bangkok passageway that opened up into a large marketplace. Walking among mounds of fresh cabbage, beansprouts, Thai eggplants, mushrooms, dried shrimp and fish, Carole taught us how to select the best ingredients for the dishes we would be cooking that morning: Kang Khiao Wan Gai (Green Curry with Chicken), Pad Thai with Tofu & Chicken, and Pumpkin in Sweet Coconut Milk.
Vendors protectively guarded their wares and produce. A grey and white tabby cat groomed herself while lounging atop a stack of brown paper. Another feline wove in and out between stacks of wrapped brown eggs. I tread carefully, lest other crawling creatures, large or small, cross my path.
With our bags full of fresh vegetables, we returned to Bangkok’s frenetic streets, which were bathed in sunlight. We dodged taxis, motorbikes and tuktuks, each chugging along with its own unique sound. Upon arriving at our cooking school, Carole handed us an apron and knife. Soon the real work began.
For the next three hours, we chopped, minced, pounded, fried, stirred and arranged our culinary delights in a passionate manner. We then devoured them with similar vigor. With full bellies, and a take out baggie of Pad Thai in hand, we trekked back to our guesthouse on Samsen Road. We had always appreciated Thai Green Curry. But, after learning that nearly ten ingredients comprise its paste – and after pounding that mélange of ingredients for what seemed like an eternity – we had a newfound respect for the dish and its cooks.
Here are the recipes, courtesy of our Lemongrass Cooking class. Bon appétit, or as they say here in Thailand, ทานให้อร่อยนะครับ/คะ!
Green Curry Paste
- 1 T. lemongrass, minced
- 1-3 Thai green chilies, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced.
- 1 thumb-sized piece of galangal, minced
- ½ t. ground (or freshly-chopped) cumin
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 stalk coriander, stalk and leaves, minced
- 1 T. Kaffir lime rind
- ½ t. shrimp paste
- Pound cumin, green pepper and Thai green chilies until fine.
- Pound lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime rind, coriander root and leaves, shallot and garlic together until fine. Add the remaining ingredients except shrimp paste. Pound until mixed well.
- Add shrimp paste. Continue pounding until smooth and fine. Then reserve.
Green Curry With Chicken (Kang Khiao Wan Gai)
- 2 T. green curry paste
- 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced into about 15 pieces
- 1/3 c. coconut cream
- 1 c. coconut milk
- 15 g. sweet basil leaves
- 2 Thai eggplants, quartered
- 2 T. pea eggplants
- 2 t. palm sugar
- 3 T. fish sauce
- 2 red chilies, sliced diagonally
- 2 Kaffir lime leaves
- Place coconut cream in wok. Heat over medium heat until some of the oil comes to the surface.
- Add green curry paste and stir constantly until fragrant, then add sliced chicken and stir for 1-2 minutes.
- Add coconut milk, stirring for another minute. Then, bring to a boil. Add Kaffir lime leaves, quartered Thai eggplants and pea eggplants. Cook over medium heat until the chicken is cooked and the eggplant is tender.
- Season with fish sauce and palm sugar or brown sugar to taste.
- Add Thai basil leaves and red chilies. Bring to a boil. Then, arrange to serve.
Spicy and Sour Prawn Soup (Tom Yum Kung)
- 6 medium-sized shrimp with shell removed
- 2 straw mushrooms
- 1 tomato
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, crushed, then cut into 2” segments
- 3 slices of galangal, crushed
- 2 red shallots, crushed
- 2 chilies, crushed
- 3 Kaffir lime leaves
- 2 T. fish sauce
- 3 T. lime juice
- 2 c. drinking water
- ½ c. coconut milk
- 1 spoon chili paste
- ½ c. roughly cut coriander leaves
- Remove the shrimp shell but leave the tails (for good appearance). Then, cut open the back of each shrimp to remove the veins. Also clean the mushrooms with water and dry them before wedging each into quarters.
- Pour drinking water into a deep cooking pot and bring to boil.
- Add lemongrass, galangal, shallots, chilies and Kaffir lime leaves and boil for 2-3 minutes.
- Add mushroom and tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Then, season with fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Add chili paste.
- Add shrimp. When the shrimp turn pink, add coconut milk. Turn off heat. Serve while hot and garnish with coriander leaves.
Thai Style Fried Noodles with Chicken (Pad Thai)
Pad Thai Sauce Ingredients:
- ½ c. thick tamarind juice
- 1/3 c. chili sauce
- 1/3 c. fish sauce
- 3 T. palm sugar
Pad Thai Sauce Preparation:
Combine all ingredients in the saucepan. Let them boil and stir until well-mixed. Reserve.
- ¼ c vegetable oil
- 1 T. preserved Chinese radish, chopped
- 1 whole egg
- 10 g. Chinese chive, cut into 2” long pieces
- 100 g. bean sprouts, cleaned
- 200 g. thin rice noodles
- 1 T. dried shrimp
- 20 g. tofu, cut into matchstick pieces
- 1 chicken breast, sliced into about 15 pieces
- 1 T. shallot, chopped
- Fry the tofu, Chinese preserved radish, dried shrimp and shallots in hot oil until medium brown on each side. Set aside.
- Add noodles and two spoons of the Pad Thai sauce. Stir. When the noodles soften a bit, mix well. Be careful not to make a noodle mush. Try to keep the noodles separated as much as possible, covering the entire bottom of the pan. Spread them out.
- Cook the noodles until they are soft. It may take a minute or two. Taste to be sure they are done. If they get too dry, you may need to add a bit more water.
- When the noodles are done, push them to the side to create room for the egg. Crack the egg into the space and scramble it with your spatula and cover the bottom of the pan. Throw the noodles on top of the egg.
- Add the chives, half of the peanuts and half of the bean sprouts. Mix well and remove from heat to a plate.
Pumpkin in Sweet Coconut Milk
- 2 c. pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2″ x ½” x ½” slices.
- 2 T. palm sugar
- 1/3 c. coconut cream
- ½ c. coconut milk
- ½ t. salt
- drinking water
- Heat coconut milk over medium heat. Add palm sugar, salt and pumpkins, then leave simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add coconut cream. Turn off flame and serve.
- We took our half-day course with the Lemongrass Cooking School in Bangkok, which is not far from the Khaosan Road area. Though we booked our course through an office in person, it seems as though you can contact them in advance at the above site.
Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.