Food is an essential part of any culture, and when I travel I always make sure I taste local delicacies so as to be able to better appreciate the country that's hosting me. If you can learn a bit on how to prepare that food, instead of just eating it, all the better!
My Chinese girlfriend is usually not so keen on cooking, so she was a bit perplexed when I proposed to spend a half day with an apron around our waist, learning hot to cook Thai food. But she was game, I love her curiosity for new things.
After an internet search I opted for a half-day class at the Baipai Thai Cooking School. They promised to "introduce you to the wonderful world of Thai flavors allowing you to take your knowledge home with you so you can make authentic Thai dishes back home in your own kitchen." And they warned that their menu does not cater to vegetarians, which was fine by me.
I had had limited experience of eating in Thailand before. While I did try many Thai restaurants around the world, I am also aware that these usually cater to the local clientele of wherever they happen to be, often at the expense of the original recipes. This in not just true of Thai restaurants: I have tasted quite a number of inedible "Italian" dishes in many countries, until the day when I decided never again to eat Italian food outside Italy. (There have been a few exceptions to this rule and they are described in this blog!)
Our class was held at The Baipai Thai Cooking School. In their words, which I found to be accurate, it is "an ideal home-style learning environment that aims at cooking a style of Thai food that is different from most of the hotels and restaurants in Thailand".
We spent the morning learning to prepare 4 authentic Thai dishes: veggies, fish and chicken. First of all we visited their vegetable garden and learned about the spices and herbs we were about to use.
We later learned how to grate coconut meat from a nut, the fluffy white stuff that the Thais use in so many recipes.
We then moved to to their open space cooking area, where we had plenty of space and lots of equipment to implement the instructions that were imparted by the chef and her assistants.
At the end of it all, we ate the fruits of our labor together with the other course participants and were quite satisfied with the results. I am not sure I will ever even try to reproduce the results at home, but this was fun and I would do it again in a heartbeat when I am back in Thailand.