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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Thai Cooking

Hello everyone!  I'm back from vacation and starting to feel like a normal person again.  Unlike the previous few days where I've been a half-asleep, crazy person, going through the motions of regular life.  I think that I've finally recuperated from our 28 hour return journey and I'm ready to share some of the fun of Thailand with you all.

Over the next few days I'll be posting some of my favorite pictures from our trip, after I sort through the thousands of images that we took.  Boyfriend and I spent four crazy days in Bangkok, Thailand, followed by four relaxing days in Phuket.  I say that our days in Bangkok were crazy because there was so much to see and do, we tried to see a lot and do even more.  One of the things that I really wanted to do was take a Thai cooking class and that's just what we did on our third day in the country.

After looking around a little online, I discovered the Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy.  There were some very positive reviews and they held classes just about every day.  Bangkok cooking academy offers twelve different classes, all teaching you how to cook five Thai dishes.  I chose the Monday morning class because I really wanted to learn how to make my favorite dish, Panang curry. 

Monday morning, boyfriend and I headed out of our hotel at the reasonable hour of 8:30am and set out to the meet up location.  After riding the Bangkok SkyTrain (BTS) a short three stops, we wound up at Asoke and met our group at the Dunkin' Donuts kiosk (no joke).  We met a man with a "Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy" tag around his neck, who introduced himself as Ron, or Mr. Ron, as boyfriend and I took to calling him.  We also met our classmates, a funny couple from Sydney, Australia and a quiet guy from Singapore.

The cooking class started out with a tour through one of the small markets located throughout Bangkok.  Mr. Ron introduced us to all sorts of interesting Thai fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.  As we learned more and more about the items in the market, I quickly realized what exactly I had been eating all week.  Ohh, so those are tiny eggplants, not weird, bitter peas.  Ahhh, the orange juice I've been drinking isn't orange, it's tangerine.  It was very enlightening.  After our tour, we caught a cab for the cooking school.

The cooking school is located in a small, unassuming building, with a simple sign outside the door.  Inside the entryway was an open area with five cooktops set up.  We took off our shoes and headed inside the, luckily, air-conditioned home.  Spread out the in main room was a large mat, covered in all sorts of fruits and vegetables, knives, cutting blocks and two enourmous mortal and pestles.  We enjoyed some water and met our instructor, Nat. 

All six of us sat down at our stations and began preparing our dishes.  Something we learned during the course of our class, Thai cooking is all about the preparation.  Twenty minutes on the chopping block, followed by five minutes on the fire. 

Boyfriend and I wielded our knives and chopped everything up. 

We poured the ingredients into the mortar and pestle and ground out a delicious curry paste.

Nat took us through the secrets of Thai cooking, including using ketchup as our main ingredient in a sauce.

Finally, once we had prepped all four of our dishes, it was time to hit the fire. 

We had spent two hours chopping, grinding and mixing and spent literally thirty minutes cooking all four dishes.  It was fast, working over the fire, and someone didn't have the attention span for his stovetop.  Boyfriend spent more time taking pictures and less time stirring his pot, which meant that his curry, soup and chicken wound up unusually salty.  I am proud to say that my meal turned out pretty delicious.

The class turned out to be one of the best parts of our stay in Bangkok, fun, informative and full of great food.  While I don't think that I'll be opening up a Thai restaurant anytime soon, I now have the confidence to try my hand at more Thai dishes at home.  I'm sure my neighbors will be thrilled.

Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken

While we made several different dishes, this wound up being my favorite.  It was unbelievably simple to prepare and totally suprising in flavor.  We were all shocked with Nat pulled out the ketchup as the main ingredient to our sauce.  Feel free to substitute the chicken for any protein that you like, pork, shrimp or tofu.

If you are ever in Thailand I would highly suggest stopping by the Bangkok Thai Cooking Academy!  It was the perfect class for boyfriend and I.  Our teacher explained everything so well and helped us out when necessary.  Even boyfriend, not the best chef in the world, managed to produce some tasty dishes.  The only issue you may have is reproducing the dishes exactly when you get home, unless you have access to a good asain market or Chinatown!

The amounts listed in this recipe are for 1-2 servings.  If you are cooking for more people, just multiply!  You want the chopped fruits and vegetables to be pretty big, just chop everything into bite-size pieces.

1 chicken breast, chopped in bite-size pieces
5 ounces pineapple, chopped
1/4 cup cucumber, seeded and chopped (1 small cuke)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small tomato, seeded and quartered
3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces (very little white part)
1/2 small white onion, quartered and separated

1/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil

Prepare all of your vegetables ahead of time and pile them together (except the garlic).  In a small bowl, mix together the stock, ketchup, sugar, vinegar and fish sauce.  Get ready to cook.

In a medium pot, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant.  Add chicken and cook until cooked through.  Add pile of vegetables and sauce.  Stir and cook until the vegetables are tender.  Serve over rice.

Seriously, it's that simple.
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