PAUL BENJAMIN: Writer, Editor, Supermodel

Thailand That I Love – Part 2

Now for more about our trip to Thailand!
One day while out walking in our neighborhood, we saw a sign advertising cooking classes. We walked up a side road to the Sunflower Bungalows where we discovered lovely grounds and a class in progress. Cooking in the outdoor kitchen looked like fun and the food smelled delicious, so we signed up for the next day. That next morning, the cooking class instructor/owner of the Sunflower arrived with our limosine.
Okay, it wasn’t actually a limo. It was one of these. I don’t even know what to call it. It’s a motorcycle with a covered sidecar platform attached so that two passengers can ride in comfort. It’s not safe, of course, not by a longshot. But I suppose it’s safer than all the families I saw with parents on the scooter or motorcycle with their kids on their laps.
Once we’d selected our menu of three items from the twenty or so recipes, our hostess took us to the local market to buy fresh ingredients for our class. In some ways, it looked a lot like the bazaars in Tashkent.
Other things were different too. There was a whole lot more meat available. Much of it was unrefigerated but since we didn’t get sick from any of our meals in Thailand, I’m going to assume that turnover is speedy enough to present few widespread health problems.
The birdlegs on the left cracked me up, looking like Baba Yaga’s Hut had been turned upside down in a tornado (hello geek/folk tale reference). On the right is a basket of ginger root. I learned that if you bury ginger root it will continue to grow, so one piece can last a long time (assuming your dogs don’t dig it up out of your yard before you do).
We also got to see the “assembly line” for the market’s coconut milk. Essentially, one dude uses a knife to hack away at the outside of the coconut to peel it, then another guy chops them open and pours the milk into a big bucket. One thing’s for sure: it doesn’t get any fresher than this!
Ingredients in hand, we headed back to the Sunflower Bungalows for our class. The kitchen is beside a lush garden. Here you can catch a peek of their shrine.
We got to work prepping our ingredients. I peeled and sliced ginger then scored the squid for cooking. Now I know how to make that crisscross pattern on squid and octopus meat. That’s sure to come in handy in double-landlocked Uzbekistan. As I finished prepping, Lisa started cooking.
Eventually we had all of our dishes on the stove in various stages of cooking and I was able to pitch in as well. The smells of garlic, ginger, and peppers were electrifying!
Our dishes included:
Stir-fried Chicken with Ginger
Thai Spicy Seafood Vermicelli Salad (Yum Woon Sen)
Stir-fried Rice Noodle (Phad Thai)
Steamed Fish with Lemon
Massaman Curry with Chicken
Here’s a few close ups of the Steamed Fish with Lemon and the Stir-Fried Chicken with Ginger. Extra points if you can guess which is which…
Finally, when it was all done, we set it out on the table and prepared to dig in. The Massaman Curry and Seafood Vermicelli salad were the definite winners. Every dish was delectible, but those two definitely stood out.
Of course, this was way too much food for just the two of us and we were in a hotel with no storage for leftovers. That means whatever we didn’t eat became a snack for the Sunflower’s guests. We just might have to stay at the Sunflower next time so that we can enjoy cooking class leftovers ourselves!
To be continued…

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