Saturday, February 19, 2011

All about food: I finally learn to cook Pad Thai & a night in Chinatown, Bangkok

Pad Thai I cooked at Baipai Thai Cookery School, Bangkok
Yesterday started being whisked by minibus to the outskirts of Bangkok to a Thai Cookery School called Baipai.  I thought, when in Rome, and I'd always wanted to know how to cook a proper Pad Thai, one of my favourite dishes, not as easy as you'd imagine considering it's basically a stir fried noodle dish. I've had so many versions of this dish in many Thai restaurants all over the place and have tried to cook it myself plenty of times, restaurants nearly always and my efforts certainly always, disappointing. I wanted to make it the way they cook it in Thailand, it's name, after all, meaning, Noodles cooked in the Thai style. Simple enough it would seem.

The thing is, everything hinges around the sauce, getting it right makes the difference between a real Pad Thai and a basic noodle dish. And then of course getting all the ingredients right. Then it actually is simple enough. Baipai has really got it down running it's Thai cookery classes. Everything runs like a well-oiled machine in getting the logistics of having eight people cooking with equipment they have never used before and they manage really well to make it a great experience. Set in beautiful gardens, the Japanese style kitchens were amazing. They use local produce and grow all their own herbs. Including holy basil, something not readily available in Ireland. Apparently the Buddhist monks used to boil this herb, the intense aroma from which was thought to enhance meditation.

Ruby Fruit (chestnuts dyed in grenadine) in sweet coconut milk

We were told this on a tour of the gardens where I met the group who were from all over the place, Mexico, Indonesia, Japan and Germany. The German guy was a riot. Well, more like a hit on the head with a police truncheon. When we got into the class and the very clear and skilled presenter and chef would explain in detail an ingredient, holding up pictures, passing around samples this guy would invariable ask what the item was, completely mystified. The presenter would patiently repeat the description with some well hidden concern that this guy was having a laugh. Just one of those people who really never listen, I guess. We learned to cook four Thai dishes: Thai Fish Cakes, Chicken and Galangal in Coconut Milk Soup, Pad Thai and Water Chestnuts in Coconut milk. Because I'm so thrilled to now know how to cook one of my favourite dishes, I will publish the recipe here on the blog so you can all try it at home. It's really fabulous!

The chef at Baipai using a traditional coconut shaver

The chef cutting up some galangal, and Dew, the presenter

Woman in Chinatown food market
Stink fruit on  sale in Chinatown, Bangkok

Do we have enough now, mother? Do we?

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Looks amazing.
Keep that recipe in your noggin. We're waiting...