After being forced to withdraw additional Thai Baht in order to pay for my Vietnam visa I had some extra cash on hand and decided to use it to join Amy in her Thai cooking course. I'm actually not the biggest fan of Thai food, shocking I know, but after a while all the curries start to taste the same and pad thai is like one step up from ramen. That being said I knew it'd be a fun last day with Amy before we both went our separate ways and help me learn some things so I can cook for my family and friends back home. Having already done a course in Cambodia I had something to compare this course to but still wasn't sure what to expect. Amy heard great things about Sammy's Organic Farm and cooking school so we signed up for a full day of fun with them.
We were picked up from our guesthouse early at 9am and headed straight out of town, one benefit of this course to others is that it didn't leave you stuck in the middle of the city, instead we were transported out to their organic farm in the countryside. We had one short stop at the local market where Sammy taught us about the different kinds of rice (all 220,000 of them), spices and produce. We also spent a few minutes deciding our menu for the day, choosing between a variety of options for each category of curry, soup, stir fry, appetizer and dessert. This was another unique aspect of the course, each person could choose their own dish rather than everyone making the same thing, pretty cool because we of course got to taste each others selections.
After the market it was off to the farm where Sammy gave us a brief tour, including the amazing bathrooms and awesome hammock chill out area. He provided us with fresh picked bananas, rice snacks and some delicious tea while explaining what the day had in store for us. The plan was to cook three of our five dishes in the morning, enjoy them all together for a feast of a lunch, take a nap in the hammocks and then finish in the afternoon with appetizers and dessert. I would've preferred a full meal (appetizer, main and dessert) in the morning but by the time we were done their logic made sense to me.
We started the lesson with the most challenging part which is making the curry paste, I can almost guarantee you I'll never be doing this at home, but it was cool to learn. We had a few people making each selection of green, yellow, and red (or jungle) curry so the room was full of different aromas. Once the past was finished it was over to our cooking stations where our vegetables and chicken were already waiting for us. Sammy's wife took over and gave us step by step instructions on how to complete the dish making it simple and easy.
Unfortunately, once we were done cooking it wasn't yet time to eat, we were told to put our curries aside and start on our soup. Our choices were Tom Yam, chicken in coconut milk and vegetable hot soup. I chose the later thinking it'd be a bit lighter and a break from all the flavors and coconut milk. A lot of the work was done for us so all that was left was some slicing, dicing and cooking before our soups were complete; but it was still not the time to eat. The final dish we had to prepare was our stir fry, choices ranging from the obvious pad thai, chicken and basil and cashew chicken (my pick). This was a pretty simple dish and definitely one I could replicate at home, and by the time it was done it was finally time to eat.
Now that we were full and feeling lazy Sammy guided us to his amazing hammock area where we were instructed to relax, read a book or take a nap as we had an hour (or more) break until we would be cooking again. It was nice to have some time off between courses and also a chance to get to know each other. We shared some travel stories, tips and advice before falling in and out of sleep for the next hour.
Sammy woke us all from our slumber with the promise of more delicious food, although I'm not sure any of us were hungry at this point, honestly, all I wanted was a cold shower. Sammy's wife took a majority of the group to get started on the fillings for spring rolls while two of us got to work on 'Chicken in Padman leaves' and papaya salad. The afternoon was a bit of a let down for me, almost all of the prep-work (seasoning the meat, cutting vegetables, measuring ingredients) had been done for us so there was just the 'dummy steps' left to complete. I realize that this was more time efficient for them but we had just been sitting around in hammocks for a good 1.5 - 2 hours, personally I would've rather been cooking during that time.
The appetizers were completed and eaten, no waiting around like the morning, and it was on to dessert. A majority of the class chose the pumpkin custard which of course is nothing like what I know custard to be from back home, no Kopps or Culvers over here! One guy chose the traditional mango sticky rice (which to be honest if I never have to eat again I'd be okay with) which left me with the bananas in coconut cream, sound pretty simple. Obviously, Thailand is not known for their desserts because none of these dishes blew me (or anyone else) away. Now that we were all stuffed full of good food it was time to head home, or tow the train station in my case. Sammy packed us all back into his truck and drove us back to town, wishing us well on our journeys and urging us to come back and visit, oh and give him some free advertising "Facebook, Facebook!!!"
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.