Thai food is simple and at the same time tantalizing to the senses, that’s why when the opportunity to do a crash course in Thai cooking came up we grabbed it. Hubby and me by now were acclimatized to Thailand and the smell of lemon grass that followed us everywhere. We came to know about a cooking class Smart Cook Krabi which had a one day course in Thai cooking followed by a tour of the local market. Thailand is tourist friendly and the competition is high so most activities aimed at tourists have pick up and drop facilities. The car from Smart cook picked us up from our hotel and took us to the class for a day of cooking, eating and lovely company. After alighting we realized that the lady who drove us was also our instructor. The location of the class was the long verandah of her home with a lovely garden beside it. Smart cook needs pre booking and they take small batches of 6-8 people.
We had signed up for a seven course cooking class, there were two options for each course. So us being smart and all we divided up the menu such that both of us made different items for each course. The class started with teaching us about the different unique ingredients in Thai cooking like galangal,basil leaves, lemon grass, chillies, tamarind, fish sauce, etc all required for the sweet, sour, spicy and salty taste that Thai cooking requires. We started with making red and green curry paste with a pestle and mortar . Red and green paste is used in the soups and curry and it moderates the spice levels in Thai food. There is a Thai folk saying which says ‘a man would know if a girl would make a good wife (read cook) by listening to the sound of the pestle on the mortar’. Tom Kha soup which was the first item I made was surprisingly easy as the ingredients and prep was already done and ready for us. We then took our soup bowls to the dining table and had soup and got to taste each others culinary prowess too. The next item on the cook and eat menu was spring rolls for starters with yummy tamarind sauce. After we wolfed down the spring rolls it was time for some salad with glass noodles.
The main course was green, red or yellow curry with rice which is my eternal favorite and since we are our own cooks we could add as much or as little of the spice. This course gave me a deep understanding of how little cooking time chicken and prawns actually needs because the Indian cook in me is prone to slathering anything non veg in spices and cooking it till the chicken would forget that it used to be chicken. We then got a taste of Thai fried rice and Pad Thai and I was in Thai heaven. I wanted to continue cooking but eating it was the problem. My cooking skills were decent but my stomach didn’t have the space for all this yumminess. Thankfully we didn’t have one sit down meal, it was staggered and we cooked and ate alternatively.
For dessert we had sticky rice and mango which was cooked in coconut milk, rice pudding and banana fritters with condensed milk. At this stage I wanted a take away box but I managed to finish it with some help from hubby. After all this eating and cooking we got some much needed exercise at the local market tour. At the market we got a whiff and feel of all these unique and wonderful ingredients some closer to home some not as much. There was basil, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, chillies, tamarind, fish, prawns, chicken,mango, galangal and water bugs all for the Thai culinary pursuit. It was a day well spent and I can claim to have learned Thai cooking with lovely class mates from Singapore and Australia.
” What will you do in Thailand, it is a place where men go to enjoy” thank you sex tourism, this is the opinion an average Indian male has of Thailand. Sex tourism apart,Thailand is a country with a rich and varied culture. The north of Thailand is very different from the south and the untouched pristine island beaches of Thailand are a treat for the eyes and the soul. The food of Thailand is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Also who wouldn’t want to go to a country that has mangoes all year around.
Krabi is approximately 2 and a half hours from Phuket by bus. You could also fly or catch a speed boat. Krabi is white sand beaches, tall rock mountains and forests with a town enveloped in between. Driving around the town you will notice tall ladders leaning against tall rock mountains, these ladders are used by locals to collect bird nests which is a delicacy in these parts. Located about 28kms from the city is the Green Lakes National Parks and Marine Reserves which is a favorite among the locals. This national park has 8 natural lakes each with amazing rich color.
As you enter the national park and walk on the boarded bridge that snakes through the national park, you will glimpse bright emerald color. It is like being exported to the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. The Emerald Pool is a natural pool with bright emerald color. The good news is that you can swim in these pools to your hearts content among small fishes that will go flitting between your toes. Continue walking and you will reach a stream which is mustard yellow in color due to the different mineral concentrations. The water is clear, fresh and inviting.
The boardwalk continues deep into the forest of ever green trees and you can hear, sometimes see different birds and small animals. Swimming is not allowed in some lakes but looking at these bright bursts of color in the midst of thick green foliage is incentive enough. One such lake is the Blue Pool which is the brightest blue color, it is almost psychedelic. Mostly locals and school children on excursions visit here. There is one small restaurant outside the national park that sells local fare along with chips and soft drinks. A little further away from the National Park there is a hot spring with a small waterfall and a pool with warm water which is just right for a dip. Take a few changes of clothes if you are going with kids because there is a lot of swimming to be done.
Getting back to town you can relax in one of the quaint bistros near the beach, while chowing down Pad Thai noodles with sticky rice and mango as dessert. Stay with me for some Thai cooking in Part 2 of Feeling Krabi.
Sometimes we go in search of adventure, sometimes adventure finds us. Put a speed boat, a stubborn tour company and a south-east Asian storm and you can smell an adventure brewing. I am not a water person, the swimming I know will probably save me in a shallow swimming pool. That’s because I would have splashed the water out of the pool with all the thrashing about I do.
We went snorkeling in Maya bay, Thailand with a tour of Phi-Phi islands with a speed boat tour company. There were some 15 people in the boat and the guide plied us with medicine for nausea and warned us about the storm coming. They told us to trust them and trust we did. We started out in the boat with our flippers and snorkeling gear, our swim suits, towels and a change of clothes. We reached Maya Bay and had a good snorkeling experience in the light rain. The lagoon reminded me of Neverland from Disney’s Peter Pan, its almost magical to be true and I didn’t want to grow up.
Soon the rain turned to the promised storm and then we knew what being out in the open sea on a small boat meant. The sea picked us up and then whimsically dropped us down with every surge. The rain was relentless and the spray even more. By now all our clothes were wet and so were our towels and bags and whatever else was permeable including our skin. The passengers were miserable with nowhere to hide from the sea, the salt and the rain. The hurling started with one person and soon the black trash can moving back and forth was the only activity that anyone could bring themselves to do. Hugging each other for warmth seemed more important. We non sea-faring folks prayed for land.
We reached Phi-Phi and we lost a half of our passengers for the return journey, maybe they thought they will stay in Phi-Phi till the rains stopped or maybe till the rainy season got over. The thought of food was nauseating but hey! you need something in your stomach for the return hurl. We still had hope because we bought a poncho to protect us from the rain. Oh just how hard the rain must have laughed at our futile attempts!
But we were on a determined tour because our next stop for this miserable lot was a beautiful island whose name I was too damp to remember. All I remember was that we sat in the sea because the sea was warmer than the beach. We returned back to Krabi with a better understanding of life at sea and lots of respect for the fisher folk out there but would I do this trip again, absolutely!