It’s a quiet day in Phuket, we don’t have anything planned and the beach is too choppy for a swim, so, instead, we decided to try our hand at another cooking school.
We did one in Sarawak a few weeks ago and we’re keen to see the difference between Thai and Malaysian styles, we’d heard good things about the Kata Thai Cooking Class, and right from the first contact with our teacher and host, Kelly, we know we’ve made a good decision.
Genial, warm, quick with a smile and a happy to help out with any local knowledge tips she can, we hit it off straight away.
Kelly picks us up from the hotel and we detour through Karon on the way to her classroom to pick up a family of four from Denmark who have booked the class as well, two teenage girls who look like they would blow away in a strong breeze and their happy go lucky parents.
Today’s class will be spread over a lunch break and we’ll be cooking three dishes, all Thai favorites, the Danish parents are a bit nervous about the chilli load we’re going to be eating, but the girls and us are game for it.
We’re doing a red curry with chicken, a Thai style fried rice with prawns and a stir fry with pork chilli and basil.
The cooking school is in a small and pretty shop front in the town of Kata, about 15 minutes drive from where we are staying, after arriving and getting settled in, Kelly serves us up a freshly cooked spring roll and some lovely tea to get us all in the mood.
Soon she has us all in funny hats and hard at work over our chopping boards, dicing and slicing various vegetables.
Kelly shows us the difference between her years of experience and our rusty home cooking skills, she whips through her vegetables while we still muck about trying to peel a carrot. Not surprising really, she runs two classes a day, and each class prepares three meals, no wonder she’s fast.
We do a bit of mortar and pestle work and learn how to whip up a chilli sauce following Kelly’s advice.
And then it’s time to cook. We each get divided up into teams of two and make our way to the small kitchen at the back of the classroom, it’s a bit of a squeeze and with all the frying chilli and garlic fumes in the air we’re all soon spluttering and wheezing away over our gas woks.
The recipes we’re following today are all pretty straightforward and Kelly has designed them so the home cook can take back the skills and use them to whip up the same dish at home.
By the time we’ve finished our three dishes our tummies are growling and we’re all looking forward to the coming feast.
Kelly’s recipe for a Chicken Red Curry.
- Curry Paste, ( see below). 1-2 tablespoons
- Soy or fish sauce, 1-2 tablespoons
- Coconut Milk, 1 can
- Vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon
- Sugar, 1 teaspoon
- Water, 1 cup
- Mixed vegetables diced to size. Thai eggplant, mini eggplant, broccoli, sweet red peppers.
- Sliced chicken thighs, 100 grams
- Thai basil, ½ a cup
In a warm pan or wok place the vegetable oil and then the curry paste.
Stir until you smell the paste start to cook.(2 or 3 minutes).
Add a 1/3rd of the can of coconut milk to the paste and let it boil for 3 minutes.
Add the sliced up chicken meat and push around a couple of times to separate the meat, then let sit in the boiling coconut liquid for 1 or 2 minutes.
Add the water and the rest of the coconut milk and return to a slow simmering boil.
Add the vegetables and then the soy or fish sauce along with the sugar.
Let it simmer away for a few minutes until the vegetables are done and then gently stir in the basil leaves and you are done..
Served with some steamed rice it’s a lovely Thai lunch.
Kelly’s red curry paste.
- Sliced Lemongrass, 3 tablespoons
- Turmeric, 1 stick
- Kaffir lime zest, 1 teaspoon
- Galangal, 1 tablespoon
- Fresh garlic, 5 cloves,
- Black pepper, 1/2 a tablespoon
- Dried Chili, 1 tablespoon
- Salt, 1/2 a tablespoon
- Shrimp paste, 1/2 a tablespoon
- Fresh Thai chili, 15-20
- Shallot, 5 cloves
These are the basic ingredients for a Southern style curry paste.
You can use a mortar and pestle if you have a large one, otherwise use a blender.
Start with the chilies and salt, then piece by piece drop the rest of the ingredients in until you have a smooth paste, you can add palm sugar and fish sauce as well for extra flavor.
All photos copyright Ross Duncan: firstname.lastname@example.org