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Published: February 11th 2019
Today my buddies and I were booked in for a cookery class, with the lady who featured in Gordon Ramsay’s Thailand cookery programme (YouTube, 33m49s) and taught him how to make fish soup. I wondered if it will be al fresco, in the house on stilts, or whether that was not her house and a location chosen for filming reasons of authenticity. Martin ably negotiated the price down to 1000b each, including transport there and back. It’s a way out of Ao Nang. There would be 5 of us, what fun! I was told to come hungry as you get to eat it all afterwards. I’d had my usual lunch of corn, being completely unable to say no to the corn guy, bless his deaf little heart. He’s always so cheerful.
I was picked up first in a cute pink songthaew, then a couple from London from a hotel up the road, then my gang of 4 buddies, staying at the Ibis Styles. We didn’t have to go far, about 10 minutes to the outskirts of the town in the countryside. It was lovely. Nothing fancy, very authentic, and definitely where old Gordon had come. 2 Germans came by scooter.
There was a huge outside covered cooking area, all laid out ready, and Tommy was in charge of us, with 3 other ladies helping out. Ya, Gordon’s teacher, was away as her father had just died. We helped ourselves to drinks and put on our aprons.
The first part was the chopping up of everything to be made into curry paste, stuff for soup etc. Then we pounded it up with mortar and pestle, the bangbang stage. The cleaver thing they gave us was brilliant, super sharp. I sliced the end of my nail off with it. We could decide what we wanted to cook, red, green or Penang curry, as well as pad Thai or a stir fry and we went in groups over to the burners. Each group had one of the ladies to tell us what to do (at times screaming noooooo, ONE tablespoon), adding coconut milk, fish sauce and other stuff I have to say, the basic ingredients seemed to be the same for everything, but some used coriander, some peanuts etc. Once cooked we ate what we’d made, which was 2 dishes each, all shared. There was loads and we couldn’t finish it. Then
we made 3 different soups and papaya salad. i put 2 chillies in mine and couldn’t eat it. Martin took one for the team and gamely finished it off. They asked if we wanted to take the leftovers home but somehow cold curry for breakfast didn’t appeal. Between each stage they cleared away and left us chatting. They were super efficient. A lot of the prep, like chopping up the chicken, had been done for us, otherwise we’d have been there until Easter, if not Christmas.
I would completely recommend Ya’s school. They do 3 sessions a day, breakfast (eesh, who could face cooking curry for breakfast?), afternoon (too hot) and evening. They have invested a lot in equipment. There were mosquito coils burning on the floor, it’s right next to a little stream, and the loos were full of them, as well as 2 geckos taking advantage. My 2 favourite parts were Martin chopping up his chives really small when we were supposed to leave them in 2 inch lengths, and when it was sunset and all the cicadas started chirping away. Also it was interesting to see fresh turmeric, like a sort of skinny ginger root on
the outside and bright carrot orange on the inside. We were driven home after Tommy had removed a cat from the back of the songthaew and were back by 8.45.
i probably wouldn’t do it again, and have no intention of actually cooking this at home. Too many ingredients, although you can buy the curry paste ready made. We were all in a frenzy of chopping and banging and couldn’t really take it in.
P.S. Tommy asked me if I was alone in the hotel, genuinely curious as to why I would come here on my own. Travelling solo has some benefits. Of course, there isn’t the usual banter and fun of sharing it with a best buddy or lovely partner, but you do get to have the first shower every day and all of the wardrobe space. Food actually tastes better, for some reason, maybe because without someone to talk to you concentrate on it more. Putting sun cream on your own back is tricky, though, and leads to some red patches, however hard you try to wiggle it on with the back of your hand. Generally, I’m so glad I came here but will be looking
forward to moving on to Koh Lanta on Friday.
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