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Amita Thai Cooking Class
By Trish Smith
11 October 2010

If you decide to take a trip to Thailand, there’s a pretty good chance you’re a fan of Thai cuisine. Having the opportunity to eat authentic Thai food in Thailand was one of the things I was most looking forward to as I was planning my trip – I love their food, always have. And then I read about cooking classes! Learning to cook Thai food! In Thailand! I signed up for a class with the excitement of a ten year old planning a trip to Disneyland.

The Cooking School
The Cooking School

A lovely lady named Piyawadi Jantrupon (but we can call her ‘Tam’) runs the Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok. Tam learned to cook from her grandmother and her aunt. Her aunt, incidentally, is still going strong at 104 so right away you know the food is good for you.

Tam set the school up in the grounds of her home a couple of years ago, and has been introducing Foodies from around the world to the art of preparing some of the most popular and well-known Thai dishes. On the day that I went I was the only student, so I had a private lesson. We made Phat Thai (Stir-fried Soft Rice Noodles with Prawns and Tamarind Sauce), Tom Kha Gai (Chicken in Coconut Soup), Gai Phat Met Ma Muang Himmaphan (Stir Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts), and a dessert called Tab Tim Krob (Water Chestnuts in Syrup with Cold Coconut Milk).

Kaffir Lime Leaves

Tam’s delightful garden is literally overflowing with herbs and other plants that she uses in her cooking class. Before we put on our aprons she took me on a walk along the path that meanders between garden beds, tearing leaves off small shrubs or pulling roots out of the ground, showing me that those herbs – some of which I couldn’t admit to her that I buy freeze-dried in little jars – actually come from real, live plants that I could grow for myself. All the ingredients, Tam explained, are added for flavour and for their medicinal qualities. Just about everything was good for digestion or for relieving a head cold.

Ingredients for Phat Thai

The kitchen is set up with a demonstration area at the front, where the students can sit on little stools and watch as Tam deftly tosses fresh ingredients into woks sizzling with hot oil and adjusts seasonings with a pinch or a dash of something else, like a TV chef but without the cameras. As she cooked she talked about the importance of getting the taste just right, of balancing the fish sauce and the lime juice just so, to get the perfect flavour.

The Kitchen
The student making Tom Kha Gai

After she had shown me how to make everything, it was my turn at my own little cooking station. She stood close by to make sure I didn’t mess it up or burn myself and in less than half an hour I had made the noodles, soup and stir-fry. I didn’t make the dessert but afterwards, when I sat down to eat my creations, she dished up a serve of little purple, green and blue water chestnut gems for me to try. Blissful.

Lunch is served!

As I left, I promised Tam that I will never again order Phat Thai from the takeaway. From now on, I’ll be making it from scratch.
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