Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thai cooking, with a happy heart of course

I had a fun day Wednesday with a few friends from CAWC (that's the Chilterns American Women's Club, a group of American and International Women living in England). Eight of us had signed up for a Thai cooking class at a newish restaurant called, Thai Fusion, located in the nearby village of Amersham. The day started with a welcome coffee and introductions. I always like to begin a cooking class with a fabulous cappuccino so I was a happy camper right off the bat. Mark is the owner of Thai Fusion and he introduced us to head chef, Yuttana, and the restaurant manager who is called P O.

Yuttana first gave us a wonderful crash course in the fresh ingredients we would be using. These are flown in on a weekly basis direct from Thailand. Our fresh ingredients included bird's eye green chillies-I thought he was saying burns eye green chillies which also would make sense, lemongrass (Mmmm), shallots, garlic, baby eggplant, and something called galangal which I'd never seen or heard of before. Galangal looks a little bit like a skinny piece of ginger root but the flavour is different, slightly sweet. Yuttana concluded this part of our lesson by telling us the four essential elements of Thai cooking-

1. Good fresh ingredients

2. know the taste these ingredients will create in your curry (spicy-chili, salty-fish sauce, sweet-palm sugar, sour-something is wrong!)

3. technique-know what needs to go into the dish first and what needs to be added at the end

and, most importantly,

4. Your heart must be happy to cook. I love that.

After we all agreed that our hearts were indeed happy we moved into the cooking area for the only slightly unpleasant part of the day...donning the red caps and white aprons. The aprons were fine and much appreciated but the caps, oh my. Let's just say the cap makes me reconsider furthering my Thai cooking expertise.

Everything about the class was so well organized. We were each given a folder with recipes and descriptions of all the ingredients and spices we would be using. We each had our own workstation with a cooking burner, a pan, utensils for creating and cooking our dish, and a tray with ingredients all laid out for us, each in its own little ramekin. Mark instructed us as to the fire drill procedure before any burners were lit but I'm happy to report that our cooking did not require the services of the fire department today. We were making two dishes and would be dining on our creations by lunchtime.

The first dish was Kheang Kaiew Waan Kai -that is Curry Green Sweet Chicken or Thai Green Curry as it is commonly known. Yuttana patiently walked us thru each step beginning with making the curry paste, a fully satisfying experience which involved a whole lot of pounding with a mortar and pestle. We could add anywhere from 0-3 chillies and I think most of us went with the nice middle number of 2. We each made a double batch of the paste and Mark put the half we didn't use today into our goody bags (more about that later) so we could recreate the dish at home. Everyone made their sauce, gently adding the spices, the coconut milk, the fish sauce, the chicken, the vegetables and…

Voila!...a beautiful Kheang Kaiew Waan Kai appeared.

Once we finished patting ourselves and each other on the back we washed our hands and went to work on our second dish, Pot Pia Khoong (an asparagus prawn spring roll). Because the filling for the spring roll needed to be prepared in advance and then cooled, Yuttana had already made filling for us to use today. We did get to see him demonstrate how this was done. Next came the fun part…we each rolled our own Spring Rolls and Golden Bags. Yuttana had to get back to the restaurant kitchen so Mark demonstrated the technique for us and then had us each make our own. In the restaurant each spring roll should look identical to the one before. Not as easy as it sounds!

When everyone had their spring rolls completed we were invited to sit down for lunch.

Throughout the morning PO had been labelling everyone’s dishes so we were given the actual spring rolls and golden bags we’d made. Let me just tell you when they carried out the cooked spring rolls you would have been impressed. We sure were! And they didn’t just look pretty-they were delicious too. The curry didn’t disappoint either and even though we all appeared horrified when Mark suggested dessert we all managed to order something. I had what was described as coconut custard but was more like a flan…yummy! There was a scoop of fabulous strawberry ice cream served with it too.

I do love a goody bag and Thai Fusion didn’t let me down. Mark had packaged our curry paste, our Spring rolls, and a complimentary jumbo bottle of fish sauce into bags as a takeaway from the day (I know, I know…it doesn’t take much to make me happy). We each received a personalized certificate saying we’d cooked authentic Thai dishes and we also were given information about the other cookery courses the school offers which I’d love to try. Overall it was a great day. I enjoyed the cooking and the company of friends, learning something new and of course tasting what I’d cooked. And, I even managed to book a table for the weekend so I can come back with my husband. I love any day out that promises a night out in the near future!

Cheers, Joyce


  1. It sounds like you had a great day.

  2. Wow! What a great time! I love all those pictures...they really tell a story. My daughter would love this...

    ...and that "tree" below!

  3. Hi, Joyce. It's $10 for international shipping, so $16 total.

    You can go to to donate $16, and I'll get the book right over to you. :)

    Have a great day!

  4. Hi, Joyce. The book is in the mail. Thanks so much!

  5. Try this thai cooking site. You'll like it.
    It's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along.

  6. That sounds like so much fun!!! I love to cook and trying new things is so exciting. We have a wonderful Thai restaurant in our town that I love, but I have never cooked Thai food. I'm jealous!! I love what they told you," Your heart must be happy to cook." Mine must be happy all the time, because I love to cook and I am always the one who bakes cakes, etc. for my Bible study groups and other things. My cooking/baking is my ministry to others. My Mother loves to cook and I share that love with her. Love & blessings from NC!