Supermarket-bought curry paste rarely tastes authentic and making a pad thai from scratch is nigh on impossible – where on earth do you buy tamarind sauce? Whether it’s down to a lack of ingredients or just a preference for eating out, cooking authentic Thai food at home is a definite rarity.
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But if you want to add excitement to your repertoire of meals, there’s no excuse for not treating your partner or friends to a real green curry because Spinningfields’ very own Thai restaurant, Thaikhun, are now giving cookery classes.
I was lucky enough to experience a trial session last week and came home feeling more knowledgeable and confident in my Thai cooking abilities, as well as laden down with some tasty leftover treats.
The session lasts about two hours and takes place in a designated area of the restaurant next to the open kitchen. Cooking on electric portable hobs and instructed by one of Thaikhun’s head chefs, ingredients came ready chopped to save time but each was individually explained. While most are pretty recognisable vegetables and spices, a tasting session of fragrant lemongrass, smooth palm sugar, strong shrimp paste and spicy galangal was an added bonus and left my taste buds mildly on fire.
Suited up in aprons and tall chef hats, the session began with the starter course: Golden Bags. These spring roll pastry bundles stuffed with sweet corn, carrot, onion, potato and coriander were surprisingly easy to make using pre-made spring roll pastry cut into varying sizes.
Watching the chef’s demonstration of cutting and rolling was crucial but easily copied, and once the Golden Bags were assembled, they were whisked away to be deep fried while we cookery students sat down at our table with a refreshing fruity cocktail.
Crunching down into the freshly fried Golden Bags dipped in chilli sauce and releasing the abundance of subtle flavours, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they tasted and looked- almost as if they’d been made by the restaurant chefs themselves.
The second course was a Thai classic and one of my personal favourites- green curry. Easily the most difficult part of this course was the grinding down of the curry paste in a large stone pestle and mortar. Adopting the Thai way of pummelling, it took 5-10 minutes to reach the desired consistency but everyone was rewarded by the amazing smells of garlic, lemon grass and chilli which intensified when the paste was added to the hot saucepan.
Cooking the green curry was surprisingly quick and in no time at all we were sat back at the table sampling the coconut spiced dish served with fresh jasmine rice. Having tasted Thaikhun’s green curry before on a previous visit, I can safely say that my own version was pretty much identical – proving that you don’t have to be a professional to create something delicious.
Whilst cooking, we were allowed to adjust the spice, sweetness, and amount of basil and chili garnish to suit our own tastes- if you don’t want too much of a kick, just add a maximum of three chillis to the paste!
The session was highly enjoyable and definitely a recommended activity for groups of friends or couples looking for an alternative social experience.
As well as enjoying an amazing two course meal, a lovely cocktail and having plenty of photos to share in the chef uniform, Thaikhun also gave us gift bags containing a bottle of Thai beer, a handy stress-squeezing tuk tuk toy and a discount off our next visit. Not bad for £50 a head. And you can even make a larger batch of curry paste and store it in a jar with oil for future use.
The cookery school sessions will take place on Sundays from 11-1 and launch to the public on March 13th. Thaikhun are currently offering a two for £80 opening deal.
With the availability of the more unusual ingredients in Chinatown’s Asian supermarkets and the easy to follow recipes, there really is no excuse to give Thai home cooking a go.
But if you’re still not convinced, just order a take away from Thaikhun and tell your friends you made it.