Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class

This month’s Thai cooking class takes us to Outrigger, near the Big Buddha.


Master ClassEveryone loves a nice surprise. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an out-of-the-blue trip to the cinema or something wrapped up with a nice little bow. An unexpected pleasure is welcomed by all. It’s always great to get one, but it’s often more satisfying to create one. Right now you’re on Samui. So what could be more fitting than to cook a splendid Thai meal when you get back home. Thai cuisine is probably the most popular in the world, so why not surprise your friends with some new-found skills?


Better still, it’s quick, it’s easy and it’s fun. Which is probably why just about every resort now offers their own particular style of class and with all welcome – particularly visitors from outside. In the light of this, I sit-in on a different class each month, and this time it’s the turn of Outrigger Koh Samui Resort and Spa, just little way beyond the landmark of Big Buddha.


Outrigger (previously known as Destination Beach Resort) is a comparative newcomer on the Samui scene, having opened its doors for the first time in April 2009. But it rapidly made folks sit up and take note, due to its very contemporary décor. There’s a lot of scrubbed concrete and raw stonework with contrasting textures that subtly complement the richness of the woods and natural fabrics. The walled paths and walkways are deliberately understated, allowing the tropical blooms and vines to dominate. Their beachside restaurant, By the Sea, also follows this theme and its open design extends outwards towards the edge of the pool and onto a terrace that overlooks the beach.


There are two factors that turn a good cooking class into a great one, and one is the location. And this is one of the prettiest that you’ll find anywhere on the island. All beachside restaurants have a sea view, but that’s usually all it is – a view of miles and miles of nothing but sea. But here the vista is broken by a long jetty with an almost rustic sand-bar running parallel to the beach. Over to the right a myriad of picture-postcard painted fishing boats sprawl at idle angles against the shallow sandbar, whilst on the left sits the tree-lined spur of the bay that’s dominated by the huge golden statue of Big Buddha. It’s simply idyllic.


And the second thing that can make or break a class is the chef. What’s ideally needed is someone who’s relaxed and talkative, with a good command of English and a great sense of humour. If he also happens to be a thoughtful teacher, ready to explain everything and gently correct and guide you, then so much the better. And you’ll discover all these qualities present here in the form of the resort’s genial Executive Chef, Khun Suthep Tiaosakol, more usually known by his nickname of Khun Tom.


As with all such classes you’ll need to have made your booking at least a day in advance; the staff need time to assemble everything and prepare for you. And, more importantly, you’ll need to have decided exactly what dishes you’re interested in. Here at Outrigger the class teaches four dishes (most resorts offer three) – an appetiser, a soup, a main course and a dessert. Although these dishes represent the most popular aspects of Thai fare, if there’s something that’s not on the list, a dish that you’re really keen on learning to make, then simply ask and it shall be done! But, with a choice of 10 main dishes, the chances are that you’ll see what you like anyway.


A general ‘rule of thumb’ guide to the quality of a class is the amount of thought, time and effort that’s gone into the preparations. As well as all the ingredients being laid-out in lovely sea-green ceramic bowls in readiness, Khun Tom goes several steps further. There are some super table decorations; not only a big centrepiece-display of carved fruit and vegetables but also some of the ingredients that you’re about to use have been decorated, too, with the potatoes being sculpted and even leaf designs carved into the onion slices. It’s delightful!


After you’ve pulled on your apron and chef’s hat, Khun Tom will begin by identifying each of the ingredients and explaining their purpose in the dishes, including sampling their aroma and taste. Then you’ll stand side-by-side with a chopping board each and he’ll demonstrate each step of the process with you following his example. For someone who’s not an expert, this is the way to do it as you’ll be able to follow his every action directly – it’s much harder to get it right when your teacher is standing opposite and facing towards you.


Khun Tom’s light-hearted and thorough and there are lots and hints and tips passed-on along the way. If it’s a bit too sweet for your taste, add some lime juice. Too spicy? Add more coconut milk, or remove some of the seeds from the chilies. Above all, keep on tasting it every few minutes and making adjustments. These are the vital bits of information that you can’t get from a book and which makes a class like this so useful. And it’s no doubt exactly the reason why you’re here doing this rather than using a recipe-book back in your kitchen.


And then, having made your Thai feast dish-by-dish, you’ll sit down to enjoy it, before being presented with a very professional-looking certificate of achievement. There’ll also be a CD of ingredients and recipes, plus photos of the entire class, taken during your session by assistant-chef, Khun Lex. And you’ll also be given your chef’s hat and monogrammed apron as an additional souvenir.


Classes are held between midday and 3:00 pm, can cater for up to four people and cost just 1,950 baht per head, which, naturally, includes the four-course meal you’ve created. To get to Outrigger, head from Big Buddha towards the direction of Choeng Mon and Chaweng. After a few hundred metres, turn left alongside the first 7-11 you come to (on the road to Tongsai Bay) and cross two small bridges. The resort is the next big building on the left-hand-side.


There are a-hundred-and-one Thai cooking classes now on Samui but this one, at Outrigger Koh Samui Resort and Spa, is well worth the short excursion and is most definitely highly recommended.


Rob De Wet


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