Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class

Making Thai food with a difference at Twisted Thai.


Master ClassCan you remember your first time? That shyness? That sense of not quite knowing what to do but trying to be confident? It’s the same for everyone. The best thing is to go with the flow and see what happens. The first time that anyone goes for a Thai meal, it’s confusing. You’ll probably eat it in your home country at first. And then one day you’ll come to Thailand for the real thing – and find out just how different it all looks and tastes!


Which is one of the reasons that authentic Thai cooking classes are so popular here. Just about every resort offers a class and visitors from outside are always welcome. But every class is different in the presentation, location, format and style, and the cost varies, too. Which is why I go to a different resort each month and report my findings. And this time it’s the turn of Twisted Thai, in Chaweng Noi.


The restaurant itself is boldly styled. There’re lots of whitewashed stucco and terracotta roofs, and everywhere bright reds and oranges, interlaced with black, contrast cheerfully with the clean white walls. It’s a spacious and airy restaurant, just a few minutes around the corner from neighbouring Chaweng Bay. It’s a pleasant stroll along the beach, or you can go there on the ring-road via the landmark of Imperial Samui Beach Resort, where an electric buggy will whisk you through the lush gardens and down to the restaurant below.


The setting is utterly delightful and real picture-postcard material. There’s a huge open kitchen facing into the main (open-sided) room, with several discreet outer decks, and even a rooftop area with canopied salas and huge cushions. But its main claim to fame is the cuisine. They’ve taken Thai food and approached it from a contemporary angle, deconstructing and interpreting familiar dishes via modern techniques. Even the layout of each item is fresh and colourful. It’s an exciting and novel approach to a well-known cuisine. Happily, the cooking class is less demanding for the amateur chef. It focuses on familiar and traditional methods but with particular stress on an attractive final presentation.


As with any class, you’ll need to decide your program and book your place at least 24 hours in advance. There’s a professionally-produced booklet to help you here, with a choice of three different ‘menus’. This covers all the popular dishes and includes an ‘easy cooking’ option. But this is all very flexible and if you have a particular favourite that’s not on the list then simply ask and it shall be provided. But probably the best thing to do is to pop along for a visit or a meal beforehand and then discuss the class whilst you’re there.


Having arrived, you’ll be greeted by Sous Chef, Christopher Pierre, who’ll settle you with a welcome-drink before introducing you to your teacher, Commis Chef, Khun Yom (formally known as Khun Payom Thongsongkeaw). The location of the class is super: the long open kitchen faces seawards and is edged with a low counter. All the ingredients that you’ll need for your first dish are prepared ready for you and Chef Christopher will explain each one. As well as the ingredients to balance the sweet, sour, salty and spicy elements, you’ll be familiarised with other basics such as galangal, kaffir lime leaves and the various types of basil and what they smell and taste like. These are all laid-out on the counter and the gas-powered range is right behind, making it easy to work between the two.


And having donned your chef’s apron, Khun Yom then takes over. He’s thoughtful and exacting, but light-hearted and jolly with it, making the whole business thoroughly enjoyable. Another big plus is that he stands alongside you as he demonstrates: it’s harder to copy the mirror-image of someone when they’re facing you. He’ll take each ingredient in turn, showing how to chop, slice or dice it, and you’ll follow suit, adding and stirring as you go. And he’ll keep up a running commentary, explaining what he’s doing and why, and offering useful tips along the way. Thai food is all about adjusting the overall flavour to your own personal preference. So, if it’s a bit too sweet, add some lime juice. Too spicy? Add coconut milk, or remove some of the chili seeds. And rinse your hands after handling the chilies or the garlic: rub your eyes or even your nose without doing so and it will sting! This ‘on the spot’ information is something you can’t get from a book or online video and there’s just no substitute for being taught firsthand by a real Thai chef.


At Twisted Thai, there are several four-dish menus to pick from that each consists of a salad, a soup, a main dish and a sweet. And you’ll work your way through each item in turn, placing them to one side as they’re finished. But the ‘twist’ comes at the end of each dish. The approach to the cooking-class might be traditional but the individual flair of this restaurant can’t be subdued. Because Khun Yom will spend quite a while carefully showing you ways of decorating the final item, using carved vegetables, sprigs of thyme and even flowers. Each plate is a work of art!


If you’ve never made Thai food before you’ll be surprised how easy and quick it is; 80% of the work is in the assembling and preparation of the ingredients. And so you’ll soon be sitting down to dine on one of the best Thai meals you’ve ever eaten (naturally!) and with a terrific view to go with it.


Classes are held each day at 11:30 am and last for around two hours. And the cost is a very reasonable 2,000 baht per head, which includes a souvenir apron, the recipe booklet and your very-own four-course Thai repast. It’s altogether an excellent class in an outstanding setting, and comes highly recommended.


Rob De Wet


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