Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class
This month’s Thai cooking class takes us to the sublime Spirit House Restaurant & Spa Resort.

 

Master ClassI’ve been at it for a while now. I’ve done it on the beach and I’ve done it by the pool. It’s happened both with my face up against a brick wall and also gazing out to sea. With happy, jolly people and with dull ones. It even happened one time in a frantic and steaming kitchen with a whole bunch of sweaty chefs. Yes, I have to say that during the last three years I’ve attended Thai cooking classes all over the island and in just about every location possible. But I’ve never before done one in the middle of a ruined Thai village. And yet that’s where I went to check-out this month’s featured class – the Spirit House Restaurant & Spa Resort. It’s very easy to find too; just head south down the busy Chaweng Beach Road and take the last side street on the right before you reach the central Laem Din crossroads. And just 50 metres along at the end on the right.

 

This place is unique. There’s nothing else at all like on Samui. And I very much doubt that you’ll come across anything like it anywhere in all of Thailand. Take the idea of a tiny village in the north of the Kingdom, somewhere out in the wilds. There’s a temple and a chedi, a lake and a waterfall and with six or seven little stone cottages in amongst all the rampant greenery. And at first glance it seems to be almost a ruin, with crumbling brickwork and exposed timbers and with the ghosts of the villagers to be seen still weaving their silk, seated at their looms.

 

Well, that’s what Paul Mcdermid told me about the ghosts, anyway, and that for a long time his Thai staff wouldn’t go out around the grounds after dark. He’s the Australian businessman behind ‘Spirit House’ and there really is an area where life-size models are posed as if at work. But that’s at night. And in the daytime, when you go to do your cooking class, it doesn’t have quite the same scary effect. On the other hand you can then see that the ‘ruin’ is, in fact, merely a realistic façade and that, in reality, it’s actually one of the sturdiest structures on the island!

 

There’s not a great deal to be seen of the grounds from the street outside: the frontage features the 2-floor ‘ruined temple’ which actually hosts the restaurant. And that’s where I went along to join the two other conspirators in cuisine, my partners for the afternoon, Mark Stafford and Nikki Burgess from Wellington, New Zealand. We were greeted with a welcome drink by Khun Sathip Taweechai, the restaurant’s manager, and sat at the bar for a while, getting to know each other. They were on the last leg of a two-week break that began in Krabi and one of the things on their holiday list was a cooking class. And it says something about Spirit House that Mark and Nikki were directed there from glowing reports on the feared and respected website – www.TripAdvisor.com.

 

As is the norm with all classes everywhere, we’d booked the day before and selected our choice of four dishes from the list of available options. And don’t think that you can only learn how to make the items on the ‘class menu’. It’s intended as a guide and has a selection of curries, stir fries, soups and salads that represents the most popular elements of Thai cuisine. If you have a favourite dish that you want to learn how to make then just ask. It might take a day extra for the chefs to prepare your printed recipes to order, but they’ll certainly be more than happy to oblige.

 

And then, having settled in, we were guided to the other side of the bar, at the front area of the restaurant, into a large and shady area where the class had been set up. Here’s where we were introduced to the Executive Thai Chef, Khun Ittiphan Sangnunda, more usually known by his nickname of Khun Pong. The long table was attractively laid with a white cloth and decorated with carved fruit and vegetables. There were four cooking stations set out with gas burners and chopping boards, together with all the ingredients waiting ready for our first dish of stir fried chicken with basil and kaffir lime leaves. Plus a plentiful supply of helpers from the kitchens on hand to remove and replenish the pans and utensils from one dish to the next.

 

Khun Pong was an attentive and thoughtful teacher, identifying each ingredient we were going to be using and quick to suggest alternatives. And Khun Sathip remained helpfully on hand throughout to explain further and expand on some of the technical aspects. Khun Pong demonstrated each step of the process and we all followed his lead. He was full of useful tips that kept us busy scribbling notes. Things like: marinate the prawns in a touch of whisky and lemon – it removes the fishy smell; boil the coconut milk first and skim off the cream that rises – it thickens the soup; keep the flavour but adjust the spiciness by experimenting with big or small chilies. These are invaluable tips from a real Thai chef in Thailand and worth more than all the cookbooks in the world.

 

And then, when we had finished everything, we sat down to enjoy it all as the sun dropped below the trees and the light turned to gold. By a miniature lake. In an ancient Thai village. In the middle Chaweng. And there’re not so many people who can go home with a story like that (and with photos and a certificate to prove it).

 

Classes are held every day of the week at 4:00 pm and last a little over 2 hours, costing just 1,500 baht for the four courses. It’s an excellent class with cheerful and friendly staff and in one of the most unusual and picturesque settings on Samui. And you even have the further option of combining it with spa treatments, if you wish. Plus there’s a free pick-up service from the Chaweng area and also valet parking if you come by car. All in all, the cooking class at the Spirit House Restaurant & Spa Resort come highly recommended.

 

Rob De Wet
 


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