Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class
This month’s Thai cooking class takes us to the seaside at Nora Beach Resort & Spa.


Master ClassSo – what’ll it be tonight? Lamb chops? Maybe that’s a bit too plain. How about lasagne? Or maybe nuke up a ready-meal from the freezer? That’s quick and easy. And it’ll only take 15 or 20 minutes to defrost and cook. Or, in more or less the same time-span, you could make not one but two totally yummy Thai dishes. Real food, not a foil tin stuffed with preservatives. And no protesting about ‘can’t get the proper ingredients’, as there are now lots of online Thai groceries with next day delivery.


People have caught-on to just how easy it is to make Thai food; that’s the reason that just about every resort restaurant is now offering a cooking class. Of course, the temptation is to simply take a class right where you’re staying. But every class is different: one dish or five; differing locations; a light-hearted teacher who speaks great English … or not! Plus the cost varies enormously, too. Which is why I’ve been scouting around to see what’s on offer. And this month’s class takes us to the northern end of Chaweng Beach to visit Nora Beach Resort & Spa.


As you head towards the northern end of Chaweng Bay, the coastline begins to sprout hillsides. Here, there’s a steep incline down to the beach and the resorts in this area have moulded themselves into the terrain by making a series of steps and terraces that cascade down towards the sand. So it is with ‘Nora Beach’. The name, by the way comes from the Thai fable of the Menorah (usually simply abbreviated to ’Nora) and so it’s no coincidence that you’ll be heading to the restaurant which is named after the handsome prince in the legend, Prasuthon.


One of the most enjoyable aspects of a class like this is the location – nobody wants to spend a couple of hours staring at a brick wall. And here at Nora Beach it’s just perfect. The cooking station is set-up right at the edge of the terrace overlooking the sand, and with a perfect blue sweep of sea and sky right around to a small island, Koh Matlang, sitting prettily over to the right. The cooking stations are neat and purposeful, one gas ring for each student, and with the cutting boards and utensils laid-out ready. Thoughtfully, all the ingredients you’ll need for each dish (slices of meat, etc.) have been prepared and are on hand in covered dishes. There’s a tray of essential ingredients also; such items as palm sugar, fish oil and cooking oil waiting in line next to these.


As with all such classes you’ll have already made your reservation at least 24 hours beforehand and chosen the dishes that you want. At Nora Beach they actually have a kind of weekly ‘calendar’ prepared, with each day having a different three dishes on offer. But this is pleasantly flexible; should you want to mix ’n’ match any of the 21 items then you’re welcome to do so. Although, as the resort’s friendly General Manager, Khun Prajuabphan Sakakorn (less-formally known as Khun Jeff) pointed out, most folks that do want to make a change usually make just the one, a different starter, say, and are quite happy with the rest.


When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by your teacher for the session, the very pleasant and outgoing Khun Kit (Khun Kittichai Sroythong), who’ll help you on with your aprons and hats. Khun Kit has been in executive positions around Samui for a long time now, is relaxed and experienced, and has a great command of English. And he’ll kick-off by going through each of the ingredients, explaining their function, and inviting you to sample their taste and aroma.


Another good point in favour of this class; Khun Kit will be standing alongside you. It’s much harder to have to look over and across to a mirror image of your teacher, and the set-up here is ideal for copying his actions step-by-step. Which is exactly what will then happen, as he begins to add the oil and then chopped ingredients to the pan. He’s an attentive teacher and quick to perceive what level you’re at: if you’re a bit awkward with the chopping he’ll gently adjust your fingers or hand position, and often throws in little jokes or comments along the way.


The main culture-clash when it comes to understanding Thai food is the spiciness of it all. As an experienced chef, Khun Kit is well aware of this and will prompt you to constantly taste the bubbling mixture at each new stage. And he’s full of useful tips, too, such as instead of cutting down on the chilies used (which degrades the overall flavour) he’ll simply advise you to remove half of their seeds, then taste again. Constant tasting is vital as everyone, even Thai cooks, makes their dishes slightly differently. Another good point: he’ll invite you to taste his dish to make a comparison. Yours will probably take fine until you sample his, and then it’s out with the palm sugar or lemon juice to adjust the balance once again.


Generally speaking, you’ll be making a starter, main dish and dessert. But this is a Western concept as the Thais have all the dishes on the table at once, adding a bit of whatever they fancy to their plate as they go. And so, if you wish, you might want to go for a soup, a curry and a noodle dish. But, whatever your inclination, after an hour or so you’ll be sitting on a shady table right on the edge of the sand and tucking into probably the best Thai food you’ve ever eaten. Things always taste better when you cook them yourself!


And, finally, you’ll be presented with your monogrammed souvenir chef’s apron and hat, together with a booklet of Thai recipes and a very smart certificate of achievement. Something you can frame and perhaps hang next to your microwave – to make you think twice the next time you’re tempted to heat up a ready-meal!


Classes are held every day at Nora Beach Resort & Spa, cater for between 2 and 6 students, and run from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm, although that can be moved an hour either way if requested. The cost for your afternoon excursion, including your 3-course meal is 1,600 baht each, and you’re also welcome to flop-out by the pool afterwards, if you wish.


Altogether this is an excellent class, thoughtfully presented and well taught, and comes highly recommended.


Rob De Wet


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