Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class
December’s ‘Thai Cooking Class of the Month’ is at Bandara Resort and Spa.


Master ClassFun fun fun! That’s what a holiday break is all about. If it’s not an adventure holiday then it’s most certainly all about relaxing, recharging your batteries and enjoying yourself with fun activities. There’re a hundred-and-one ways to go about this whilst you’re on Samui. And one of the most-popular is to get stuck-in and learn how to cook Thai food.


The easiest way to do this is simply to take a class at your own resort – just about everywhere seems to hold classes now. But lots of people are discovering that it pays to ask around. All classes are different; not only in the cost but also in the way they’re presented, the location and the content. But to get out and about for an afternoon and see something new makes for a great alternative mini-excursion and it’s one that you won’t find in any of the tourist brochures. And this month’s featured class is at Bandara Resort and Spa Samui, in Bo Phut.


‘Bandara’ is one of Samui’s more laid-back beach resorts. You’ll find it a few hundred metres on the right after you go through the Fisherman’s Village traffic lights on the ring-road in Bo Phut, coming from Chaweng. Looking at the resort’s frontage, you’ll see a broad and purposeful layout that comes complete with a cheerful, whistle-blowing gateman who’ll guide you inside to where there’s plentiful parking.


Having announced yourself at reception, the staff will happily arrange a buggy to take you through the expansive resort to where the classes are held. But, as it’s such a lovely journey, it makes a great walk as you pass through well-tended tropical gardens with lily ponds, two swimming pools, small bridges and salas, before you find yourself in sight of the ocean. And, as you skirt around the last lawned area, you’ll finally spot the sea ahead of you with the clearly-marked sign of Chom Dao restaurant peeping through the abundant foliage to the right. Bandara actually boasts two restaurants and this one is their featured beachside eatery, set idyllically right on the edge of the sand and with a serene panoramic seascape that features Koh Pha-Ngan as the centrepiece and with the shimmering sweep of the bay forming a backdrop on the right-hand side.


There are three elements that make for a great cooking class and this firmly ticks-off the first one; a terrific location. This is the stuff of which picture postcards are made, so be sure to take your camera – especially if it has one of those useful ‘panorama’ gizmos where you are able to seamlessly stitch three adjoining frames together!


As with all classes everywhere, you’ll need to have already contacted the resort and booked your place at least 24 hours in advance. At Chom Dao they ‘menu’ of the dishes available for you to make. These cover most of the popular items of Thai cuisine, from which you’ll need to select the three that take your fancy. But don’t fret if you’ve a yearning to make something that’s not on the list; requests will be readily accommodated, although you may have to add an extra day’s notice to allow the kitchen to prepare your ‘custom’ menu.


When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the resort’s smiling Food & Beverage Manager and your host for the session, Khun Somsak Sutajit, better-known simply as Khun Sak. He’ll make you welcome and introduce you to the Chef de Cuisine, Khun Piya Plaisil (nicknamed Khun Parn). And this immediately fulfils the second condition for a great class; people around you that are relaxed and humorous. Both of these guys are light-hearted, entertaining and speak excellent English – aspects that can really make or break a cooking class. And this particular class also has the option to go beforehand to the market in Bo Phut to buy your fresh ingredients. The extra cost for this is well worth it as you’ll see sights and sample street-nibbles that most visitors never get a chance to experience. And if you’ve gone out on this trip first then you’ll already be on friendly terms with Khun Sak as he will have been your helpful host for the excursion.


And so to business. On with the aprons and hats. And also with the latex gloves; a thoughtful extra. Khun Parn will begin by identifying all the ingredients and asking you to sample the aroma and taste of each. The cooking stations are gas-powered and you’ll have one each, with a chopping board alongside. You’ll follow his lead, chopping, slicing and stirring, as he talks you through the stages of each dish. It’s excellently-organised and thoughtfully-planned, and the only possible snag is that you might be laughing too much at his entertainingly-quick wit to remember what he’s just shown you!


And then, dish by dish, when all is finished and put to one side, you’ll sit down to enjoy the fruits (so to speak) of your labours. Recent students include Eddie and Karen Dempsey from Melbourne. Back home Eddie wears the chef’s hat and enjoys ‘cooking Thai’. “But this was so useful,” he confided. “Tips like crushing chilies instead of chopping, to make them less powerful. Or the right way to peel-off the kaffir lime leaves to keep the fragrance. I never knew that. The only problem now is to negotiate my wages,” he continued with a wicked grin. “Did I tell you that I’m taking over in the kitchen tonight?


And that brings us on to the third element that’s needed for a great class. Fun. It’s what your holiday is all about. It’s why you’re here. And it’s what you’ll find at the hugely-enjoyable class at Chom Dao. And this all adds up to give it a top score of three-out-of-three.


Rob De Wet


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