Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class
January’s Thai cooking class is at Samui Buri Beach Resort, in Mae Nam.


Master ClassThere comes a tide in the affairs of men . . .” when they need to get out and about for a bit! Shakespeare never made it to Samui. But if he had, then he would most certainly have written something along these lines. And then, having become completely seduced by Thai cuisine, no doubt have quickly set off in search of a Thai cooking class to find out how to make it for himself.


And, in the same way as most folks visiting Samui, he would have looked at what his own resort offered first. Ah, but there’s the dilemma. There are now dozens of excellent classes being held every day all over the place, and they’re all different in the way they’re presented, the location and the content. Not to mention the cost. Or the bonus that an excursion to somewhere new for a cooking class makes a great mini-trip as well as being a welcome change of scene.


So Shakespeare, having thus ‘assayed his plot’, would have climbed onto his rented motorbike and headed off in search of new horizons, a capital cooking class and a tale to tell. And would most likely have ended up in Mae Nam on the calm and pleasant north coast, and found himself under the dramatic and complex gables and roofs of Samui Buri Beach Resort.


‘Samui Buri’ (now under the wing of the Resotel Group Hotel & Resort) isn’t one of those places on the main ring-road that leaps out and grabs you. For a start, you need to know where to find it. But that’s easy. As you head under the ‘temple arch’ towards the Lomprayah Ferry at the very western end of Mae Nam, just before the sharp right-hand bend, you’ll soon see the signposts to the right. And the first thing you’ll see as you follow the road around is the imposing roof-line standing high above the trees. It’s probably one of the most dramatic examples of Thai architecture on the island and worth a visit for this alone. But it’s not the design that’s brought you here. And, after announcing yourself at the desk in the spacious lobby, you’ll find yourself escorted into a twist of paths that meander through the greenery to a glade where three paths cross. And there, beneath the towering trees and fragrant blossoms, you’ll come to rest at a shady sala.


There are essentially just three things that make for a great cooking class. The first is the location. It’s just got to be lovely; either overlooking that big blue sea or tucked away in a shady tropical nook somewhere. The second thing is your teacher – the chef. If he or she is stuffy and formal then the whole thing becomes a chore and no fun. And the third thing is … fun! If the experience isn’t enjoyable and an utterly memorable occasion then you may as well learn to ‘cook Thai’ via You Tube. Here, at Samui Buri, you’ll find a real live class with all these three things in perfect combination.


The resort’s Public Relations Manager, Khun Nisachol Sriwarin, usually called by her nickname of Khun Nisa, will be waiting to greet you and put you at your ease whilst leading you to the class. The sala (an open-sided little ‘house’ with a thatched roof) has bench seats at the edges and a white-cloth table in the middle, which has already been set with cutlery and napkins and decorated with flowers. On the grass alongside this is a long table prepared with most of your ingredients, your cooking stations, cutting boards, and all the utensils that you’re going to need. It’s not only organised and purposeful but it’s really pretty, too.


Executive Chef, Khun Suraporn Munyuen, is on hand to help you with your aprons and latex gloves (a practical and hygienic touch) and to identify the ingredients that you’ll be using. He’ll go over each one, prompting you to sample its flavour and aroma and, where necessary, explain its function and purpose. Khun Suraporn is a relaxed teacher, light-hearted, thoughtful and pleasant, and he also speaks excellent English.


The way things work is that you’ll already have selected the dishes you want to make (and have made a booking at least 24 hours in advance; as is the case with all classes everywhere). There’s a wide range of dishes you can pick from, too many to itemise, but they cover just about all the dishes you’ll see on the menu of most Thai restaurants. Plus there’s the added bonus of being able to request some special favourite that’s not listed; simply ask and it shall be included. Additionally, here at Samui Buri, you’ll be learning how to make four dishes and not three (which is usually the case) during the classes which are held every day between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm.


Khun Suraporn is an excellent teacher; thoughtful and attentive, and simply filled with good humour. He’s chock-full of tricks and tips and is a paragon of practical: “Keep tasting and testing to adjust the flavour and balance; take out the chili seeds to retain the taste without the heat; crushed garlic releases more flavour than when it’s chopped.” And not only that but he’s aware enough to realise that when you get home you might not have access to every ingredient, and so will offer alternative suggestions when appropriate.


And then, when all dishes have been made, you eat them (along with your complimentary glass of wine and free bottles of iced water). Two guests who were recently discovered doing exactly this were Stephanie Walton and Jessica Driver from Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. “This was simply fabulous!” exclaimed Jessica. “We both love Thai food and have cooked it before. But this was full of useful information that I never knew. And the food had a complexity of flavour and a depth I’ve never achieved. Plus the chef was great. He’s an absolute dude!”

A hit, a very palpable hit,” as Hamlet observed in Act V. But then, if Shakespeare really had done the Thai cooking class here at Samui Buri, he would have had no hesitation in licking his fingers and would have done it with glee, thanks to Khun Suraporn. This finger-lickin’ would, of course, have been a necessary clean-up before he received his professional certificate of achievement. As well as his monogrammed chef’s apron, full-colour cookbook of recipes and a CD record of photos containing a slide show of the entire session. And I’m certain he would have had no hesitation in handing over the very reasonable charge for the entire experience, 1,500 ducats … I mean baht, before climbing back on his motorbike with a new sonnet in mind – this time an inspired ode to Thai cooking classes at Samui Buri, perhaps?


Rob De Wet


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