Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class
This month’s Thai cooking class takes us to Fair House Villas & Spa in Mae Nam.

 

Page2Feb

Everybody’s at it! Thai food is now so popular that people all over the world are thronging to go hands-on and make it for themselves. And this is particularly true on Samui, where there seems to be more cooking classes than coconut trees! Almost every resort has a class, and that’s probably the case in the one where you’re staying. But did you realise that they’re all open to non-residents? And if you feel like making a little trip out then you’ll be made most welcome.

Every class is different. Each has its own style, format and way of doing things. Some are long and some are short. Some have just one dish, whilst others go for a full meal. And the cost of it all varies greatly, too. And so, to help to guide you through the Thai cooking class maze, every month I sit in on a different one and describe what it’s all about. And this time it’s the turn of Fair House Villas & Spa in Mae Nam.

Fair House Villas is a large and imposing traditional resort and one that’s almost regal in its style and the elegance of its décor. But it’s not to be found out in plain view on the main road somewhere, although it’s easy enough to get to, being only about 15 minutes’ leisurely drive out of Chaweng. Head in the direction of Nathon, go through the traffic lights in Bo Phut, and then watch out for the (only) sharp bend, with Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa on its right-hand corner. Go around the bend for just a little way and take the second right, down a small concrete side-road that’s next to a ‘Family Mart’. Follow this for a little way and you can’t miss the resort’s huge carvings at its entrance.

     As with all classes, you’ll need to have booked your place(s) in advance. The signature restaurant here, The Bre-Eze, is one of the more pleasant eateries around, open-sided and shady, overlooking the beach and right next to a gigantic and spectacularly-decorated Chinese shrine (it would be worth the excursion just to see this!). Drop in for a coffee or a snack one afternoon, check out the vibes, and decide on which of the five options for the three-dish cooking class takes your fancy.

     Classes are held after the lunch period is over, with the preferred time being 2:00 pm, although there’s some leeway here. You’ll be greeted at reception by the delightful Personal Assistant to the Deputy Managing Director, Khun Nattaporn Kaewchinda, more-usually known by her nickname of Khun Tan. And within minutes, an electric buggy will appear and purr its way through the grounds, dropping you down at The Bre-Eze.

     Thailand is renowned for its gentle and smiling people and here you’re positively surrounded by them. The resort’s Executive Chef, Khun Serm Tuychan, is one such person, and he’ll greet you warmly before handing you your apron and hygienic rubber gloves. The table with the cooking stations and ingredients is situated to one side of the central courtyard area, with the big blue sea in front and that gorgeous Chinese shrine alongside. The surroundings and outlook of where the class is actually held is a most important factor, and they don’t get much prettier than the one here.

      Khun Serm has loads of experience, having previously worked in 5-star restaurants in Chiang Mai and in the renowned St. James Hotel in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road, prior to opening his own restaurant. And this expertise comes across in his teaching style. Assisted by the obliging Khun Tan, he begins by pointing out each of the ingredients needed for the first dish and inviting you to sample their aroma and taste. All of these are thoughtfully ready-prepared and laid-out in covered ceramic bowls, close to hand. Another nice touch is that he’ll stand right next to you as he explains and demonstrates, making it much easier to copy his actions than if he were standing opposite and facing you. That’s where, in fact, you’ll see Khun Tan, looking-on or ready to offer help with some of the more difficult translations, as well as demonstrating her talents as the class photographer.

       Khun Serm is keen to pass on hints and tips along the way. Such as to keep tasting as you add the ingredients, as Thai cooking is all about adjusting the overall flavour to your personal preference. So, if it’s a bit too spicy for you, add more coconut milk. Too sweet? Add a dash of lemon or lime juice. Don’t stir the mixture once the prawns are in the pot; it makes the overall taste too fishy. These are invaluable snippets that can only come from experience and something that you’ll not find in a cook book or online video. And I’m sure that it’s the exact reason that you’ve opted to take a Thai cooking class in Thailand and be taught by a real Thai chef!

        As you make each dish, it’s placed to one side and covered for you to enjoy at the end. And the used utensils are whisked away and replaced, together with the next set of ingredients needed. It’s all very efficient and obviously the result of substantial experience. But here you might notice something odd, although it’s hugely sensible. The dishes aren’t made in order; starter, main dish and dessert. It might go salad, dessert and then main. Or dessert first, then soup and main. Why? Because the team here have worked it out that if you make your main dish in the middle of the others then it’ll be cold by the time you come to eat it. Yet another example of the awareness and thoughtful planning at Fair House Villas.

       And then, when all’s done and dusted, you can relax in the shade and in front of that sweeping seascape and quietly enjoy the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labours. And whilst you’re enjoying the best Thai meal you’ve ever had (of course – you made it!), Khun Tan will have scurried off to burn all those photos onto a CD. Which will then later be presented to you, along with your souvenir apron, a set of recipes of the dishes you’ve made and a very professional certificate of achievement. And all for the total cost of 1,250 baht per person. What a super way to spend an afternoon!

      There now seem to be hundreds of cooking classes on the island and they all vary hugely. But the class held at The Bre-Eze restaurant at Fair House Villas & Spa is definitely worth making the trip over.  

 

Rob De Wet


For reservations and further information, telephone 0 7742 9000.



 


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