Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class

March’s ‘Thai Cooking Class of The Month’

is at Banana Fan Sea Resort’s Baitong Restaurant.


2 How about a small bet? What are the odds that your resort has a Thai cooking class? If it doesn’t, then it’s in the minority. Thai food’s so universally popular nowadays that everyone wants to find out how to make it. And it’s not only really easy, it’s great fun, too. But all these classes are different in one way or another. Some include trips to a local market first. Some offer just one dish, whereas others cover as many as five in one session. And the personalities of the teachers are all different, too, as is the cost.

But did you realise that every resort is more than happy to have you visit them and sit in on their class? It makes for an excellent alternative (half) day trip out plus you’ll get a chance to see somewhere different. And so, with all that in mind, this month’s featured class is at Banana Fan Sea Resort in Chaweng..

        ‘Banana Fan Sea’ is to be found just a little way north of where the one-way system of Chaweng Beach Road turns into two-way traffic. This is a ‘boutique’ resort, meaning that it’s locally owned and run, rather than being an offshoot of one of the big chains, and the friendly and personal attention you’ll receive there goes with the territory. The grounds are mature and lush with tropical greenery, and dotted with snug little chalets and bungalows which run right down to the sea. And this is where you’ll find the resort’s signature fine-dining venue, Baitong Restaurant, at the edge of the sand and with an impressive seascape.

This aspect is important: if you’ve ever had to face a brick wall whilst cooking then you’ll understand! And at ‘Baitong’, the classes are held in a cool and breezy nook in one corner of the restaurant, looking out over that rampant foliage and with the deep blue sea forming a picture-postcard backdrop. It’s ideal.

As with all classes, you’ll need to have already made a reservation at least one day in advance. And have decided exactly what dishes you’re going to make, too. The usual approach by most resorts is that they will have prepared a list of dishes for you to pick from. But Baitong, and their cheery Head Chef, Khun Sophon Nakjaroen – more usually known as Khun Aon – has come up with something novel.

Firstly, they have the usual booklet of set choices; four varied options of three dishes each that cover most of the popular Thai meals. But Khun Aon is also offering any of the regular dishes that are on Baitong’s menu, if you need more variety. That’s a super deal by itself. But, if you want to be really adventurous, you can ask him for a ‘theme’. Tell him you want everything to be on the theme of seafood. Or pork. Or vegetarian, if you’re so inclined. And then he’ll either help you to select some appropriate dishes or you can leave him to come up with some (surprise) choices of his own. It’s completely up to you. But, as an example, the ‘Crispy Seafood’ theme is exceptional and contains some really unusual (and tasty!) variations on the traditional Thai approach.

The class-area is thoughtfully laid-out and you’ll quickly realise that this is the result of long experience. Not only has Khun Aon been running classes here for the last seven years or so but he’s also catered for members of both the Thai Royal Family and royalty from Malaysia, too. He’s ensured that his twin-burner cooking station is central and with the chopping boards and utensils right to hand. All the ingredients needed for each of your dishes have already been selected and prepared for you and are lined-up and covered, ready for when they’re needed. Khun Aon is not only a thoughtful and effective teacher, quick to perceive your level and adjust to it, but he’s great fun, too. And that’s another vital ‘ingredient’ in any cooking class!

He’ll begin by identifying and explaining the purpose of each ingredient, inviting you to taste each one and sample its aroma. And then he’ll start to make the dish, a step at a time, demonstrating each stage with you following his motions. You’ll find that he’s a perfectionist, although he doesn’t come across as being at all fussy as his jolly banter tends to mask it. But he’ll make it clear that Thai cooking isn’t just about food; it’s the care and presentation – the aesthetics of the final dish – which raises it above basic street cooking and towards an art form.

And he’s full of tips and information, too. Marinate the prawns beforehand 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 stock. Keep the flavour but adjust the spiciness by experimenting with big or small chilies, red or green, with or without the seeds. This is excellent, and exactly the reason that people come to Thailand to experience it all first-hand. No amount of YouTube videos can provide this!

Khun Aon is also a bit of a genius, as you’ll discover if you give him a free rein with something like that ‘Crispy Seafood’ theme. Although he’s quick to point out that his approach is bound to vary a little each time around, how about this: sweet and sour crispy sea bass fillets followed by crispy-fried whole soft-shell crabs on a bed of shredded pomelo salad and accompanied by deep-fried shrimp cakes with plum sauce. Plus the complimentary fruit platter that’s provided at the end of each session by way of dessert.

However, finally sitting to enjoy the super Thai food that you’ve cooked is by no means the end of it all. Because you’ll then be presented with a monogrammed souvenir chef’s apron and hat, a CD of photos of your session, a colour booklet of dishes and recipes plus a superb professional certificate of achievement that features a colour photo of yourself with your dishes. And all of this for the modest cost of just 1,300 baht per person.

Sessions start at 12:00 noon and 2:00 pm, every day except Sunday. The classes at Banana Fan Sea Resort are entertaining and instructive and, as such, can only come thoroughly recommended.


Rob De Wet




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