Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class

This month’s Thai cooking class takes us to the Twisted Thai restaurant at Imperial Samui Beach Resort.

23It was just about four years ago that I first began to write this series. Learning how to cook Thai food was just becoming popular, and quite a few of the island’s resorts were beginning to offer a class of their own. But at that time I needed to scout around, as not everywhere was doing this. Today the story has changed and it’s now hard to find a resort that doesn’t hold a regular Thai cooking class – hence this ongoing series of articles where each month I check out a different class for you and let you know what it’s all about.

    You’ll discover that all these classes are different; the variations are surprising. Some include trips to a local market first, to buy ingredients. Some offer just one dish, others cover as many as five in one session. But what most people don’t realise is that all resorts are more than happy to welcome outside guests to their class. And that not only gives you a huge choice of formats, teaching styles, menus and costs to pick from but it also gives you the chance to get out and about and enjoy a new environment for the afternoon. And this month I went along to see what was happening at the Imperial Samui Beach Resort in Chaweng Noi.

    It’s an impressive resort, refreshingly styled along Mediterranean lines. There’s lots of whitewashed stucco and terracotta roofs, and everywhere there’s bright reds and oranges, interlaced with black, and cheerfully contrasting with the clean white walls. If you’re a local or a gourmet (or both!), then you’ll immediately think of Twisted Thai when the name ‘Imperial’ is mentioned. This is the resort’s flagship restaurant, one that’s gained a national reputation, and the place that draws the dedicated foodies. This is one of the island’s trendsetting eateries: a venue where science and art overlap in the fabrication of their revolutionary “deconstructed” Thai dishes. It’s all very intriguing, utterly cutting-edge, and has already warranted numerous local and national feature stories on its fascinatingly-novel approach to Thai cuisine. But when it comes to a cooking class then it’s pure, simple traditional Thai fare all the way.

     As with any class you’ll need to decide your program and book your place at least 24 hours in advance, and classes here are held at 1:00 pm each day. There’s a professionally-produced booklet to help you, with a choice of three different ‘menus’. This covers most of the popular dishes and includes an ‘easy cooking’ option. But probably the best thing to do is to pop along for a visit or a meal beforehand and then discuss the class while you’re there.

When you arrive you’ll be greeted at
reception and after a few moments
an electric buggy will whisk you
through the lush gardens and down
to the restaurant fancy having a go at.


      When you arrive you’ll be greeted at reception and after a few moments an electric buggy will whisk you through the lush gardens and down to the restaurant below. There you’ll be met by the Sous Chef of the Thai kitchen, Khun Tawee Vutikorn, more commonly known by his nickname of Khun Yod. He’s a pleasant and experienced individual, and he’ll make you feel at home whilst you don your apron, latex gloves and chef’s hat. Some resorts hold their classes on tables that are put together outside simply for the occasion. But here, at Twisted Thai, they’ve carefully prepared for you within their kitchen itself, where everything is already close to hand.

      You might be surprised to hear that not every class will teach you something. I’ve heard of occasions where a chef will simply demonstrate what to do and you copy him step-by-step. Not everyone has the knack to be able to teach their subject to someone else! But Khun Yod is excellent. He’s sensitive to everyone’s needs and quickly picks up whether you’re a beginner or not; as Christine Yu was quick to discover. Christine was taking a short holiday on Samui before returning back to her native Taipei in Taiwan. And I was pleased to find myself working alongside her in the class. “I’ve always wanted to be able to cook Thai food,” she explained, “but never quite got around to it. So, as I’m in Thailand, it’s too good an opportunity to miss!” All the ingredients for the first dish were already prepared for us and waiting in covered ceramic bowls. And Chef Yod began by identifying each one and explaining what its function was, and inviting us to sample its aroma and flavour. He then invited us both to follow his lead as he moved through each stage. He was thoughtful and patient, quick to answer our questions and full of advice and tips. And all these little tips add up to a wealth of knowledge. Marinate the prawns 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 soup. Adjust the spiciness by experimenting with big or small chillies, with or without the seeds. But perhaps the most useful advice was to keep tasting the mix and adjusting it. Thai food is very much a matter of personal taste, and it’s your job to fine-tune it to your own preference, making it slightly sweeter, thicker or more (or less!) spicy along the way. Something that Christine and I were pleased to be told: we later discovered we’d both immediately reduced the sugar as well as the chillies!

      The class here scores lots of bonus points for various reasons. Firstly the restaurant is prestigious, the location convenient and the teaching, excellent. And the outlook, when we got to sit and eat our food together up high and over the deep blue of Chaweng Bay, is lovely. But there’s an extra little perk at the end. This is a four-course cooking class – the majority of venues provide you with only three. And the cost is enticingly reasonable; only 1,000 baht per person.

      “That was fun!” Christine enthused. “I didn’t know I was such a good cook! I’ll be definitely searching for Thai markets when I get back.” I nodded and wished her luck. But then, it occurred to me; I’m the lucky one. Sometimes I almost forget. I live here. I can enjoy Twisted Thai and all it has to offer any time that I want!




Rob De Wet


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