Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class

January’s Thai cooking class takes us to H Bistro at Hansar Samui, in Bophut.

 

2Does your resort hold a Thai cooking class? If it doesn’t then it’s in a very small minority. Thai food is so popular now that everyone seems to want to find out how to make it when they’re here. But all these classes are different. Some include trips to a local market first, to buy ingredients. Some offer just one dish, other 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 this in mind, this month I went along to see what was happening at Hansar Samui in Bophut.

Bo Phut is a curious area, as nobody’s precisely sure where it starts and ends – Chaweng also has Bophut postal addresses! But Fisherman’s Village is undoubtedly in ‘Bophut’. This is an attraction in its own right with alluring restaurants, pubs, bistros and stalls. It’s a lengthy one-way street running next to the beach, with many attractions on either side of the narrow road. And, right at the far end, just as the street turns back to join the ring-road, that’s where you’ll find ‘Hansar’ (alternatively, take the turn next to Churrasco restaurant on the ring-road in Bophut and follow it to the end).

The impressive expanse of this up-market resort is one of Samui’s more recent additions, having been officially completed and opened in the July of 2010. Instead of filling the space with lots of little bungalows, they’ve opted for a sense of spaciousness instead, with the terracotta tones of the hotel bock being in an ‘L’ shape. The main body of this set back and parallel to the beach. But the rest is at right-angles to this and runs towards the road. And, at ground level, fronting the beach you’ll see the resort’s gourmet restaurant, H Bistro.

One of the most attractive aspects about this country is that it’s consistently warm enough for nearly everything to take place outside. Most restaurants are either out in the open totally, or amount to almost the same thing by being a roof supported by columns, effectively shielding the dining area from the elements. H Bistro has both. A comfortably furnished inner area that’s open on two sides plus an outside terrace that’s open to the sky.

And when you scan through the menu you’ll see right away that this is something a bit special. Executive Chef, Stephen Dion, certainly cuts the mustard when it comes to putting together some enticing and creative International dishes. Just reading them makes you want to sit and eat right away. But on this occasion you can’t. Because you’re here to learn how to cook Thai food – and then you’re going to eat it!

As with all classes everywhere, you will already have booked your session at least one day in advance – they need to know what dishes you’re interested in making and to prepare everything for you. To make this easier there’s a kind of ‘menu’ of what’s available. This in the form of seven sets of three combinations of different dishes – 21 choices in all. These cover most of the usual choices of meat and fish curries and other main dishes, such as pad Thai or sweet and sour offerings. But if you’re interested in something that’s not on the list or even prefer to pick-and-mix what is, then that’s OK. The whole thing is flexible and whatever three you finally opt for is up to you.

The session begins with a trip to a local market to select some of the fresh ingredients you’re going to need. You’ll be guided by Chef Kanchana Promsanit (nicknamed Khun Karn) from the Thai kitchen and it will be either the market in Bang Rak or the Dalat Dow (Dow Market) in Chaweng. This is a fascinating experience as there will be things there you’ve never seen before and the cheerful and outgoing Khun Karn will explain what each of the vegetables and herbs is, particularly some of the more unusual ones that you won’t be using – don’t forget your camera! And then back to the restaurant again for a short coffee break before you put on your apron.

The kitchen at H Bistro is a showpiece. It’s spacious, spotless, and ultra-modern and with most of the gleaming machinery and equipment being top-of-the-range items imported from Italy. It’s also got a full-width picture window so that the diners outside can see what’s going on in the kitchen. But this works both ways and means that you can also enjoy an expansive and open sea-view whilst you’re working. Plus the whole kitchen is blissfully air-conditioned – an absolute must if you’re cooking inside.

Whilst you’ve been at the market, the kitchen staff will have prepared all the cuts of meat, fish or seafood you’re going to need and arranged them ready in small bowls. These will all be waiting on a big stainless steel table, adorned with flowers and carved-fruit displays. And you’ll then be placed in the experienced care of no fewer than two Thai chefs.

There’s a unique approach here; Chef Boonsom Seeha actually does the demonstrating and guides you as to how to create the dishes a step at a time. But Chef Karn explains it all as you go. She does the talking and answers your question whilst Khun Boonsom gets on with the practical side of things. The idea is that the cook can’t become distracted and can focus his attention on showing you what to do – an excellent idea.

And then, as you’ve made each dish, you sit and eat it. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to all three right at the end (as you have to do at some classes), with the first two already getting cold!

The class begins at 11:30 am and runs for about three hours in total. And at the end you’re presented with a certificate of achievement and a CD with all the recipes on it and with colourful lists of all the Thai herbs and vegetables. But another big attraction is the cost. It’s just 1,900 baht per couple. And that’s very hard to beat.

There’s a lot of different classes on Samui but this one’s a touch out of the ordinary and well worth the short trip to get to it. And therefore comes highly recommended!

 


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