Our culinary journey started on a fine Saturday morning with a trip to the local Thai food market, which was an extravagantly colourful and sensory experience. The market was authentically complete with fresh fruit, live seafood, meats and vegetables and various animal body parts which you certainly wouldn’t encounter in your local supermarket in a Western country!
We were accompanied by Jimmy, our charming Thai chef and teacher, who explained in great detail about the produce we would be using during the course of the day as well as many unique Thai customs and culinary rituals, just like his mother taught him when he was a little boy.
After we explored the market and tried some strange Thai fruits, we were transported back to The Boathouse and introduced to one of the most idyllic views Phuket has to offer. Two cooking stations were set up overlooking the crystal blue waters of Kata Beach which was a dramatic contrast to the local market we had just encountered. I felt privileged, however, to have experience both.
As we commenced cooking our starter, a personal favourite of mine Yam Woon Sen Goong (Spicy glass noodle salad with prawns), it became very apparent how intricate and detailed the preparation of Thai cuisine really is. The dish consisted of many pastes, spices and herbs which had to be meticulously crushed in a mortar with pestle before serving.
I personally find the notion of measuring and formulating all a bit tedious, so thankfully Jimmy had already laid out our ingredients for us thus making the experience all the more enjoyable. Another element I appreciated was Jimmy’s eat-as-you-go method, so we were never left hungry. The starter was perfect – sweet, sour and spicy.
We then attempted the preparation of our main course, a Thai classic of Gaeng Kiew Wan Gai (Green curry chicken with eggplant and sweet basil leaves). Once again, the marinating and seasoning had to be done with the utmost love, care and precision. Jimmy guided us through all this informatively, but also with fun and charisma while allowing us ample time to enjoy our romantic surroundings.
Our main course was served alongside a Khao Ob Sapparod (Pineapple fried rice with crab meat, green pea, raisins and cashew nut). The curry which Jimmy helped us prepare was perhaps the best I have ever enjoyed which is a bold statement for someone who eats as much Thai food as I do. The coconut milk was beautifully fragrant along with the sweet aromatic basil – I hope I can replicate these exceptional flavours in my kitchen back in London where I now live!
Our final dish was a dessert that I had never come across, Tub Tim Krob (Crystal water chestnuts in iced coconut milk). As we mixed and boiled the tapioca-covered chestnuts, coconut milk and Pandanus leaves, Jimmy regaled us with stories of his parents’ cooking and his childhood memories of eating the palm sugar off his mother’s cooking station – a key ingredient in most of the dishes we cooked.
Although dangerously full from our starter and main courses, we managed to produce a sensationally light and summery dessert bursting with colour and character. It was a flawless finishing dish with which to treat our already spoilt taste buds.
To conclude our delightfully gluttonous adventure, we were presented with certificates to congratulate us on our culinary success! The cooking, the setting and the relaxed nature of the course all contributed to the romanticism of the entire day. The whole experience lasted approximately four hours, still leaving enough time for us to enjoy the stunning Andaman sunset.
I felt like I had been invited to learn the secrets of healthy and delicious Thai cooking during this hands-on experience which makes The Boathouse cooking school definitely not one to miss.
By Olivia Daniel
For more information or bookings visit: boathouse-phuket.com