Samui Wining & Dining
Master Class

This month we go ‘hands on’ with the Thai cooking class at Sareeraya Villas and Suites.

 

02­Day trips. Excursions around the island. Getting off out for the day. There’s nothing better than taking a break from the pool and seeing something new. But sometimes this can be tiring – the last thing you need on your holiday. So how about the idea of a nice relaxing afternoon out instead? And what I’ve got in mind is both educational and great fun too!

Just about every resort on Samui seems to be offering a Thai cooking class now – no doubt your own resort included. And every single one of them welcomes guests from outside. This month’s cooking class not only has a lovely location within an impressive resort but you’re also invited to spend the whole afternoon there. Take your class, enjoy the food that you’ve made and flop out by the pool with a cocktail or a book afterwards!

Sareeraya Villas and Suites is one of the island’s more up-market resorts, with rough-cut marble and dramatic sculptural design-features everywhere. It’s also not really that noticeable from the road as it’s sheltered by a high feature-wall. But it’s easy to find as it’s right across the road from Samui International Hospital on the far northern section of Chaweng Beach Road.

You’ll get an immediate sense of the opulent design as soon as you emerge from behind that big wall. Framing the entrance are two very unusual contemporary Thai sculptures, each standing in its own small pool. The name ‘Sareeraya’ means ‘Princess of the Ocean’. And this water-theme is echoed everywhere, from the terraced lily-ponds to the streams beneath the walk-ways. There’s a continual play of contrasting opposites; rough and smooth surfaces, light and dark wood, free-form and geometric shapes. And when you arrive at the resort’s signature restaurant, Chef’s Table, you’ll find the same refined luxury there, too. It’s shady and cool and open on two sides and has a spectacular panoramic seascape of the whole of Chaweng Bay. And it’s also where you’ll be warmly greeted by the Executive Chef, Hans Engerer.

As with just about every cooking class of this kind, you’ll need to have already paved the way for your visit. You can either simply drop in for a drink and a chat, or telephone in advance. Because, as well as the time needed to prepare for you, you’ll also have to decide which of the dishes you want to make. The experienced staff here has already prepared a recipe booklet which covers 12 of the most popular Thai dishes, with lists of ingredients and the method of putting them all together. But, if your particular favorite is not shown, then simply ask and it will be ready for you when you arrive.

How this class differs from most of the others is that you’re not restricted by time. Meaning that you’re able to go anytime between 12:00 noon and 7:00 pm. And this also means that it’s a popular choice to not only attend a cooking class but to make it the source of your evening meal, too!

There are two other points in their favour; the class is set up on a big round table – much more practical than a nest of rectangular ones. And then you’ll also be cooking on an induction plate, which is much quicker to respond than either gas or electric rings.

The class itself will be taken by the resort’s genial Sous Chef, Khun Sawat Sangthong. His helpers will have already prepared the ingredients you’ll be needing for the first dish and these are close to hand in small ceramic bowls. It’s all very well-organised and obviously the result of lots of practical experience, with two kitchen staff constantly on hand to clear away the empties and replace ingredients as and when they’re needed.

Khun Sawat is relaxed and jolly; another important element in a class of this kind. And he’ll take care to identify each of the ingredients in the bowls, explaining their function as he goes. And, being set on a round table, you’ll easily be able to copy his motions. He’ll demonstrate each step and you’ll follow his lead, chopping or slicing or mixing. If you’ve ever tried to do this whilst watching someone who’s facing you, then you’ll know how hard it is to follow a mirror image – it’s so much simpler when they’re standing next to you.

It’s actually very easy and quick to make Thai food – all the hard work is in the preparation beforehand plus knowing how to do it! And so, after a bit of tasting and adjusting the flavour to suit your palate, your first dish will roll off the assembly line. And then you can either eat it straightaway or opt to wait until all of your three dishes are complete and sit down to a proper Thai meal. At which point you’ll probably be joined again by the pleasantly-outgoing chef Hans. He’ll sit and chat amicably before presenting you with your complementary chef’s apron, embossed with an impressive ‘Sareeraya’ logo, and also your extremely professional-looking certificate of achievement.

There are two significant elements in a good cookery class: the location and the ‘feelgood’ factor – nobody enjoys the company of a nervous or humourless teacher. And here both the outlook is picturesque and all of the staff are good fun. The whole set-up is relaxed and professional and the cost is reasonable, too, at just 1,900 baht per head. And when you realise this includes a three-course meal as well as the class then you’ll appreciate that it really is great value for money.

There’s a hundred cooking classes on offer around the island, some good, some great and some of them fabulous – it’s hard to know which one to chose. But having been a ‘student’ myself at Chef’s Table at Sareeraya Villas and Suites, I can only say that it comes highly recommended and makes for a super alternative day (afternoon?) trip out!

 


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