Vegetarian-friendly Thai cooking class in Bangkok, Thailand
Do you like Thai food?
I've been a vegetarian for 16 years and love Thai food. My (non-vegetarian) partner also loves Thai food, and we both love to cook. When we were in Bangkok recently, we looked to take a Thai cooking class. We had taken a class in Vietnam (in Saigon/HCMC) a couple of years prior.
We found Bai Pai through a recommendation of a friend, and booked a 4-hour afternoon class for our last day in Bangkok. They specifically asked if either of us was vegetarian or vegan, or if we had any dietary restrictions or allergies. I told them I was vegetarian (they asked if I ate eggs or dairy, so they were clearly familiar with the concept).
This is what was included, for 1600 baht (about $48) per person:
- pickup from our hotel in an air-conditioned van
- lemon-grass tea waiting for us, as well as a cool washcloth, while we waited for the other class attendees (there were a total of 10 of us)
- an instructor (Naam) and assistant (Mona); both spoke English, but Mona answered most questions and guided the class
- a gorgeous classroom setting (pictures to the right) - a large, Benihana-like table with a large mirror above for us to watch what Naam was doing on the burners and cutting board
- a nicely-printed folder with recipe cards in English for the 4 items we would be making that day (they also gave me vegetarian versions of the same items)
- an apron & handcloth (just for the class)
- a locked cubby hole to store our valuables while taking the class
- a framed refrigerator magnet with a Polaroid of you cooking
- a high-res digital photo emailed to you a couple of days later
This is what we learned:
- how to make lemon grass tea, esp how to not have it get discolored (tip: keep it covered!)
- how to make hot sauce (normally with fish sauce, but can be made with soy sauce to make it vegetarian)
- Recipe 1: Golden Bags (toong tong)
- Recipe 2: Panang Curry (chicken for others; soy-meat and mushrooms for me)
- Recipe 3: Prawn Soup or Tofu/Mushroom Soup
- Recipe 4: Fried Rice
The process for each was as such:
- Naam would make each dish slowly, dispensing tips on the technique (like, don't stir the prawns in the soup, it will just make the soup too fishy); we would watch her, and Mona would provide some cultural context to the dish
- We would sample the dish (unfortunately, not possible for me as a vegetarian, since all of them had meat)
- We would go to our own station nearby, and prepare each dish. Every ingredient was already washed and prepared for us.
- We would eat our own food!
I have been trying, personally, to make Thai curries at home, following the directions diligently on the jars of curry, and they always come out terrible. This was the first time everything tasted as it should have.
I also appreciated, as a vegetarian:
- that they didn't just swap out the meat with tofu in every recipe; they used "soy meat", tofu, straw mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms, depending on the recipe, and what would be appropriate for the taste and texture
- when we had to fry something (the golden bags), Mona told me to fry mine first, since it had fresh oil (so the oil wouldn't get contaminated by the pork in everyone else's)
- they told me which curry paste and pepper paste to buy in Thai markets, that didn't have shrimp paste or fish sauce in them
- the curry paste, which they prepared, did not have shrimp paste in it
- the recipe cards had vegetarian equivalents prepared for me
All 10 of us had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, and the class was a bargain at less than $50 for each of us (remember, we got a meal out of it, too!). Highly recommended, even for us grass-eaters. ;-)