Like other places in Thailand, Ko Tao is also home to the delicious late-night street snack roti (pancake). Ko Tao's roti is no different to the roti anywhere else: but in this case, it's how you cook it that makes all the difference. Ko Tao is home to the legendary Pancake Ninja: this guy can be found in his little stall on Sairee most nights; and no matter who or what you've witnessed previously, you ain't seen flippin' til you've seen him in action. In 30 seconds flat, pancake cooking meets Kung Fu. Check out the video.
It's been a while since I last took a cooking class on this trip; but today, the great tradition was finally revived. And revived Thai style, no less. This morning I was picked up from my new guesthouse (Yourhouse — better than the original dump that I stayed in), and taken to meet my 10 fellow classmates for today's lesson. The cooking school that I signed up with is run by two brothers: I was picked up by one brother; but he's taking a break today, and the lesson was conducted by his bigger, funnier second brother. We commenced with an eyebrow-raising tour of one of Chiang Mai's food markets, and then drove over to the school's private kitchen for the main event.
Sweet sticky rice is a delicious dessert in Thai cuisine. The art of making sticky rice is quite an involved one: it includes soaking the rice (special-grain) in water overnight, and then cooking it in a special steamer and bag. For the sweet sticky rice dish, you add sugar and coconut, and the rice is generally served with fresh mango slices. Sweet sticky rice was the final dish that we made during today's cooking class: and by the time we got round to sampling it, we were already all in imminent danger of explosion, due to overeating.
One of the tastiest side dishes in the world of Thai cuisine is the nation's vegetarian spring rolls. Preparation for this dish involves making the paste that is the roll's filling: this consists of various vegetables, noodles, sauces and spices, which are all mushed together. The paste is then rolled up inside sheets of rice paper, and deep fried until cooked and crunchy. Best served hot, and best dipped in fresh sweet-chili sauce. This was yet another one of the mouth-watering foods that I made during today's cooking class.
Green Curry Chicken (in Thai: "Gang Kiew Wan Gai") is the classic Thai curry dish, and it remains my favourite of the nation's many curries, due to its rich coconut taste and its refreshing spice. The preparation for this dish can be quite long — especially if you need to prepare the curry paste yourself — however, as with most Thai dishes, actually cooking it is both quick and simple. "Gang Kiew" ("green curry") is generally cooked with "Gai" ("chicken"), but alternatives are fine as well. This was the main course of today's cooking class.
Tom Yum Gai is a delicious hot and spicy chicken soup, and is one of the classic dishes of Thailand. "Tom Yum" ("hot soup") consists of a watery broth, as opposed to "Tom Kha" ("coconut soup") whose liquidy substance consists mainly of coconut milk. Either can be prepared with "Gai" ("chicken"), or with various other meats / seafoods, such as "Goong" ("shrimp" / "prawns"). The dish is amazingly quick and easy to prepare, and it tastes divine — especially when you add lots of chili! This was the first dish that I cooked during today's cooking class.
Picked up this cheesy pair of chef's fashion accessories at the San Telmo market this afternoon. The apron has a little boy-and-girl cartoon couple drawn on it. The hat has "Argentina" proudly embossed on its brim, and is about ½ a foot high when puffed up fully. This purchase may not make me a better cook; but at least I'll now look the part. Will be mandatory uniform, for next time I'm cooking the steaks at a Sunday BBQ. Now, who ordered medium-rare? :P
The spag bol last night just wasn't enough: tonight, we were up for some more Italian! My mate Dave cooked up a fantastic gnocchi tonight (gnocchi being my favourite food on Earth), with the rich tomato sauce full of fried, chopped-up chorizo (sausage). Because Argentina has had so many Italian immigrants over the years, foods such as gnocchi are widely sold in supermarkets everywhere. Sensational dinner — and accompanied by plenty of the red wine that seems to be standard with every meal around here.
It's been way too long since I've cooked up some of my world-famous, home-made spaghetti bolognese. Back in Oz, I do it once a week. Last time I tried it while travelling, it had rather unfortunate consequences (thanks, Cusco market ingredients!). Tonight, in the Patanuk kitchen, Jaza's Spag Bol returned, as massive in size and as uncompromising on quality as ever. This being Argentina, I decided to use cut-up steak instead of mince-meat in the sauce. And sadly, I couldn't find any mushies at the shops (but I found some nice eggplant). Shared it with Dave and Finlandia, and I received nods of approval all-round.
When we arrived in Sunny Days hostel this evening, Chris and I decided to immediately take advantage of the great kitchen on offer there, and to cook something up for dinner. Somehow, when we actually started cooking, I ended up being in charge of it. We ended up with a weird kind of risotto slash omelette slash stir-fry thing, of fried rice, fried chicken, fried egg, and fried carrot and onion. All fried together. Looked like prison food. Smelled a bit burnt. But tasted good: at least, I thought so! Anyway, we're still in Chile, so at least the ingredients didn't give me food poisoning.