The phone rings “Good morning Daweeenaaaaaaaaah.” My first morning in a rather wet Bangkok. Stumbling into breakfat I am greeted with a worrying array of badly cooked western breakfasts treats – the height of chic – and a deliciously steaming and inviting mound of Pad Thai. It didn’t take my jet lagged head more than a nano second to make the decision. Beating the esteemed Addie’s Thai Cafe (Earl’e Court) into a cocked hat, this deliciousness was the perfect start to the day and – I was later told – was eaten by the Thai themselves all day – every day. So unlike Spaghetti Bolognese, pad thai does actually exist in its home land. Tick.
Straight out of the floods and to Chiang Mai where we went head first into a cooking course. Having illustrated our collective ignorance, we were whisked down to the food market for a serious begginners crash course (photos to follow when I remember to bring them..) Unlike the embarrassingly number of food markets I have salivated over, this was calm and clean – a world away from India (and Italy for that matter..) Women (where are the men in this country?) go and buy their fresh food twice a day, from women, who are quietely, lovingly and gentily preparing it, so that you could practically eat the veg then and there.
Gallenghal (sp?) related to ginger, lemon grass and turmeric are the typical broth ‘bouquet garni’ and are bought in the truck load with other essentials such as grated coconut (to mix with warm water and squeeze to give coconut milk) egg, noodles (the glass ones are made from mung beans) tofu and enormous amounts of herbs.
Back at the ranch we were put to work. I tentativly created a pad thai under heavy survellance and – though I might say so myself – was rather proud of it. It seems that all thai cooking is about varying the heat of the wok. The wok is used both for frying and steaming and each ingredient is given the appropriate treatment by it’s position in the pan. Deliciously simple. Added to that are the 5 golden ingredients: Soya / Veg oil, Fish sauce (salty,) Oyster suace (sweet / texture) chili (heat) and sugar (counteracts heat.) Not rocket science but totally delicious.
And so it was that I made 4 key dishes with embarrassingly small quantities of chilli in; “4 chilli normal, 6 chilli strong and 8 chilli sexy lady….” they said. I went for 1 chilli. Oh dear.
Off to a thai massage to digest, folowed by people watching as the world snacks on delicious street food and sweet treats from sticky rice and bean curd….