Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A (Vegetarian) Taste of Thailand at the School of Wok

My very good friend wanted to learn how to cook One ShowStopper Dinner Party Dish, her signature dish, as it were. She's not exactly Delia, but is willing to learn. She is also vegetarian, but I don't hold that against her in any way. Me being a foodie, she asked my (obviously expert) advice, and my first thought was to head back to the School of Wok for a lesson in Thai cooking. My Quick Fire Class there a few months back left me with some new skills, like how to chop more quickly without any digit damage, so we returned as a (vegetarian) pair and, both being fans of spicy Thai food, spent three hours in the company of Stefan, Yolanda, and Seong, learning how to chop (claw-style), crush, grind, and stir-fry, and smell those kaffir lime leaves in a fantastic Taste Thailand Cookery Class.

On the menu were Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, and Green Curry.

Spring Rolls

spring rollsOur vegetarian option simply left out the minced pork, making it possible to taste for seasoning as we went along. The filling contained cooked vermicilli, grated carrot, garlic, bean sprouts, chopped coriander and oyster sauce, with some sugar, salt and pepper for seasoning. Half our mixture didn't even get cooked! Folding the spring rolls pastries using banana to stick them, they were then taken away for deep frying and served with a sweet chilli sauce.

school of wok

Pad Thai

school of wokPad Thai is one of my favourite dishes ever, and although I would usually use prawns (or indeed, leftover salmon!), I was happy to go veggie again, substituting thinly sliced firm tofu for the prawns. It's simpler than it may seem, all the ingredients are readily available in any supermarket, or better still, local grocery. The tofu is stir-fried first until brown, then the egg added whole, allowed to cook until the white has set, then the yolk is broken apart and the egg is finished cooking. This is then pushed to the back of the wok, while you add in some chives, then beansprouts, for 30 seconds each, followed by cooked rice noodles, with a sauce mix containing chilli, garlic, tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. This is all mixed in until the noodles are glistening, and this is then served sprinkled with chopped peanut and fresh coriander. 
pad thai

Green Curry

Thailand's most famous, and infamous dish, green curry was our finale for the evening. We started this dish at the beginning of the class, by making the paste first - using a pestle and mortar, between us we bashed up the ingredients, compromising on using 8 chillies rather than 10 - Stefan told us the more green chillies, the better the green colour. If you can't hack so many, then use more coriander stalks. The paste was made up of green chillies, shallots, garlic, galangal, lemongrass stalks, lesser ginger (as opposed to our more familiar ginger, but that will do), shrimp paste, kaffir lime leaves, coriander stalks, and turmeric root. Of these, the most essential for authenticity are the tamarind and the galangal, and of course the kaffir lime leaves - the smell of these when ripped give that wonderful authentic Thai aroma that is so distinctive. Everything can now be sourced in the markets of Chinatown.

thai Being veggie for the night, we also had a massive squash to peel and chop. The paste was then stir-fried until fragrant. Then a can of coconut milk was added and brought to the boil, throwing in the cubed squash at this point. All those lovely little vegetables that we only seem to find in Thai green curry were then added, Thai aubergine, purple aubergine and baby corn, and this was then simmered, stirring occasionally. Towards the end of cooking, the dish was seasoned with fish sauce and sugar, then kaffir lime leaves and holy basil to finish off. Served with sticky rice and garnished with red chillies.

thai school of wok

A fabulous, relaxing evening of deliciously authentic Thai food, wine, chat and learning some secrets. One of the other punters was in fact the teacher of the Indian cookery classes at the School of Wok, so I think I may have to return to see what secrets of Asian cuisine he has to divulge! My friend, in the meantime, is practicing her Pad Thai, so I'm also waiting for my invitation to dinner...!

Have a look at the School of Wok's website for a whole range of Asian Cookery Classes.

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