Blue Rice Is Only The Beginning
Thai cuisine is one of the world's favourites, but how many of us prepare Thai food at home? With so many Thai restaurants around, it hardly seems necessary to make Thai food at home. Necessary, no, but fun and interesting, yes.
The first step is knowing what to do, and that comes easily at the wonderful Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok, where Khun Tam and her friendly team welcome passionate food connoisseurs and curious amateurs alike to their little piece of herbal paradise right in the city. Any cooking school that sends a boat to pick up its students is already a standout, and the ride from Bangkok's famous hotels along the Chao Phraya River is a kaleidoscope of history as manifested in the many colourful wats and other buildings passed along the way to Amita, which is located on a small klong (canal) that serves as the disembarkation point for lucky visitors about to be immersed in the scrumdiddly-icious flavours of Thai cuisine.
It looks so easy...and it is. Once Khun Tam shows you how to do it the right way, preparing the variety of dishes on your lunch menu is a snap. Before the actual cooking begins, though, there is a tour of the garden, which serves as the source of the herbs, chillies, and spices famous in Thai cuisine. We think we already know what basil taste like, but which basil are you talking about-hairy basil, Thai basil, or holy basil? Same with mint; tasting the nuances of different variations of ingredients usually lumped together by supermarkets as the same thing is an enlightening experience, especially when just picked off the plant.
If your thoughts of cooking schools turn to overcrowded lectures with little direct interaction with the instructor, banish them immediately and replace them with thoughts of a warm welcome into a Thai home environment set in lush gardens. The experience begins with a refreshingly cool welcome towel and a glass of lemongrass tea sipped through lemongrass straws; nothing at Amita is ordinary, not even the straws and certainly not Khun Tam, who has been featured in magazines and newspapers from London to Tokyo. A congenial class (maximum 12 people) sits around an antique cabinet cum cooking station to see how simple ingredients are transformed into exquisitely nuanced meals. This being Thailand, presentation is of utmost importance, but instead of vegetables carved into the shape of birds, food at Amita is presented in an appealing manner that does not require the time or skill demanded by swan carrots or flower-shaped watermelons. At Amita, you learn skills in one fun-filled morning that can bring you and your lucky friends and family repeated joy back home, which is where you can use the recipes conveniently provided to take with you, including one for the startling blue rice, easily made from the deeply hued petals of the butterfly pea flower. If they are in short supply, try pink rice made with bougainvillea petals. Yes, you too can eat your garden.