The One with a Thai Chef in Bangkok

As the cab pulls up to Siamese Cookery House, the noise of Bangkok’s bustling streets fizzles into silence. Tucked into a side street, the building is nearly obscured by green majesty palm trees. A sweet scent of lemongrass fills the air. I inhale slowly, relaxing for the first time that day. Inside, I take off my bags, wash the day off my hands, and say hello to the rest of the class. They respond amiably, smiling as they say their names to me. If anyone is annoyed by waiting, they don’t show it.

Processed with VSCO with c8 presetProcessed with VSCO with acg presetProcessed with VSCO with j5 preset “Don’t worry, we waited for you” Chef N says through a smile. Well, the class had cooked one meal, but considering how late I was (nearly two hours thanks to traffic and a winding immigration line at the airport), I’m grateful. I don’t enjoy cooking, but I’m convinced there’s a difference between cooking at home and on vacation. The latter doesn’t feel like a chore.Processed with VSCO with j5 presetProcessed with VSCO with j5 presetProcessed with VSCO with aga1 presetProcessed with VSCO with j5 presetSitting cross-legged on a green straw mat, I listen, rapt as Chef N explains the function and origin of each ingredient. He instructs us to cut, crush, smell, and taste; a certain type of lime (Kaffir, fragrant and native to Southeast Asia), coconut palm sugar to sweeten Pad Thai, sweet basil leaves, violet flowers that turn white rice blue, ripe yellow mangoes to be eaten alongside this blue rice, with bare hands or bamboo chopsticks.Processed with VSCO with j5 presetProcessed with VSCO with c8 presetOutside, under Chef N’s guidance, we cook in rounded steel woks over an open flame, blending ingredients and distilling flavors to create a four-course dinner of Tom Yum coconut soup, Pad Thai, Thai green curry and mango sticky rice. I learn that Pad Thai is mainly street food in Bangkok and hardly ever cooked at home, that mango sticky rice is a sweet summer dessert served with coconut milk.

Every meal is delicious. I’m most impressed by the mango sticky rice, though I hardly picture rice as a dessert. I drizzle coconut milk over the soft grains and sliced mangoes and use a spoon to clear every morsel from my plate in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do with chopsticks. Never mind that I’ve been living in Laos where chopsticks are common. Chef N. mentions that I’ll only get better with practice. I agree.Processed with VSCO with j5 presetProcessed with VSCO with j5 presetProcessed with VSCO with c8 presetAfter several hours of cooking and eating, a cocktail of scents clings to my clothes. The scent of lemongrass lingers. 

We leave the cooking school with recipe books in hand though I know I won’t be able to replicate my experience. I won’t shop for kaffir lime or Thai finger ginger at my local grocery store, or boil violet-colored flowers for their water, but once in a while, I’ll remember cooking alongside a smiling Thai chef and have no regrets. 

Good to Know 

  • How I booked the class: Through Cookly. 
  • If you go to Siamese Cookery House straight from the airport, allow for heavy traffic. It took 1hr to get here from BKK.
  • The cooking school is hard to find. Keep their contact number handy so they can explain the route to whoever is driving

As always, 

thank you for reading!

same footprints, different sands