A finished dish at Amita Thai // © 2015 Lawrence Ferber
Feature image (above): Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon, owner of Amita Thai Cooking Class, with students // © 2015 Lawrence Ferber
Thailand’s cuisine, with its distinctive amalgamation of hot, sour, sweet and aromatic qualities and flavors, is reason enough for some to visit the destination again and again. So why not learn how to actually make this wonderful food, and get to know and taste the exotic ingredients involved?
Taking a cooking class in Bangkok can be fun, memorable and, most of all, delicious — even for the kitchen-impaired who regard boiling an egg as a challenge. From a single three- to four-hour class to a multiday program, many options are available at a diverse assortment of venues. Budding chefs always get to eat the delicious fruits of their labors and take away printed recipes — and sometimes even the apron.
Amita Thai Cooking Class is one of the city’s best single-class experiences. Offered in half-day sessions from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday, the lesson costs around $90 per person, with a maximum of 10 students per class. The morning begins with a private speedboat ride down Chao Phraya River (ground transportation from clients’ hotels to the departing pier is included), passing by stilt-supported homes, temples and Buddha statues, fishing and bathing locals and, sometimes, giant monitor lizards lazing along the bank.
A leafy, converted riverside residence serves as Amita’s venue. Instructor and owner Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon is a good-humored delight and will occasionally spar with her chatty, “self-centered” mynah bird in between leading a tour of the herb garden, introducing typical Thai ingredients and preparing four rotating courses at individual cooking stations. Each ingredient is measured and prepared by Jantrupon’s staff, making this class both idiot-proof and hands-on.
While Amita Thai is homey and rustic, year-old Issaya Cooking Studio is Food Network-level slick. Set within the luxurious Central Embassy shopping center, this studio is part of celebrity chef Ian Kittichai’s mini-empire. After savoring a pre-class pastry from Issaya La Patisserie upstairs, which inventively fuses French sweets and techniques with Thai flavors, students learn and prepare dishes from Kittichai’s flagship Issaya Siamese Club restaurant (about $60), such as pomelo salad with prawns and deep-fried soft-shell crab with salted egg sauce. Classes devoted to molecular creations (about $133), cocktails (about $24) and even visiting chefs are also available.
Nooror Somany Steppe, another big Thai name, heads up the global Blue Elephant restaurants and grocery line. Located within a grand 1903 Bangkok mansion-turned-restaurant, Blue Elephant Cooking School runs two daily classes that feature four dishes each (about $83, or $148 for both). You can even take a full week’s worth of courses for around $415, traversing a virtual cookbook of soups, curries and stir-fry dishes.
For organic-food fans, the progressive Bo.lan restaurant offers a novice cooking class every first Thursday of each month and a more advanced course every first Friday.
Another ride on Chao Phraya River is involved, albeit just from one side to the other, for Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s The Oriental Thai Cooking School. Here, instructor Narain Kiattiyotcharoen teaches four classic dishes, such as pad thai and red curry, during morning classes six days per week (about $80).