Cuisine Kickstarter – Taking a Thai cooking class at Nora Beach Resort & Spa gives you the impetus to begin your own culinary journey.

Nora Beach

It’s been said that if you never try the food of the country you’re visiting, then you can’t really expect to know it. A bit like learning the language no doubt – once you’re fluent, then your experience of the place, its people and its culture will be so much more complete. It obviously takes decades to really know any country, but its food is an easier place to start than its language.

Many visitors come to Thailand and love the tastes of the cuisine, sampling it as much as possible. To delve into the food a little more means donning an apron, sharpening a knife and getting started. The only trouble is that following recipes from a cook book can be, well, a tad boring, with the usual dubious results. But when it comes to Thai food, exact weights and measures aren’t necessarily going to result in great tastes.

That’s why Nora Beach Resort runs cooking classes. It’s better to watch and emulate a cook at work rather than work your way through venerable tomes on cooking. Besides, it’s definitely more fun. The Thais, never the ones for jealously guarding their kitchen secrets, love nothing better to impart their culinary savvy, and at Nora Beach the teacher is well-qualified and
knows cooking inside out. Many guests at the class don’t start off with the intention of learning to cook, but so enjoy eating Thai food at the resort’s restaurant, Prasuthon, that they enquire if they can follow a class. Running the cooking class at Nora is part and parcel of the restaurant’s many facets. Prasuthon, with its traditional roof and teak interior, is obviously just the kind of place that prides itself on its Thainess. The food mirrors this and the classes are extremely popular.

Nora BeachClasses are held daily, and run from 1:00 pm and last about an hour, by which time you’ll have prepared a delightful Thai three-course meal, which you can then eat. Costs for the class are 1,700 baht per person, but if you book as a couple, then it’s 1,500 baht each.

Book in advance – just give a day’s notice – and then head for Nora Beach (it’s just north of Chaweng) on the day you’ve chosen. Once you’ve reached the lobby, you’ll be escorted down to Prasuthon. It’d be hard to think of a better setting, so bring your camera. There are views out to sea and the islet of Koh Matlang, just off-shore.

The class takes place in a sala, and everyone gets their own gas burner and all the utensils that will be used. A series of covered bowls also awaits you – the ingredients you’ll need for the dishes. Everything’s cut up, ready for use. This ensures
that no time’s wasted in the class. What you won’t find – though nobody’s complained – is a total absence of processed products that can be added to the recipes; instead everything’s made from scratch. This means that the tastes will be
inordinately good.

The classes have been designed by Executive Chef, Khun Sitthichai Saephu, and are usually run by expert chef and teacher Khun Walai Tubtavee, more usually known as Khun Paula. She’s speaks good English, and is both efficient and friendly. Although this is a group class, she helps each student and shows them how to get the best results. She’s been at Nora Beach for over a decade now, and is one of their most trusted chefs, who’ll help you make the simplest of dishes taste excellent. One of the main ways in which she helps is to get all her students to balance the tastes until they’re satisfied with
them. One person may like his or her dish to be more fiery; another less so. She’s able to accommodate everyone. The essential secret to Thai cooking is to make sure the tastes and textures are all as they should be, so there’s a lot of tasting that goes on. It’s a fun and convivial experience.

Nora BeachAt Nora Beach, the policy is to keep groups small, with roughly six people at any one time. However, no matter if there’s just one person, the class can go ahead. There’s a cooking class menu that’s roughly adhered to, with a different set of
recipes for each day of the week, but Khun Paula is certainly happy to make exceptions when it’s possible. Whatever happens, the idea is to cook an entire meal during the class: an appetizer, a soup and a main course. The appetizer could be salmon with mango salad, chicken satay, or the highly popular Golden Three (a fried starter of scallops prawns and crab). For soups you might cook chicken in coconut or a spicy prawn tom yum. And for mains, there are favourites such as massaman or penang curry or maybe a delicious pad Thai. At the end of your course, you’ll receive handouts containing all the ingredients and methods of preparation and you’ll be presented with a chef’s hat, certificate and wooden spoon.

Thanks to these cooking classes, many visitors to Samui are going back home knowing how to make some of Thailand’s best loved dishes, replete with tastes that are usually found only in restaurants. It’s the best kind of holiday souvenir
you could hope for: a skill that you’ve learned and which will stand you in good stead with friends and family. Nora Beach Resort shows you just how to become a kitchen star!

Dimitri Waring

For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7742 9400.