Knowing I love cooking at home from time to time, my friend M asked me to tag along to a special cooking class event organized by the local Thai consulate, instructed by Chef Nooror Somany Steppe and her daughter Sandra Steppe from Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant in Bangkok.
I have not been to Bangkok for a while, nor did I take cooking class at Blue Elephant before, but I guess the legendary restaurant empire needs no introduction. Founded by Chef Nooror in 1980, it has since grown into a widely-recognized international culinary brand synonymous to fine Thai cuisine, with restaurants spanning across continents, a line of ready-made food products available in supermarkets and grocery stores, and two cooking schools (plus restaurants) in Bangkok and Phuket, now managed by Chef Nooror's children, including Sandra who's now responsible for their flagship Bangkok branch.
I didn't expect this to be a serious class per se, but turned out they really meant business, with cooking stations set up at a makeshift kitchen converted from a function room at Conrad Hotel, so the twenty or so "students" all got to roll up our sleeves, put on our aprons, to get our hands dirty sharing the duties in preparation and cooking.
The afternoon began with Chef Nooror and Sandra doing a cooking demonstration of a couple dishes, including a refreshing summer salad with shrimp and catfish, then followed by a duck massaman curry. We then get on our practical session of trying to replicate the same dish, chopping and slicing herbs and spices, then crushing and grinding them with the pestle and mortar into a rough paste, then mixing with the ready-made Blue Elephant sauces and coconut cream in a deep sauce pan, and finishing with the cooked roast duck in the curry. I guess it's a good compromise and a pragmatic way to cook at home, preparing some ingredients from scratch then combined with ready-made sauce and seasonings.
Chef Sandra then moved on to show us two more dishes. "Chor Muang", or flower-shaped steamed dumpling, definitely requires an artistic hand and not for beginners' level. And she also demonstrated the Crispy fish fillet with bird's eye chili and sweet basil sauce, another dish we had the opportunity to practice ourselves afterwards. During the course of the afternoon, Chef Nooror and Sandra also introduced to us unique herbs and spices commonly used in Thai cuisine.
It was an afternoon filled with laughter and delicious food, and I sure picked up an useful trick or two in Thai cooking, plus a certificate for completion of the course! Thanks Chef Nooror and Sandra for their kind sharing of their knowledge and passion.