Hong Kong International School joined us this week. They were taking part in a programme teaching them how to cook a whole range of delicious Thai dishes, culminating in them having a ‘MasterChef’ style cook off with menus that they designed themselves.

It started off with some cooking classes under the skilled eye of Khun Aree, our expert chef. In the first day they learnt to create, amongst other things, vegetarian spring rolls from scratch, deep fried bananas, and of course, the famous Thai green curry. The next couple of days were a whirr of woks, knives, stoves and chillies, as the students learnt dish after dish to inspire them for their final cook-off. So much so that the students barely visited the restaurant because they were already full from all the food they were cooking.

Unlike most cooking classes this didn’t just stay in the kitchen. The students got the opportunity to go outside into the woods and learn the local Thai cooking techniques for surviving in the jungle. They made chopsticks, cooking pots, and bowls from bamboo. With the bamboo pots they steamed their rice in an open fire, making use of the green of the bamboo to stop it from burning. They used banana leaves in order to cook an omelette and grilled chicken, whilst being careful to find the balance between undercooking and overcooking on what can be a temperamental and unforgiving flame.

Their week wasn’t just about cooking; interspersed amongst their classes the students were able to play a variety of games and were also set challenges they had to complete in teams. Kayaking down the Maekok River, climbing, archery and even a hike through a local Lahu hilltribe village to the Wat Thaton temple all featured in their packed week of experiences.

But then came the part all of the learning had been building up to. After lots of experimenting with ideas, and brainstorming unique menu combinations, the competition began. The day started with an early 6am start, to head to one of the local morning markets, to buy all of their ingredients before heading back to set up in the specially designed student kitchen. A whole range of dishes and methods were produced, with no two dishes, menus, or designs being the same. The quality was clearly high and the judges were brought out to taste test each of the group’s final products. Acting as judges were some of the resorts professional local chefs, who were clearly impressed by the student’s efforts and even asked one of the teachers for a recipe for his coconut dish. A final winner was announced and was awarded with a handmade gift from their mentor, Khun Aree.

The students summed up their enjoyment of the week and appreciation of all they had learned by presenting Khun Aree in turn with a brand new wok so she could continue her passionate cooking.

~ Dan

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