by Deborah Rogers –
Food preparation, cooking, eating and clean up is a time-consuming part of my life. It’s probably the same for you. And maybe you also get stuck in a rut cooking the same few dishes over and over again. On automatic pilot in the grocery store, I find I’m working with the same ingredients all the time and don’t know how to break out! I actually love to read cookbooks, but I seldom make the leap to preparing something new from them. It’s often the list of unusual ingredients that puts me off, as I don’t want to fill my cupboards with things I may never use again.
How to break out of a boring food routine? Take a cooking class and learn something new! I was so fortunate to get invited along to Kallayanee’s Kitchen in North Saanich for a Thai food class. Kallayanee has been offering Thai cooking classes from her home since 2007 and has developed a whole series of sample menus – I experienced Vegetarian Lesson Five, “Memories of Isaan,” which is Kallayanee’s home province. In fact she had just returned from a trip to Thailand and was able to provide anecdotes and examples right through the two-hour class; it truly felt authentic.
Joining me in the kitchen were a group of previous participants and Kallayanee fans! I quickly understood why they wanted to return again and again to learn from the chef as she has such a warm and infectious personality. All the food is prepared to be eaten there and then, and a big part of the occasion is the sitting together and sharing a meal. But first the cooking …
If I had any complaint about the class it was that I didn’t do as much cooking as I had expected. Kallayanee and her sous-chef had pre-prepped all the ingredients so each dish just required mixing or finishing off. It made sense so that we could cover more ground, and at the end of the class you can take home all the recipes to recreate the dishes in your own kitchen.
We started with a snack – peanuts swimming in garlic and lime juice (Tooaleesong Salad) – a fairly short list of ingredients combined to make a fiery, sweet and sour appetizer. It was delicious and very easy to make. Many of the dishes start with the same combination of ingredients, things I hadn’t worked with before including tamarind. It was great to have Kallayanee right on hand to ask questions of, and she also advised where to buy some of the harder-to-find items.
We moved on to Bitter Melon Soup (Tom Malaa), an unusual and acquired taste unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. There was no Phad Thai in this class (although Kallayanee does have a Thai Classics class that includes this take-out staple) but we did make a Yellow Curry alongside a spectacular pineapple dish with “grandma’s hair” (Meeglop Supparote). These were rice noodles dropped into hot oil so they puff up to huge piles of crispy white strands. My absolute favourite dish was the Three Mushroom Salad (Larb Het); it had such fresh flavours of mint, lime and chilli and a crispy ground rice crunch to contrast with the slippery mushrooms.
Eating all the dishes, along with a delicate aromatic jasmine rice with mango for dessert, was both pleasure and pain! It was delightful to sit and share the meal with others. Thank you to my classmates Jim, Maddie, Carmen, Todd, Amy, Cathy and Samantha. I enjoyed hearing their stories as I tried to squeeze in just a few more mouthfuls. Come to the class with an appetite is my advice. Be prepared to ask questions. Be adventurous as you sample the food. Get out of your rut!
What do you want to see Deb do next? Send your ideas or invitations to email@example.com. Photo by www.nuttycake.com.