In 2012 I shall be holding Thai cooking classes at Braxted Park Cookery School, as well as at my home in Colchester.
Braxted Park is a large country estate in Essex, half way between Colchester and Chelmsford. It’s well known for being a top class wedding and conference venue and for its cookery school. Many great chefs teach there, including Paul Boorman, Mark Webb, William Grinsted and Mark David – and I’m delighted to join them.
I’ll be teaching two classes called “Tastes of Thailand” for people with some experience of cooking (but not necessarily Thai cooking) and “An Introduction to Thai” for beginners.
You can find out all about it at the Braxted Park Cookery School website.
I hope to see you there – or in Colchester – during 2012. Happy New Year to All!
The old and the new! Here are two aspects of Thai culture today: modern, provocative forms (above) created by art students at Pohchang, the institute of fine arts where I studied several years ago – and the traditional arts (below), as practised here at the very same college.
Note: These pictures were taken by my partner (John Lewell) who tells me he’s about to write yet another photography book this winter. His most recent one was Digital Photography For Next to Nothing.
Next to nothing? Then why does he have his eye on a Fuji X100?
When I was in Bangkok recently, TV talk show host Suranand Vejjajiva was kind enough to invite me on to “Saturday Talk,” which aired today (August 27) on TNN24. Our conversation ranged far and wide on the topic of Thai food and we discussed the books I’ve been writing in the past year or two, especially “200 Thai Favourites” which is widely available in Thailand.
Biographical note: Suranand was a minister in Thaksin Shinawatra’s government, although he is also a cousin of Abhisit Vejjajiva, the prime minister before the current one: Yingluck Shinawatra (Thaksin’s sister). Incidentally, one recent prime minister – Samak Sundaravej – hosted a cooking show called “Tasting, Ranting” on the Thailand ITV television network. Yes, we take cooking and politics very seriously in Thailand!
I’m back in England! Here’s my first blog update since my month away in Thailand, visiting friends and relatives and generally catching up with everyone over there. So much has happened since my last visit in 2008: new government, new buildings, new ways of getting around Bangkok – even a Skytrain to the airport!
Over the next few weeks I’ll post a few photos from the trip. But bearing in mind that I rashly called this blog “Oi’s Thai Food Tips” I’d better say something about food. This post is about eating out in Siam Paragon, the mall where everyone goes in the centre of Bangkok.
Of course, there are thousands of restaurants in other parts of Bangkok, but there’s no denying the convenience of having scores of restaurants under one roof, together with a vast food hall (like a canteen) where you can select dishes from dozens of top-quality kitchens.
During the few weeks my partner and I were there (and my son, for some of the time), we visited several of the restaurants, such as:
Fuji: this Japanese restaurant is one that always has a queue, but it’s well worth the wait. The service is efficient and polite (as it is in nearly all Japanese establishments) and the food is really fantastic value. My tip: take one of the set menus which brings you a dozen tiny dishes. Whatever you have – sashimi, tempura, teriyaki, udon – it all adds up to a great meal.
Fumi: another Japanese chain, also found in other malls like Emporium (at Phrom Phong on the Skytrain), this was our first meal of the trip – and one of the best. I can recommend the delicious sushi, but you need to have something else as well.
Nippon-Kai: yet another Japanese chain (you can’t avoid eating Japanese in Bangkok, there are so many great options – including those where you cook your own food at the table). Nippon-Kai at Siam Paragon enjoys a strategic, central location, ideal for watching the passers-by.
Pho: this tiny Vietnamese counter is ideal for lunch: comfy and friendly, with a good selection of meaty dishes. It doesn’t compare to some of the great Vietnamese establishments elsewhere in Bangkok (like Xuan Mai), but it’s very professional and oh-so-convenient.
Fish Café: if you really just want fish and chips, this is one of the best places in town. The fish is fresh; the chips are perfect. Simples, as compare-the-meercat.com says.
Piri-Piri Flaming Chicken: by now you’ve guessed from their names that most of the Siam Paragon restaurants are mid-market rather than Michelin-starred establishments. Piri-Piri is typical of them: good, satisfying food at a reasonable price, served in the buzzy atmosphere of Paragon’s vast food floor.
As well as restaurants and cafés, there are dozens of food shops selling every kind of Asian and European delicacy. Now, here’s a good tip: If you buy a coffee at one of the many coffee shops – and ask nicely – they’ll let you eat something you’ve bought from one of these other delicatessens. This is unheard of in England, where any café proprietor would be offended if you ate something bought elsewhere. In Thailand, it’s different. We’re so tolerant and easygoing, aren’t we?
If you’re heading this way for a cooking class, there are some great places to visit around Colchester. In a previous posting I mentioned a little bit about the town, but, if you venture slightly further afield, there’s even more.
For example, Wivenhoe is a lovely spot a few miles further down the River Colne that runs outside my house. The river broadens out into an estuary, beginning at Wivenhoe where you can see the huge flood barrier. It’s in the distance in the photo.
Also nearby you can find the famous Beth Chatto Gardens and Nursery, just a few miles east of Colchester (and north of Wivenhoe). They were begun in 1960 by Beth Chatto who has won 10 Gold Medals at the Chelsea Flower Show plus many other awards.
You can sometimes meet and speak with Mrs Chatto herself – supervising new planting – as I did on a recent visit. There’s a lovely tea room outside the huge nursery which is packed with herbs, grasses and other plants, many of them hard to find elsewhere.
Oh yes, and don’t forget to play with the cat (who has a magnificent home that he – or she? – clearly enjoys).