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Tips to terrific Thai + a fabulous culinary weekend

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No matter how good you think you are at cooking, I think a cooking class from time to time is a fabulous source not only of inspiration, but of fun too!!
This weekend saw my lovely friend Ruza and I hit Melbourne for a Thai cooking class. We came away very impressed. We made my favourite soup ever – Tom yum – as well as six other fabulous dishes including green chicken curry, Thai spring rolls and the famous, pad Thai.
I think we have all attempted Thai cooking – I know I have – but I’ve almost always felt disappointed because I just can’t seem to properly recreate my favourite dishes. It always tastes like there is something missing, and I can’t put my finger on what it is.
So, while I’m not going to share the recipes from the day, because I don’t feel as though they a mine to share just yet, but I learnt some terrific tips to authentic Thai cooking that I can’t wait to put into practice in my own kitchen.

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One of the most important things about cooking Thai food is using the freshest and best quality ingredients. This bowl of beautiful, fragrant herbs and veggies just cooks so delicious!!
It’s important to find an Asian grocer you know has the best products and keep going back to them.

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Creating the perfect Thai dishes requires lots of preparation – but one of the best things is that in a lot of cases, including the Thai fish cakes we created – you can chop and roll the day before, pop them in the fridge and cook when your guests arrive. Perfect for entertaining as you won’t be left slaving in the kitchen.

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Perfect fish cakes is all about chopping the aromatic ingredients and the fish extremely small. It’s also about ensuring the mixture is very well mixed. Your clean hands are the best tools in this case.

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Be gentle when you’re forming your fish cakes. Be careful with them and they are more likely to hold together when you fry them.

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Spring rolls were also on the menu. I know most people think it’s easier to buy them from the frozen isle of the supermarket – but these were really yummy and actually really fun to make.
The best tip for the day was to cook the filling before adding them to the spring rolls wrappers. Without this step you run the risk of cooking your spring rolls beautifully on the outside, but the inside filling on the raw side. Not good at all!
So, this is me cooking the filling – we used pork mince, carrots, soy and other yummy delights 🙂

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Rolling them was surprisingly easy.

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Our wonderful teacher Gail said you can make the spring rolls to this point and then pop them in the freezer. You can even cook them frozen – but just need to make sure the oil isn’t too hot. Such a great tip for what, with a bit of organisation in advance – could be a very quick and easy entree.
Pad Thai is Ruza’s favourite dish – especially after she honeymooned in Thailand late last year. No wonder she was so keen to do these classes! So, she took to the stove to learn how to whip it up.

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Gail said the key to pad Thai – and stir-frying any noodles, is to soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes. Never use hot water as it will cause me to stick together and go gluggy. I know this is true from experience!

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Gail soaking the noodles for the pad Thai.

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The pad Thai sauce, which is being added above – can be made in large batches and kept in the fridge for a few months, making it easy to whip up a batch of delicious noodles at a moment’s notice.

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And, it’s ready!!

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After taking some time out to eat the fruits of our labour, it was back to the kitchen to make my favourite – Tom yum soup!!
And, it was revealed, this is the secret and pivotal ingredient…

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Galangal is part of the ginger family, but it’s stronger and has more heat. I have tried many times to make Tom yum soup and it’s always laked something. It was galangal!!
We added lots of other things including mushrooms, tomatoes, and made a stock from coriander root, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass.

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The other keys are these two ingredients. I’ll be going on an expedition to find them next week.

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It really is a simple process of building taste from here.

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I think the tip of the day was this one … Season with fish sauce and lime juice off the heat. Gail says direct heat causes these flavours to change – so the best thing to do is take your food off the heat once it is cooked, taste and season to your taste.

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Tasting.

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Adjusting flavours.

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And taste again. Perfect!!
Green curry was also a highlight of the day.
Obviously we learnt the importance of frying your curry paste as the first port of call.

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But with he next step came the best advice. Normally I would add my chicken at this point – but no. Gail says it is best to add a touch of coconut milk and cook for a good few minutes, until you get bubbles on the side of the saucepan. This helps to ensure the coconut milk won’t split when you add the rest of the can – but also adds a depth of flavour. Add the chicken, veggies and coconut milk and cook until done. It really was absolutely beautiful and oozed with authenticity.

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Thank you to Gail and her husband Nigel for the cooking class. Visit their website here to find out about their classes- http://originalthaicooking.com.au/ – highly recommended.
It was a memorable and fun day and I learnt so much about Thai cooking – I know I will put my new knowledge to good use and use it to create truly authentic Thai dishes.

I truly think it’s a great idea, no matter how confident you feel in the kitchen – to grab a friend and go and enjoy a cooking class. You get to cook, have fun and eat … All things that put me in a very happy place! Next I think I’m going to research French cooking classes. Very exciting!!

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