Archive for the ‘food’ Category

The View

Location: Vertigo, Banyan Tree, Bangkok
Soundtrack: Smooth jazz

A day after my elephant adventure, I left Chiang Mai for Bangkok.

I’d reached a turning point earlier in Pai – I’d achieved what I’d set out to find. And now I was on my way home.

I had a few stops to make, and a few traditions to uphold. One of them was a beer on Khao San Road at the Centerpoint Plaza Bar, just above the road itself.

It was on the road that I met up with Michael, a friend from Brisbane who was in Bangkok at the same time. We shared a few too many beers at the Center Khao San (which seemed to have become an Irish pub since the last time I was there), and agreed to go out somewhere quieter the next night for a drink and dinner.

Part of the experience of Bangkok is, if you can afford it, staying in one of their luxury hotels. Instead of staying in one, we just settled for a drink in the Sheratan Grande Sukhumvit jazz bar, The Living Room. A few frosty beverages and a flight of cheese and wine later, Michael revealed a surprise: we were going to be having dinner at Vertigo.

Top floor, please Garcon.

Vertigo is an open-air restaurant and bar on the 61st floor of the Banyon Tree resort. It’s a dizzying height, but offers up spectacular views of Bangkok at sunset and into the night. It’s currently sitting at Number Two in my favourite unique bars of the world – Number One is the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, famous from Lost In Translation. But Vertigo comes a very close second.

Vertigo was brilliant.

It fit perfectly with my life philosophy of valuing experiences over things – and Vertigo was definitely an experience worth every penny. I settled on the 4 course set menu with matching wines, and wasn’t disappointed. The view, the meal, and especially the company were all perfect.

If you’re ever in Bangkok, and you have a night spare, and you like the person or people you’re travelling with, you have to visit Vertigo. It’s simply a unique experience that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world.

I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing way to start wrapping up the trip.


The Class

Location: Chiang Mai
Soundtrack: Meatloaf

I’m a bit of an amateur cook.

I love to gather my ingredients, lay them all out on the kitchen bench, turn on some Meatloaf, and lose myself in the joy of food for an hour or two as I prepare a delicious meal. A glass of wine or three always seems to make my cooking taste even better.

So when I get the chance, I love to take cooking classes to learn something new.

Last time I was in Thailand, I took a class at Gap’s House. It was full of character, and taught me about the five sensations of Thai cooking: sweet, salty, spicy, sour, and crunchy. Get the ratios right, and you have yourself a recipe for a delicious meal.

But this time I wanted to take it up a notch. I’m not really a beginner anymore. I know my way around a cutting board and how to craft a Thai meal.

I discovered that the Thai Cookery School does Master Classes – basically one-on-one sessions with Chef Sompon Nabnian, a man who I would come to learn was the head of a sprawling business empire.

I signed up to do a beginner class during the day for AUD$33. After the end of the beginner class in the afternoon, my newfound partner Kim from Spain and I would tackle a Master Class creating five dishes in three hours under the tutelage of Chef Nabnian.

In the morning, after a tour of the markets where we picked up a slew of ingredients for the day, we arrived at the cooking school.

Thai Cookery School
The school was founded in 1993 by Chef Nabnian, and has to be one of the most professionally organised cooking classes I’ve been on.
Upon arrival you’re given your station, and then ushered into an air conditioned training room where the Chefs cook and demonstrate the dish you’re about to prepare.
As an added bonus, there’s an angled mirror above the training station where you can look directly down onto the station: no more craning and peering. Just look up.

We cooked six dishes varying in difficulty, and our group of 20 had no struggles at all. We covered the basics of pad thai (or in this case, fried big noodles with chicken and sweet soy sauce), yellow curry chicken, steamed fish in banana leaves, chicken with cashew nuts, a spicy prawn salad and finally bananas in coconut milk.

If it sounds delicious, I assure you: it was.

Food, glorious food.

After the beginner class, Kim and I teamed up with Chef Nabnian for the Master Class. Since there were only two of us, we got to pick and choose the dishes to cook. We came up with:

  • Barbecued prawns with a kaffir lime dressing
  • Fried pork spare ribs with garlic
  • Lemongrass sticks with minced chicken, prawns, and pork
  • Banana flower salad
  • And the ultimate: Chiangmai Noodles with curry sauce and chicken, or the famous Khao Soi Gai: staple food of the north.

Prawn salad, anyone?Skewers are delicious AND nutritious.

It was intensive and educational, and worth every penny of the AUD$90 we paid. Kim is a cook in Spain, so he’s taking his certificate back with him to move up the corporate ladder.

Me? I’m just chuffed to have cooked such brilliantly delicious dishes under the guidance of a master.

Look out ladies, I’ve got a repertoire of meals to cook for you, and I’m not afraid to use them.

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.
Harriet Van Horne (1920 – 1998)