Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant is housed in a century old heritage building in Bangkok, Thailand.
Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant is a popular culinary academy and fine-dining restaurant focusing on royal Thai cuisine. There are outlets in Bangkok and Phuket. Click HERE for four mouth-watering Thai recipes.
I took part in a half-day course in Thai cookery, courtesy of the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant, along with a food blogger from Hong Kong. We were among seven participants in the class that day, representing various nationalities.
We were taught how to prepare a salad, two main courses, and a soup.
The course began with a trip to a nearby wet market. It ended with a sumptuous lunch, which each one of us had prepared class ourselves.
We were first shown how to prepare each course by a cooking teacher in a classroom with a demonstration kitchen.
We then moved across the hall to a hands-on kitchen, where we prepared each course ourselves. Kitchen's aides assisted us if we ran into difficulties.
Look over my shoulder has I relive the experience …
Our Trip to the Market …
Street Vendors – Our Thai cooking lesson began with a trip to a nearby wet market. Passing the many food hawkers along the way only served to make our mouths water and our stomachs growl.
Shop Houses – We walked down streets lined with picturesque but run-down shop houses that had obviously seen better days. This definitely was not (or at least, was no longer) the high rent district.
Bangrak Market – Within minutes, we were strolling into Bangrak Market, one of the numerous wet markets that populate the Thai capital.
Exotic Spices – We were greeted by vendors selling all manner of exotic pastes and spices and dry ingredients – few of which I could identify. The vibrant colours and exotic odours were a feast for the senses!
What We Drank …
Tea Time – We stopped for iced milk tea at one of the stalls. Served in plastic bags with a straw, it had a distinctive Thai taste that I can't quite describe.
I found it so refreshing that I wanted seconds! Judging by the looks on the faces of the others in our group, however, I'm not sure if my classmates shared my enthusiasm.
Now it was time to check out …
The Vendors …
Bored Vendors – With bored looks on their faces, the vendors stood around waiting for someone to buy something. No one was loudly hawking their wares the way they do in other Asian cities such and Hong Kong or Taipei. The market opens at 4 am and closes at 11 am. By the time we arrived, it was close to closing time. Still, there were plenty of things to buy!
What's on Sale …
Fresh Foodstuffs – Everything from eggs to seafood to fish to octopus was on sale – not to mention both familiar and unfamiliar veggies and fruit such as Mandarin oranges, lychee, and mangosteen (bottom picture, lower right).
Believe it or not, mangosteen actually tastes MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than it looks! Having said that, I find the appearance of the fruit so disgusting that I would never think of buying any.
But if it is is served to me, I will eat it, and I will enjoy it – preferably if someone else has peeled it for me.
The Shrine …
Buddhist Shrine – It wouldn't be Thailand, if there weren't a shrine. The Thais are devoutly Buddhist, and you'll find Buddhist or Hindu shrines everywhere you go – even at the wet market!
Completing our tour of the wet market – and with a few products in plastic bags in tow – were returned to the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant for …
Our Class …
Demonstration Kitchen – First we sat in a classroom with a counter and stove, where our enthusiastic and demonstrative teacher started by giving up a pep talk.
Then the teacher demonstrated how to prepare each recipe while we sat at our desks and observed. After each demonstration, we got a taste. Then we moved across the hall next to the …
Hands On Kitchen – After tasting each one of the teacher's samples, we went across the hall into a fully equipped kitchen, where we each had our own work station – complete with chopping board and gas burner.
First we chopped. Then we measured. Then we boiled, simmered, or fried. There was a talented chef (pictured above with me) as well as kitchen's helpers on hand if we couldn't remember what to do.
After preparing our dishes, they were numbered and put aside, and we would return to the demonstration kitchen to observe how the next dish was made.
What We Cooked …
Yam Ma-muang Koong Sod – The first dish we learned how to prepare was spicy and sour green mango salad with prawns.
Click HERE for the recipe.
Hed Phad Prik Thai Dum – The second dish we learned how to prepare was stir-fried mushrooms with black pepper.
Click HERE for the recipe.
Plaa Taab Tim Rad Prik – The third dish we learned how to prepare was deep-fried red Tilapia with chili dressing.
Click HERE for recipe.
Tom Kha Kai Sai Hed – Finally we prepared a mouth watering coconut milk soup with chicken and mushroom.
Click HERE for the recipe.
After we had been shown how to cook the four dishes and tried cooking them ourselves, it was time for …
Our Graduation …
Certificates – After class, we were presented with certificates and paused for the requisite photo shoots with our teacher, our chef, and the kitchen helpers. Then it was time to head …
Downstairs – Our cooking class might have ended, but there was more important business at hand. We took our certificates and our appetites downstairs, where a lovely dining room awaited, and the table had been set with …
Our Lunch …
White and Red Rice – A server kept our rice bowls filled with our choice of either white or red rice. Contrary to what you might think, the white rice is preferred by Asians and the red rice by foreigners.
The Ambiance …
The Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant in Bangkok is housed in the Thai Chine Building, an imposing structure that opened as a department store in 1903.
The building, which looks more like a posh private residence than a commercial building, has served many purposes over the years.
The structure was totally renovated in 2002, reopening as the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant.
The Blue Elephant is more than a cooking school. It is also a popular restaurant. If you are not interested in learning how to cook Thai food, you can always go there for lunch or dinner.
On way way out I did a quick tour as I'm as much an architecture buff as I am a committed foodie.
I totally enjoyed the experience. I liked the fact that the class had both demonstration and hands-on elements. It was also fun interacting with the teacher and the chef, both of whom were very friendly and enthusiastic.
We also got to chat with other travelers from different parts of the world.
I'm not sure how the the price of the class would compare with ordering a comparable meal for lunch or for dinner. I'm sure the dishes would have been tastier if they had been prepared by a qualified and experienced chef.
However, I think it was far more fun cooking the meal myself than having someone else cook it for more. And it was served restaurant style in a lovely dining room.
Best of all, there were no dishes or pots and pans to wash! I give the course two enthusiastic thumbs up!
Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant – 233 South Sathorn Road, Yannawa, Bangkok, Thailand. Tel: (66) 2-673-9353-8.