I fell in love with Thailand in an instant. The smells, the beaches, the frighteningly fast tuk-tuks. The 30 baht Singhas at 7-11. The ten dollar massages. The fuck-off hot chillies; sweet, sour, hot and sweet. The whole deep fried fish in garlic and pepper, the prik nam pla, the som tam phet phet (spicy spicy). The laab, wafts of out of tune karaoke singers and Issan grilled chicken restaurants.
One trip and I was hooked – I loved everything about the place, bar a few bogan tourists. Every year marked another trip. The obsession enticed me to spend 6 months in Thailand: living in Rawai, a small fishing village in Phuket, travelling around SE Asia and…you guessed it, eating. But it didn’t cure my addiction.
My mum must have known I was having Thailand withdrawals. As an early birthday present, she booked me into Gingerboy’s Jungle Curry Cooking Class as part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. I’ve done a lot of cooking classes across Vietnam and Cambodia, but this was definitely the classiest.
We started with a strong coffee and fairly quickly got into pounding our Jungle Curry. I make all my curries from scratch, but usually with the blender, so I was surprised to learn that Gingerboy believe using a food processor to make the curry imparts a metallic flavour into the paste. That means that for a full service restaurant, they hand-pound all their curries during the morning prep. Impressive.
Listen to my Jungle fever mixtape I made – just for a bit of fun to mark the occasion!
Next we learned how to gut and scale a baby Snapper for the curry. A few great tips and tricks to get the gills and guts out. Lucky for me I’ve been catching fish at the holiday house near Mallacoota for years and don’t get squeamish scaling and gutting a fish. Others weren’t so lucky and had to turn away.
We watched chef Leigh Power deep fry the whole fish and cook up the curry, caramelising the paste with a shedload of palm sugar and stock. A beautiful golden, deep fried snapper was produced, with the Jungle Curry sauce poured over the top. Northern Thai cooking doesn’t usually use coconut milk, but there’s some creativity here: Gingerboy pour coconut milk over the top of the fish for the ‘Nemo’ effect, and to probably reduce the chilli potency from its origins for us whiteys.
In reality, Gingerboy’s class was more of a demonstration than a hands-on class, but for me I geeked out at being inside the kitchen, getting a few chef tips and just being amongst it. It was the nice touches, like sitting down to a glass of wine, the curry, some lovely dumplings and conversation; and a cute little Gingerboy apron to take home.
It’s inspired me to cook more out of my Gingerboy cookbook, recipes I usually reserve for fancy meals with friends. Mid week dumplings are up next…
Have you done a cooking class? What did you learn? Was it worth it?