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Thailand: can anyone recommend good places to go for cooking courses and good places to eat

  • butzy Dec 3, 2011 09:50 PM
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Hi All,
I'm going to Thailand for 3 weeks in January. I've never been there before and am really looking forward to it.
I've booked accommodation for the first 2 nights in Bangkok in the Sukhumvit area. After that, I don't know yet. We'll just take it as it comes and go where we feel like going :)
The only thing I know for sure is that I want to eat some good food (shouldn't be too hard I hope) and I would like to do a cooking course. I'll go do some fishing and snorkeling or scuba diving as well.
Can anyone recommend some good places to eat and good cooking courses?
Any recent info will be appreciated!

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  1. Krua Apsorn is one of the very few places raved about in the foreign press that lives up to the hype. There are 2 branches, one near Samsen Road soi 9 and another just south of Democracy Monument. Although I haven't had anything that wasn't great, I strongly recommend the curry crab and the crab omelet. Add a side of steam rice and two people should be set. Krua Apsorn is closed Sundays.

    Down Sukhumvit soi 11, across from the Ambassador Hotel, there is a branch of Rosabieng. Rosabieng offers great food in a nice atmosphere.

    For very reasonably priced seafood, there's always Lek Seafood, directly beneath the Chong Nonsi BTS station.

    Google "Baan Phuengchom". This is a nice place with some great, interesting food. It's easily accessed from the ARI BTS station. One of the Google hits will surely have a map. Reservations are a must.

    Here's my map of eateries and other POI's around greater Bangkok: http://g.co/maps/94r4u

    10 Replies
    1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

      Thanks for the info Curt!
      I hope to visit some of these restaurants in person, but will definitely check them out on the net.

      I'm not too worried about what the international press says about a certain restaurant, I'm after authentic Thai food. So far I've made some Thai dishes from recipe books and used a number of ready made pastes and I'm really keen to find out how they compare to the real thing :)
      Street food is ranking very high on my list as well (I got David Thompson's cookbook "street food"but haven't cooked from it yet)

      I actually grew up on Western and Indonesian food so my tastebuds are used to quite a lot!

      Do you have any recommendations about cooking schools / courses? I'll be travelling with a friend who loves to eat, but isn't a very keen cook, so I'm probably limited to a single day course.

      Again: Thanks!!!!

      1. re: butzy

        Sorry, not familiar with any cooking courses.

        If you can, try to make it to Krua Apsorn. The Samsen Branch is the one we always visit. I have yet to see anyone there but Thais. I have been told that the Dinsor Road shop is just as good.

        Being a cook, have you ever visited Aw Taw Kaw (often spelled "Or Tor Kor") market? It's a large open market with plenty of offerings to sample. If you like bamee, stall 12/5, at the food court, dishes up one of my favorites.

        Aw Taw Kaw is an easy trip, taking the MRT subway to Kamphaengphet and using exit #3. If you are in Bangkok over the weekend, Chatuchak Market is also accessed from this station.

        BTW, more Thai eateries probably use prepared curries rather than make their own. Some do, however, buy prepared "private label" concoctions, from places like Aw Taw Kaw.

        "David Thompson" has become a bit of a dirty word to some. His, "definitive authority on Thai cuisine" attitude doesn't sit well with many Thais. There was even one interview where he was pointing out what Thai cooks were doing wrong!

        Personally, I'm into down home Thai. Most of the cooks I love with would laugh themselves sick at the plates that Nahm or Bo.Lan serve up.

        1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

          Thanks Curt,
          The Aw Taw Kaw market looks amazing. I'm quite sure I'll go and have a look there.
          I would also love to try the home cooking, but I will be limited to the street food and restuarant food as I don't have any Thai connections.

          By the way, Not very smart of mr Thompson to start telling people how to cook their own food! There are many ways and interpretations to every single recipe and that doesn't mean one is better than the other.

          1. re: butzy

            Not certain why Thomson can't have an opinion. Just because you are Thai, French, English or any other nationality doesn't mean you can cook. Every country has lots of dire food cooked by its nationals so calling it out isn't really a bad thing and if one is being honest makes a lot of sense.

          2. re: Curt the Soi Hound

            I think the critism of Thompson is a little harsh. After eating at Nahm in Bangkok recently I found the food to be very good indeed, infact far better than the meal we had at Krua Apsom. However, I don't see that as a valid comparison as they are very different meals theatre both great in ther niches. I did enjoy both and would return to both, but in absolute terms the food at Nahm is in a very different league, and tht league sets a far higher standard. It is like comparing a great burger to a fine entrecôte steak - both beef both fantastic but not directly comparable.

            I would say the same abou Bo Lan and Sra Bua other superb meals on the same trip. I think it is good to try a range of food in Thailand, you wouldn't say you had experienced the best of any countries food if you didn't try a range I.e. burgers from a cart through to fine steak at a grand steak house in the US. So I would encourage people to try Nahm, Bo LAN, or Sra Bua plus cheaper restaurants and street food. Curt may be "down home" but if you like variety try a range.

            1. re: PhilD

              " they are very different meals theatre both great in ther niches."

              Pretty much sums it up. I'll stick to my little niche. Never had to defend it.

              What I like about my little niche is that the food can be dumped in a plastic bag, taken home and enjoyed on its own. It doesn't have to be dressed up and sent to school!

              "Curt may be "down home" but if you like variety try a range."

              You have no idea of my "home", or my "range". Personal digs are not appreciated.

              1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                Curt - my "down home" comment was a copy of your description of yourself, not my judgment of you, simply a repeat of your judgement of yourself. Not a personal dig simply a copy of what you said about yourself.

                My "range" comment is also not judgmental but an observation that you prefer and recommend a particular style of Thai food. You offer great advice to those new to Thailand, I was simply trying to expand the horizons of the visitor. - I happen to appreciate something different. You like food "that can be dumped in a plastic bag" (again your words) I like that as well; but Bangkok is rapidly changing and getting more sophisticated, and this is changing the food culture; it is getting deeper, broader and very interesting. I would urge visitors to see and appreciate that and cover all the bases - there are lots of chefs pushing the boundaries so sticking to traditional street food limits the options.

                1. re: PhilD

                  I'll mainly be eating at the cheaper places and I assume also a fair bit of street food. I'll try and add one of the fancier restaurants as well. The intention is to keep a bit of a record of every place I'll be eating and will keep all of you informed!
                  Thanks for all the info

            2. re: Curt the Soi Hound

              I ate at Nahm in Bangkok once, and it was actually quite good.

              I won't say that it is "pure" Thai food -- but no food would be "pure" get Chefs involved in the cooking of food. The basic difference between a Chef and a cook is that a Chef takes the fundamentals and creates new creations from these fundamentals. A cook takes recipes that they have learned and cooks them repeatedly with very little variation. Of course if you were going to an relatively expensive (by Bangkok standards -- $50 / 1500 baht for a 6 course meal) Thai restaurant - why would you go to a more expensive restaurant if they just served standard recipes that you could find at a cheaper establishment. One of the recipes (a curry based recipe) included ingredients such as Guinea fowl .... which I have never seen another restaurant used. But if to be Thai you have to use standard "Thai" ingredients -- then you would not have the food you have today. In fact many of the popular ingredients used in Thai food today was not native to Thailand (chilies -- Americas; tomatoes (Papaya Salad) - Americas; etc.

              I have not heard many good things of Bo Lan - but never been there.

              1. re: cacruden

                Interestingly I enjoyed Bo Lan a bit more than Nahm as the food seemed a little less refined and the service smoother and friendlier.

        2. I had a great time here:www.thaifarmcooking.com last winter. Comprehensive class on an organic farm, included a market tour and enough food for lunch and to carry home that we did not eat again til the next day.

          1 Reply
          1. re: elle

            Thanks for the help. That cooking school looks good!

          2. For a cooking course, you might consider "The Thai House".

            http://www.thaihouse.co.th/home.htm

            Since you have 3 weeks to work with an overnighter could be fun.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

              Thanks, will check that one out as well!

            2. I second www.thaifarmcooking.net. I had a great time in the countryside with some other foreigners cooking up a storm. they took us to a wet/dry market and showed us around the stalls. the instructor i had was this spunky, tiny thai lady who really knew how to toss her wok around. we cooked so much food, we had to take a siesta in the afternoon.

              1. Thai House which Curt mentioned was very good - enjoyable experience. It is a little quiet at night though (traditional Thai house) so you might want to treat the night the same as you would if you went to the cottage on the weekend. [a little outside - they pick you up by boat and give you a tour on the way out]

                A day course in the Bangkok area that was also fairly good was Baipai Cooking School. http://www.baipai.com/ [Bangkok area

                ]

                Although this does not match up to your requirements, it is one to keep in mind for serious cooks that have the time (and money) to invest.... Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts provides a more serious course load for those that are already cooks/chefs/ or serious amateurs (as well as day courses for those that aren't). It is aimed at those that are thinking of opening a Thai restaurant though.... for those that are serious - this one is hard to beat. http://www.sitca.net/ [Koh Samui Island]

                5 Replies
                1. re: cacruden

                  I've been looking at the sitca course and it's high on my wishlist, but not for this trip. Have you done a course there? How was it? I would be keen on the 6 day course....
                  At the moment I'm looking at Chiang Mai. It looks like there are lots of options there.
                  Has anyone got any experience with "Grandma's" or with "classic home cooking "?
                  I'm really looking forward to my trip!

                  1. re: butzy

                    I have done the 6 day course - then a special supplementary (custom) 6 day course add-on 2 years later -- the course was excellent. Learned a lot -- covered a lot of ground. I have seen no other course close to it (for english speaking students). Most other day courses take you through basically the same set of well known recipes, this takes you through ones that are not as well known outside of Thailand.

                    The first cooking course I took in Thailand was in Chiang Mai 9 years ago. I believe it was Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School http://www.thaicookeryschool.com/ I was impressed with it at the time, but only have vague recollections of it now. Looks like the school has grown - before had one in a "Chef's house" and another one that was not (sort of overflow). Now they have 6, so it sounds like they are quite a bit of a bigger operation.

                    1. re: cacruden

                      Thanks!

                      1. re: cacruden

                        Did a one-day cooking course in Chiang Mai last winter, offered by a ladyboy(!) named WaWa. Excellent all around, the person more exotic than the cuisine. Otherwise there are a lot of cooking schools in CM, so if you ask around the day before, you should find one to your tastes

                        1. re: Expatronomus

                          I can just imagine you must have had a great time!
                          that must have been one very exotic course

                  2. If you end up on Phuket at any point, this cooking school has a great reputation, thought the classes may be a bit basic. I've never taken a course, but the restaurant is very nice:

                    http://pumthaifoodchain.com/
                    And definitely have a meal or several here

                    http://www.sabaibeachrestaurant.com/
                    I stayed on Phuket for several months afew years ago, and I hung out eating there and having a drink at the tiny bar next door 4-5 times a week. Never one bad meal, and the casual setting and beach veiw are great!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: alliegator

                      Thanks!
                      Don't know yet if I will get to Phuket, but if I do, I'll definitely check those restaurants out!

                    2. Time for a bit of an update.
                      I’ve been back from Thailand for almost 3 weeks now. Managed to get on top of all things that were left behind and am now desperately in need of a holiday.

                      I really enjoyed the country and the food and I now realise that some of my questions beforehand were a bit absurd. You don’t need to know where to go and eat, you just start looking around you when you get hungry and in no time you’ll find either some street food or a restaurant!
                      Loved all the markets as well, and they were a lot cleaner than I expected.

                      In total, I’ve only had one meal that wasn’t good and one or two that were indifferent.

                      We did a one-day cooking course in Chiang Mai and it was good fun.

                      The last day in Thailand, we went to Srua Aksorn and I’m really glad we managed to find it. Fantastic food and I ate way too much. We were there around lunch time and the place was packed with Thai. We only just managed to get a table.
                      Thanks for the tip Curt!
                      And thanks to everyone else who replied to all my questions
                      Anne-Marie

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: butzy

                        So glad to hear you enjoyed your trip :)