If you’re looking for something a little different and delicious, try Amita Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok—a few hours in a garden kitchen is a perfect way to spend a few yummy hours.
A couple of years ago I was in a bit of a quandary over a 24-hour layover in Bangkok on my way to Myanmar, I wanted to do something fun but after flying 18 hours, the idea of doing anything that required walking or land me in the middle of a large crowd made me want to put a fork in my eye—effectively eliminating about 80% of my options.
Amita Thai Cooking Class
I made a reservation at the Amita Thai Cooking Class, a charming urban oasis I visited on a previous trip and a wonderful alternative to the frenetic atmosphere of many tourist attractions.
At Amita, I would spend a half-day feasting on some of the best Thai dishes (my favorite), while learning to prepare a traditional four-course meal.
Tam Piyawadi Jantrupon, a little wisp of a woman with a big personality, hosts guests in her home along a canal off the Chao Phraya river, The third generation of her family to grow up in the house, Tam watched her grandmother and aunt prepare the family meals—and so began her love of cooking.
My day started at 8 a.m. with a pickup at my hotel and a leisurely 30-minute boat ride down the Chao Phraya River with seven other guests. During our journey, we passed many iconic sights such as Wat Arun, known as the Temple of Dawn, and the Grand Palace, the ancestral home of past Thai kings. Gliding across the water, it was a great opportunity to view these historic wonders from a completely different perspective.
Upon our arrival, Tam met us at her dock with a team of four equally petite assistants and a tray filled with chilled towels to wipe away the morning’s humidity—a lovely gesture I’ve always found appealing in hot climates.
Moments later, a cold glass of a lemongrass drink was placed in our hands, accompanied by a homemade banana leaf straw.
We took a seat on a waterside veranda surrounded by trees and a garden as lush as a jungle. There, a plate of tempura (battered and deep-fried) flowers was paired with a delicate sweet-and sour-dipping sauce. The flowers themselves didn’t have much of a flavor but the crunch of the tempura and the tang of the sauce made for a wonderfully exotic snack.
Authentic Thai Cuisine
After a round of introductions, and over the chatter of very talkative pet mynah bird named Basil, Tam outlined the day’s Thai menu: We’d begin with chicken satay (tasty strips of grilled chicken served with a spicy peanut sauce), followed by kang keaw wan gai (green curry chicken in coconut milk), khao man som tam (coconut rice and papaya salad with chile-lemon sauce), and for dessert, khao niew mamuang (mango sticky rice).
But first, we’d tour Tam’s extensive garden. There, she pointed out the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices we’d collect for our meal, and peppered the conversation with interesting facts about the historical and medicinal uses of each plant.
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Tam Cooks First
At one end of the garden stood the open-air kitchen where all the magic happens. Ten individual cooking stations lined the kitchen, five on each side. At the back stood a large table where Tam demonstrated how to prepare each dish first before it was our turn to give it a go.
Tam demonstrated each course step-by-step, chopping, and dicing and pummeling ingredients with a mortar and pestle. She also shared traditional Thai cuisine tricks of the trade. She explained how wrapping herbs and spices in banana leaves keep them fresh, and my favorite, how to turn a banana plant stalk into a marinade brush for the satay by fraying one end with a knife.
When she finished her demonstration, we were up at bat. We each chose a cooking station while Tam’s assistants brought out separate trays loaded with ingredients. It was our turn to pummel, mix, boil, and grill, but to my delight, all of the tedious chopping, peeling, and measuring had already been done.
Tam coached us through each step. The smells tantalized me so my stomach growled loud enough for the woman standing next to me to hear and she erupted in laughter.
When we finished each dish, Tam’s assistants removed them, keeping them hot until we completed the entire meal. When the last of us put down our wooden spoons it was time for the feast to begin!
Reaping the Rewards of Our Thai Cooking Class
Meeting again on the veranda, we saw our meal beautifully laid out before us. For the next 45 minutes, we laughed and talked and stuffed ourselves silly.
At 1:30 p.m., our visit was winding down. Tam and her ladies packed any leftovers into doggie bags and gave each of us recipe cards so we could cook everything at home.
It was time for our merry band to head back to our respective hotels, happy and sated.
How You Can Enjoy Your Own Amita Thai Cooking Class
- Hours of operation: Open every day except Wednesday (8 a.m. to approximately 1:30 p.m., including transportation to and from your hotel)
- Number of guests: No more than 10 per class
- Cost: 3,000 baht (approximately $95) paid in cash at the end of the class.
- Book your own Thai cooking class.