Thanks to Lady From a Tramp‘s active social life, I was lucky enough to take her place at the launch of Chaophraya Newcastle’s Thai Cooking Class when she couldn’t make it.
Chaophraya (chow-pry-a, for those wondering) opened in Newcastle’s Eldon Square almost a year ago now and has quickly built an impressive reputation for their fine Thai dining experience. The team behind Chaophraya are also responsible for the Thaikhun chain and collectively have over eight restaurants scattered around the UK.
Their latest addition to the beautiful Toon venue is the Cooking School. An experience that allows a group of foodies, Thai cuisine enthusiasts or budding chefs to unlock the secrets of the Asian fare and learn the skill and art of creating traditional dishes.
Having never been to Chaophraya previously, but constantly hearing good things, I was excited to get up close and personal to their Head Chef, learning exactly what goes on behind the scenes.
A group of bloggers, journalists and PR people were greeted by Poom, the incredibly funny and talented Head Chef of the Newcastle restaurant.
The whole evening was most definitely made by Poom’s entertaining character. The food was amazing and it was such an educational experience but without the jokes, laughter and jovial conversation with Chef, I really doubt that we’d of enjoyed it just as much.
After the introductions and a quick run down of the night ahead, we were given traditional Thai attire and a paper chef’s hat so that we could really get into the part.
We took to our stations in order to begin cooking our first course of the evening, Tom Yum Soup.
Poom went through the process of the recipe in stages. She showed us the steps, then we had to reinact them working in pairs.
I took Mama Jan who, and she’ll agree, isn’t quite what you’d call a good cook. Mostly because she just isn’t very adventurous or doesn’t feel comfortable steering away from what she knows.
But she loved it, getting really involved, asking questions and learning new things. Jan was surprised just how simple this dish was to create in comparison to the incredible depth of flavours within it.
Quick little fact, that I learnt from the brilliant Poom, ginger is not an ingredient used in Thai cooking. Despite many recipes including it and even world famous chefs using it in traditional dishes, the authentic ingredient to use in their cuisine is Galangal.
Close to ginger, but much sweeter and less spicy.
The Tom Yum Soup was incredible. We didn’t use all of the chilli, as Mama Jan isn’t a heat fan at all. But that was also one of the great things about the experience, you were encouraged to continually taste your creation and adapt it to your taste with more salt, sugar, chillies etc.
It still had a lovely kick and was perfectly balanced by the flavours of lime and lemongrass.
After the first course we returned to our stations to start the main event. Thai Green Curry with Pad Thai.
All of the ingredient were ready and prepped for us. We needed to make our own curry paste in a pestle and mortar using the traditional Thai technique. Instead of grinding, like you normally would, it’s more of a smashing action with your hand over the bowl to stop splashing.
It’s bloody hard work and the chefs at Chaophraya create the fresh curry paste every day. Their arms must be in cracking nick!
The fragrance that is released as you create the paste and combine the ingredients is absolutely incredible, I already couldn’t wait to took in!
As it cooks, the smell becomes even more intense and you realise how much more authentic it is creating the paste entirely from scratch.
Lightly cook the paste first, and then add your chicken. Cook through before adding the rest of your ingredients and leave to simmer.
Then, we moved on to one of my favourite traditional Thai dishes, Pad Thai.
Poom took us through the entire recipe, allowed us to taste her creation and then sent us away to recreate the magic!
Her Pad Thai was absolutely incredible, and I was feeling confident that with her explanations and advice that we could create something (almost) as good. Constantly tasting and adding to ensure it was as close to her version as possible.
The confidence I gained during this Thai cooking class shocked me. I definitely feel like I could cook these dishes at home authentically, although maybe not to Poom’s standard.
The Thai Green Curry was thick, creamy and smooth with a very slight hint of heat. The chicken, as in the soup, was tender and soft. Whilst it’s not something I’d normally order at a Thai restaurant, I’d definitely choose this at Chaophraya when I return – because I know just how good it is.
The Pad Thai was the perfect balance of sweet and sour. A bitterness from the lime leaves and a good crunchy texture from the bean sprouts and vegetables, I was impressed with Mama Jan and I. Obviously had nothing to do with Chef…
I had the most brilliant evening at the Thai Cooking Class. As I mentioned before, Poom most definitely added an element of fun and infectious laughter.
Regardless though, I came away having learnt so much and with an amazing goodie bag! Inside were the recipes for each dish we’d made and the ingredients to produce the Tom Yum Soup! Bonus!
The whole experience took around three hours, but it flew over!
I would absolutely recommend the Chaophraya Cooking School to anyone. You don’t have to be a good cook but if you love a laugh, amazing food and learning new things, you’ll not regret this experience.
I had a hoot with a great bunch of people, some of whom I’ve never met before, I can only imagine how brilliant this would be as a hen party, a birthday or Christmas do with friends and family!
Have you dined at Chaophraya Newcastle? I’d love to know your recommendations from the main menu, as I’m itching to go back!
Drop me a tweet over @ProperScrummy!
Lots of love, LB x