Friday, August 15, 2008

Thai Cooking Class

Thursday night I attended my first-ever Thai cooking class with our neighbor and friend, Karen. One would think she wouldn't need such a class--with her extensive first-hand experience with Thai, Cambodian, and Lao cuisine, she could have easily and gracefully stepped in for the instructor and taken over, but she didn't. Rather, the class was just a great opportunity to be with other foodies (Karen found the class through the Albuquerque Foodies group on meetup.com), and to better understand ingredients used in Thai cooking, not to mention enjoy a fabulous, well-prepared meal all for only $25.

The class took place at Albuquerque's Talin Market, an international grocery store that I've watched grow from a dingy hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese convenience store to one of the best international markets I've ever visited. The aisles at Talin now boast exotic ingredients and produce from all over Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Carribean.

As far as I can remember from my first stint in Albuquerque many moons ago (Talin opened in 1978), it was the place to go for strange ingredients required for recipes I'd concoct from obscure Asian cookbooks I picked up in used bookstores near UNM. Once I wandered two or three small aisles of foreign labels, whiffs of putrid aromas, and cluttered shelves, I'd find my prized bottle of fish sauce, usually caked with a quarter-inch of dust.

Now, Talin is an enormous, pleasant, well organized store with a modern production kitchen upstairs for demonstrations and classes. While they didn't serve wine with our delicious meal, it was restaurant-quality and authentic. We even ate our sticky rice by hand by rolling it into small balls and dipping it into chili paste, Lao style.

We made tom yum goong (spicy, tangy shrimp soup), som tam (papaya salad), and, my favorite of the evening, eggplant and shrimp salad. Two things I learned from the class: it matters which kind of eggplant you use (Chinese and Japanese eggplants are far more tender and less bitter than traditional, larger eggplants), and the trick to ordering or planning a perfect Thai meal is to balance the four key flavors of Thai cuisine: sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. If you have too much of one or two over the others, the meal could be cloying or generally just less exciting.

Thanks for inviting me to take the class Karen! It was truly a treat.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Glad you liked it, Val! I think you should work with Victor on a class combining wine with Asian food....