Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

by Paris B on · 33 comments

in Food & Lifestyle,Travel


Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On August 18, 2013
Last modified:August 18, 2013

Summary:

2 weeks ago, I was in Bangkok. No one realised it, probably but that’s how I like it! I was there for just a short trip and this trip, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something I’ve always wanted to do – go to a cooking school and learn some Thai dishes!

Many places offer these short cooking school sessions, where you can join for half a day or so, and learn to cook the local food so you take home more than just memories. You take home a taste of the country you visit. I love the idea and I’ve always wanted to do it so, I did.

Before I left, I looked around on the internet for recommended cooking schools in Bangkok and you’d be surprised to know that there are so many! Most of them take you on a buying/familiarization trip to the market as well, which is interesting if you are foreign to the exotic South-East Asian region. I eventually stumbled upon Baipai Thai Cooking School.

Reviews were very good, the website was professionally laid out and although it was more expensive than others I surveyed, they offered a hotel pick up and drop off, which I fully appreciated. So, I dropped them an email and it was sorted! Payment is made at the school itself after your class so that was easy!

bai pai thai cooking school Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

I was notified of my pick up time at my hotel and at the appointed time, a large van with a friendly driver in uniform identifying the name of the Baipai cooking school was waiting for me. We drove around picking up more “school mates” from various hotels in the city before heading off to the school. In our party that day were visitors from Macau, Japan, Korea and Guadeloupe, the last of whom was a chef himself!

The Baipai Thai Cooking School is located just after Chatuchak and it is deep inside a housing area, so I appreciated that they offered a pick up service. I don’t know how I’d have gone there otherwise. Along the way, the van dropped off most of the people in the van at the Or Tor Kor Market for their market familiarization trip. I opted out of that because I live in this region and I’m quite familiar with most of the herbs and spices used. I just need to know what goes into the recipe icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

Arriving at the school is a pleasure. It is a large spacious wooden bungalow with a large garden and is so serene and tranquil that you are immediately put at rest. A lovely cold and delicious cup of lemongrass tea is served, you are handed your apron and recipe cards and off we went for a trip to the herb garden.


As I said, I’m quite familiar with most of the herbs and spices used in the cooking in the SEA region but it was a very good refresher course because this time, I learned what Thais use in their cooking. There were 4 of us in our party for this initial part of the session, and our guide for the day was a lovely girl who spoke fluent, accentless English.

bai pai thai cooking school2 Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

  1. Holy Basil – a strong aromatic herb used a lot in Thai food. I’d been wondering what this really smelled like so I was very pleased to find out. The leaf is often used in cooking my favourite meat with basil and offers a peppery taste.
  2. Galangal – a type of root similar to ginger with a strong flavour so only very little is needed. Important in making tom yam
  3. Different types of chillies – large red chillies offer colour with little heat, green jalapeno chillies with medium heat and offering green colour to cooking and the tiny bird’s eye chilli (cili padi), only the 2nd hottest chilli in the world!
  4. Yours truly brandishing a stalk of lemongrass, used a lot in Thai cooking for almost anything from soups to steaming fish

We were then shown the sauces most commonly used in Thai cooking, including the ever popular pungent fish sauce, and how to choose a good one so we don’t end up gagging from the pong (go for a light and clear coloured liquid) and also how to grate coconut, which was to form the main ingredient in our first dish.

I’d actually grown up seeing people grate coconut the traditional way, using a scraper to get the flesh of the coconut into fine strips to make it easier to squeeze out the coconut milk, but this was the first time I had to do it myself!

bai pai thai cooking school3 Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

And I did it on a contraption called “The Rabbit” which I was told is very old, and a traditional shape of … erm a rabbit. You sit on the back like so, and scrape the coconut on the scraper to get the fine shredded coconut flesh that you can sprinkle over dessert, or squeeze to collect the fresh coconut cream. So much fun! icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

bai pai thai cooking school4 Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

The cooking area is an open area which, despite the heat was surprisingly comfortable. There was a prep area inside and a frying area which was more open, where each of us had our own cooking station. I thought it was very well organized in this regard.

It was just a half day course, with 4 dishes to go through so for the most part, the ingredients were prepared for us in the required portions. I read some reviews that said they didn’t like that but I understood the need for it. Time was limited, and not everyone wants to get down and dirty with it. This is like instant cooking school – just add hot water and you’re done.

bai pai thai cooking school7 Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

Some ingredients for making tom yam goong (sour and spicy prawn soup)

We started out making Coconut-egg Custard dessert (sangkaya) which was so crazy easy, I’m going to have to whip it out one day just to show off LOL! icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok It isn’t something I’d usually eat, but when it’s something you make with your own hands, you just have to, you know icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

bai pai thai cooking school6 Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

I also learned to make Green Curry Paste from scratch, and it was my first time ever, eating the dish much less cooking it. I never used to eat a lot of Thai food until quite recently and it was gratifying to see my paste come together. It was surprisingly quick, but it has to be noted that for the most part, the ingredients were already prepared. We just had to pound them and bind them all together.

If I had to make this truly from scratch, I might balk a little, but it’s primarily a matter of getting all your ingredients together and it just flows from there. So, here’s what I cooked with my own hands that day at Bai Pai – we had to eat it, so you betcha it was edible (and delicious, if I don’t say so myself LOL!)

bai pai thai cooking school5 Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

  1. Golden Moneybags – fried wontons tied with pandanus leaves. While this isn’t that hard, and I’ve made fried wontons before, none of them have ever looked this good! I finally learned how to make the folds at the top. Yay!
  2. Tom Yam Goong – The one dish I specifically wanted to learn. I made mine without adding in milk because I prefer my tom yam to be clear. It was perfect and I’m going to have to practice this one so I can, ahem! show off hehe…
  3. Green Curry Chicken – We made the paste from scratch and then cooked the curry. I didn’t realise we needed to use so much coconut cream! I asked if I could substitute it with something else but the teacher made a face and told me to stick to coconut cream LOL Not something I’d make in a hurry but at least I know how to icon smile Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok
  4. Sangkaya Coconut Egg Custard Dessert – served chilled, this was surprisingly delicious. Creamy and smooth and because I made it myself, not too sweet.

We were told to eat the first 2 dishes immediately after cooking them and there is a long table provided where all the students could gather and admire each other’s efforts. If you go with friends, this would be a good time to run a taste test!

As for the Green Curry Chicken, after cooking it, we were directed upstairs where we could partake of our curries with generous helpings of fluffy white steamed rice, and for dessert, we had our coconut egg custard! icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok Those who went to the market had fresh fruits instead so no one felt left out.

mws cooking Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

Chef PB hard at work! 

I thoroughly enjoyed the half day session and if time had permitted, I’d have come back the next day to learn other dishes. It was a lot of fun, although it was warm as the day wore on and it was tiring (try cooking 4 dishes in as many hours while wielding a heavy mortar and pestle!) but I had a wonderful time. The staff were very friendly, the teacher was fun and spoke English and gave instructions clearly enough.

The class costs THB2,200 per person or THB4,000 if you are 2 people. If you go in a bigger group, it costs a little less per person. Not terribly cheap but not terribly expensive either. You get to take home your recipe booklet, you will be emailed some photos and some additional recipes, and you are given a lovely souvenir of a fridge magnet with your photo in it. Add in the transport to and from your hotel and I think it’s a pretty good deal overall.

As I said at the top, there are other cooking schools around, some of which are much cheaper at about half the price of this one I picked. I might try them next time. Or I might just end up at Baipai again. I’ll decide when I next head to Bangkok icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

Have you been to a Thai Cooking School before? Do you enjoy these sorts of holiday pursuits?

This is my first time doing something like this and I had loads of fun. Then again, I do enjoy cooking and preparing food so it suits me. I think there are some similar schools like these locally so I want to check them out as well. If anyone has recs locally or abroad, I’d love to know so I know where to try – I’ve never tried any local cooking school yet! icon biggrin Travel Tales: Learning to cook Thai food at Baipai Thai Cooking School, Bangkok

Paris B

More details about Baipai Thai Cooking School can be found at www.baipai.com

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[ 33 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

Michelle Beh August 18, 2013 at 10:24 am

Hi Paris B! It’s so wonderful seeing this! I did not know about that. Next time when I go Bangkok then I ll go for that as I love cooking and the most important thing is I love Thai food!

Reply

Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Yes, do it Michelle! It’s a lot of fun and it’s such a great accomplishment to be able to cook what you enjoy eating! :D

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Angela C. August 18, 2013 at 10:44 am

Nice presentation of the dishes, looks really professional as though from some fancy Thai restaurants. Attending a cooking class in a foreign country is such a valuable experience, I might consider joining one in my next trip too! Thanks for the information! :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Thanks Angela :D We were taught some simple ways to decorate it to make our dishes look good too! I liked that :D It’s a very fun activity and I’m now going to put this on my list wherever I visit. It’s a good way to learn a little more about the country you’re visiting too :D

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Jenn
Twitter:
August 18, 2013 at 11:13 am

Sounds like a lovely experience!! I always wanted to attend a cooking class in BKK but the husband thinks that its extravagant to spend that money when there are recipes to be downloaded from online for free -_____- Perhaps next time I should ditch him and go myself! Hmph! :P

I’m intrigued by the Coconut Egg Custard – it looks so smooth and cold and yummy!! :D
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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Haha YES Jenn, ditch him :P But seriously, I always thought I could just learn from an online recipe but it’s different when you have people showing you how, and what to use and what alternatives you can use. Also very helpful when you are actually cooking, and they tell you exactly when to put the ingredients in and the order it goes in. Some things are best learned using a visual aid. Plus, it’s loads of fun and if you take your husband along, you could laugh at his efforts LOL ;)

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anusha August 18, 2013 at 11:28 am

lovely..for the first time my eyes were not on food but on your glowing face :)

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Phay August 19, 2013 at 12:27 pm

same as me LOL…. by the way, what foundation were you wearing, PB?

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Haha! I was using the Clinique CC Cream in Natural Fair. It looked good in the morning. After Dish #2 I was a hot mess LOL! :D

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Haha! Now, that’s a first, Anusha! :D Thank you :)

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Tracy August 18, 2013 at 12:02 pm

This is SO COOL Paris! You do so many fun things! I wish I could join you some time!
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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:52 pm

I wish for the same, Tracy! We’d so rock a cooking school session :D

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Jennifer August 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Hey good looking! Looking good, both the chef and food :) I love your green dress, given the heat and actions in the kitchen, it looks like a great piece, simple yet chic! When I researched about what to do in Bangkok, the search recommended Thai cooking school. Back then I did feel that it was a lil gimmicky and of course, I was on super kiasu tourist mode – shop, spa, eat. But hey, as you rightfully say it, “You take home a taste of the country you visit.”. I guess this is the beauty of Thai tourism, they can cater to almost anything there from cooking school to tailoring to spa and massage to shop till you drop and that’s not the end of a memorable Thai experience yet :) I have friends who went for cooking class when they visited one of the islands in Thailand. I love Thai food but not so much cooking though. I reckon I am more of a baking person because I like precision and detailed steps whereas cooking requires intuition and sometimes you just have to go with the flow and sprinkle lotsa TLC and patience while at it :) Cooking is a gift that my mum has, superb really. Sadly her daughters are not keen to jot down the recipes and master the cooking of wonderfully home cooked cuisine…

I agree with your way of researching and then deciding to go for Baipai though it might be more expensive than the rest. I think the premium price matched the website maintenance, hotel pickup and cooking school setup, in turn you get a wonderful experience. It looks like a serene place and doesn’t scream of chaos and panic in the kitchen ;) As always, I enjoyed tremendously reading your travel stories. They are always unique and inspiring.

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm

LOL thanks Jennifer :D Yes, it was very advisable to wear something loose and comfortable and I made sure I wore comfortable slippers too! I used to think it gimmicky mainly because of the market visit. I mean, I could just as easily traipse off to our local wet market and see the same thing you know :P Also, I wasn’t so much into Thai food before this but now I love Tomyam and it’s not easy to get a good one. Best thing to do? Learn it :D

Once you’ve done your sightseeing, I think a cooking class is a nice relaxing and fun time. Then again, I do go to Bangkok very often which explains why I have the time and inclination to do different things each time I go. If I were not going as often, then I might not want to “waste my time” and spend it more on spas, shopping and eating :D Oh and I love that you can bake because I can’t! Seriously, I can’t follow instructions :P So, cooking is good for me, because I can just go at it at my whims and fancy while you handle the baking, yes? ;)

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Sunny
Twitter:
August 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Wow, this looks like so much fun (and delicious too)! I’d definitely love to do something like this if/when I visit Thailand. I’m such a big fan of Thai food!
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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Yes it is loads of fun if you enjoy cooking :D Definitely keep it on your agenda if you visit this region. Many countries now have these cooking school things :)

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Applegal August 19, 2013 at 9:42 am

SO NICE!! The place looks beautiful and your dishes look so yum! Can beat the restaurants here, haha! I really want to try this next time!

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Haha yes! Also tasted like it could rival a restaurant hehe… I haven’t tried the other schools but I may next time, just to compare. Some are very cheap! Just about THB1000 for half a day’s lessons.

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xin
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 11:36 am

this is really interesting! can’t wait to try the tomyam kung!
test for you – what’s the name of the green tiny balls in green curry that taste horrible to bite? ><
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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 3:04 pm

LOL! Get tested pulak! >.< It’s little egg plants. It’s a type of egg plant that’s bitter. They add 2 types of egg plant – the small bitter ones and the normal big ones.

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Ting August 19, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Oh you were here? Bet you had fun. The hat completed the look… hahaha :D

No I have never been to a cooking class before. I just run to my MIL and consult her… hehe

Fish sauce selection is a tricky business. It’s a bit like soy sauce to Chinese. If you get a good one, it makes your food so much tastier. :) By all means, avoid the Dragon Brand. It’s extremely PUNGENT… yucks! (even my thai friends tell me so.)

And you made your own green curry paste? Salute! :D It must be very delicious with fresh paste! I don’t bother. I just get the organic ones in a jar.

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Yeah I was, but was just a short trip so no time to hang out :( And you’re lucky to have someone to ask haha! It’s so useful to be able to see how a dish comes together. It’s much better than just blindly trying to follow an online recipe. I bought a bottle from Big C of a light clear fish sauce, that they used in the school because I figured if they used it, it should be ok. Much cheaper there than here so I lugged home a big bottle LOL! It was easy making the paste, but I can imagine the prep work is the one that’s taxing, like making sambal you know? Easy to pound them all together, but time consuming to prepare the different ingredients. Had a great time :D

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Ting August 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm

awww… such a shame about no meeting up. :(

The fish sauce they used in cooking school, can you tell me what brand it is? Sometimes my friend get me very local brand that they only sell in certain province (not in supermarket). If I ever come across a good one, I’ll send it for you. :D

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 19, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Next time maybe :D I have to learn to stay in BKK for a longer time. I’m always just hopping over for a short weekend >.< It was a normal brand with a yellow label and a red circle with lots of Thai writing on it LOL! I’ll go home and send you a pic ;)

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Ting August 19, 2013 at 3:29 pm

OK! :) I ask my thai friends for recommendations normally. They can differentiate which one is good which one is bad. So far, Mega Chef (brown label) is quite good. Next level down is Squid Brand. :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 22, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Ah I did a search online and apparently this Squid brand is quite famous. I think I’ve seen it here so I’ll try that in the future.

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makeupmag
Twitter:
August 26, 2013 at 1:52 am

Dear PB,

I enjoyed reading about your experience at this cooking school! How illuminating. I love Bangkok and it’s great to learn about yet another activity to do there. I was there recently and loved the 60/70B tom yum soup I had at the food center near my hotel. The best I’ve ever tried! :D
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Paris B
Twitter:
August 26, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Thank you Mag and this is something you could consider doing with your kids some day? There was a family who had a little girl involved in the cooking although she did get a little bored halfway though haha! But I think it’s a fun family activity. The food in Bangkok is just amazing. I have no words, because every little street vendor has something delicious to sell!

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Swati
Twitter:
August 27, 2013 at 4:14 pm

i love the hat you are wearing in the beginning of the post and it sure is a fun way to showcase thai food!! nice concept and great way to learn new dishes :)

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Paris B
Twitter:
August 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm

haha it’s cute right? It’s a traditional farm hat :D Now you know what to do when you visit Thailand ;)

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Julian December 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

Thank you very much for the blog-post. I already booked a class for me and my wife and it seems, that my choice for ‘Bai pai’ wasn’t that wrong.

Merry x-mas!

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Paris B
Twitter:
December 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I hope you enjoy your experience, Julian :)

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girlie January 24, 2014 at 5:06 pm

im keen on learning new experience on my next trip

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