Sunday, 30 September 2018

What a wake up call!

Watching me from the apex of the roof
So for the last few mornings, at 6am, there has been something clearly on my tin roof, making a lot of noise!

This morning, I decided, in a towel, to investigate. I was hoping all the guests were still asleep!

As I looked at my roof, I saw 2 cute baby monkeys looking back! So I rushed back for my phone to try and take a picture/video of them.

Now whilst there are loads of monkeys on the island, this is only the second time I have seen monkeys near my resort. Both times were in low season, so they may be hungry and looking for food.

I think I might be up early for the next few days and I think some of my guests might be joining me! Probably should make sure I am fully clothed next time!

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Another Thai Cookery School?

May, the owner and teacher at May's Cooking School
Yes indeed, it is a new season and yet more cookery schools are opening up on Koh Lanta. This year May, from May's Kitchen has built and opened one near her home in the hills of the island. So why choose this one?

1. Well it could be because May has been a chef on this island for as long as I can remember and runs the hugely successful May's Kitchen.

2. It could be because she speaks great English.

3. You have tried her food and really want to eat it at home!

4. Or it could be due to the fact that learning from May is like learning from your mama!

Indeed whilst I watched May teach her first class this year, she regaled the story how she learnt to cook from her grandma and how her grandmother taught her to cook with 'her heart!' And whilst she was teaching, her two beautiful daughters both walked by us to run May's Kitchen as their mama taught them!'

Only fresh ingredients
May is quite a lady, softly spoken, very knowledgeable and sometimes surprisingly funny, which probably helps when your partner is Irish! She instills calm wherever she is and makes cooking look simple and most of all enjoyable.

On this day, May had two students, Sarah (German) and Thomas (French), both of whom live in Salzberg in Austria. May has built her beautiful, rustic outside teaching area with only space for 4 students, because she wants to 'keep the classes small and personal,' she tells me. Shaded by the trees, which was fortunate because the sun was blazing, the area is cool, calm and serene (much like May).
Thomas & May comparing Som Tams
May takes her time with her students, she cooks 4 meals, but individually, eating as we finished each course. She explains all the different ingredients she uses, why she uses them and where she sources them from. For May, freshness and environmentally friendly produce is a must, so she sources most products from the island. With every ingredient, she explains what it is, why it is good for you and, if you cannot source that ingredient at home, what you can replace it with.
Sarah is very proud of her accomplishments!
For the first course today, she shows Sarah and Thomas how to make a Som Tam (Papaya Salad), she explains how a Thai would traditionally make it and how this is often changed to please Western taste buds. This is where she encourages her students to taste constantly and adapt the mix to their taste.

After completing the dish, May, Thomas and Sarah, sit down together in a Sala to eat together. There is no rush here, and plenty of soft drinks to rejuvenate you.
May teaches us about baby Bananas!
The second course is Pad Thai and May demonstrates how to make the Pad Thai sauce before they make the dish together. At this point May is able to adjust the meal according to the students dietary requirements. This time May makes the Pad Thai for me with both chicken and prawns and it is delicious. Thomas comments on how delicious the prawns are and May informs us that that is because they are from the sea (I did mishear this and thought she said tree!) and were freshly caught by local fishermen.
The school is only designed for small intimate classes.
At this point we are all full but after a short interval May starts with the third course, Green Curry, she says that if Sarah and Thomas are too full, they can take this meal home with them and eat later. But once they start cooking, the smells are so good, they quickly get their appetite back!

May, Thomas & Sarah enjoy a Green Curry together
Finally, May makes mango and sticky rice  and despite finishing all the food they have had already, Thomas and Sarah make space for one last dish! Although I think they may not have eaten for the rest of the day.

May only offers one class per day, to small groups only. The class is not rushed, so whilst you make 4 dishes, there is plenty of time between courses for you to regain your appetite and if you don't, May will send you home with a take away. If you would like to book this course, ask at May's Kitchen or ask me to organise for you.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

This week's recommendation - Larb Bplaa

 Eating Larb Bplaa whilst watching Jo make cocktails
This week's Thai dish was an easy one for Sibua (Sibby to her friends) and I to agree on. I have known Sibby since she was a young girl and now she is married with a child of her own. Whilst she was growing up she used to work with her mum (May) in a bar and restaurant known as Opium (unfortunately not here anymore). One day I went in there for dinner and could not decide what I wanted and Sibby chose Larb Bplaa for me.
Sibua, Head Chef at May's Kitchen
Now this was an interesting choice for me, firstly I love my Thai dishes spicy and Larb Bplaa (Salad Fish literal translation) is certainly that. Not a salad as you would see in England, a Larb is usually meat or fish ground with chillies, spring onions, mint, onions, maybe a few other vegetables and a spicy, but fruity sauce. Sibby's Laab is slightly different to the Traditional Isaan dish, as the white fish is battered and deep fried, which gives this dish a lovely crunchy texture.
Everything is cooked fresh and in front of you at May's Kitchen
From the first moment I tried Sibby's Larb I was hooked and I recommended it to so many people, who could not remember the name, that it became know as Mellisa's dish at Opium! Even the non-spice lovers love the taste of this dish, but needed a lot of rice and cucumber (traditionally used to take the kick of a spicy dish away) with it.
Crunchy battered White Fish, in a spicy and fruity sauce
If you are not a fish lover, and I was not until I tried this, this dish is also commonly served with chicken (Larb Gai), beef (Larb Nua - really delicious), pork (Larb Moo) and sold in most thai restaurants. Sticky rice is usually ordered as an accompaniment to this dish.

Sibby's Larb Bplaa now available at May's Kitchen
If you want to try Sibby's version, she now works as Head Chef at her mother's restaurant in Lanta, May's Kitchen.

Friday, 7 September 2018

Try something new!

Khao Soi Gai
Having lived on Koh Lanta for 12 years, I have tried quite a lot of Thai dishes but now I tend to pick the same dishes over and over again.

So I thought it would be an idea to explore Thai cuisine in a little more depth and try some different dishes that you too might want to give a go.
This week, May from May's Kitchen has selected Khao Soi for me. Khao Soi (Pronounced 'Cow Soy') is actually found in many Southeast Asian countries (Burma, Myanmar and Laos) but in Thai it is considered a Northern Thailand dish. In Thai the name means Street Rice (Khao - Rice, Soi - Street), but it may well be a variation of the word for noodle in Burmese.
Many different elements to a Khao Soi (The orchid is particular to May's Kitchen)
The Thai dish is traditionally a spicy coconut soup, similar to a Massaman, which has both boiled and deep fried egg noodles which gives a lovely texture to the dish. Alongside the main soup, there is usually, some chopped onion, coriander, bean sprouts, pickled greens and half a lemon. The dish is usually served with only vegetables (Pak), chicken (Gai), pork (Moo), beef (Nua).

May, has been a chef on Lanta for as long as I have lived on Lanta and as well as running a restaurant on Koh Lanta is about to open a new cookery school and she hopes that this dish will prove a popular dish to learn to cook. I wish her a great first season as a cookery teacher!

Why not try Khao Soi today? Why not try May's Kitchen today if you are on Lanta?