Cooking with Koong

For my last full day, solo, in Bangkok I took the train to the weekend market early in the morning to see if I could find the lady who had sold me one wonderful top I wanted more of. It is an easy ride on the train, no stops, less than a dollar. Surprisingly I was able to found her again amidst the 7000 stalls. I wandered around a bit more, a strong ice coffee in a little plastic carrying back to keep me awake and hydrated, until I couldn’t stand the heat anymore.

Returning to the train I walked against a stream of thousands, no tens of thousands of people on the way to the market. My timing had been perfect.

For the afternoon I had signed up for a cooking class. After our private cooking class in Changmai last year, this was a very different experience. I counted some 25 people waiting at the assembly point. We were swiftly formed into three groups each with an instructor. We walked a few hundred meters to the mostly deserted vegetable market. We were each given a cute little basket to create the illusion of shopping for the food we were going to prepare though most was already purchased in the morning, when the market was a bit more alive and the produce fresh.

Our instructor gave us a brief intro to Thai herbs as greens are called, sniffed and smelled a few and then, from a pre-arranged pile, we each took some stuff and put it in our basket and headed back to the school.

Three classrooms on three floors were filled for the afternoon session. The morning session was already full and the evening session was too late for me. Our instructor was a peppy young Thai lady who had learned a smattering of Dutch (ik hou can jou, lekker, eet smakelijk), German, Chinese and other languages from her students. My fellow students were two Filipina sisters (one living in Japan, the other in Vienna), a Brit living in Malaysia with his Malaysian wife, two young German men trekking on a low budget through Southeast Asia, and a couple from Singapore.

We donned our aprons and then had our class sitting on the ground, like cooking is done traditionally in most of the world. We each had a sharp knife, a cutting board and, outside the room, our own gas stove and wok. We learned how to make coconut cream and milk (not entirely from scratch), tom yum soup, fresh spring rolls, pad thai, green curry and mango sticky rice. It was more or less the same menu we had in Chiang Mai, except here two helpers did a lot of the prep work, so our cutting and squeezing and pounding was mostly giving us a feel for what it takes to get ready for the actual cooking. Only the wok part we got to do entirely on our own – a row of 9 people standing in front of stoves and the teacher on the other side giving us instructions and doling out the ingredients we had played with, plus more fillers and protein.

After each menu item that we had prepared we returned to the dining area where we sat at tables and consumed the fruit of our, not so very hard, labor. It was an enjoyable experience although I was not very impressed with the green curry. My table mate also pushed it away; too salty, too much fish sauce.

On my way home I had one last foot massage, splurging with the whole hour one for 8 dollars. How I will miss these. Back at the hotel I followed Axel in his plane across the Chinese Sea and then the Pacific and then the great American planes, using the Flightradar24 app which even shows the land (or water) gliding by underneath the plane. When he landed at JFK I was asleep.

I had one more work call for my next assignment, one of only very few work incursions into my vacation, and then packed my bags.

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