Moving into a house with a small kitchen and starting a food & drinks blog means that I don’t really do a lot of cooking anymore, which is a bit of a shame as I really enjoy it. The treat of going out for dinner is always lovely, but there’s something quite satisfying about cooking up your own dinner. So when Lynsey from Chaophraya asked if I wanted to be a guinea pig for the Bullring-based branch’s first cooking school, I was keen to give it a go.
Chaophraya, located in the Spiceal St area of the Bullring, opposite St Martin’s, is somewhere I’ve never been before, although people I know have, and there were a fair few people in which was good to see, considering it was a Tuesday night. Alev from Bella & Robot and Natasha from Nutella Tasha were also willing guinea pigs so once we were all assembled we headed upstairs where the room had been re-arranged for a make-shift cooking school.
After being introduced to the chef, we were each given our own station to work at and our own minder to make sure we had help. But first we had to dress for the occasion and were given an apron and chef’s hat each. I usually don’t wear an apron when I cook but it did give it a nice sense of occasion.
First up we were taught to make spring rolls. Chef introduced us to chopping in a professional manner, which he seemed impressed I managed to almost pick up (it’s watching all those cooking shows). The folding of the spring rolls was a little trickier, in so far as making sure they were all about the same. Then it was the bit I’m less keen on, the frying, but the assistance from our minders made this a lot less daunting. Once we’d fried a few it was time to sit down and enjoy the spoils of our hard work.
Main course was a beef and basil stir-fry with oyster sauce. This was perfect for me, I love oyster sauce and if I make stir-fry at home then this is usually what I’ll go for, but advice from Chef on using fish sauce to balance the sweetness gave it a really lovely taste and something I’ll be trying at home.
For dessert it was banana in coconut batter with syrup. Chef showed us how to peel a banana so it was handled less before going into the coconut batter. After giving it a good mix we dropped the chunks of banana coated in batter into the hot fat and waited for it to cook. I’m not a massive fan of bananas generally but the creamy banana, sweet syrup cut through the batter and was lovely, although I couldn’t eat a lot of them.
Even as someone who is pretty familiar with Thai cooking and making stir-fries at home, I really enjoyed the evening. The chance to learn some new skills and get advice from a Chef was fantastic – in fact I’d have liked more about the hot, sweet, sour and salty principles in Thai cooking. I was also impressed with their flexible attitude to dietary requirements, which didn’t seem to phase them at all.
The class costs £60 per person which at first seems a lot, but a three course meal, expert tuition and a goodie bag to go home with (ours contained a fresh apron and hat, ingredients to make the dessert and a bottle of beer) it seems pretty reasonable. I’d say they’re aimed more at people who aren’t used to cooking Thai or East Asian food but even people who are familiar with the cuisine are likely to pick up something new. The dishes change each month, so if you’re interest it’s worth emailing firstname.lastname@example.org who’s also the person you need to contact to book the classes too.
Disclosure: I was invited to Chaophraya’s cooking school free of charge in exchange for being a guinea pig. Frankly I don’t remember agreeing to write about it at all, as the invite came out of the blue, and so I definitely didn’t have to be nice about it. But I’d particularly like to thank them as my first thought of deep fat frying is no longer that episode of Spooks.