The Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts

What we say: 3.5 stars

Can one ever get bored of sitting on a postcard-perfect beach? To be honest, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ On a day when you have had just too much sun, or the monsoon rains have set in, what does Samui have to offer when lazing under a coconut tree is not an option? A Thai cooking course of course!

Platters of yummies

Platters of yummies

A day at SITCA will stimulate all the senses. From the exotic aromas wafting from the kitchen, and the smell of sautéing curry paste tingling your nose, to the vibrant colours of an array of chillies, used to prepare the Thai curry paste, you will experience a sensory overload. Cooking at SITCA is not quiet affair. The sounds of pounding and grinding of ingredients for pastes and marinades, sizzling, chopping and laughter and chatter fill the air. Finally your sense of taste is satisfied, as you enjoy the feast that you have prepared. Students may ask a friend to join them at the end of the course to savour this meal.

SITCA offers two cooking classes daily Monday to Saturday – one starting at 11:00am, and the other at 4:00pm. Each day the menu is different but you can make your choice from the website, choosing the menu that suits your palette best. Besides the daily introductory classes, SITCA offers intensive programmes for professional chefs or experienced cooks. There is the option of a one-week or two-week course, which takes a hands-on approach, covering all aspects of cuisine, as well as instruction in the techniques involved in Thai cooking.

You're doing it wrong!

You're doing it wrong!

During a visit to SITCA, we chatted to Jimmy Shu, a master chef from Australia who has travelled extensively and has a passion for Asian food. He enthusiastically insisted that ‘this is the best cooking course he has ever attended’, a powerful statement from someone so respected in the culinary world. He had only the highest praise for owner, Khun Roong, who is the main instructor for this programme. Exploring the kitchen, Jimmy examined ingredients that Khun Roong had purchased for the day. ‘Is this not the best ginger you have ever seen?’ he proclaimed with delight, as he sniffed a large fat root of this fragrant spice.

So often cookery schools only see their students as numbers, taking their money and pushing them through the system. This is not the case with SITCA. They want their students to understand the methods and why one ingredient is used and not another, why one spice is used for this curry paste, and a different one for another.

Little bundles of exquisite pain

Little bundles of exquisite pain

Each menu includes making a Thai curry paste from scratch. This process is intensely satisfying as ingredients are mixed and pounded together into a paste, the heady aromas of spices, herbs and garlic being released into the air during the process. In Thailand, we are lucky to be able to buy curry pastes at the market, each stall having their own family recipe, and each differing in strength. In saying this, it is great to be able to make your own paste, and the process is surprisingly simple and not at all time consuming. Mix more than you require, and it can be kept for up to a month. Knowing what ingredients go into the paste, makes the enjoyment so much more, and helps you differentiate between the Thai curries available. A newcomer to Thailand seldom knows the difference between a green, red, yellow, Panang, or Massaman curry. Attending a course at SITCA makes one understand what goes into which curry, as well as which curries originate from which region.

Students are provided with a booklet of the recipes – theirs to keep and make notes in. They also receive a DVD to take home, with the recipes and photos, demonstrating the steps in the preparation and cooking process.

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~Harriet van Horne, American journalist.

More details
Opening Hours: Classes are twice a day – 11:00am and 4:00pm
Last updated: 21st March, 2015

About the author:
Rosanne Turner relocated to Thailand in 2010 from South Africa. She enjoys sharing her discoveries of Samui after walking every beach, hill, coconut grove and forgotten path in search of that memory-making beach bar. You can follow her blog at Travelling Pen.
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