2000s Archive

Cooking Schools: The Thai House

A relaxed program in Bangkok, Thailand. See Gourmet’s full list of the world’s best cooking schools.
The Thai House

The 19th-century-style architecture at The Thai House, just north of Bangkok, is in keeping with the school’s traditional approach to cooking.

Prasan (“Pip”) Fargrajang likes to chat by the jackfruit tree and basil bush as songbirds twitter over the mortar and pestle loaded with lemongrass, garlic, galangal, and chiles. “Keep pounding,” she says. “The paste should have no lumps at all, just a glassy sheen.” That’s the sort of counsel Pip collected from her mother, master of the family farm kitchen. Take a class at The Thai House and you will learn village secrets in the lazy haze of a Thai afternoon ruled by repetitious chopping, mincing, and grinding by hand, employing the critical tools of muscle and mindfulness. But a pot of melancholy simmers on Pip’s stove, for the olden days she so loves have all but disappeared. Neighboring farmers have sold their lands and moved to the city; mansions have sprouted in former paddies. Modern-day mothers abandon the mortar and brandish the electric blender instead. Still, Pip persists, beckoning foreigners to stay in her teak house on stilts (an archetype built in 19th-century Ayutthaya style by craftsmen in 1990) in this area of canals that make up Nonthaburi, a waterside suburb a short boating distance from Bangkok. Pip will send you for a slow spin up the canal on a longboat, past a floating vendor peddling afternoon snacks. It’s a rare vestige of old times. Let Pip tell you of her childhood, when a funeral would prompt all the villagers to gather with cooking knives in hand, ready to share the workload, and about harvesttime, when neighbors helped neighbors. Go soon, before the rest of her world slips away. (011-66-2-903-9611; thaihouse.co.th; $280 for two days, double occupancy, including meals)

What I Learned

To put a stalk of lemongrass in water, watch it grow, then pot it in the kitchen.

Biggest Surprise

So much sugar. I’ve always tasted it in Thai dishes, but a day with Pip is laced with diabetic danger.

Before You Go

You will have hours of free time in the late afternoon and evening. Arrange transportation to visit attractions outside of sleepy Nonthaburi. And be prepared for heat: Traditional Thai houses broil, and there’s no air-conditioning.


Stir-Fried Pork with Long Beans

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