As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love Thai food, especially curries.  So, when I volunteered to plan a cooking class for a college group I belong to, I jumped at the chance to make it Thai-themed.  My previous Thai cooking adventures at home have yielded less than spectacular results.  Although the beef curry I made was edible, it was definitely missing something.  I was hoping that a Thai cooking class would teach me once and for all how to make a decent curry paste and a scrumptious curry.

So I started searching for Asian cooking schools in the Pittsburgh area and came across Chop, Wok, and Talk.  I emailed the owner, Dorothy Tague, to ask questions and start planning things.  She was very flexible with her schedule, rearranging things so we could get a date that was good for us.  Since she couldn’t accommodate our large number of people (seventeen) at her cooking school in Bloomfield, our group had to find an outside location at which to hold the class (a church near our school). 

When it came to picking the menu, it was a difficult task considering she had so much to choose from.  Besides Thai food, she also does Chinese, sushi, Vietnamese, tapas, Moroccan, an English tea, and brunch.  Dorothy was very helpful in the menu selection process, suggesting dishes that required more hands-on work rather than just sitting back and watching.  For our plan we could pick 4 dishes: two appetizers, an entrée, and either a noodle dish, salad, or dessert.  We settled on chicken satays, shrimp pad Thai, spring rolls, and Panang beef curry.

I was kind of skeptical going in to the class that I would learn anything, thinking maybe she would dumb down the class assuming we were beginners.  But she actually answered some questions I’d had about Thai cooking, like where in the heck do you get kaffir lime leaves (you don’t-throw in lime peel or slices) and how do you make good curry paste?  (buy it in a jar pre-made!)  She also told us about Thai food in general (like how all dishes are a balance of salty, sweet, sour, and hot), and gave instruction on the basic elements that go into any type of curry.

The food itself was pretty simple and easy to make, but it tasted amazing.  My favorites were the sauces: a spicy peanut sauce for the chicken satays, and a sour cherry sauce for the spring rolls.  I had never made spring rolls before, and I’m still afraid of giant pots of hot oil so I’m not sure I would make those at home.  However, I am eager to try my hand at all the other dishes we made, especially the curry.  Oh, the curry…beef, peas, red peppers, and jalapenos in a creamy, spicy, slightly sweet sauce. While making this dish, I realized that we used coconut cream instead of coconut milk as I had used at home.  Hmm, could this be what was lacking in my previous attempts?

All too soon the night was over, but luckily Dorothy gave us printed copies of the recipes we made so we can try them at home.  Even though the class was expensive ($40/person discounted for a corporate/group event), it is one of the cheaper ones in the area.  For her great food and good instruction, I give Dorothy Tague’s Chop, Wok, and Talk a thumbs up!

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