I was in Thailand recently and was lucky enough to take a cooking class in Khao Lak, which is in the Phang Nga province in the south. Khao Lak is a touristy town that serves as a departure point for dive boats heading to the Similan and the Surin Islands. There are many options for cooking lessons in Khao Lak, but I was drawn to Boonyarit Kitchen by two things: first, the bold advertisement of vegetarian options available, and second, the positively magnetic and joyous Chef, Kun Aek (who also spoke great English).
Aek runs the courses in a pleasing way. He teaches just one group at a time, and begins with a field trip to the local market. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the course, and found it to be a treat to be able to ask him about the foods I didn't recognize and get my questions answered about what I saw.
After the market, we went back to his restaurant, where my cooking companion and I had already perused the restaurant menu and had each chosen an appetizer, soup, main and dessert to prepare. Lucky for me, the menu has a section dedicated to vegetarian and vegan food. Aek was a patient, clear and non-hovering teacher, and we carefully made our appetizers in his tidy little restaurant kitchen. I made vegetarian spring rolls, and my dining companion made Larb Gai (spicy chopped chicken salad).
Next we cooked our soups. I chose Tom Kah with Tofu (spicy coconut based soup), and my cooking companion chose Tom Yam Goong (spicy prawn soup with herbs). They were exquisitely delicious. Unfortunately we were both already getting full full full (maybe I didn't need to eat all 5 of those spring rolls).
Next we prepared our main dishes. My cooking companion made a ginger chicken dish he had been enjoying all over Thailand, and I made a minced tofu dish with basil and chilies.
Again, both were fantastically delicious: spicy, flavorful, fresh and complex. It was such a treat to get to see how these dishes were made by a professional chef, and I was surprised to realize how much of the preparation (all of it) is done after the customer orders. Aek's food at Bookyarit Kitchen is truly prepared as you would prepare food at home; from scratch.
For dessert, both of us ate the rich, creamy, sweet and slightly salty bananas in coconut milk.
The quantity of food that we prepared was staggering, it was a full four-course meal, and Aek was kind enough to box up the majority of our main dishes for later consumption.
Our experience at Boonyarit Kitchen was an absolute pleasure. Aek was great both interpersonally and as a chef, the food was plentiful and delicious, and we got as much individual attention as we needed. Plus, after seeing Aek in the kitchen, I'd say the Boonyarit Kitchen is one of the better restaurants in Khao Lak (where we found most of the other restaurants to be unfortunately watered down for tourism.)
If you're in Khao Lak, you should stop by, if not for a full cooking class, then for a meal. My guess is that as a vegetarian or vegan especially, you won't get a better meal in the area.
Boonyarit Kitchen is located near Dr. Chusak's clinic in front of the Andaburi Hotel at the north end of town on the main road on the way to Bang Niang.
Thank you Aek and Meaw!
Baan La On,