A weekend in Kingston Upon Thames
Last month I found myself in Kingston Upon Thames, a wonderful Surrey market town just a short train ride from Central London. It was my first visit and I was there to attend Traverse 15, a travel blogging conference (which was awesome and I’ll write up and share soon). Although I didn’t have much free time during my two-night visit, I did get to wander around a little and get a feel for the place and I really liked it. One of the highlights of the weekend though was on Sunday when I attended a Thai cooking class.
When I was offered the opportunity to participate in the class, led by a head chef at Busaba Eathai Kingston Riverside, I could not resist! I love Thai food and I love to cook. I have been on a Thai cooking class before, over 10 years ago in Chiang Mai, at a cooking school. That was a lot of fun and I learned a lot but there’s always something new to learn and I’m never going to turn down a Thai meal – or an opportunity to get in a professional kitchen and a “behind-the-scenes” look at restaurant life. Not that this was my first time in a professional kitchen; back in college, I did my time in a well-known fast-food restaurant!
Getting our chef on!
We arrived at the restaurant early on the Sunday morning. It was so lovely to have the restaurant to ourselves as we were greeted by Chef Hesh Daud, our head chef and teacher for the class.
We were kitted out in Chef whites, given a tour of the kitchen and sent to wash our hands before the cooking lesson really started.
On the menu
Our lesson for the morning was to prepare:
- Som tam salad
- Fish cakes
- Pad Thai
Som tam salad
Som tam (or som tum) is a spicy salad made from shredded unripened papaya. Hesh informed us that in Thailand, when papaya is unripened and green it is considered a vegetable; when it ripens and turns yellow, it becomes a fruit. Hesh also advised alternatives to green papaya which offer a “crunchy” consistency and will easily carry flavour e.g.;
- green apple
Hesh ensured all ingredients were prepared for us, so we didn’t need to peel the papaya, so we jumped right into pounding the garlic and chilli in a traditional Thai pestle and mortar. That was a lot of fun and the sounds of the wooden pestles pounding against the clay mortars, momentarily took me back to Thailand.
As we created our Som tam, we sampled some of the ingredients and Hesh relayed stories from his childhood about eating palm sugar, which when eaten alone, is a lot like fudge.
We combined the salty, sour, sweet and spicy ingredients, staples in Thai cooking, to create our som tams.
Next up we returned to the kitchen to prepare our fish cakes. A mixture of white fish (sea bream and sea bass) was used as a base for the fish cakes. Hesh informed us that they use white fish because although it has little flavour, it holds flavour really well, when combined with something. Amongst other ingredients, red curry paste was used to flavour the fish cakes, and raw prawns and French beans were used to add texture.
We had a lot of fun mixing the ingredients by hand – fish cakes are a little squishy and we got the mixture everywhere! 🙂
Have you tried Pad Thai? It’s one of my favourite Thai dishes. Hesh gave us a demonstration of how to cook Pad Thai the Busaba way and then we took our turns to cook. Well, I say that’s what happened next but what really happened was Hesh served up his Pad Thai and we all dived in to sample it – it was perfect!
We really worked up an appetite all morning working hard in the kitchen and couldn’t wait to sample it all. This may not have been an edition of Master Chef, but we all left feeling a little proud of our efforts and rather full from over-eating! 🙂
As if we didn’t have enough food, Hesh had another surprise for us – the house special; calamari! I honestly can say this was the best calamari I have ever tasted. Fact. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.
This was such a fantastic way to spend a rainy Sunday morning; had the weather been different I imagine it would have been lovely to sit outside the restaurant, by the river, enjoying the food, a little conversation and watch the world go by.
If you happened to see me leaving the restaurant with a massive take-out box, I promise, that was not for me! It was for my blogger buddy, Ed of RexyEdventures. 🙂 The other bag I was carrying was full of goodies from Busaba; that was for me! 😀
Thank you to Hesh, Busaba Eathai, Kingston First and Traverse Events for organising this. Not forgetting my fellow bloggers, who participated in this experience with me:
- Louise Collins, My Little Tale
- Nayna Kanabar, Simply.food
- Peter Parkorr, Travel Unmasked
- Heidi Roberts, Heidi Roberts Kitchen Talk
- Asma Younus, Jet Set Chick
Sometimes when you yearn to travel far but have neither the time nor the budget to do so, you have to get creative and there are lots of ways you can do this. If you’re a bit of a foodie (like me!), then a fantastic way to immerse yourself in an alternative cultural (and culinary) experience is to attend a cooking class, like the Busaba Eathai class in Kingston. I highly recommend it and it’s a great example of an activity you can do in your home town (or close by) as part of the #Take12Trips challenge. Of course if you’re around the London area, get yourself over to Kingston Upon Thames; did you know you can use your Oyster card on the train to get there?
Disclaimer: I visited Busaba Eathai, Kingston Upon Thames last month following attending Traverse 15, a conference about travel blogging. Busaba Eathai partnered with Kingston First to offer a limited number of Traverse 15 conference delegates a free Busaba Eathai cookery experience. I have not been asked to write this review but it was a lot of fun, very informative and the calamari is amazing – all the food was great, even the stuff I cooked! 🙂 For more information about how I partner with brands, please visit my Ethics page.