Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Masterclass at Saba To Go (and Childerbeasts with Chopsticks)

Back in pre-Childerbeast times, Little Sis spent quite some time in Australia and the Far East.  One of her favourite places where she lived for a while was Thailand living in a hut, cutting hair on the beach for beer money and developing a love of the local food.  Down where I live, Thai food is treated as a poor relation in the local Chinese restaurants and is a small add-on to the main menu.  This saddens me because Thai cuisine is so fresh and aromatic and MSG free for those who are sensitive to it.

Image courtesy of Saba

I was a very lucky duck recently to be invited to a private Thai cookery masterclass at Saba To Go, the takeaway arm of Saba restaurant in Dublin 2. I'm very familar with Saba's cuisine (and their excellent cocktail menu!) and I also own a copy of Saba: The Cookbook which is filled with exquisite photos of daily life in Thailand and some exceptional recipes, so I was very excited to learn more.



This is Tao.  He's a genius.

Saba's Head Chef Taweesak Trakoolwattana (Tao for short) met me in the shop, kitted me out in whites and a very attractive hat and brought me into the kitchen to explain the basic principles of Thai cuisine.  It's all about balancing flavour using simple ingredients : light soy, dark soy, fish sauce, lime juice.  Tao is from a pretty large family- he's the ninth out of twelve - so he was taught to cook by his Mum Khun Saelee when he was ten.

 


After a quick look at the ingredients and Tao's impossibly fast chopping skills, it was time to cook.  We started with Laab Gai - a spicy minced chicken salad.  I make something very similar with minced pork so it was good to know that I was on the right track with my flavour balance.  The salad takes less than 10 minutes to prepare once you've crushed, chopped and sliced the ingredients you need.


Next was a Glass Noodle Salad with Prawns, Cashew and Chili.  We're heat wimps in Maison Babaduck so I begged Tao to let me go easy on the chili.  He laughed his head off...and threw in some more chili for badness.


We then made a Chicken stir fry with Aubergine which wasn't an ingredient I expected to see in a Thai kitchen but paired with crunchy Mangetout and fried shallots, it was light and packed with flavour.  Tao has a very handy analogy which helps to remember what sauce to use when.  Choose soy sauce and fish sauce like you would choose red & white wine.  Light soy should be used for cooking meat and fish sauce should be be used for cooking seafood.  Dark soy sauce is combined with light soy or fish sauce to add colour and flavour.  It's important to use Thai soy sauce rather than those from other countries as they're very different in style and taste.



All too soon, my class was over and it was time to pack everything I had made up, and head over to Little Sis where the rest of the family were waiting for dinner.


The spicy Glass Noodle salad defeated even the heat-loving Little Brother who could barely manage a few mouthfuls before begging for mercy.  The Childerbeasts claimed the Jasmine Rice for themselves and got the hang of chopsticks in five seconds flat, as you can see.  Jasmine rice is now one of their favourite foods and they still eat it with chopsticks.

Many thanks to Paul Cadden and Tao for inviting me as their guest to experience the wonderful world of Thai cookery.

 

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