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Learning to Make Goong Makham in Thailand

Man in chef hat learning how to make Thai food On a recent trip to Thailand, John and I stayed at the beautiful InterContinental Hua Hin, which is about 125 miles south of Bangkok in an area favored by the Thai Royal family. It is where King Rama VII built a beautiful summer palace on the beach which is now a tourist site. Nearby is where the current king made his residence until his poor health required him to move to a Bangkok hospital. Hua Hin is a popular beach destination for Asians and Europeans and it’s a great place to take a cooking class.

One of the things we love about InterContinental Hotels is the many ways they share the local culture with their guests. One morning we got up early and went down to the beach so we could be there at sunrise to offer the Buddhist monks alms of food and drink. The hotel had prepared packages of food for us to give the monks who were on their morning walk. We presented the offerings and, in return, we received a blessing. Offering food is one of the oldest Buddhist rituals and giving food is not seen as charity but as “making merit” that leads to spiritual growth.

It is common to see the monks walking in the early morning. The Thai people come out from their homes with a pot of rice and ladle it into the monk’s alms bowl. Other people offer a curry-like mixture in small plastic bags that they add to the bowl. The food offerings the hotel gave us were all pre-packaged.

Offering alms to monks is a common practice in Thailand.

Offering alms to monks is a common practice in Thailand.

Cook Like a Thai

The IC hotels also offer Thai cooking classes. In the morning we got into a tuk-tuk, a motorized open-air vehicle popular in Thailand, with Chef Worawut and visited the Chatchai Market. Asian markets selling fresh produce are called “wet markets” because the floor is wet from the melting ice that keeps the fish fresh and from misting the fresh vegetables receive.

Man showing off his Prawns with Tamarind dish.

Husband John shows off his Prawns with Tamarind dish.

At the market, we bought tiger prawns and other ingredients needed for our recipes. The variety of fruits, vegetables, fish and other items in Asian markets is amazing. Chef Worawut explained that most Thai homes have very small refrigerators so people shop daily for fresh ingredients. One of the items in our recipe was tamarind, a pod-like fruit. Chef Worawut explained that we’d use bottled tamarind juice.

The cooking classes costs $35 per person with a minimum of two participants. One of the bonuses of a cooking class is that not only do you get to learn more about the culture you’re traveling in, you also get to eat what you make.
In our class, we prepared three items including Goong Makham (Prawns with Tamarind Sauce), which was delicious.  –by Sandra Scott, RFT SE Asian Correspondent

Click here for the Prawns in Tamarind recipe you can make yourself.



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.