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Press Diary: Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok Benefits Local Youth

Kelly Stilwell of Food Fun & Faraway Places recently sailed on Holland America Line to Southeast Asia and participated in “The Courageous Kitchen Cooking Class: In Partnership With Food & Wine Magazine” shore excursion while at Bangkok, Thailand. Read selections from Kelly Stilwell’s article to hear about her Thai cooking class experience!

Thai Cooking Class in Bangkok
The restaurant where Dwight Turner holds Courageous Kitchen isn’t fancy, but it is a great way to learn about local cuisine. The kitchen has enough supplies for about twelve people to learn to make several Thai dishes. After class, everyone sits down for a meal together. Along the way, Chef Dwight shares why he decided to begin this journey. He told me, “I was looking for a way to give back, but just didn’t know what to do.” A friend invited him to volunteer to teach English, and he knew right away this was something he wanted to continue doing.

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The Courageous Kitchen team.

Courageous Kitchen Thai Cooking Class History
I had a chance to talk with Dwight about how Courageous Kitchen came to be. He told me he found a residence that had enough room for a teaching kitchen, so he decided to try to combine his passions of cooking and teaching. He said he was surprised that a city so well known for its food still had communities where people were struggling to feed themselves. Dwight’s goal was to make a difference by helping to fund basic needs, feed the hungry, and educate people so they would be able to lift themselves out of poverty. When you go on this excursion with Holland America, part of the proceeds goes toward assisting Courageous Kitchen in their efforts.

Learning About Thai Food
Before heading to the Courageous Kitchen headquarters, we took a tour of a local market. One thing I learned early on during this cruise; foodies stick together! I had already gotten to know a few of the members of our group during other foodie events, so it was fun to experience learning about Thai food with my new friends. I was introduced to a lot of unfamiliar fresh produce.

A guide explained what different fruits and vegetable were and let us try them. The one below is called Mangosteen, and it became one of my favorites. The flavor and texture are similar to lychees.

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Mangosteen at a market in Bangkok.

One of the most popular fruits in Thailand is the durian fruit. Truth be told, I didn’t try it. I’ve heard it referred to as the stinkiest fruit in the world! It must have redeeming qualities as many Thai sauces contain durian. All the street food I ate in Southeast Asia was wonderful, and Thailand was no exception. We are simply used to a different way of life here in the states. Once you get used to the open air markets, you’ll see there is nothing to fear but missing out on something delicious.

Thai Cooking Class
Once we arrived for the Thai cooking class, Chef Dwight had everything set up outside, but he left the work to us. First, one of the young women who had been learning from him taught us how to prepare a bright purple iced Butterfly Pea Flower tea. The Butterfly pea flower grows in most regions of Southeast Asia. It’s a delicious and refreshing caffeine-free drink.

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Vegetables for the soup.

For our starter of Tom Kha coconut soup, we cut up our vegetables inside where it was a little cooler before going outside to our cooking stations.

Once the ingredients were prepared, we took our plates outside and began the cooking process.

The soup was easy to prepare and everyone was excited to try it at home.

Chef Dwight had a local beer for us to try as a reward for a job well done.

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The Tom Kha soup paired with a local beer.

Our main dish was one of my favorites, Shrimp Pad Thai. Our instructor taught us how to prepare the shrimp. They cook them with the heads on, snapping them off before eating — a new experience for me! I thought about escaping with this bowl of shrimp but I’m pretty sure my classmates would have come after me!

We each put together the rest of the ingredients for the Pad Thai, adding the shrimp last. It was a fantastic meal.

We were all so full, but we still had dessert coming. Mango and sticky rice were a perfect ending to our class.

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A traditional Thai dessert.

Learn More About Courageous Kitchen
Who’s hungry for Thai food? If you get the opportunity to go to Southeast Asia, book a Thai Cooking Class with Courageous Kitchen. There’s no better way to get a real taste of Thailand, and you’ll be helping the local youth get a better start.

Kelly Stilwell’s post originally appeared on Travelocity. Holland America Line received permission to share this article. All photos in the post © Kelly Stilwell.

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