The Edinburgh Festival is the city’s most exhilarating annual event, but occasionally a little time-out is needed from the frenetic buzz of comedy shows, buskers and pedestrian packed streets. Booking a two hour cookery course at the Krua Thai Cookery School is just the tonic.
This prestigious Thai cookery school, with its enviable list of clients is a blissful oasis of calm just a few minutes from the city centre; while on a rainy grey day like today it is quite simply, paradise. A traditional Thai greeting, beaming smiles and heady scent of orchids welcomed us into the elegant Edinburgh townhouse while evocative works of South Asian art and the beautifully carved decorations which filled the foyer instantly transported us to Far East.
Rujira Herd or ‘Ru’, the course leader and school founder, led us into an inviting and sumptuously appointed dining room to meet and get to know our fellow cooking companions. Thoughts of rain vanished as cups of delicately fragrant jasmine tea and pieces of fresh pineapple coated in sugar syrup were placed in front of us and Ru explained what to expect from the afternoon.
Tea savoured, we were presented with a menu of the Thai delights we’d be learning to prepare that day, along with a pristine and satisfyingly starched apron and hat; to really feel the part. Then off we went to ‘Ru’s kitchen’.
During the two hour course we were invited to taste, touch and smell all manner of authentic Thai ingredients from palm sugar to pandan leaves while Ru bustled professionally around the kitchen effortlessly creating Tom Ka Gai (chicken and coconut soup), pork and chicken fried wontons, a tamarind infused marinade and Tang Thai (a dessert of melon with a pandan infused sugar syrup). We were convinced the mouth-watering aromas emanating from the kitchen must have drifted at least as far as the Royal Mile.
While trying our hand at chopping an assortment of familiar and mysterious Thai ingredients and shaping silky soft wontons, Ru regaled us with stories: of her home in Thailand; of her love of Scottish ingredients; her life as a language teacher in Edinburgh; working with Albert Roux and cooking for five star super yachts; of travelling the world as a speciality chef.
Ru is a passionate, generous and inspiring teacher who keeps nothing secret. Spanish garlic, Chinese oyster sauce and the correct consistency of palm sugar were just a few tricks of the trade she revealed during the course. Her humour and enthusiasm, not just for Thai cuisine but for almost everything, was utterly infectious and made it abundantly clear why her school is such a success. Her extraordinary work ethic and love of what she does shine through. It is testament to the school’s calibre, and Ru’s warm welcome, that four of the day’s guests had attended courses before; two having been five times!
Daily two hour cookery workshops are offered as part of the Edinburgh Festival until 27 August, but the school also run a year-round programme of professional and non-professional courses, from fruit carving to coaching in five star cuisine. Catering for most dietary requirements, Krua Thai offers accessible Thai cookery to all, whether you’ve never seen a stick of lemongrass before or you’re a professional chef wanting to learn the intricate craft of vegetable carving.
The best bit of the day? Sitting down to a three course feast of dishes you’ve helped prepare; their heavenly flavours whisking you from Edinburgh to Thailand in the blink of an eye. We didn’t even notice it had stopped raining. Heaven.
The Thai Cookery Workshop runs at the Krua Thai Cookery School until 27th August, 13:00.