The Art of Mastering Thai Cuisine at the Peninsula Bangkok

Situated on the banks of the city’s famous Chao Phraya River, The Peninsula Bangkok is the perfect spot to stay if you’re looking to explore the local markets (both on land and on water – Bangkok’s Taling Chan Floating Market is a must see), take a journey upstream to the awe-inspiring temples or downstream to Asiatique The Riverfront of a night (it’s complete with a London-eye equivalent which offers amazing views of the city skyline), and its in close proximity to Sky Bar – the world’s highest outdoor bar and restaurant.

While its location is no doubt a draw card, the hotel’s Peninsula Academy program is a unique highlight. Here the focus is around immersing guests in the culture and history of Thailand through a range of hands-on tours and activities.

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There’s an option to hop on a helicopter and pay a visit to Hua Hin, where you’ll explore its 560-acre vineyard and take an elephant ride (THB 27,000 for two or approx. AUD $1020), or if you’re interested in martial arts, why not learn the basic fighting techniques required in Muay Thai (THB 6,000 approx. AUD $225)? If history is your thing, take a trip on The Peninsula’s very own river boat (they have three, which transport hotel guests all around the city) and explore old temples and buildings such as the Santa Cruz church and Bangluang Mosque (THB 2,500 per person or approx. AUD $95).

I was lucky enough to take part in The Joy of Thai Cooking: An Introduction to Thai Cuisine class (THB 5000 approx. AUD $190) during my stay at the hotel, which is perfect for budding cooks and fans of Asian fare.

The day began at 9am with a trip to the nearby markets – the Peninsula has its own branded Tuk Tuk to transport guests to and from their destination. The aisles were lined with Thai vegetables, fresh seafood (and I mean fresh – fish could be found flipping around on trays), meats and dry ingredients including spices, rice, various types of noodles and even pink eggs (I am told they have been preserved, hence the unique colour).

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Pre-cooked Thai meals, from stir fries and curries through to noodle dishes are also available for the time-poor, and sweets are prominent too – there’s a stand dedicated to banana based creations, a ton of fresh fruit (the strawberries from Chang Mai were out of this world) and pre-made Thai-style desserts.

Upon our return to the hotel, we headed down to Thiptara Thai restaurant, which overlooks the Chao Phraya River.

Here, I am greeted by the hotel’s specialist Thai food chef, who is hilarious, friendly and loves to pose for a photo.

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The beginner course covers four traditional Thai dishes, and first up is the Papaya Salad with Tomatoes and Cashew Nuts – it’s a simple and tasty dish where the secret is in the dressing, which is made using a combination of lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.

I am invited to get hands on, and ground the chillies and garlic as well as combine the remaining key ingredients using a large, wooden mortar and pestle.

Next up is the famous Tom Yum Goong, a spicy and sour soup that is served with fresh prawns. Our chef has pre-prepared the stock, which is made using shell and prawn heads, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallot, coriander root and water and its been simmered for an hour.

He makes it all look too easy, adding the remaining vegetables and prawns to the mix. We bring the soup to a boil, simmer for another few minutes and tuck in.

As part of the cooking class guests receive recipes so they can recreate each dish at home – here’s our third creation of the day, the ever-popular Phad Thai.

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PHAD THAI – WOK FRIED NOODLES WITH SHRIMPS, EGGS & TOFU

Serves: four
Prep time: 1.5 hours
Garnishes: lime, green chives
Wine suggestions: Riesling or Chardonnay

Ingredients
Sauce
50ml Tamarind juice
50g Palm sugar
50g White sugar
10g Tomato paste
10ml Lime juice
10ml Fish sauce

200g Rice noodles
16pcs Tiger prawns, peeled without tail
50g Peanuts, chopped
50g Bean curd, cut small
4pcs Eggs
20g Shallot, chopped
100g Bean sprouts
50g Chinese chive, cut 1”
50g Dried shrimp, ground
50ml Cooking oil

Method
To create sauce mix together tamarind juice, fish sauce, sugar, tomato paste and lime juice, and bring to the boil. Keep simmering until it thickens.
Stir-fry shallots and bean curd until fragrant.
Add prawn, egg and noodles, keep stirring until cooked.
Add Phad Thai sauce (point one) and cook to the right consistency.
Add ground peanuts, dried shrimp, bean sprouts and chives, and place on serving plate.
Garnish with fresh chives, bean sprouts, a piece of fresh lime, chilli powder and Thai condiments.

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No meal is complete without dessert, and this Thai dish didn’t disappoint – it wasn’t overly sweet and had a lovely texture with a subtle rather than overpowering coconut taste.

KHAO NHIEW MA-MUANG, OR FRESH MANGO WITH COCONUT INFUSED STICKY RICE

Serves: four
Prep time: one hour
Garnishes: yellow beans, lime and banana leaves
Wine suggestions: Chablis, Semillon Chardonnay or Muscat

Ingredients
Sticky rice
200g Raw sticky rice
100ml Coconut milk
50g Sugar
10g Salt
2pcs Pandan leaves
4pcs Ripened mango

Coconut sauce
50ml Coconut milk
10g Sugar
½tsp Salt

Method
Sticky rice
Bring coconut milk, sugar, salt and pandan leaves to a boil on low heat until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool.
Steam the sticky rice until cooked, place in a mixing bowl and pour coconut milk over the rice. Mix well and cover the bowl. Let stand for 15-20 minutes.

Coconut sauce
Bring coconut milk, sugar and salt to a boil. Let cool.

Spoon sticky rice onto a serving plate and top with coconut sauce. Serve with cut mango.

BARS & RESTAURANTS

If you’d prefer to eat rather than cook some tasty Thai food, head down to Thiptara Thai restaurant for dinner, its open from 6pm every night.

The hotel offers a number of other dining options, including Cantonese restaurant Mei Jing (do yourself a favour and head there for lunch – the Yum Cha is second to none), international flavours are available at the buffet-style River Cafe and Terrace, plus The Lobby serves up a delicious high tea.

There’s three bars – situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, The River Bar is a great spot for an afternoon drink, the aptly named The Bar, which has a prohibition-era feel about it is located near the lobby, meanwhile The Peninsula Pool Baris perfect for those days you want to lounge in the sun, sip on a cocktail and snack on some bar food – I am told the burger is a must-try.

THE ROOMS

As a result of its prime location and wave-shaped design, each and every one of the rooms at the Peninsula Bangkok offers views of the river and city skyline – even regulars to the city will be impressed by what they see.

While the hotel was built in 1998, the rooms exude an old-world luxury – think hard wood furnishings, oversized lamps and marble bathrooms complete with Oscar de la Renta amenities.

Room

Prices start from 9,8000 THB++ or approx. AUD $365 per night for a Deluxe Room, while The Peninsula Suite, which spans the entire 34th floor, includes multiple bedrooms, walk-in wardrobes, a butler’s room, dining room for 10, gym and outdoor area is the cream of the crop.

Next time your headed overseas with a stopover in Bangkok on the cards, rather than wait around the airport in transit why not get out and explore the city – there’s so much to do and see, you won’t know where to start.

The Peninsula Bangkok

Where: 333 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan, Bangkok 10600, Thailand

Getting there: a number of airlines fly direct to Bangkok. The Peninsula offers a limousine airport pick-up service, or alternatively you can arrange to have a taxi pick you up. The hotel is around 45-60 minutes from the airport depending on traffic and time of day.

Website: http://bangkok.peninsula.com

Brea stayed as a guest of the hotel.

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