Sherman's Food Adventures: Urban Thai Cooking Classes

Urban Thai Cooking Classes

A cooking class? Yah, that's what I thought when I got an invitation from the Thai House Group. Honestly, what does a cooking class and Thai House have to do with each other? Well, it turns out that they run customer participatory meals. You see, the premise behind this concept is that you cook your own meal. No, no, no... Not like a Korean BBQ or hot pot. You actually cook 4 dishes from start-to-finish. Well, technically start-to-finish. Most items are already prepped and ready to go. Also, anything that needs to be fried will be taken to the kitchen. There is also someone who there to help you as well.

So we ended up meeting on a Sunday morning at Urban Thai in Yaletown. The cooking class itself takes place right in the middle of the restaurant on portable gas burners. All the ingredients are at hand and ready to go. The first item we started to prepare was the Spring Rolls. We first cooked the filling by sauteing onions, garlic, green onion, carrots, pork and vermicelli. Once finished, we let it cool a bit, added cabbage and proceeded to make the spring rolls. Turns out my rolling abilities are lacking resulting in non-uniform rolls. I guess I need more practice! They took my disfigured spring rolls into the back for deep-frying. Onto our next dish...

Which was the Pad Thai. While listening to which ingredients that were in the dish, I was a bit disappointed to see that no tamarind would be used. Oh well. So we ended up preparing the Pad Thai from scratch in the fry pan. Although it seems like an easy dish to make, timing is paramount. You see, I could've easily overcooked or undercooked the rice noodles, which would've resulted in an unpleasant texture. The trick, with this type of noodle is not to soak or cook it in any liquid before frying. All the liquid needed would be added while stir-frying. In this case, the liquid would comprise of ketchup, sweet chili sauce, vinegar, fish sauce and residual moisture from the shrimp, bean curd, egg and turnip. Bean sprouts are added at the end so they will retain their crunch. Next dish was Larb or Minced Chicken Salad. The preparation to this dish is quite simple; yet requires constant attention. Using a small sauce pan, a small amount of water is added with the chicken meat. Regular stirring is important so it doesn't stick. Once cooked and cooled, red onion, cilantro, roasted rice, lime juice, white sugar, fish sauce, roasted chili and mint leaves are mixed in.

Last dish to be cooked was the Tom Yum Goong Soup. We brought fresh chicken stock to a boil and added lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and roasted chili paste. Finally, we added the mushrooms and then the prawns last. The soup is finished off with lime juice, sugar and fish sauce while garnished with coriander leaves. We ended up making the soup last because that would probably degrade the fastest due to the temperature and the prawns. Of course the spring rolls were fried up just before we sat down to eat. Yes, all 4 dishes including the 8 spring rolls with cocktail was for one person. Too much food; but we can't really do 1/4 portions. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical at first to accept this invitation because it goes beyond what my blog is about. However, I had a great time since I do enjoy cooking. It was a real eye-opener as to preparation of each dish. I was happy to see authentic ingredients used, tamarind withstanding. It was also reassuring to see the kitchen staff were indeed Thai and knowledgeable. The regular cooking program runs from 10:30am - 1:30pm on Saturdays with 4 unique classes. Each class costs $90.00 per person (min 4 people and max 6 people). If you book 2 classes, it'll cost $170.00 per person, 4 classes for $280/person. If you book 6 people into one class, it'll cost $480.00. As you can see, the deal gets better with more classes booked.

As for the food itself, I'm not going to pass any judgment because it is not like I went to Urban Thai and ate there. After all, I basically cooked most of it myself (with pre-measured ingredients that is). What I am going to pass judgment on is the experience. For me, it seems like a reasonable price considering there is enough food to feed 4 moderately hungry people. I've attended a cooking class at Dubrulle before and it cost more than this. The Dirty Apron is generally much more expensive (yet deals with a totally different type of food) as well. So, if you are in to trying something different and want to eat as well, then the cooking classes at Urban Thai gets the thumbs up from me.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced (even better with more classes booked)
- Very user-friendly with step-by-step guidance
- Plenty of food to eat afterwards

The Bad:
- For those who cook regularly, it may not seem hands-on enough
- Not that it can be helped, but some of the food prepared first gets cold


Anonymous said...

That just seems wrong for a 'Thai' restaurant to cook Pad Thai without using tamarind. To me, that the same as using ice berg lettuce to make a caesar salad.

KimHo said...

Given the amount of food prepared, can you have take the class and have three other people arrive around the end so the four of you eat there? Just asking...

Now, $90.... I don't know. Granted, you will leave with the knowledge of how to prepare the dishes, cost of ingredients, cost of having somebody teach you and so on but... But... There is something that strikes me odd, which I can't really explain... >_<

Sherman Chan said...

I hear ya. I was surprised too about the tamarind. If it is a cooking class, I wonder if could bring my own?

Kim, that is a good question. I'm thinking you can't bring other people; but I guess you can get it all to go... Yah, when I read that it was $90, the original sticker shock phenomenon set in. But given that I've taken the Dubrulle one time cooking sessions as well, I can see that the Thai House version is a better "deal". But yah, the Asian in me sets in afterwards. But again, the cooking class is merely and ultimately a form of entertainment. So, the cost is really all about that. For me, it sure beats go carting for only 30 minutes for the same price. But that's just me.

KimHo said...

In that case, we might have different perspectives: Cooking class is not necessarily a form of entertainment for me as much as learning a survival skill. And, given that I know how to cook already, it does not help the case (OK, not Thai food bu you get the gist).

Granted, in a per hour basis, it would be $30/hour and it sounds like a decent entertainment deal (and having something to eat at the end of it); however, me being serious about it is not necessarily entertaining. Then again, it probably falls into the realm of me not being their target market, as I would rather spend that money in ingredients and prepare a large meal [getting a cookbook in the process? :) ]

Teresa said...

I think for timing sake they prepped all the food for you. I'm on the side of that I wished I did prep my own ingredients and be more hands on. And yep the Asian side of me kicked in...wishing I used a wok instead. But then again that morning I was starving so good thing our cooking was done after a couple of hours.

Sherman Chan said...

Ya Kim, I would be more in it for the entertainment aspect since these types of classes are not meant to be "real" cooking classes. If you wanted one of those, you'd go to VCC night class. Anything from Dubrulle, Dirty Apron or Thai House for a one shot deal is more for fun than anything else. And I'm sure that is the target customer for these classes anyways.

Victoria said...

The great thing about it for me was that with all the help I felt like an executive chef lol.

Sherman Chan said...

Victoria, I think you nailed it. The main premise behind these "classes" is pure fun. That's about it.

fmed said...

I work in Yaletown and it pains me that the Thai restaurants there are really not worth the time. Urban Thai, in particular, serves a thinly veneered rendition of "Thai" cuisine.

To charge $90 to teach you to cook Thai food incorrectly is just poor form. Surely the must know about the long ongoing tamarind/ketchup thing!

Sherman Chan said...

Hey fmed! Hey, I don't disagree with you about the food and cooking process. Don't even get me started on the tamarind thing... But my point in this post is that the food is secondary. It's a form of entertainment in my books. Like anyone would actually learn anything pertinent in these classes anyways... Much like the time I did the one class at Dubrulle, it was for fun and I enjoyed it.

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