Sherman's Food Adventures: Ban Dok Chee Culinary Academy (Food by Fanta)

Ban Dok Chee Culinary Academy (Food by Fanta)

 Over 6 years ago, Nikita and Bluebeard suggested that we meet up at Ban Dok Chee for Thai food out in Langley.  Being residents of the community, I trusted their judgement and made the trek out there from Burnaby (actually not that far really).  Turns out BDC happened to be a little gem of a place in the burbs with great Thai food at reasonable prices.  I went back a few times on my own and also for some food challenges that they participated in.  I had mentioned this to Mijune and she was game to try it out.  However, instead of merely eating at the restaurant, we were treated to an exclusive peak into their private dining space nearby.  Lavishly outfitted, the BDC Culinary Academy not only provides cooking lessons/parties, they can be booked for private events as well.

We were started off with a literal bite (Ma Hor) in the form of minced shrimp, ground peanut, sweet preserved radish, palm sugar, garlic, coriander root, ground pepper, cilantro served on heart-shaped pineapple.  Even though this was small in size, wow this was quite the flavour bomb.  Essentially, the diced prawn was only there for texture as the combination of peanuts, palm sugar and crunch from the salty radish hit on all of the notes.  Add in the sweet and acidic pineapple and it was truly an appetizing start to the meal.  Next, we had Miang Kham consisting of shallots, red bird's eye chili, ginger, garlic, lime and rind, roasted coconut, tamarind palm sugar, peanuts and dried shrimp on a betel leaf.  I've had this before at Bob Likes Thai Food and this was very similar except more spicy.  All of the flavours came through in layers with the initial hit of sweetness coming first and the heat coming at the end.

Next, we had something really simple in the Pla Haeng Taeng Mo, where it was curiously complex tasting.  It was merely cubes and balls of fresh watermelon topped with crispy shallots, sugar and crunchy snakehead fish jerky.  If you can imagine, the one ingredient that made each bite unique was the snakehead fish jerky.  It was mildly salty, fishy (in a good way) and of course crispy with a slight chewiness.  Think of salted watermelon and this would be it with a twist.  Refreshing palate cleanser of sorts that was also savoury.  Onto something more typical, we had the Appetizer Platter consisting of Chicken & Pork Satay, Golden Wontons and Spring Rolls accompanied by Thai peanut sauce, Num Jin Jaow and plum sauce.  I've had this before and this was good where the skewers were nicely seared and tender.  Wontons were super crunchy with a moist meaty filling with garlic, cilantro and black pepper.

Continuing with the small plates, we had the Pla' Goong or herb prawn salad with prawns, lime leaves, lime juice, tamarind juice dressing, red onion, lemongrass, mint, green apple & Thai chili on a bed of butter lettuce.  This was definitely on the sweeter side, but still nicely complimented by the acidity of the lime juice as well as little nuggets of pomelo.  Again, there was noted spice due to the addition of red bird's eye chili.  The prawn itself was large and cooked perfectly exhibiting a meaty snap.  Next, we were served both the Tom Kha Gai in a coconut shell and the Tom Yum Goong.  Although both were good, I really enjoyed the tom kha gai due to the coconut milk.  So aromatic and fragrant combined with hits of lemongrass, lime leaves and spice.  The tom yum was appealingly tangy with an appealing amount of brininess and noted spiciness.

Things got serious when the Larb Moo was presented in custom carved pumpkin kabocha and butter squash.  As much as this was impressive to look at, the actual product was even better.  Often, larb can be dry and somewhat bland at many of the Thai restaurants in town.  This one was moist, light and full of flavour from the fish sauce and especially the spicy chilis.  We ate this with the provided sticky rice.  Even more majestically plated, the Kanom Jeen Nam-Prik sported rice noodles served with minced prawns nutty, sweet and coconutty spicy curry sauce and fresh vegetables including dill, cucumber, dried Thai chilies, green beans and banana blossom.  Lots of intricate knife-work was needed to prep the ingredients.  When we mixed all of the ingredients together with the sauce, we got slippery noodles with plenty of sweetness and brininess as well as a multitude of textures.  Add in the chilis (including the seeds) and the spice level went into overdrive.

Of course we didn't forget the more typical dishes including a duo of curries.  As much as Chicken Green Curry can be somewhat of a clichéd dish at a Thai restaurant, this one was really good.  Sure, it sported the usual creaminess and aromatics from the coconut milk, but there was balanced spice, sweetness and brininess as well.  However, what made this even better was the tender chicken as well as the plethora of baby eggplant.  Normally, we'd find the long Chinese eggplant, but this was made more authentically.  Next, we were presented with the Lamb Shank Massaman Curry.  This was also a flavour bomb with an initial hit of sweetness giving way to the classic comfort from the cinnamon, cloves and star anise.  There was some heat, but traditionally, Massaman curries are more mild and this didn't deviate.  The luxurious meat of the lamb shank was a perfect match to the spices in the curry.  It was generally tender and gelatinous.

Our last 2 dishes consisted of 2 more classics including the Chicken Cashew Nut and Pad Thai.  Exhibiting plenty of wok heat, the chicken cashew nut was flavourful with a touch of spice to balance off the sweetness.  Unlike many versions I've had, the chicken in this dish was super tender and moist while still exhibiting the caramelized crispiness from the wok fry.  I particularly enjoyed that the dish was not wet with any residual moisture at the bottom of the plate.  What you see in the picture of the pad Thai was what happened after I opened up the omelette.  Inside, the rice noodles were dry and al dente with plenty of tang and sweetness from the tamarind and palm sugar.  We also found the traditional pressed tofu and preserved radish as well.  In addition to the egg being on the outside of the dish, something a bit different was the perfectly seared scallops on the side. 

For dessert, we were presented with a beautiful Strawberry & Raspberry Ice Cream dessert.  Also on the plate was taro custard, khanom thuai (Thai coconut milk custard).  Although the ice cream was on the icier side, it was truly refreshing and natural-tasting.  It wasn't very sweet, which was prefect since the custards made up for it.  They were aromatic and had a good mouth feel.  Our last dessert was the Bua Loy Khai Whan or taro rice dumplings in coconut milk. Traditionally it's served with sweeten boiled egg, but here they used meringue for a French-inspired twist.  I found this to be quite good with relatively fluffy taro dumplings.  Loved how the meringue added a creaminess, yet at the same time, it was pretty sweet too.   These desserts pretty much summed up the meal here at the BDC Culinary Academy.  Except for a few creative alterations, the food was authentic Thai with a wealth of flavours and noted spice.  Yes, you can get most of the same dishes at the main Ban Dok Chee restaurant.  But if you want the food you see in this post, it needs to be part of a private booking at the Academy.  

*All food and drink were complimentary*

The Good:
- Gorgeous (if not over-the-top) venue
- Elevated BDC food
- Higher end exprience

The Bad:
- Only available for private bookings and cooking classes

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