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Krabi, Thailand

It’s a clever, thoughtful hotel that compiles a series of indoor activities for those times you don’t feel like venturing outside for a drenching. Stretches of South East Asia, including Thailand, are known for afternoon downpours during monsoon or wet season, so ideas are welcome on what to do when it’s teeming rain.

As I absorbed the serenity of the expansive foyer at the Sofitel Krabi Phokeethra Golf and Spa Resort, I noted the list of fun things to do written neatly on a solid, wooden framed blackboard.

The activities included batik, yoga, candle-making, Thai boxing, learn how to speak Thai and bag painting but what caught my eye, (the eye of someone often chided for being a dreadful cook) was the Thai cooking class.

I adore Tom Yam and just my luck, how to make the spicy soup was part of the rainy-day tuition.

Krabi 3

On entering the custom-made cooking school, tucked in amongst gorgeous gardens, I observed piled-up spices, fresh herbs, gleaming pots and pans, glossy bench-tops and shiny silver cooking stations.

Then I saw the man who would impress me for the next two hours with his knowledge, patience and humour: chef of 40 years Phak Phakphoom.

What a sweet smile he shared as he imparted the cooking tips he’d accrued over the decades.

Krabi 1

The following is what I believe is the ultimate (and authentic) Tom Yam recipe with notes attached as told to me by Chef Phakphoom.

Tom Yam Goong ( Hot and Sour Prawn soup)

200 gram prawns, cleaned,

3 cups water (or stock)

2 garlic cloves minced.

3 thin slices fresh galangal

¼ cup fish sauce

2 stalks lemon grass

2 shallots sliced

2 kaffir lime leaves

½ cup sliced straw mushrooms

5 green Thai chili peppers ( optional)

¼ cup lime juice

1 teaspoon chili jam

1 teaspoon chopped coriander leaves

Preparation:

Heat water to boiling. Add the garlic, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and shallots to the water ( or stock). Add the mushrooms and chili peppers. Cook gently for two minutes. Add prawns to the soup and reheat to boiling. When the prawns are cooked, place lime juice, fish sauce and chili jam in a serving bowl. Pour the soup into the bowl, stir, garnish with coriander and serve.

Chef notes: Do not take the stems off the kaffir lime leaves. Only use skinny pieces of lemongrass. In order to “balance” the dish, it’s crucial to use an identical amount of lime juice and fish sauce. It’s okay to cheat and use bought chili jam since it takes a full day to make a homemade version. And as Chef suggested with a cheeky grin, “Chili jam okay for Europe people but only half spoon.” Smash chili peppers with a spoon to release the juices. Turn lime inside out to squeeze maximum juice out of it. Do not overcook prawns.

Footnote: The soup was delicious and I have proudly made it on my return from Krabi. However there’s just one thing missing at home: Chef’s guiding smile.

Krabi 2

Donna Demaio was a guest of Accor, Qantas and Bangkok Airways.

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