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There are several Thai cooking classes available to residents and visitors of Koh Samui but none of them offer quite the same experience you will find at Island Organics. Here you will not only take a journey into Thai cuisine but one that literally takes you back to its very roots. The Island Organics Thai Cooking Class will whisk you away from the hustle and bustle of the island to a heavenly place where time almost seems to stand still, a place where the organic ingredients you will use to create authentic and delicious dishes are flourishing in the fertile ground under the warm Samui sun waiting to be picked by your own fair hands.
The ingredients used at the Island Organics grow free from chemicals and pesticides in a vast garden tended by proprietor Lat (Rattanaphorn Dokduang) who has a passion for fresh organic produce, a flair for creative dishes and a talent for cooking up Thai cuisine it would be hard to rival.
Originally from Sisiket in Issan in the far north east of Thailand Lat has spent the last twenty years cultivating her cooking skills and the last few years cultivating her gardens to provide the kind of ingredients worthy of her dishes. At age twenty she moved from her Northern Thai village to Bangkok and found work in restaurants across the capital. With years of experience under her belt she packed up her considerable skills and brought them to Koh Samui that has been her home since 2004.
It would be fair to say that Lat’s humble beginnings with a family that had plenty to offer but no money and no way to make a living, set her out on a path of making good use of what nature has to offer. Her life was spent foraging in the dense Thai jungles and cultivating crops to put on the dinner table after being cooked in fires that she herself built since age seven.
With a family of her own to take care of in 2012 Lat and her husband officially opened the Island Organics Micro Farm, the idea was to provide sustainable and chemical free produce or herself and her growing family. From day one Island Organics has retained its completely organic origins and employed methods such as worm tea to encourage growth. Lat and her family started out with African night-crawler worms which enable them to cultivate rich worm tea and worm castings (worm poo) to add to the raised garden beds. Tilapia fish also provide nutrient rich food that is channeled to the plants roots, this method is 100% natural and dates back some 5,000 years.
As Lats passion for cooking continued to grow, along with her garden, many friends have joined her and her family for meals inevitably, for a chef with this level of skill, the conversations more often than not came round to suggestions that her talents must be shared and the idea of the cooking class was born. Today the thought has now been realized and one corner of this slice of organic paradise has been converted into a beautiful culinary classroom.
When we were invited to take a tour around the gardens and take part in a cooking class Tony and I jumped at the chance and although transport is provided for all classes we decided to take the easy drive to the garden ourselves.
What struck us first as we parked up and got out of the car to take in the view was the vastness of the garden, which would be better described as a small holding or hobby farm. We were then struck by the clear air, the cool breeze, the views of the surrounding hills, the fact that nothing of the island other than how it once stood in its naked and natural environment can be seen and how utterly relaxed and away from it all we felt, it was pretty breathtaking. We were then greeted by Lat’s huge smile and genuinely warm welcome. We had so many questions it was hard to know where to start. After a cold, very refreshing and organic welcome drink made from lemongrass and pandan leaves from Lat’s own garden we donned some sun hats and had a walk around to marvel at Lat’s oasis. Her passion for her gardens could not have been more evident as she lead us through raised beds of chilies, parsley, basil, coriander, tomatoes and lettuce to mention a few, we found trees laden with papaya and limes, a coup full of organic chickens and the home of the worms who make the gardens flourish so beautifully.
With baskets in hand we picked some chilies and parsley and headed up to the open air (but covered) large and beautifully equipped kitchen to embark on a dish of Thai Ginger and Tofu. With low level Thai music in the background and the view of the gardens and the rolling hills it was hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for conjuring up a dish we had never tried before under the instruction of Lat with her friendly and encouraging teaching methods and her attention to detail that carries you through the entire class. Lat gave us easy to follow instructions and demonstrations and our cooking stations we found the pots and pans, aprons, ingredients and wash bowls that we needed to feel like professional Thai chefs, even though neither of us had much of a clue how to prepare Thai dishes prior to arrival. After chopping and ‘wok-ing’ we were pretty astounded by the resulting dishes and congratulated ourselves and we dug into some authentic Thai cuisine made from what can only be described as the freshest of dishes, after all some of the ingredients had only been out of the ground for around twenty minute when we devoured them approvingly.
Feeling rather proud of ourselves and after a short break to take in more of those fantastic views we ventured back into the garden to gather the ingredients for our next dish, Green Curry with Chicken. I had previously made a Thai Green Curry, after buying a pack of curry paste and some chicken and coconut milk from Tesco but I have to say that my previous attempt bore no resemblance whatsoever to what was created in Lat’s kitchen. The difference of course was making our own paste from ingredients freshly picked from the garden. I was quite surprised how effortless Lat made the creation of this stunning dish seem and under her instruction it was pretty easy. Lat has a lovely way about her and is on hand to ensure you remember each step of the cooking process. She explains everything you need to know about the ingredients and how and why different elements of the dish need to be cooked for different amounts of time and at different temperatures.
With the Green Curry completed we then went on to make delicious Panaeng Pork and a Stir fried prawns with curry powder. With the three meals complete it was time to sit at the farmhouse table and tuck in to the fruits our labor. The dishes were delicious, the conversation flowed effortlessly, the views were still making our jaws drop and our organic surroundings never ceased to fascinate the entire time we were there and even after quite a few hours in our newly discovered organic paradise I can honestly say I was really sorry to leave.
This experience is really like no other in Samui, every visitor has their own cooking station complete with gas hob, utensils and cooking apparel, after each demonstration each guest will have the opportunity to cook each dish from scratch, Lat is a talented and enthusiastic teacher who brims with passion, the setting could not be better, the ingredients could not be fresher or healthier for that matter and the surroundings are simply stunning.
If you would like to embark on this adventure to learn how to cook Thai cuisine, or if you already know how to cook but would like to experience your favorite dishes the organic way or if you just want to go to a corner of this island and get away from it all for a while and immerse yourself in nature you can find more information by clicking here to visit the Island Organics website or here to visit the Facebook page.