Friday, June 7, 2013

Chop, WOK & Talk Thai Cooking Class (Bloomfield)

When people ask me to name my favorite cuisine, my answer is sushi, but Thai is a very, very close second. So when the opportunity came up to attend a Thai cooking class at Chop, WOK & Talk in the Bloomfield/Friendship area, I jumped on it. Since I have already taken a sushi class at Habitat before, Thai seems to be the natural "next step."

Leading the class was owner-instructor Dorothy Tague, who has trained in Thailand and brought back with her recipes that she used to show enthusiastic home cooks in the U.S. what it takes to make authentic Thai food. The entire class lasted a little over three hours. As a team, the eight of us proteges prepared a six-course meal together while Dorothy showed us the way, explaining the Thai cooking style (for example, that the Thai cuisine has four flavors: sweet, sour, salty, and hot—and never bitter) and offering tips on where to find some of the more specialized ingredients (like the Pittsburgh Asian Center in Wilkinsburg, which I have yet to visit). Each of us was kept busy with a task we were assigned—so while one person cuts up the meat, another is stirring the sauce, and yet another measures the spices.

Chop Wok and Talk Cooking Class
Chop, Wok & Talk Thai Cooking Class

Once the food was ready, we sat down to enjoy our labor of love!

Course #1: Crispy Pork and Peanut Baskets

Crispy Pork and Peanut Baskets at Chop Wok Talk Cooking Class
Crispy Pork and Peanut Baskets

Course #2: Pesto Salmon

Pesto Salmon at Chop Wok and Talk Cooking Class
Pesto Salmon

Course #3: Lemongrass Salad

Lemongrass Salad at Chop Wok and Talk Cooking Class
Lemongrass Salad

Course #4: Pork Panang Curry

Pork Panang Curry from Chop Wok and Talk Cooking Class
Pork Panang Curry

Course #5: Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice at Chop Wok and Talk Cooking Class
Pineapple Fried Rice

Course #6: Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice at Chop Wok and Talk Cooking Class
Mango Sticky Rice

The meal was amazing and I loved every single course. I also enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the class and of course, the conversations around the dinner table.

I haven't tried all of the recipes at home yet, but the few that I did attempt have garnered much praise. My first stab was the Pork Panang Curry, for which I followed the original recipe pretty closely but it would be easy to substitute a different meat or different veggies. In fact, Dorothy suggested throwing any veggie that's about to go south into the curry. R. was really impressed when I made this! (Well, it does contain coconut cream...) Next time I might try it with some of the venison we still have leftover, considering I have had some success using venison in Asian recipes.

Panang Curry with Pork
Pork Panang Curry

I have also tried the Crispy Pork Peanut Baskets several times, each time to rave reviews! I even made a vegetarian version using some of the ingredients from the Thai Peanut Tofu Pizza I posted about a while ago—crumbled extra firm tofu heated in homemade peanut sauce, mixed with broccoli, green onions, mango, chopped peanuts, and cilantro. These were super addictive as well, except they were less suited for letting sit out too long (like at a party) as the crispy wonton shells would get soggy from the tofu.

Crispy Pork Peanut Baskets
Crispy Pork Peanut Baskets

Thai Peanut Tofu Cups
Thai Peanut Tofu Cups

One last recipe from the class that I have tried at home was the Pineapple Fried Rice, which also turned out great.

Pineapple Fried Rice
Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice
Pineapple Fried Rice

This class was a fun experience and I would go back again in a heartbeat! Chop, WOK & Talk also offers cooking classes in many other cuisines. For a schedule, check out