Deep in the Bangkok’s bustling, round-the-clock, historic flower market is a cooking school that offers atmosphere beyond compare — The Market Experience.
Founder Simon Philipp managed to snag a loft space in the actual Yodpiman Flower Market building so — as you prepare your somtam and eat your creations while downing frosty cans of Thai beer — you can watch the flower trade in full swing and, between breathing in the smells of chili, curry, and lime, you can smell orchids, jasmine, and marigolds, too.
We got to take an abbreviated version of Philipp’s most popular course “Thai Cooking with a Twist” — which typically lasts four hours — and walked away feeling that the setting, the instruction, and of course, eating our finished products, makes an all-around excellent experience of both Thai culture and cuisine.
To start the session, students meet up with Philipp and Chef Alyssa by the entrance to the market, then walk through the stalls to get to know what the fresh Thai ingredients look like — feeling, smelling, and tasting the produce, herbs, and fruit as they change hands.
They then lead their charges through the flower market, an unusual place full of rows and rows of bouquets, bags, and long garlands of floral buds. Guests will continue up some stairs in the back, past rooms where flower sellers have ate, slept, and lived for decades. It’s fascinating to see.
Round a corner and end up in a loft space, where the first part of the lesson begins. The class starts with a general introduction to Thai cooking — its foundational flavors, its most commonly used cooking techniques — and then, the group sits down for the salad course.
On the day we visited, fruit somtam was on the menu and Philipp passed out our choice of beverages — beer, or fresh coconuts — to keep us from getting thirsty as we worked.
After making a somtam according to our own preference level of spiciness and tanginess, we chatted as a group and ate together. Next up, it was into the kitchen room to make red curry with fresh shrimp.
First, we learned how to pound together our own curry paste with a krok (Thai for a mortar and pestle set), from ingredients set out in small ramekins. As we pounded chilis, kaffir leaves, lemongrass, and more, we noticed that each paste was slightly different in color and consistency, meaning that each of our finished dishes would also come out a bit differently.
Our instructor Alyssa was as funny as she was encouraging and helpful. She rushed around the table assisting us, making sure we didn’t burn our dishes, smelling each one and telling us what we needed more of, helping along our consistencies by adding another dash of coconut milk here, or bit of curry paste there.
The curries need constant stirring. As we stirred our individual woks, Alyssa dropped a bit of wisdom on us, saying: “You gotta love your curry like you love your man — slowly.”
We nearly burned our curries from laughing so hard.
Once we had done that, we brought our finished creations over to the table to eat with rice and more beer. The food was delicious, and it felt especially gratifying to eat the food we’d prepared ourselves among such nice staff and company.
As we reflected on the class and tasted each others’ dishes, we watched the many sellers nearby just waking up (many of them nap behind their stalls when the market isn’t busy), or arriving at the market to prepare for the evening rush. As we packed up our things and returned to the street outside, we were enthralled to see the market start to get into full swing.
Check out our other Coco Travel features related to Bangkok’s Historic Flower Market:
The Market Experience
Yodpiman Flower Market, 2nd floor