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Thai Cooking Course - We Cook with Saba Chef Tao
By: Niamh, 24 August 2015
Like us, you’re probably familiar with the award-winning Thai and Vietnamese eatery on Clarendon Street, called Saba, which is something of a foodie and cocktail hotspot… I seriously can’t think of many other Thai restaurants in the city which come close to the quality of this place and as for the cocktails? Ladies I am sure you know how fab they are.
But what I didn’t know, is that Saba also offers a day long cooking course with the ‘big boss’ himself, Executive Chef Taweesak Trakoolwattana, or simply Tao as he is known. And considering my version of a Thai green curry generally descends into a mushy mess even the dog turns her nose up at, well the course sounded like the perfect thing for me! So last weekend, I headed down to the Clarendon Street eatery to see what the course was all about.
There were ten of us on the course, many having received vouchers for special birthdays. All of us were Thai food lovers and were keen to devour all the top tips from Bangkok born and trained Chef Tao in the hopes that we could try and re-create some of the Saba magic at home. We were greeted with a hot bowl of Conchi for our breakfast and as the summer rain trundled down outside, this nourishing traditional creamy Thai dish seemed like just what the doctor ordered.
Next, Chef Tao took us through a staggering number of ingredients which he considered complete essentials for any balanced Thai meal. He told us about the holy trinity of soy sauce, fish sauce and oyster sauce, which forms as a base for many of the dishes. We got to taste all of the ingredients as they went around the table, everything from lemongrass, to hot chilli sauce, to palm sugar, to kaffir lime leaves and much more. It was a treasure trove of information from a truly gifted chef who clearly adores what he does.
Next the amazing Tao brought us into his kitchen for a peek behind the scenes of the inner workings of Saba and boy is it a small kitchen. It’s hard to believe the chefs are able to churn out such amazing meals with such speed in such a small space. In the blink of an eye Tao had rustled up a spicy beef stir fry with glass noodles for each of the group to try. It was delicious! Tender fillet steak pieces, crunchy veggies and a light yet flavoursome sauce. Next we moved out to a workstation in the restaurant where Tao took us through five more amazing dishes, including an incredible Tom Yaam Soup filled with chillies yet somehow not overly spicy. As he cooked, Tao continued to let us in on all the secrets of his cooking as we got to taste each of the dishes. My favourite had to be his creamy green monkfish curry and the Yam Woon Sen Salad with prawns, pork and a chilli dressing.
After we’d tasted a rainbow of Thai flavours, Tao brought us to the Asian market on Drury Street and brought us through how to choose the best Thai ingredients, from brands of sauces, to fresh produce and even the best rice to use. The insight was amazing. I don’t know about you, but while I love going to Asian shops, often I feel like I don’t know what I’m getting or even if it’s the right thing, but thanks to Tao, I now know my A grade Soy Sauce from my C grade Soy Sauce and so much more!
Then, our tummies still full, we rambled the short journey to Fallon & Byrne where Tao showed us a range of produce and ingredients which make good substitutes (and indeed those that don’t!) when you cannot get to an Asian Market for the real thing. Then it was back to Saba for our lunch! Most of us were full, yet we managed to devour the platter of starters including the lightest vegetable tempura I’ve ever tasted, as well as spring rolls, squid and satay. Mains soon followed including a creamy veggie curry, baked hake in banana leaves and a plate of ‘bang!’ the hottest dish on the menu! It wasn’t for the faint hearted, but somehow it was as if my palate had become accustomed to chilli heat over the day.
I rolled out of the restaurant literally bursting with inspiration and with Tao’s trusty cookbook under my arm, it was off to Wok I went!
If you fancy sending the day with Tao and enjoying the inside tips and Thai banquet, then go to the Saba website and book a day course.