Mike and I have a system: I cook, and he washes up. It works extremely well – I hate cleaning, and Mike can’t even chop an onion without a) nearly lopping a finger off and b) bursting into tears. (Sensitive eyes, apparently.)
So it was with great amusement (and a little guilt) that I brought him along to an Asian cooking masterclass at School of Wok, Covent Garden, luring him in with the promise of pad thai and spring rolls but neglecting to mention that we actually had to cook them ourselves.
We were there for one of the evening classes, which are three hours long. They’re run from a classroom with one big, shared wooden table and a sparkling kitchen with individual stoves and heated dents for woks to sit in. (I call them wok holes. This is almost certainly not their proper name.) Our first job was making a green Thai curry paste…from scratch. Turns out it isn’t supposed to come from a jar – who knew? Green curry is my favourite Thai dish and I’m always really boring about ordering it in restaurants 100% of the time (I especially love Jane-Tira in Soho), so I was keen to learn how to make it properly. I’d always been put off attempting it by its breathtaking complexity, but actually the instructions are very simple: 1) chop up all the things and b) mash up all the things. Doddle.
Of course, first you have to gather your ingredients, which takes a fair bit of doing. You might have most of it lying around already – ginger, coriander, shallots – but some of it will require a trip to the local Asian supermarket. Including this freaky-lookin’ bastard:
The chopping wasn’t too bad, especially as we got to use the enormous Thai knives, which are large, shiny and flat – and very, very sharp. The tip always stays on the board while your hand moves the blade up and down, like an Acme log-chopper in a Roadrunner cartoon.
Part II – the mashing – is quite tedious and definitely a two-man job, but it occurred to me that my Nutribullet at home might do the job just as well…God knows I need to find a good use for it other than hateful healthful ‘smoothies’ and the occasional Pisco Sour. (It froths egg whites like a boss, FYI.)
Once we’d ground our greenery to a pulp, we put it to one side while we started prepping the spring rolls. (It would soon be added to chicken and coconut milk to create a classic creamy green Thai curry I’ll definitely be recreating at home, Nutribullet or no.)
We mixed mince pork with vermicelli rice noodles, beansprouts, carrot and coriander, and fried it off to make the filling.
I thought we’d gotten off lightly with the spring rolls, but it turns out our Eastern friends are yet to invent an automatic rolling machine. (I’m not even kidding – I just Googled it and ended up watching this video of supermarket spring rolls being mass produced by hand. Holy shit.) Packaging the rolls up into tidy cigarillos of paper-thin pastry is actually really difficult, especially when you discover that the last flap is stuck down with…a wedge of banana, used like a Pritt Stick. Nature’s top adhesive, apparently.
We had way too much filling, so we devoured the remaining, slightly depleted pile with spoons while our Franken-rolls went into the fryer.
Aesthetically, our rolls were…interesting…
I mean, I’ve probably shat out better-looking things after a heavy night, but at least they tasted good!
Finally, we started on the pad thai – Mike’s favourite – which involved some pretty intense wok work. SoW actually run a separate three hour course on using the thing properly, and it’s a tricky beast, so it’s a good class to pick if you’re looking for a class with good take-home skills.
The whole thing is essentially a balancing act – you keep the back of the wok cool and the front on the heat, using the former as a sort of back-burner as you toss in new waves of ingredients.
We didn’t burn anything and neither of us had food poisoning afterwards, and that counts as a win in my book. AND we had so much food left over we had Thai for lunch the next day too. (Double win!)
School of Wok’s three hour classes start from £95pp, but if you get a few mates together there are discounts available for groups of five or more. There’s all sorts on offer – Mike and I did the Thai class, but next on my list is Introduction to Dim Sum and Chinese Takeaway (including crispy duck pancakes..!)
School of Wok, 61 Chandos Pl, London, WC2N 4HG
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.