Cooking Class Review

Learn to be a masterful Thai chef in a morning at Sawadee cookery school

Sanet Oberholzer falls in love with Thai flavours after attending a relaxing outdoor cooking class in Pretoria

05 September 2019 - 00:00 By Sanet Oberholzer
The mouthwatering Pad Thai the author whipped up during her Thai cookery lesson at Sawadee in Pretoria.
The mouthwatering Pad Thai the author whipped up during her Thai cookery lesson at Sawadee in Pretoria.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

Stepping out on to Reinette Pinky Wessels' covered patio on an early Saturday morning, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the middle of Centurion. One look at the lush green garden, Thai-inspired décor and round table laid out with fresh vegetables, chopping boards, prepping bowls and knives, and you could easily be attending a cooking class somewhere in the Far East.

“Sawadee”, the name of Wessel's cookery school, is the Thai word used to greet or bid farewell to someone. Having spent 14 years in Thailand teaching at a French school, Wessels uses this greeting to welcome guests who come to learn the secrets of Thai cuisine at her home in Lyttleton, where she has been offering cooking classes for just under two years.

During her time in Thailand, Wessels did an intensive cooking course in Bangkok with the May Kaidee Cooking School where she learnt to cook diverse vegan and vegetarian dishes and equally delicious dishes incorporating meat, which means her classes cater for all preferences.

Reinette Pinky Wessels spent 14 years in Thailand before opening her own Thai cookery school, Sawadee, in Pretoria.
Reinette Pinky Wessels spent 14 years in Thailand before opening her own Thai cookery school, Sawadee, in Pretoria.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

Of the four menus she has on offer, we opted to learn the basics of preparing red curry paste, Massaman curry, Pad Thai, and both vegetable and dessert Thai spring rolls.

All the dishes and the curry pastes were made from scratch using fresh ingredients which were fried in woks over a gas flame. As Wessels explains, using a rounded wok is essential to developing the Thai flavours – it has to do with the distribution of heat. 

Using a rounded wok is essential to developing the Thai flavours – it has to do with the distribution of heat

The first dish we prepared, the Massaman curry, struck the perfect combination between rich and light — it was packed full of flavour and red chilli.

The Pad Thai noodle dish, on the other hand, was far milder. Fresh vegetables and rice noodles form the perfect bed into which an egg is stirred along with soy sauce, peanuts and that perfect Thai touch — a squeeze of lime juice.

Spring rolls, much like samoosas, are a bit daunting in their dainty presentation, perfectly folded and fried. However, after preparing three vegetable spring rolls each, delicately encasing the filling inside the wrappers, we learnt they're far less scary to make than they look.

The perfect end to the feast of flavours was making our own banana and chocolate spring rolls. Any ambition I had of taking one home to share with my chocolate-loving sister flew out the window as soon as I had the first bite of crunchy pastry, melted chocolate and soft banana.

You don’t need to be a food whiz to attend one of Wessels’ classes: she explains what needs to be done step by step, and the dishes, while wonderful, are very simple to prepare.

While she can host large groups for special events, you can book on an individual basis and attend the class in a smaller group — something I find far more personal and I feel adds to Sawadee’s special offering. Cooking outdoors on the patio also adds to the charm of the experience and makes for a lovely social setting.

It's a reasonable R450 per person per class; the price includes a take-home red curry paste and an e-mailed recipe book.

Tip: Bring Tupperware for leftovers as the food is far too much to finish in one morning and Wessels doesn’t have qualms, as other cooking class teachers sometimes have, about you taking home the leftover food.

Visit thaicookingclasses.net for more information or to book a cooking class. 


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