It may only be 7 am, but it is already warm and humid as we head off to film in a local floating market. We drive about 30 minutes north of Bangkok City and arrive as the market is still setting up and have a nice coffee. The stallholders are cutting, chopping and cooking. We film ladies gently frying quails eggs, huge vats of bubbling stock with all sorts of extremities simmering away. Banana leaves stuffed with meats, baby crabs or vegetables. The air is filled with the smell of cooking food. Whilst we have coffee 4 elderly Thai men pull up on their bikes and tuck into a healthy breakfast of steamed rice and a sort of pork stew and fresh vegetables. We then move onto the river and watch the ladies in their longboats, char grilling catfish and a sort of bass. Large prawns and strips of chicken are deftly grilled over burning charcoal.
The place is starting to fill up, as it is Sunday morning. I watch a lady make the classic Thai salad of dried prawns, lime juice, chilli pounded together with a little palm sugar. She then finely slices incredibly fresh vegetables and mixes them together well, all whilst sitting in her boat; it looks delicious. After taking a couple of boats up and down the small canal, we finally stop and have a spot for breakfast. Sam (our guide here in Bangkok and all the way to Singapore) orders for us. We feast on a huge chargrilled bass stuffed with lemongrass and herbs—a large plate of dried, pounded prawn salad, fresh as a daisy. The dressing was a perfect balance of Thai lime, basil sugar and chilli and was stunningly fresh.
After breakfast, we headed back to the hotel for a lesson on how to make the perfect Thai curry at the Mandarin Oriental’s Thai cookery school with the chef. The school is across the river from the main hotel, so get a quick lift from the hotel’s taxi boat. The school is well appointed and a perfect setting to learn in. The lesson is first class, and I have to say the end result was completely different from any Thai curry I have tasted before. The main reason being the consistency, light and fragrant with a soup feel to it. We all taste and I receive my certificate to say I have passed the test hurrah!!!
We head off into Bangkok to get the ingredients for my recipe later in the day, plus a few bits and pieces for the train journey.
By the time we have had lunch and got back to the hotel, the light is fading, and Will is worried. We quickly set up outside the cookery school lights and cameras, and I set out my ingredients for a prawn curry. I love cookery pieces like this, outside, impromptu and flying by the seat of your pants. I slurp iced tea and kick on, remembering all I have learnt from my cookery lesson only a few hours ago.
Simmering the coconut milk, adding chilli, paste and pea aubergines. Adding the huge freshwater prawns, Nam Pla, sugar and Thai basil. Not for the first time this trip, I have a Keith Floyd moment in the back of my mind. I wonder what he would have thought! Everyone seems happy, even the staff try my curry and declare it very nice, or perhaps they are just being nice.
As the sun sets, we reminisce on our long first day and have a well deserved iced tea.>