Learning Thai Cuisine at BCAE

by Iris Tomlak, CGNE Youth Member

About three weeks ago on a Tuesday night, around 7pm, I was seriously hungry and seriously craving some Thai food. Filled with motivation and enough resolution that I would not be settling for an 8 oz. package of Annie Chun’s Pad Thai noodles (instant gratification that funny enough, is neither that instant nor gratifying), I decided it was time to handle the heat and get in the kitchen.

Well, maybe not get in just yet. After 8 hours of work and an hour at the gym, my motivation faded faster than you could say “extra peanut sauce on the side”.  In actuality, as soon as I thought about getting into the kitchen, I was already dialing and ordering from Jamjuli, a delicious and local Thai restaurant in Newton (that now delivers, I might add). But, while I eagerly awaited the doorbell to ring, I went over to my computer, pulled up the Boston Center for Adult Education’s website (they co-sponsored CGNE’s Holiday Baking with Joanne Chang in November). and searched their course offerings until I found what I was looking for, an introduction to Thai cooking class. And then I signed up.

All Thai’d Up Fundamentals of Thai Cuisine is taught by BCAE instructor, Mowl. She is just as animated as she is talented in the kitchen and did not fail to keep us laughing and eating the whole way through our three hour session. Needless to say, I would highly recommend this class. Below are two very delicious and easy-to-make recipes she taught us. Enjoy!

(Side note: If you have never attended a cooking class before, bring some Tupperware to your class because you can take home leftovers!)

Tom Yum Gai

This hot and sour soup is surprisingly refreshing on a summer day.

Tom Yum Gai  (Hot & Sour Soup) Serves: 2 – 4


  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast or 8 shrimp (peeled with tail on) or both
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon nam pik pow (chili paste in soy bean oil)
  • 1 8-ounce can straw mushrooms, rinsed and halved
  • 6 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons Galangal (Thai ginger) or regular ginger, sliced thin
  • 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped


  1. If you plan on using the chicken, slice the chicken breast in half vertically. Then take one half and slice it diagonally, making thin slices. Do the same with the other half. Set aside.
  2. Cut the root section of lemongrass stalk, where the root connects to the main stem of the grass. Then cut approximately 2” of the stem from your cutoff point. This should be the yellow-green part of the grass. Crush the bulb slightly like you would a clove of garlic, using a mallet or the side of a large cutting knife.
  3. Put the chicken broth in a deep pot and add all the ingredients, except the chicken and shrimp. Stir the contents until the mixture begins to boil and the chili paste breaks up and dissolves into the liquid. Let the soup simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Put soup back on high heat, as it boils, turn heat off and then add the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked add the shrimp. After the shrimp is cooked serve with the chopped cilantro as a garnish. (Do not serve the lemongrass or ginger, as they are meant to only add flavor to the broth.)
Pad Pik Bai

Spicy ground chicken and basil is both low-fat and filling.

Pad Pik Bai Grapaou (Spicy Ground Chicken and Basil) Serves: 2 – 4


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Thai or sweet basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon nam pik pow (chili paste in soy bean oil)
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 large onion, sliced into large bite-size slivers
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 each of red and green pepper, sliced


  1. Heat a large frying pan (preferably a wok) on med-high heat and then add the oil and the garlic.
  2. Before the garlic browns, add the red curry paste, chili paste, sugar and fish sauce. Stir, then add the chicken stock and ground chicken. Right before the chicken is cooked through, add the bell peppers and onion.
  3. Continue stirring until the chicken is cooked through and the pepper and onion pieces are covered by the juices. Then add the basil.
  4. Serve alongside white steamed rice. This dish is usually garnished with thin slices of cucumbers.

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