Here's the deal: learn to cook Thai food with a top chef and then treat your loved one to the meal you've just learned to master.
Sounds mouth-watering? The Tongsai Bay Resort on Samui Island offers a cooking course that will teach you tasty dishes within a few hours.
For Bt3,000, Chef Piengchom Darbanand provides an introduction, all the ingredients, the recipes for a few dishes, an apron and dinner for two.
Born into an old family of cooks who served in the palace of the late Princess Vibhavadi Rangsit, Piengchom earned her Cordon Bleu diploma in London. Since then, she's been travelling around the globe, showcasing the culinary delights of Thai cuisine.
She's also collaborated with TV chef Keith Floyd for the Thailand shows in his BBC series "Far Flung Floyd".
Piengchom, or Chef Chom as she's popularly known, is easygoing, good-humoured and speaks fluent English.
Her cooking class starts around noon, when participants are taken on a tour of the hotel's kitchen garden.
Each student carries a small wooden basket and a pair of scissors and follows Chef Chom around the garden to check the ginger, galangal, lemongrass, sweet basil and holy basil. It's a heady experience for these mostly city residents, who've only seen these vegetables and herbs on supermarket shelves.
Chef Chom encourages her students to pick the fresh ingredients needed for the cooking class, then leads them back to her restaurant, which is temporarily converted into a classroom. The cooking tables are covered with white tablecloths. A pan, a stove, a mortar and pestle, a spatula, a set of measuring spoons, other utensils and all the ingredients needed for dishes are neatly arranged on the top. There's also a water jar mixed with lime for hand-washing, a timely reminder that hygiene is all-important in a kitchen setting.
Four dishes were on the menu at a recent class: deep-fried stuffed pomfret, Tongsai Thai salad, roast duck curry with lychee, and Samui turmeric squid.
Cooking up a storm
Chef Chom hands out her recipe for the students to study and explains what they need to do step by step. Even an inexperienced cook would have no trouble keeping up, since cooking assistants are on hand to make sure that the participants are doing everything the right way.
Bones are removed from the fish, some ingredients are pounded, others mixed and the stuffing prepared. Under the guidance of Chef Chom and the assistants, the eager students cook their dishes.
Students use different types of vegetables to mark their individual preparations. Each student has to eat his or her own dish after the class, so all do their best to ensure that they religiously follow the recipe.
Due to time limitations, participants leave the frying of the fish and squid to the staff.
After the class, the proud participants sit down to enjoy their creations.
But the prouder moment comes later when they serve their loved ones the dishes, the result of slaving for hours over a hot stove.
Chef Chom holds her Thai cooking class at the Tongsai Bay about twice a month, so check with the hotel to ensure that the timing coincides with your holidays.
Lessons cover different dishes, including such well-known Thai treats as tom yam kung and fried chicken with holy basil.
A few mouth-watering deals
Santiburi Resort: Chef Nui gives lessons in Thai cuisine at the Sala Thai Restaurant, on the ground floor of the Santiburi Resort. Classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students learn to prepare three dishes, which takes about an hour, then have lunch at the restaurant. The cost is Bt 1,500.
For details, log on to www.santiburi.com or call (077) 425 031.
Health Oasis Resort:
Hands-on experience making healthy cuisine, including vegetarian dishes, under the supervision of a chef.
Consultations are held prior to each class to help guests decide on a menu best suited to the culinary tastes of their own countries. In a two-hour session, students learn five dishes. Two-and-a-half hour session for 10 dishes also available.
For details, go to www.healthoasis.com or (077) 420 124.
Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts:
The only independent cooking school in the Chaweng area. Cooking classes are held twice daily at 11.30am and 4pm. Class size is limited to 10 and are held even if there is only one student. The morning session runs two hours, covers three dishes and costs Bt1,200. The afternoon session lasts 2.5-hours, covers four dishes and costs Bt1,600.
For details, log on to www.sitca.net or call (077) 413 172.
Blue Banana Thai Cooking School:
Classes are held in a traditional Thai-style building at Big Buddha beach. There are two classes daily led by Toy. The lunchtime class starts at 10am with a set menu of three popular Thai dishes including fruit salad for Bt950 per person. The dinner class starts at 3pm and covers four Thai dishes and fruit salad. The cost is Bt1,200 per person.
For details, call (077) 245 080 or (01) 079 3142.