Su-Yen Thornhill’s weekly 10-course Asian dinner series Chez Fong always sells out (as much due to the flavours on the plate as to Su-Yen’s incomparable exuberance). Another opportunity to indulge in Thornhill’s lively food theatre is by joining her interactive demonstration-style cooking classes.
With her origins a heady whirl of Scottish-South African and Chinese descent, Su-Yen heroes authentic pan-Asian fusion cuisine in her dinner menus and demonstrations, with an emphasis on homemade components and seasonal ingredients.
The afternoon lunch demonstration presents four Thai dishes compiled entirely from scratch, including a 12-ingredient (!) Thai green curry paste.
Whether here on a Wednesday evening for the Chez Fong dinner (read our review here) or during the day for a cooking demonstration, the first treat comes when you pull up to Su-Yen’s family home, a turn-of-the-century stone mansion tucked into a quiet Upper Houghton ridge. When you make your way to the sprawling back patio, you’ll be greeted by a panoramic view of the lush Parks suburbs below.
Su-Yen plans several courses for all her events and usually encourages a BYOB policy at her dinner series. Luckily for us our Thai lunch demonstration came paired with artisanal gin cocktails provided by Reciprocal Wine Company.
You can make attending a Chez Fong demo a fun activity with a group of friends or come on your own to learn something new among similar-minded foodies. All are welcome. We were paired with another single guest and had the best seat in the house next to the arched stone walls of the patio-cum-outdoor-kitchen.
Su-Yen cooks with boundless energy and charisma, peppering her demonstration with bawdy humour and culinary anecdotes as she goes along (for example, the way to make perfect rice every single time, which may surprise you, is in a microwave!).
Su-Yen doesn’t just let you sit back during her animated demos; a plate of simple kitchen staples awaits your slicing and dicing while she gets behind the counter and fires up the stove for the main act. The Chez Fong cooking style is spontaneous, fun and light-hearted, Su-Yen doesn’t really measure out the components of a dish and encourages her guests to experience how a single ingredient can affect the flavour profile by experimentation.
To start, there was sautéed Szechuan prawns, battered in potato starch and dusted with Szechuan peppercorn salt and aromatic chillies. For the mains, we were spoiled with two courses: silky Thai green curry loaded with crunchy veg over rice and Kabeljou fish chunks swimming in a miso dashi sauce with glass noodles. And to finish things off Su-Yen presented a simple and fresh coconut ice cream that had us all asking for seconds.
For you to purchase, Su-Yen also stocks up on extra of many of the specialty, hard-to-find Asian ingredients used in the demonstration, such as the Szechuan peppercorn salt, togarashi spice mix and miso paste. You can endeavour to recreate the same dishes back at home, but the magic won’t fully be there without Su-Yen in the kitchen.
To book a place at one of the Chez Fong cooking demonstrations or at the Wednesday supper club contact Su-Yen via her facebook page or call +27 74 361 9079. We advise you book well in advance.