After about three months in Thailand, I figured it was time to learn how to make some of the dishes I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed eating so I can share this aspect of my life when I return home! Chiang Mai is a four-hour bus ride from the town I’m living, Tak, and has a plethora of sights and activities, including cooking schools, so I headed up there last weekend. I signed up for a cooking school that was recommended by Lonely Planet called the Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School, located on an organic farm from where large quantities of their ingredients are picked.
I was picked up from my hostel at around 8:30am, and we wound through the city picking up eight other cooks-in-the-making before we stopped at Ruamchak Market. The cooking instructor, a funny, energetic young Thai woman gave us a short tour there and gave us time to roam through the stalls piled high with anything from mangos to fried crickets while she picked up some ingredients for the dishes we would prepare that day.
When we got to the cooking school, we were led around a small portion of the farm, tasting and smelling the various herbs and fruits or vegetables that were growing there.
Then we were ready to buckle down and get to work, first chopping and pounding in a mortar and pestle the ingredients to make a curry. I made green curry (kaeng kiao waan), which ended up tasting a lot different from what I’ve eaten before, but a whole lot more fresh and herby!
After pounding the green curry paste, we set it aside to make the soup of our choice. I chose tom yam soup (tom yam kung) over the coconut soup because that is by far my favorite soup, and I am pleased to say I did not disappoint myself! It was delicious, and not too difficult! It’s just a matter of collecting all the ingredients.
After our little break to enjoy our delicious soups, we went back to our cooking stations and resumed making the curry dish, adding our freshly ground curry paste to coconut milk and veggies. That didn’t take long to finish, so we poured the curry into bowls, garnished them, and commenced preparations for our third dish.
I chose sweet and sour chicken over cashew chicken and chicken with basil. For this, we broke out the woks and did some fast cooking, throwing in the chicken pieces, then the tomato, pineapple and sauce, and then some green onion at the end.
We all triumphantly brought out our curries and chicken dishes to the picnic tables where we found a rice cooker full of jasmine rice and baskets of sticky rice. We said “Bon appétit!” to humor the French couple in the class, and dug in. I couldn’t help but clean my plate (all of them actually) because it was all so delicious, and I was mentally prepared to feel extremely full from this day of cooking and eating.
But of course this meal did not conclude the day of cooking. We made our choice of mango and sticky rice or banana in coconut milk. I without hesitation chose mango with sticky rice — a heavenly dish I can never turn down.
This required the least participation on my part since the sticky rice has to cook for a few hours in a basket over a steaming pot of water, and even the mango was cut up and ready on a plate. We added cane sugar paste and salt to warm coconut milk, to which we added our sticky rice, and plopped the now creamy sticky rice on our plate of mango. After garnishing and taking a photo, I cleaned my plate, relishing every bite.
On that sweet note, our cooking class ended, and we didn’t even have to do dishes because there were two kind ladies who took care of that between each dish. With full bellies, smiles, and a cookbook that contains all the recipes we made that day, the driver dropped us all off at our respective hostels to take leisurely naps. Now I feel ready to make delicious Thai food for everyone back home!
You can read more about Emily’s Thailand adventures at her blog, here.