While in Chiang Mai one of the activities that I really wanted to do was to learn how to cook authentic Thai dishes. Once I arrived in Chiang Mai there was at least 5 different cooking schools to choose from & they all offered either half day or full day experiences. I chose a full day class with Asia Scenic Cooking School, the school was based at a farm & grows it’s own produce located 30 minutes out of Chiang Mai. The full day cooking school cost 1100 Baht which is about $33. In my every day life that is the cheapest day out ever!
The first stop was at the city cooking school where we met our guide, Indy & chose our menu. We each got to choose one dish from six different categories – stir fry, entree, soup, curry paste, curry & desert. Indy our guide was very charming, she was cute like all Thai ladies are but she was also very funny. She said to us all that the more spicy we have our food the more sexy we are (in a cute Thai accent) which of course amused everyone in the group!
After choosing our menu we walked to the local fresh markets where Indy explained a few ingredients to us. She showed us how to make coconut milk & cream, the differences between rice grains & Thai equivalent to our tomato sauce, chilli jam. We had 10 minutes to look around the small local market which was great because Indy was there to answer any questions we had about items in the market. Then we got collected by van for the short journey out to the farm to start our cooking adventure.
When we arrived at the farm Indy took us for a walk around the farm garden to show us the ingredients that they grew there. Everything in the garden is organically grown so we could taste it all as we went. There was at least 25 varieties of herbs, fruit & vegetables. It was very interesting & I learnt a lot, like the difference between a Kaffir Lime & everyday Lime. Kaffir Lime have wrinkly skins & have very little juice. In Thai cooking they use the Kaffir Lime leaves & skin to flavour their dishes & they use the everyday lime for the juice.
Before we started cooking we sat down at the table & experienced a traditional welcome snack called Meang Kum. On the table in front of us was a plate with Betel Leaves, coconut, small pieces of cut up lime with the skin on, cubed ginger, whole chilli’s, cubed ginger, cubed onion & a sticky sweet sauce. We were shown how to fold the leaves & to put all the ingredients inside the leaves. Then Indy told us to say Chok Dee, which means cheers & good luck, then she told us to put the entire leaf package in our mouth & eat it! I was afraid of all those whole pieces of strong ingredients, like chilli, lime & ginger. To my surprise it was truly the most amazing, fresh, flavours zinging in my mouth that I have ever experienced.
Our group was very excited to finally get cooking. We moved over to our preparing table where we were shown how to chop & prepare the ingredients like a Thai. We made our stir fry to start. I choose a hot basil chicken stir fry but I also got to see how to make Pad Thai.
Once we had finished making our dishes we sat down to enjoy the meal together. By now our group of strangers only hours ago were pretty friendly & we all tasted each others dishes. The best thing about cooking school is that someone else does the dishes!
After we had eaten we got straight back into making our next dish. I chose to make Papaya Salad. I buy it on the street here nearly everyday so I have been excited to know how to make it myself. I produced the most amazing Papaya Salad & it is not hard to make at all. I will post the recipe soon. Don’t stress if you don’t have green papaya available, you can also make it with cucumber.
After we had finished eating our second dish we rested in the garden for a Thai 20 minutes, which was about 1 hour our time! It was lovely, the garden was filled with special little spots, hammocks, lazy chairs, geese, doves, vines, flowers & beautiful surroundings.
After our rest we made curry paste, soup, dessert & curry. It is very easy to make the most amazing curry paste, it is totally about having the right ingredients on hand & that goes for all the dishes. These are the ingredients that we used to make a green curry paste, red curry paste & Panang curry paste. I will share the recipe with you at a later date.
We prepared our soup, curry & dessert all in one session. We sat down together at the end of the day & proudly enjoyed the food that we had prepared.
Yes I was very full after eating so much food throughout the day & I don’t usually eat rice but I had to have the full Thai experience & rice is a big part of that. All the food was amazing & Thai food does not make me feel horrible after eating it. Once we had finished our meals Indy presented us with a cook book to take home which illustrates step by step instructions for all the dishes that we learnt to cook.
Over all I had an amazing day & I learnt a lot about Thai cooking, tradition & ingredients. I would highly recommend the Asia Scenic Cooking School if you are ever in Chiang Mai. For 100 Baht more you can enjoy the cooking school located at the farm, which I would also recommend because it was truly Thai & beautiful. You can learn more at www.asiascenic.com.