06 Feb Chiang Mai: A Thai Cooking Class
With jetlag behind me, I was ready to check an item off my bucket list. What you ask? Take an authentic Thai Cooking Class. Thai food makes me weak in the knees. As in, if there were a way for Thai food and I to have a serious and long-lasting relationship I’d sign on. This seemed like the perfect first step in our courtship..
The coolest option I found involved a trip to the market, then a tour of an organic farm and finished up with the instruction and cooking of six different dishes under the supervision of a sassy Thai woman named Mam. I felt instinctively that this may possibly be the best day of my life.
First, we went to a tea shop where we sipped pots of Chinese tea and selected the dishes we wanted to cook: 1 appetizer, 1 soup, 1 noodle dish, 1 curry paste, 1 curry dish and 1 dessert. My choices were as follows: spring rolls, Tom Sab soup (which Mam called Sexy Soup), Pad See Ew, Panang curry paste and curry and deep fried bananas with a coconut cream batter. I already knew Thai food and I were going to be the perfect couple.
We set off to the market to choose some of our ingredients. Monks in saffron robes and plastic flip-flops strolled through the open fire grills where fish and peppers roasted and aisles of rice filled baskets. I just tried to avoid the Durian, which stinks like a rotting corpse. Funny enough, there were signs on many establishments that said “No Durian.” I imagined people casually carrying Durians home and being turned away from shops along the way.
After we’d selected the things we’d need for the class, we headed out to the farm. Apart from the herbs and veggies growing all around, the farm was especially cool for the bizarre and eclectic mix of flea-shop type items everywhere. From old instruments to barbershop chairs and stacks of rusted bicycles, it was fascinating to walk through.
Before we started we took part in a traditional Thai welcome which is about the equivalent to a shot in the food world. It consisted of a beetle leaf stuffed with raw garlic, ginger, a tiny wedge of lime, peanuts, purple onion and a sliver of spicy pepper. That is a welcome that’s not easily forgotten, but like I said, I was getting in good with Thai food and went back for seconds.
Then the cooking began. One dish at a time we prepared then ate, sampling the dishes others had made and sharing our own. We all used enormous hatchets and made menacing faces at each other as we chopped and laughed. The food was beyond divine, especially the deep fried bananas.
The hardest thing we made was the curry paste which had to be muddled by hand with a mortar and pestle. Thankfully there were enough of us to take turns and I hoped my Thai-food-love-affair wouldn’t go south because of it (would she feel used with all this sharing?) The easiest thing I made was Pad See Ew (and Pad Thai was equally simple and quick.) I was impressed with my new found knowledge and ready to impress friends back home with it at a Thai inspired party. Hopefully they’d be as inspired by it as I was.