As some of you may know I’m not a very good cook, (don’t get me wrong…it’s edible, but I wouldn’t serve it to a group of people!), which is why taking a cooking class was on my to do list while in Thailand. I found an organic cooking class that took place out at their farm (The Chiang Mai Farm Cooking School). It was such a wonderful experience.
On our way out to the farm we stopped at one of the top local markets in Chiang Mai to discuss some of the Thai ingredients we would be using in our dishes (fish oil, oyster sauce, spices, and more). Vendors were preparing food to take away, settings out produce, cooking meat on a stick...you could find anything food related here. One thing unique to this market was the fresh meat section, where people were cutting and preparing chicken, pork and more. It was fascinating to walk around and see what it had to offer. This was by far my favorite market I have visited since arriving in Thailand.
Once we arrived at the farm, Wazz (our wonderful, comical instructor) brought us around explaining some ingredients and their purpose in Thai dishes. We were able to sample everything too…the lemongrass smelled the absolute best (and makes excellent tea!). A favorite of mine was the fresh sweet and holy basil...one was sweet, the other was a little bitter. I took the tiniest bite of a green chili and it was enough to set my mouth on fire…I’m still working on getting better with spicy food, but I have drastically improved since being here!
Wazz demonstrated every meal and explained each ingredients. Our first task was the curry paste. I chose to make yellow curry…unique to yellow curry is the tumeric and is one of Thailand's specialties. We ground it with a huge stone mortar and pestle; as soon as we began the smell of hot spices filled the air almost to the point of making your eyes water (also being very careful not to look down and get some in your eye), but still smelled delicious!
One of the many reasons I enjoyed this class was because of the variety of Thai food we could make. We began with soup, Tom Kaa Gai, a chicken and coconut milk soup with lots of flavor and relatively easy to make (Andrew’s favorite, and definitely in the top three for me). Many of the ingredients are for flavor rather than eating (ie. kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass). As it boils on the stove you can smell the different spices fill the air at different stages of cooking. Your mouth begins to water before it's done...and let me tell you…it was absolutely delicious! Andrew was pretty upset when I didn’t bring any back for him, but there was no way I wasn’t going to finish something that fantastic.
A favorite appetizer of mine here is the spring rolls, I was thrilled when seeing those as an option. The best part of making them is frying the fillings in the wok. As you pour in the custom made fish sauce it steams and simultaneously fills the air with a mouth watering scent. I wish I could say I nailed the spring rolls…however, I delayed a step a little too long, but they were still delicious!
After every dish we made we gathered around the table as a class to enjoy our meal. There is something satisfying about gathering with people you've never met, enjoying each other’s company and having a meal you created along side one another. I was bummed I was full after the spring rolls because we made my favorite dish next (lucky for Andrew, he would be able to have some of the food I made).
Using the curry paste from the beginning, we made Kaeng Ka Ri Gai (yellow curry with chicken). I learned from my chili experience earlier in the day not to chop them too small that I would be able fish them out with my spoon, but they add an excellent flavor. Each unique dish had a strong, spicy and delicious smell. To go along with our soup we made Phad Kaprao Gai (fried chicken with basil leaves), consisting of garlic, holy basil, chilies and fried in a fish/oyster sauce. It had exquisite flavor!
We finished our day with mango and sticky rice; one of the most common desserts in Thailand. To make it a little more interesting we dyed our rice with butterfly pea. Wazz made the dye from the butterfly pea flower added to coconut milk. We topped it with palm sugar mixed with coconut milk and roasted mung beans.
Taking this class has been one of my favorite activities in Chiang Mai. The food here has been phenomenal and there is no better way to learn about authentic Thai cuisine and culture than taking a class at a local, organic farm. It amazed me how relatively easy the food was to make, fairly simple yet extremely delicious. I look forward to being able to test out my newly acquired culinary skill in my own kitchen. It was an incredible experience I will never forget!