I was super excited for the opportunity to visit Chiang Mai. So much so that I decided a 14-hour train ride each way would be worthwhile. Though the train was a less-than-favourable method of transport, the destination made up for the cost. Chiang Mai is a must-visit for those seeking a happy medium between true Thai culture and the accessibility that a lively amount of tourism brings.
If anyone out there is considering visiting Thailand, I think the number one experience I recommend is to do a cooking class. This gives you the opportunity to learn to cook (and eat) your own Thai feast, while also introducing you to a number of Thai dishes, which is helpful for future visits to Thai restaurants. I believe (and feel many people will agree) that food plays a huge role in any culture, especially in a country so renowned for its food.
The school Tim and I opted for was the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. We did a half-day course (which I can’t seem to find listed on the website anymore) that cost around 800 THB (27 CAD). There are a ton of cooking school offering classes, and you can do course that are several days or even weeks. Just be sure to do a bit of research on the school before booking.
The area we were cooking in was an open-air sheltered area attached to the main building. It was a beautiful sunny day, but incredibly hot. Everything was clean and set up for us to cook individually. We were lucky in that there was only one other couple cooking there at the same time as us, and we had a lot of personalized instruction from the Thai women who were working there.
We each picked three dishes from a menu, with one being a curry dish which we would also make a curry paste for. We each had our own instructor to talk us through the process as we prepared our ingredients and cooked. For my first dish, I chose to make Khao Soi, a famously Northern Thai dish.
Khao Soi is made with a coconut milk curry and topped with crispy fried egg noodles. I won’t go into the whole recipe here but it is delicious and probably my favourite curry-dish I had in Thailand. I did manage to find a recipe that looked comparable to this one. To try it out click here.
Next I had to make one of my other favourite Thai dishes,—and also another noodle dish—Pad see-ew.
Pad see-ew is a stir-fried rice noodle dish with more of a soy sauce base. There’s also some egg and Chinese broccoli in there. For a recipe, click here.
After each dish we got to sit down at a table and enjoy what we cooked, while drinking copious amounts of water at times when the spices were overwhelming.
Finally we got to the last dish, Penang Chicken Curry. First, we made the curry paste, which was probably the most fun since we got to do some smashing with a pestle and mortar.
One of the best parts of doing the cooking class is getting to really see what you are eating. As someone with nut allergies, Tim was a bit wary of the food in Thailand. Doing the cooking class really showed us that Thai cooking isn’t a peanut-heavy as you might think (it isn’t all Pad Thai!). It was really amazing to see that some dishes that seem very complex are actually just the right combinations of fresh and simple ingredients, like the ones in our curry below:
When we first added the curry paste to the wok, it was a bit overwhelming. The spices can make your eyes water if you breathe too deeply. But, after we added the rest of the ingredients, this sensation became mostly neutralized.
After finishing up with the curry, we were able to sit and enjoy the enormous feast we’d prepared. It felt good to know that we had a hand in making all you see on the table below.
I knew a cooking class was something I very much wanted to do upon arriving in Thailand, but I never realized how much fun it would be and how satisfied I would feel having made all this food. Thai food really is a style of food that I think anyone can find something to enjoy in. Get to know the food and you will truly get to reap the benefits for the rest of your time in Thailand. I know I did!