We’re excited to be headed out on the road again, and in that spirit we wanted to revisit some of our favorite moments from our adventures earlier this year. Some weeks back, we shared a cooking class we had taken in Udaipur, India. And as we’re in nostalgia mode, and I’ve got Thailand on my mind since I just spent time talking to a friend about his trip, let’s return to Chiang Mai and a fabulous cooking class we experienced there. Like our Indian class, this day out was one of the highlights of our trip to southeast Asia.
Looks like Thai green curry, but it’s actually dessert: sweet rice pudding with bananas and coconut milk.
Dozens of varieties of rice are for sale at the market.
Fish sauce, a key ingredient in southeast Asian cooking.
We started our cooking class at one of the many local markets, where we sampled various ingredients and drank cold, sweet Thai iced coffee. While the cooking school has an extensive garden and grows many of their own herbs and spices, they still need to shop for a few things. Many Thai homes don’t have refrigeration, so shopping each day for fresh ingredients is both a pleasure and a necessity.
We’ll grind our curry pastes and chop our ingredients here.
We left the market and traveled by minibus to the school, where we were offered iced jasmine tea and given a tour of the property. The cooking school is perfectly set up to accommodate guests, with spaces for prep, cooking and eating together.
Tiny, fiery Thai bird chiles. Typically, the smaller the chile, the bigger the punch.
Fresh herbs and aromatics, just harvested.
The cooking school has acres of gardens, where they grow lemongrass, basil, coriander, mint, galangal, ginger, kaffir lime, chiles and many other ingredients for their classes.
Our indoor-outdoor kitchen, with cooking stations set up for each student.
All of the components for the recipes we would make in class were neatly laid out for us. I emphasize this classical French technique a lot in my own cooking classes: it’s called mise-en-place, and it literally means “to put everything in its place.” When you’re cooking, assemble all of your ingredients like this in advance; it may seem tedious and time-consuming, but it actually makes preparing your dish much, much easier. Trust me.
Fresh herbs and tamarind paste, like fish sauce, are key to classic Thai cooking.
Although you can of course make curry paste in a blender, traditionally it’s prepared in a stone mortar and pestle.
Grinding aromatics for red curry paste.
A wok allows for quick, high heat, so vegetables and proteins remain crisp and fresh.
Pad thai, a favorite Thai dish. In Thailand it’s not quite as sweet as it often is in America.
Vegetarian red curry soup. Good Thai food is most often a delicate balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet.
Craving some Thai food after reading this? Me too. Try here, here or here. And if you have the chance, definitely book a cooking class on your next adventure. It’s well worth the time and money to cook and eat like a local, if only for a few hours.