After searching the internet for cooking schools in Chiang Mai, I finally settled for the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery Course, the first cooking school in Chiang Mai and run by Thai tv celebrity chef, Somp.. It was the most expensive (TH 1, 450 as against TH 1, 000 ) but my decision was largely based on three things: (1) I liked the menu, (2) you get a free apron if you sign-up for 2 classes, (3) you get a free certificate if you sign up for 3 classes. I signed up for 3 out of 5 classes. I scheduled them about a day apart (Dec 29, 31, and Jan 2) as those were the slots that had the least number of people joining.
We were brought to a local market and shown some herbs we were gonna use by our chef-teacher, Pom (“you can call me Pomtastic”) who was also our van driver who picked us up at the cooking school office across Thapae gate.
Finally learned the difference between the three kinds of basils–lemon basil, Thai basil, and sweet basil.
This is lemon basil which smells truly lemony.
This is sweet basil. See the purple stems?
From the market we proceeded to a subdivision where the cooking school was located. It was spacious and surrounded by greenery. The open cooking stations means no trapped smells so you don’t smell like a kitchen after the class. Super plus points!
And this is my spot.
The class format was: we watch while Pom taste while one of us lends him a hand, we taste what we cook, we go to our stations and cook it ourselves, sit down at the dining tables and eat, then cook the next dish.
It was really fun as Pom was always cracking jokes. I also learned many tricks on how to slice vegetables faster and how to squeeze lime with a knife so you extract more juice. It was also only that time where I learned that you discard the hard middle stalk of the lemon grass stem which you get by crushing the stem. Pom also explained the ingredients thoroughly, letting us guess what they were. He let us taste and touch them.
We cooked a total of 6 dishes plus dessert. My favorite was the first one, Paenang curry pork which also involved making our paste.
Here’s the Paeenang Pork Curry which, unlike other curries, is cooked in coconut milk resulting in a thick sauce.
Glass noodle salad with minced pork. Very easy to prepare.
Just 5 people again today. A couple from France and a couple from Australia. Great company! At the market, Pon let me roam by myself as I had already done the market tour. So I bought some fruits and ingredients such as chili paste and dried nutmeg to bring home.
Saw these lunch canisters similar to the ones sold in Penang.
The steamed fish in banana leaf was a little more complicated as it involved wrapping it in a pouch.
We were also taught how to make a decoration using lemon grass leaves.
Unfortunately, it was also Pon’s last day as an instructor as he was opening his own cooking school on the rooftop of his friend’s guesthouse over by the Ping River.
Just 5 people again. The group of 8 French people backed-out as they only had 2 hours to do the cooking class as they needed to be back at the hotel by 12nn to go to the airport.
Our instructor today was the female instructor of the large group on Day 1. There was no market tour. The van driver simply bought the ingredients while we waited in the van.
The class today was boring as the chef wasn’t very engaging. She simply demonstrated the dishes with none of us assisting. I really appreciated how Pon made it very interactive for us, letting us experience the whole cooking class set-up. All throughout the class, the difference in the quality of the instruction was glaring and I really started to miss Pon. The instructor didn’t also look very tidy unlike Pon who was in a chef uniform.
I didn’t really cook well today as I was quite disinterested. Anyway, this is what we did.
Pad Thai, a classic. Unfotunately, I burned the tofu. Still tasted good, though.
Dessery was water chestnuts in coconut milk. Now I know the secret to the crunchy gummy texture in all those desserts. Unfortunately, it was so delicious I ate it all up as soon as I made them. Didn’t even reach the dining table.
So it’s a wrap for my 3 day cooking adventure. I really enjoyed them and I was lucky my classmates were all very nice. What did I discover about Thai cusine?
1. Herbs, particularly lemon grass, basil, and galang figure prominently. They give that distinctive Thai taste so familiar to us.
3. Vinegar and chili are best friends, too. Chili cuts the vinegar’s sourness and vinegar cuts the chili’s hotness. Used together in Thai sweet and sour sauce, it’s a winning combination as a dip for fried food.