Thai Cooking Class - Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has many different types of activities to occupy any visitor. Tiger Kingdom, Elephant rides and sanctuaries, temples, food, drinking, walking, biking, scootering, yoga, meditation and cooking classes to name a few.  Only about half of the things in that list interest me so when I arrived I booked a cooking class.
There are many different cooking schools within Chiang Mai with half and full day options. I opted for the half day because I had heard the amount of food was large and I know myself, I have about five good hours before I start to zone out. I knew the half day was right for me. However, I know a lot of people who did the full day and loved it. They even give you a nap in the middle of the day!

My class was with Smart Cook and I took it because the hostel recommended it (yes they get a commission). They are all pretty similar so I felt fine booking through the hostel and spreading the love. I was picked up at my hostel and dropped in a market in the east of the old town. I was met by a petite girl, I say girl because there is no way to tell how old she was given her small stature but my guess is she might have been 20. There were five students total and Nani (the girl) introduced herself and launched into a full on lesson in the market. She explained all of the foods we would be using including the oils and spices. Most of the vegetables I recognized except miniature eggplants that looked like large peas.

Food market. 

Nani, our teacher

Mushroom close up, they were so soft. 

After the full explanation at the market we took a 10 minute walk through some back streets and alleys and arrived at the smart cook facility. We sat around a table while they offered us coffee and tea and let us alone to get to know each other. In my group there was one German man, a Dane, a South African, someone from Japan and Australia, an eclectic group. The South African girl was a trained “food stylist.” I’m not really sure what that is but she seemed to know her way around the kitchen.

Shortly after our impromptu get to know you session we were ready to start cooking. We had each chosen from two options for each course. Only one person in our group, the German, was doing a full day. He was rewarded with a nap in the middle of the day.  I had decided on Pad Thai, Prawn Soup, Green Curry and Spring rolls four my options. I was delighted when they asked if anyone was vegetarian. I was planning to just leave items out but they accommodated me and gave me more tofu. I don’t love tofu but I thought it was really nice of them to do and cooked with it.

The soup was first up. We did a little prep, cutting our veggies, ginger and lemongrass. The soup cooked in about two seconds and couldn’t have been simpler. In fact each dish was incredibly simple compared to other types of cooking. You didn’t have to do too much to the ingredients once you were in the cooking phase. The key thing is that each dish had a spoon full of sugar in it. I was not expecting this. I assume it was to balance out whatever amount of spice you had decided to put in. Each dish was relatively small but in the end I had to bring two portions back to the hostel.

Pad Thai was our second dish. We cut up the vegetables in advance, mixed the ingredients together in the wok and then cracked an egg and put it in the wok. Mine started to cook really fast and started to stick. Luckily I think the noodles were a bit pre-cooked. I was next to the South African girl and was envious of her flair for not burning things. My pad Thai didn’t burn but it was a might crispy.

After these two dishes were complete we sat down to eat them. My tofu faux prawn soup was spicy! I had put a minimal amount but somehow my mouth was on fire. After this two course meal we were all ready for a nap. I couldn’t believe how full I was after these two small portions. It is at this point that everyone asked if we could get take away containers for the portions we were about to cook. Luckily they had them.
The green curry paste was a bear to make but incredibly tasty. I again put a minimal amount in but had my mouth re-enter the fire zone the next day because of it. For the curry we used the paste, small eggplants and the mini eggplants that looked like big peas. Coconut milk, sugar and oil were also essentials. We mixed it all up in the wok and set it aside when it was to our liking. Nani later gave us white rice to go with this as well.
Spring rolls were my favorite to make. I loved rolling them up into perfect little vehicles of taste. We made very small ones but they were still delicious. I completed the rolling portion first so I was the first to drop fry them. They didn’t have to stay in long at all because the oil was so hot. Nani kept saying golden brown but I thought she was saying keep them down. Then I had an aha moment while cooking them and realized what she was saying. Of course she was saying golden brown! Duh!

While we packed up our take away containers she gave us the rice and chili sauce for the spring rolls. We said our goodbyes and were each taken back to our respective temporary dwellings. It was a wonderful half day and I was stuffed. I spent the rest of the day loafing around waiting to be hungry enough to eat my take away. I didn’t end up eating it until the next day! By that time my curry had settled nicely and was even spicier! Yum!