One of the things that the hubby and I were most excited about doing while in Chiang Mai was taking a full day cooking class. We both love food and cooking (which you have clearly picked up on by now), and getting to learn how to cook Thai food and bring that skill home with us was really exciting.
Our day started early. We were picked up by our cooking school, and headed straight to a market where we were introduced to our cooking instructor for the day, Mae, who led us on a tour of the market, teaching us about the local fruits, vegetables and seasonings. After the market tour, we got a few minutes to shop around (another thing that I love), and then we were on our way to the farm.
Our group had its own kitchen and private garden to pick from, which was such a great surprise. Immediately we were impressed, we had no clue that the experience would feel so personal.
Mae walked us around the garden, introducing us to the different vegetables and herbs that we would be using in our recipes, and was insistent on having us taste everything (which was really no problem).
After our garden tour, it was time to get cooking. We were each preparing 6 different dishes today, so we needed to get the cooking started pronto.
The first thing we all made were our curry pastes, that would later be used for our curry dishes. Mae explained that she liked to get the hardest work out of the way first.
hand grinding the ingredients into a paste
As we sat around the table and ground our curry pastes, we quickly picked up on Mae’s very cute and funny personality. Possibly some of it was a language barrier, and perhaps some of it was her quirky sense of humor, but we became very keen to her Mae-ism’s.
After our curry pastes were completed, we started our first course, soup. I chose the Shrimp Soup (Tom Yam Kung), and the hubs picked out the Coconut Soup with Chicken (Tom Kaa Gai). Literally as I wrote that, I was suddenly like, oh man, I have to make that soup! Both soups were soooo good, but that Coconut Soup really got me.
After we finished cooking, we had the extreme pleasure of enjoying our soups. And that was the pace that we then set for the day; cook, eat, cook, eat, cook, eat, cook and eat some more until you reach a point where you can almost cook or eat no more, but you do. This was definitely my kind of cooking class. I am normally sneaking a taste of something in the kitchen before it is actually dinner time, so I loved this!
How were the flavors of the soup? Well, in the words of Mae, “same same…but different.” Just one of the many Mae-ism’s that we have adopted at home since our travels.
Up next were our stir-fry dishes. We chose Holy Basil Chicken (Pad Kaprao Gai) and Sweet and Sour Chicken (Pad Prew Waan). Although we chose different dishes, we started to see a pattern of similar ingredients, used in different ways, you know, same same…but different.
Only two dishes in, and we were already starting to feel the full factor. Up next were our curries. This was probably one of the dishes we were most excited about learning how to cook (well, aside from Pad Thai of course).
Again, we used similar ingredients in different ways, preparing a Yellow Curry (Kaeng Ka Ri Gai) and a Red Curry (Kaeng Phed Gai). And right about now was when another Mae-ism rolled along. When giving us all a little palm sugar to use in our dishes, she kept repeating with a goofy grin, “is palm sugar…you like?” And when a different student replied that he preferred a different sugar, her response was of course, “same same…but different!”
After devouring our curries, it was time for me to make my absolute favorite dish, Pad Thai! (Insert extreme excitement here!)
Yes, I love Pad Thai. I dare say that I am a little obsessed. But you know what, I am totally good with that. Sometimes in life you just know what you like and you go with it. And Pad Thai and me? Yep, we go pretty good together. And why mess with a good thing?
And although I tried to con my husband into making a second helping of Pad Thai (so that we could have loads of Pad Thai), he opted for the Spring Rolls (Poh Piah Tod) instead.
And so many hours and six courses later (yes six, because I forgot to mention that Mae also made us a Papaya Salad to snack on right away), it was time for dessert. Thai desserts are very different than what we are used to in the States, but really really good. We picked out Mango with Sticky Rice (Khao Neow Ma Muang), and Bananas in Coconut Milk (Kluay Bod Chii).
And even though we were beyond stuffed to the brim, it was the perfect sweet ending to a really fun day in the kitchen. Thanks in part to the rich flavors of Thai food, and also in part to Mae who made sure our day was filled with both laughter and good food. Because at the end of the day, food and laughter, well..same same, but different!