A lot of Thai is the best cooking class in Chiang Mai. I guess I haven’t tried others but I don’t think any can be any better than this one! We booked a half day originally but very quickly realized we were having so much fun that we wanted to stay the entire day. The courses are different each day of the week and we lucked out on what our menu was. The wednesday menu had pad see yew but we ended up making Pad Thai instead, which is actually harder, and tastier.
We were picked up at 9:30am in our hotel and it all started off really well considering our very cool transportation! We made a few stops to grab the other lucky students and then arrived at this adorable house, with a long kitchen that was all ready for a fun day of cooking and eating ahead (picture above).
Our teacher Yui was amazing, humble, cool, fun and extremely knowledgeable and passionate. Her daughter was hanging around the kitchen all day, producing her own version of Thai food (paper noodles) while she also ran her own “pizza delivery business”.
Yui is also a big Brazil fan so we immediately bonded. She goes to Sao Paulo once a year and cooks at a restaurant called OBA (http://www.obarestaurante.com.br/) which is a great Brazilian restaurant two blocks from my mom’s house. She was even featured in the papers in Brazil.
For every dish we learned during the day the format followed a similar pattern: demonstration by Yui of what we were making followed, tasting of what the real thing is supposed to taste like, followed by our attempt to replicate her work of art. And then, devouring our own dishes, which surprisingly came out quite delicious.
Key lesson learned on basics of thai food: fish sauce + soy sauce + sugar in some form = delicious food. I guess the freshness of the ingredients help a lot. I suspect I will be able to cook the dishes as well in my tiny London kitchen as a wok may occupy my entire stove. I will certainly try.
Pad Thai Ingredients
Finished product: Best Pad Thai I have ever tasted. I struggled telling myself to just eat half of it but it was 11am and we had tons of other dishes ahead of us. Pad Thai is usually too sweet, or the egg is wrong. This was perfect with the right balance between soy, fish sauce and palm sugar and it was light and balanced. The last second squeeze of lime is key.
Pad-See-iew: Stir fried wide noodles with vegetable. We didn’t cook this one but she made it for us after the pad thai to demonstrate and taste. She was absolutely right, pad thai was harder and tastier. This was a bit too sweet because of its stronger chinese influence.
Tom–ka–gai: Chicken in hot and sour soup with coconut milk. This was my husband’s favorite dish of the day. Tom ka gai usually is too thick but this one was rich but not heavy, and the lime added just the perfect acidity to balance out the rich creaminess. Divine and super easy to make.
Haw–mok–pla: Steamed fish with curry custard in banana leaf cup. We actually first learned to make the banana leaf cups, and I swear we did make the ones below. This Yui explained is an old-fashioned dish that you don’t find at restaurants often because it is time consuming. I think it was worth the time and the final product was very unique as the fish is steamed in the banana cups with red curry, coconut milk and other ingredients and solidifies the right amount, like a custard. It was delicious and would be a show stopper at a dinner party, I just now need fresh ingredients and a bigger kitchen.
Kao-Soy: Chiangmai Noodles. We had this dish the day we arrived in CHiang Mai at the most famous Kao-Soy place in town and I was not excited about learning to make it as I really didn’t like it at the restaurant. It was oily, thick, heavy and the noodles got soggy, in sum, a totally different dish than what we learned at the class. Our final product was gorgeous, the fried noodles stayed crispy as you dipped them as you went along and the yellow curry soup/sauce was bright and delicious. It ended up being my favorite dish of the day.
Kao Soi from the famous Chiang Mai place I didn’t like at all. (http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g293917-d3704039-Reviews-Khao_Soi_Samer_Jai-Chiang_Mai.html)
My work of art: Amazing
Kha–nom– kluay: Steamed banana cake with coconut (I guess coconut is the main ingredient in almost every thai dessert, or sticky rice or mangoes). We steamed the cakes also in banana leaf cups we prepared earlier. We had a bite after the class but were too full to eat it all. Made a perfect 9pm snack when we got hungry again. This is a light nice dessert but still rich and sweet from the coconut and banana. And coconut seems to be all the rave these days I am adding this cake to my list of superfoods!
We went to the Chiang Mai market in the middle of the day while our fish and banana cakes steamed. Yui showed us all the produce and where she gets her ingredients. Stewart stopped for a delicious and very authentic Thai Coffee.
In Sum: An absolute must! We have done cooking classes in Napa, Florence and other places and this one was by far the best! Fun, tasty and I will actually try to make a lot of the dishes again.