Thai food is forever my favourite. While I love Cambodian cuisine and in the end Burmese flavours won me over, if I had to choose I’d always fall back on Thai flavours. From spicy green curry to creamy Massaman, and from Khao Soi noodles to Pad Thai I love every single dish I’ve ever tried during my 3 trips to Thailand! Perhaps I’ve been lucky but (touch wood) I’ve never been ill the way I have in other Asian countries and I can’t get enough of those Thai flavours. I think my one true love might be mango sticky rice… but anyway, you catch my drift.
Based on this everlasting love affair with Thai food it made perfect sense to take a cooking class in Chiang Mai. We couldn’t afford some of the more extravagant outings to elephant sanctuaries, activity parks and the like and were trying to be healthy on our week here, so a cookery lesson seemed like the perfect budget and stomach friendly option. Budget was the deciding factor in choosing Asia Scenic as well – I think they’re about the best value class available locally whilst still getting consistently good reviews.
They also include a market tour as well whereas we’ve found that some companies will charge extra for this. If we went back to Chiang Mai and had a little more cash to splash we’d probably go for one of the all day cooking experiences where you travel out of town to cook on an organic farm in the nearby countryside, but that’s around double the price and our half day course cost us around 800B each.
We were picked up from our hotel in a car with several of our fellow chefs and driven down to the cookery school which was a large, modern building in the Old Town. It was a little hectic when we arrived and to be honest we were a bit taken aback at the scale of the operation.
It was almost like Masterchef on an industrial scale with 4 separate kitchen areas each set up with a long table and 10 hobs – each section was full so there were 40 of us in the school that morning. However, despite first impressions and it not being the more boutique experience we’d had in Myanmar or Cambodia, our cooking class in Chiang Mai turned out to be excellent and one of the most professionally run that we’d been to.
Our instructor was brilliant although sadly I can’t remember her name to credit her here. She spoke great English and had a wicked sense of humour, cracking frankly hilarious jokes all morning. Her apprentice was slightly younger and was given the job of taking us to the market and doing a demo of Pad Thai for us to improve her English. It was really nice to see how they take on younger staff and train them up into a good career for the future.
After an introduction to Thai herbs in their kitchen garden it was off to the market to learn about more traditional ingredients. After this, we chose the dishes we’d be making in our Chiang Mai cooking class – one salad, one curry with paste made from scratch and one dessert. Unusually for us we plumped for the same dishes – Pad Thai, Green Chicken Curry and Mango Sticky Rice (obvs).
The cooking experience itself was great – chopping and preparing our ingredients from scratch and receiving detailed instruction as we were cooking. Despite us all cooking different dishes it seemed a bit less hectic than our class in Myanmar, perhaps because it was a bigger kitchen.
The best bit by far of our cooking class in Chiang Mai was making curry paste from scratch which is something we’d never done before. Hammering together so many ingredients and ending up with a bright green paste has inspired me to try and attempt more curries from scratch at home. Our fellow students made Penang, Massaman and Red curries so there was a good variety of pastes to see being made.
Our dishes were all quite simple, so didn’t take long to cook and we sat and enjoyed them after each course. The only disadvantage to this was that as we were taking a morning class we ended up eating a 3 course meal starting at about 10.30am, would definitely skip breakfast or try and get an evening session if we visited again! Both Pad Thai dishes turned out great, whilst Rob’s green curry was far better than mine, but overall our cooking class in Thailand was a roaring success, especially as we were cooking some of our favourite meals.
Asia Scenic provide a cook book with all the recipes to take home with you which is great if you plan to recreate the dishes you’ve cooked, which we certainly intend to. As you get the full recipe list it also means you can cook all the items that are included in their repertoire so you can try new meals at home as well which is a bit of a bonus. No ingredients this time though, although that’s possibly a good thing given the size of our backpacks and the length of our trip.
Pad Thai Recipe
Ingredients for Seasoning
2 tbsp Cooking Oil
1 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Fish Sauce
3 tsp Oyster Sauce
2 tbsp Tamarind
1/2 tsp Palm Sugar
2 Cooking Spoon Water
Ingredients for Noodles
2-3 Garlic Cloves
50g Tofu, chopped into small chunks
1 Stalk Chives, cut into 1 inch pieces
100g Bean Sprouts
50g Chopped Chicken
200g Rice Noodles
Fry the garlic in hot oil over a low hear until fragrant – be careful it doesn’t catch. Add the chopped chicken and tofu and cook for one minute or until the chicken is cooked through.
Add the egg and all the seasoning ingredients and beat together. Turn the heat up high and add the noodles followed by the water.
Add the bean sprouts and the chives and cook for a few seconds until the water has been soaked up and everything is mixed together.
Serve topped with ground roasted peanuts, a squeeze of lime juice and some chilli flakes according to taste.