We’ve loved a good cooking class ever since a fantastic experience in Siem Reap where we had the opportunity to dress like chefs for the day and create some of our favourite dishes.
This was followed up by an equally awesome class we took in Myanmar. If I’m honest, I didn’t love the food on offer as we travelled the country so I thought a cooking lesson would be a great opportunity to change my thoughts on Burmese cuisine.
Luckily it worked and I loved sampling the 6 dishes our group created – from banana leaf salad to river fish curry they were delicious. We then decided to carry on learning to cook the amazing food we were eating on our travels with another class in Chiang Mai.
One of the highlights of our cooking experiences in Asia is that we’ve been lucky enough to meet some lovely people – both our fellow students and the inspirational people who have set up these businesses. ‘Bamboo Sue’ who runs the Bamboo Princess cooking school in Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar is a perfect example of this – she gives 15% of her income back to the local community and is using the success of her business to develop a local English teaching and homestay program.
Our Culinary Challenge
So on the basis of three successful cooking classes we decided to set ourselves a bit of a challenge and resolved to attend a cooking lesson in every country we travel to for the rest of our trip! A bit ambitious perhaps but we thought of it on the spur of the moment and after mentioning it on Twitter and receiving tons of responses we decided to fully commit to the idea. We’re going to try and make sure that all of the classes we attend are with ethical businesses who are supporting their communities and take the opportunity to help support them as we continue our journey through Asia, and hopefully beyond.
We love cooking back home and are huge foodies at heart – although not food snobs, we love everything from street food to (budget) fine dining and everything in between. For us, this isn’t just a challenge it’s a great opportunity to learn something from our travels, meet even more new people and hopefully to support some of the communities we spend time in. Another unexpected bonus is that we tend to walk away from these cooking classes weighed down with recipe books, cooking tips and even ingredients so we should even be able to recreate our favourites back home.
Cooking Classes We’ve Taken in South East Asia
Here’s a quick run down of the courses we’ve taken so far and the next few countries we plan to take cooking classes in. If you have any tips on which companies we should use or dishes we should try please get in touch! Leave a comment or drop us a message on social media 🙂
Our first foray into the world of cooking classes was in Siem Reap, Cambodia 2015. We weren’t even backpackers then but were on a private tour of the country that we’d splurged on as that year’s holiday. It was included as part of our itinerary and we weren’t honestly that fussed about it until we arrived in the country and fell completely in love not just with the people and the culture, but also the amazing Khmer food.
We got to dress as proper chefs for this one and cooked rice paper spring rolls, our favourite Amok fish curry and finished up with banana cooked in a passionfruit, honey and coconut milk sauce. It was SO GOOD! We actually cooked that dessert about 4 times in the fortnight after we got home.
Sadly I was struck down with stomach issues for most of our time in Myanmar… even on the morning of our cooking class where I had to make a hasty dash from our shopping expedition to the market to find a loo! Very embarrassing but I managed to fight through the sickness and soon felt much better.
The great thing about this class was that our group all volunteered to cover different dishes and once cooked, we all sat down to have a taste of everything. The variety of food on offer meant it was pretty much impossible not to find something to your tastes and I ended up loving the fish curry (again) and the sweet ginger fried pork.
Most recently (at the time of writing) we’ve been in Chiang Mai where we took a morning course based in town. Now here you can do all manner of cooking classes, from the budget options right through to those where you spend a full day cooking and sourcing ingredients at an organic farm. Whilst we would have loved to have done that, sadly we are now backpackers and budget counts!
We had a great experience at the class we chose – it was slick, well organised and we got to cook some of our all time favourite foreign foods. Sadly we both opted for the same menu so didn’t get as much variety, but we loved our Pad Thai, Green Curry and Mango Sticky Rice. Best of all, we managed to cook it all on a budget with a cooking lesson that still included a market trip.
What’s Up Next?
So what’s next now we’ve set our challenge? Well, our next stop is Laos where we plan to take a cooking class in either Luang Prabang or Vientiane. I have a feeling the former might be better but we have more time free in the latter so we’ll need to see how it all works out. From there we have a few weeks in Vietnam and have been recommended to take a cooking lesson in Hoi An which we’ll definitely try and do.
After that we’re headed to Malaysia, Taiwan, Japan and China after which we have no further plans confirmed as yet, so hopefully we’ll be able to learn to cook the local delicacies in all of those countries. We’re really excited to try cooking as much local food as possible – especially in Japan.
So wish us luck, and we’ll keep you updated with some handy posts of us dressed as chefs and talking all about the pros and cons of the classes we take. Hope you follow our journey!
Below you can see links to all the write ups of the cooking classes in South East Asia and beyond since we originally wrote this post: