When I started planning my trip to Chiang Mai, one of the first things I knew I had to do was a cooking class. Unlike many of the people in the class, I regularly cook Thai food so I didn’t come to this as an amateur. When I recently had a group of friends over for dinner, I knew the Thai Green Curry Chicken was the way to go. In general, I think my skills are good. However, I also know there’s a big difference between good and great and I was hoping that the right instructor could tell me what I need to do to make that next step.
With that in mind, I really did my research about which cooking school to go to. Honestly, there was no shortage of very highly recommended Thai cooking schools in Chiang Mai and I’ve heard good first hand accounts of a few of them. I finally settled on A Lot of Thai cooking school. They had what I was looking for. The class was small (no more than 10 people), the teacher (Uwi) is known as a master, the menu included many of my favorite dishes, and it included a local market tour.
After getting a quick introduction, we went right in to the toughest dish, Pad Thai. I’ve successfully made Pad Thai a number of times, but I still had complaints. The biggest one is for a dish that takes 5 minutes to cook, prep time can be ridiculous. My favorite recipe for Pad Thai has 25 ingredients. I don’t know about you, but when you’re whipping up a weeknight dinner, a 25 ingredient dish is unlikely to happen. Uwi’s recipe kept it in much smaller, which is great as long as the taste is excellent. After getting our run through of techniques, we were sent to our station to prepare the dish. (Side note: Cooking Thai food is a lot more fun when your ingredients appear magically chopped up for you and the dishes disappear after cooking.)
Soon we were sent into a flurry of ingredients being tossed into the pan with precision timing. Shallots and tofu now…garlic, pork, shrimp now…noodles…sauce…bean sprouts, chives…eggs…add garnish and done. My teacher said that the best compliment for her would be that our Pad Thai was better than hers. I can’t give her that compliment as her’s was amazing. I will say that mine was better than any other Pad Thai I had in Thailand, which is a testament to what a great teacher she was.
Next was the red curry chicken. I’ve somewhat successfully made curry in the past, but picked up some nice details from Uwi in the preparation. Again, this was one of the better curries I had in Thailand.
After the curry, we made a very easy recipe, Tom Yum Soup. I’m always a fan of recipes that aren’t much more complicated than take ingredients, throw in pan, cook. Of course, there’s more to this and even in the recipes that didn’t challenge my skills, Uwi had great tips. For example, in this one, she recommended that we cut into the far bottom of the lemongrass, something you don’t see in many recipes. The result was lemongrass that stayed together instead of picking out odd parts when you’re eating it. Simple, but very helpful. The Tom Yum was fantastic by the way.
The next dish was the Chicken with Cashew Nut. What excited me most about this one is that it’s something I could easily make on a weekday night. It’s very simple to assemble the ingredients and many of them are things I keep in my pantry anyway. The cooking time of this one was in the neighborhood of 2 minutes…and it’s delicious. Winner!
At this point, we’ve been here a few hours and have made and consumed 3 main course dishes and a soup. We were all properly stuffed so it was a good time for our market tour. Something really nice Uwi did with our group was take us to a very local market where there are no tourists. I saw other cooking classes practically yelling over each other in one of the more touristed area markets. Here’s some pictures from the market.
Returning to the cooking class, we cleared just enough space in our stomachs to do our last couple dishes. The first of those is the spring rolls. I should let you know right here than I’ve never deep fried anything in my life. If anything, it’s not a skill I want to learn because if I learn, I’ll actually do it and that would be bad. Anyway, this is the only dish I butchered. Everybody else was thrilled with their perfectly folded spring rolls and they all turned out well. Mine apparently had little spaces that weren’t properly sealed so they became havens for grease to seap into. The results obviously were less than impressive. Oops. Here’s the last photographable moment of my spring rolls’ lives.
The final dish was the mango with sticky rice. This was another simple straightforward dish to make. It’s definitely something I could make easily for company and not add much work. The results are predictable and yummy.
I really can’t recommend this class enough if you’re in Chiang Mai. I came into the class with a reasonable background in Thai cooking and even with that, I know Uwi made me a much better cook for having come to her class. I know most people will come to the class with less experience with Thai cooking and that just means she can cut to the chase and make you a terrific Thai cook.