I’ve loved Thai food ever since I can remember so when I heard that you could do Thai cookery classes in Chiang Mai I was ready to sign up! After three days of huge water fights and being soaked 24/7, we decided to break it up a bit by doing a Thai Cookery Course with Siam Rice Cooking School.
We started the day at a food market where the locals come to buy their supplies. It was full of weird and wonderful things from pork crackling to dried kiwis. It was really interesting to see a market like this and where all the food we’d been eating the last couple of days had probably come from. The first market stall we stopped at sold coconut cream and chili paste. Our teacher explained that coconut cream is pureed coconut mixed with 1 part water and coconut milk is pureed coconut with 3 parts water. He also told us the real difference between a red and green thai curry – red is made from sundried chillies and green from fresh green ones.
‘Green hot in your body, red hot in your mouth’
After roaming around the market for a while we arrived at the cooking school where we were given a little menu of various things we could learn how to make. I chose to make a Tom Yum soup (Hot and Spicy soup), Pad Thai, Holy Basil and Chili, Massaman curry, Spring Rolls and Young Coconut and Sticky Rice.
We started off making the soups and our teacher who was only 20 years old (but looked 40) explained that lemongrass, kafir lime leaf, onion, tomato, lime, garlic and shrimp paste are the foundations of all Thai soups. We had to chop everything up and then started cooking on the woks where he came round making sure we were following his instructions. After cooking the soup for about 10 minutes (that’s all the time it needs apparently!), we were encouraged to taste the soup to see if it was spicy enough. Mine was perfect :-).
We were then given a lesson in Pad Thai which he explained was basically noodles, egg, spring onions, tofu, fish sauce, fish sauce AND then SUGAR! We quickly learned how much sugar is used in Thai food! We seemed to be adding two teaspoons of brown sugar to EVERYTHING! After we made the pad thai, we were allowed to have a little break to eat the soup and pad thai. I loved my soup, it was absolutely delicious and I would make it again and again, but I didn’t like my pad thai that much. It was a little bland and was missing something.
We then learnt how to make curry paste! We had to cut up garlic, kafir lime leavves, sun dried chillies, etc and mashed it up for over 10 minutes using a mortar and pestle until it was a proper paste. It was definitely a lot of work but a lot more satisfying than using a jar. We then headed to the woks to turn our curry pastes into delicious curries! We fried the curry paste in oil on a high heat, added water and then chicken, cinnamon, cardamon pods and cloves for the Massaman curry and two spoons of coconut milk. Once the chicken was cooked and we’d let it simmer for a bit, it was ready and it was without a doubt the best Thai curry I’ve ever had. I’m salivating thinking about it right now. It was so yummy. I could probably eat it every day. There was then an awkward moment where this older Australian lady and her daughter asked our teacher where he’d studied Thai cooking to which he replied he’d never studied Thai cuisine but had learnt from his grandmother. The two Australians looked very embarrassed and not that impressed once they’d learnt their teacher didn’t have any cooking qualifications or hadn’t studied at some prestigious cooking institution!
I then made Holy Basil and Chili which I was a little underwhelmed by so I won’t waste time talking about it. I then made spring rolls and learnt how to make the filling (sugar, sugar, sugar) and then wrap them carefully and neatly with rice paper. I apparently didn’t follow instructions properly because the spring rolls that I made had little bobbles on the outside, but hey they tasted damn good.
We finished off the day trying to make sticky rice with young coconut for dessert. It was actually quite difficult to get right and needless to say everyone in the group pretty much burnt their sticky rice. Our teacher was less than impressed and made a batch of sticky rice for everyone. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat another thing (huge food baby by this point), I tried a spoon of the sticky rice and young coconut and next thing I know I’m wolfing it all down. It was absolutely divine. Nom Nom Nom Nom.