As Paris forces us to reach once again for boots, jackets, and scarves rather than the flats and skirts I was pulling out a week ago, my mind drifts back to Thailand. Sunny, warm, Thailand.It drifts forward as well, to weekend trips I want to start taking as of tomorrow, to seek after the sun and wade in the ocean. I don’t know how a practically landlocked Texas girl became so heavily reliant on the beach and ocean for restoration and happiness, but there it is. (The Gulf of Mexico hardly qualifies as a beach & ocean, and it’s a five hour drive from Dallas anyway).
Back to Thailand, where the sun shines all day and the food is bright and flavorful. Chiang Mai is a gem of a place, and I started planning my retirement there while getting yet another hour long massage for 5 euros. Food galore, massages every day, cool cafes, friendly people, cheap everything, and a laid back atmosphere.
It became apparent that a Chiang Mai cooking class was a must-do activity, so my travel pal and I signed up for the cooking class at Siam Rice Thai Cooking School, which had rave reviews online. We got picked up in the classic red truck, made a few stops at other places to pick up our new cooking buddies, and made our way to a market, where we got the rundown on all the basics.Once we arrived at the cooking school location, a short drive from the center of Chiang Mai, we strapped on colorful aprons and began our outdoor lessons in Thai cookery.
Each dish was prepped in advance with piles of fresh ingredients, making it easy for us to grab and chop the few things that needed actual chopping. We would be making seven different things from scratch, and we had the chance to grab however many Thai chilis we wanted to cater to our preferred spice level. You get to choose one of the following from each category:
Hot & Sour Soup (Tom Yum)
Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kha)
Hot & Creamy Soup (Tom Yum with coconut milk)
Spicy Soup with Sweet Basil
Pad Woon Sen (Fried glass noodles with vegetables)
Pad See Ew (Fried wide noodles)
Pad Kee Mao (Drunken noodles)
Fried spring rolls
Spicy glass noodles salad
Green mango salad
4. Stir fry
Chicken with cashews
Sweet & sour vegetables
Chicken with fried holy basil
Chicken with ginger
5. Make a Curry Paste / 6. Cook a Curry from the curry paste:
Red curry with eggplant
Red curry with pineapple
Northern style pumpkin curry
Red curry with pumpkin
7. Thai dessert
Sticky rice with mango (why would anyone choose anything but this most delicious of Thai desserts?)
Banana in coconut milk
Stick rice with young coconut milk
Pumpkin in coconut milk
My Thai dishes for the day:
1. Tom Yum Soup
2. Glass noodles (sweet & spicy)
3. Cashew chicken
4. Pad Kee Mao
6. Green curry with chicken and vegetable
The curry flavors and colors were plentiful. It’s really impressive that they can offer such a wide variety to everyone.
If you’re interested, here is an easy green curry recipe that can be made using pre-made green curry paste.
Let’s talk about making those drunken noodles. No one tells you that it’s called drunken noodles because you have to throw alcohol into fire and create an all-consuming noodle fire explosion. Our teacher was a hoss. She wasn’t the least bit scared of the mini atomic bomb happening in the wok, threatening to consume everything in sight.
Doo-doo-doo. Whistle whistle. Casual.
Pan over to scene 2, the other girl and I “making” drunken noodles. She is shielding her face to the right covering her eyes from flame consumption, and I’m cowering in the corner with my spatula, refusing to approach my hellfire wok. Teacher’s like: “STIR YOUR WOK!!” And I’m all: “Aw heelnaw.” Drunken noodle shmunken noodle. Let it burn, I’ll eat more curry.
Does it work if I hold the spatula in the air without actually touching anything? The other girl has disappeared completely. You can see the forced smile on my face mixed with fear in my eyes. “Heh-heh. This is fun. Can I do this from ten feet away?” I need a go-go gadget fireproof arm so I can stir it from the roof, or I don’t know, the beach, where there is no fire.
That will never happen.
The New York Times has a great recipe for Pad Kee Mao that does not involve catching your entire home on fire.
7. Sweet, beautiful, mango sticky rice. So free from fire and flames.
In case you can’t tell, this was a lot of food, and we were all massively full at the end of the day.
Even though I was in the second circle of Hades for a brief second, I have to say it was a wonderful day. You could have a pretty great photo in front of your fire wok if you’re not a huge baby like me. We had fun with the other people in our group, we made so many different things, and it really debunked the idea that Thai food has to be take-out and involves 100 obscure ingredients. It is absolutely doable at home, and while they make the whole thing super easy by prepping everything in advance, you probably won’t be making 7 dishes in one night.
If you’re heading to Chiang Mai at any point, this is definitely worth your time. Food is a major component of connecting with a culture, so doing something like this brings you one step closer to knowing more about country’s cuisine and how you can expand your own repertoire back home, keeping a little bit of Thailand in your own kitchen.