Our morning started out in the outdoor courtyard of our hotel sipping on coffee and eating breakfast. Our cooking school guide picked us up, threw our luggage in the car and took us to our cooking school.
We pulled up to a big house in a nice neighborhood (a gated community) and were shown to our room. It was a very spacious room with private bathroom. He told us we had about 20 minutes to unpack and then would be leaving for market shopping.
Back in the car with another couple who told us we were going to love this place, our car pulled up after a few minutes to the local market. It was a big open space with many vendors each selling various types of food from fresh frogs to cilantro. Our cooking instructor opened his hand and had each of us pick 2 pieces of folded up paper. On each piece of paper was an ingredient and quantity.
The instructor took us through the market showing us what various foods were…he walked into the coconut stall and explained the process of how they get all the coconut meat out of its shell…he had us feel the products as we moved from stall to stall. He explained how there are multiple types of tofu…hard, soft and medium used for different recipes. He had us smell the various herbs like lemon grass and a type of ginger not found at home. He also pointed out the kaffir lime which comes with 2 leaves attached…one for aroma and the other for decoration. We not only looked and felt our way through the market, but we of course tasted. The sticky rice for example which was being steamed in a bamboo shoot and was mixed with black beans was given to us to munch on. We tasted the ripeness of the orange and the sweetness of the Thai pancake which is made with coconut cream and chives mixed within the dough. We also saw some things we would really never cook in the US… like hardened chicken blood and live frogs waiting to be boiled.
We really had a great time learning about the market…it really is a different experience walking through with a local rather than on our own. Once we had purchased the things on our list, we piled back in the car to get to our first cooking class.
Back at cooking school, he led us next door which was a completely open air structure…there was only a roof and underneath were individual cooking stations. Each station had a burner with a metal wok sitting on it and a counter space for prep work. Giff and I found a station, washed our hands and put on our cooking aprons.
Our instructor introduced himself, his staff and explained how class would run…some students were only there for a day and others will be back tomorrow. The cooking school is organized into 5 courses for beginners…one course is taught per day and consists of 6 dishes. Before the course begins…everyone participates in a morning activity, today it was shopping at the market, tomorrow will be vegetable carving. Once the cooking portion of the day begins, the instructor has us sit in the classroom and cooks each dish first. He shows the ingredients, demonstrates short-cuts for chopping and of course makes the dish from start to finish including presentation. After each of 4 dishes are demonstrated by the instructor, students go to their own cooking station and re-create the dish from technique to presentation…the instructor comes around dipping his spoon in our woks to taste or corrects us if something should be done a different way. After 4 dishes…the class sits down together and we all eat what we just cooked, of course impressed with our selves! After lunch, we go back into the classroom to learn the last 2 dishes and then cook them ourselves before the class comes to an end.
Today we cooked yellow curry with chicken, steamed fish in banana leaves, chicken with cashew nuts, fried big noodles with sweet soy sauce, spicy prawn salad and bananas in coconut milk! We had so much fun firing up our woks, learning how to use some of the spices for decoration and trying to remember how to re-create what we just watched in the classroom (it’s amazing how quickly one can forget what was literally just seen). We ate so much food and had so much fun learning the basics today…we are looking forward to tomorrows lessons!
Part of the home-stay package at this cooking school included accommodations, cooking classes as well as a Thai massage and meal prepared by the chef. Once class ended, we were driven into the town of Chiang Mai and dropped off at a massage parlor. These are not the same types of massages as in the US…there is no private room with soft mellow music and dim lighting. These massages however are MUCH cheaper, as in $10 for an hour. You do lay on a long cushion on the floor with a curtain separating you from the next person so it’s not the most private experience but they really do work your muscles. In fact, a Thai massage is more like the massage therapist moves your body in yoga type positions and uses pressure points to restore energy and release stress.
After our massages, we were back at our place at the cooking school…and for dinner, sat in the chef’s dining room where they served us a multi-course meal cooked by the instructor. We are definitely not going to lose weight while we are here! Dinner was great, and the instructor introduced each course and how to eat it while pouring us wine. We had eaten so much food while cooking today but somehow managed to find room for the 4-5 courses we were eating.
Dinner was good and the conversation with the instructor was nice. We walked outside for a bit after dinner and then went upstairs full to the rim. I hope our clothes still fit us by the end of the week!