On Day 4 of my Thailand trip, after walking through wats all morning in Chiang Mai, I made my way into the old part of the city to explore.
Walking down a narrow alleyway (because they inevitably lead to good things), I saw a sign for a cooking class at a cool little guesthouse called Gap’s. I inquired within, and a pleasant Thai man said one was starting in 15 minutes! Alleyway strikes again!
At 10:00, I realized that me and one other person (Chris) were the only two signed up for the cooking class. Sweet! So personalized! The instructor, Jon, took us in his truck and we made our way to a local market. When I say local – I mean Chris and I were the only farang (“foreigners”) there.
Feel free to check out photos of the market here.
Jon, our instructor, led us around and pointed out various herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. As Chris and I are both avid cooks, we asked a ton of questions including how various spices compliment each other, the identity of foreign fruits and how specific meats, poultry and fish were caught and cut.
We spent over an hour in the market smelling, tasting and touching while Jon bought various ingredients for our class. I spent a ridiculous amount of time in the pepper section learning about how to play with Thai curries. I was in heaven – it was even better than Union Square’s farmer’s market on its best day and I couldn’t wait to start cooking all the fresh ingredients Jon purchased.
After leaving the market, we drove another 15 minutes outside the city to the guesthouse owner’s home. In his backyard was a large outdoor kitchen with cooking stations. We got starts right away and cooked for almost 3 hours straight. We made 6 dishes altogether: Thai green curry, Fish soufflé in banana leaves, Spicy shrimp cashew stir fry, fried Fish cakes, lemongrass and coconut soup, and pumpkin coconut dessert.
I learned so much and Jon was hilarious. He joked with us, laughed at our failures and praised our successes. Some of the tips that stuck out the most are (1) always add garlic before the oil is hot, (2) once you smell the garlic, add the rest of the ingredients (3) always add splashes of broth while tasting the dish so ingredients don’t burn (4) if too sweet, add fish sauce. Too salty? Add palm sugar. Spicy? Add a splash of coconut milk.
After our cooking we sat down and ate our feast. I finished everything and Chris and I kept commenting on how we couldn’t believe we had cooked such amazing dishes! After we ate, we drank some tea and then went back to cooking for another 2 hours – this time to take home for dinner. First, we sat with Jon at the table and learned to carve onions and tomato peels into flowers. After making these gorgeous little displays – we focused on two dishes: spring rolls and traditional pad thai.
I learned how to make the filling, roll the dough, and the best techniques to frying them perfectly.
We also made our own pad Thai and used our lessons on combining flavors to make the dish to our liking. Afterwards, we packed up all the food to go and were presented with our cooking degrees for the day.
I almost had to be rolled to the truck I was so full.