For the most part I’ve been blogging in chronological order, but I’m going to have to take a more themed approach for this entry and write about my favourite Thai subject: food!
Most of the streets in Bangkok and Chiang Mai are packed with food stalls. You can walk from one part of the city to the another and pick up some pad thai for breakfast, fried chicken (way better than KFC) for lunch, chicken satay for dinner and some fresh Alphonso mangos for dessert. Can’t really imagine anything better… and for under a dollar each meal!
That’s what inspired me most to go out in Chiang Mai and do a cooking course. Mine was with Pad Thai Cooking course and I would definitely recommend them! We made six dishes each: breakfast, appetizer, soup/salad, curry, stir-fry and a dessert. Each category had six different options to choose from so there was a lot of choice in what you could make. I ended up choosing pad thai, spring rolls, tom yum soup, panang curry, chicken stirfry with cashew nuts and fried bananas.
First of all we did a market tour. We were taught all about the spices used to make curry paste and the different “Thai” versions of fruit and vegetables. We tried different types of fruit including mangosteen and rambutan – both delicious, white-flesh fruits, similar to lychee.
The cooking school itself was about half an hour outside of Chiang Mai in the countryside. The kitchen was open-air, with enough cooking stations for everyone. We jumped straight into making “breakfast” (although by now it was almost 11) and for me, that meant pad thai! This was definitely one I had been looking forward too, having devoured so many delicious pad thais off of street stalls. Everyone had their own tray of fresh ingredients, pre-measured for the perfect single portion size (although the cooking was easy, this is going to be the most difficult step to get right at home – portion sizes, and all the preparation). A little wok technique here, a little pinch of sugar and a douse of crushed peanuts there and voila! The perfect pad thai! And it was delicious, if I do say so myself…
The rest of the day passed in much the same way. The chefs were hilarious and spoke amazing English; they made everyone feel right at home in the kitchen. But the highlight of the day was by far the “cooking with big flame.” This was the ‘stir-fry’ category, and a definite don’t-try-this-at-home moment. Holding a wok on very high heat in one hand and a bowl full of chopped onions and a tablespoon of water in the other I waited for the 3…2…1…. countdown and then threw the onions into the wok — instant giant flame!
By the end of cooking school, we were all stuffed to the brim with thai food, a little sleepy and full of inspiration to try cooking at home. We were each given a recipe book, but I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to replicate the tastes without access to the fresh ingredients… I’ll just have to try and see!