Hello! Double post today–this never happens. Check out my v-day pictorial if you’re in the mood. It. Is. Delicious.
Anyway, I don’t really do well on the blog with posting constantly or with regular features (case in point: the second installment of my Five Faves Friday was a “Saturday Edition”--that about sums it up). But I realize that I have SO much awesome otherworldly (so to speak) content that I haven’t featured on the blog yet, and with the fear of turning into a cookie-cutter copy of a ton of other (awesome) bloggers… I really need to make myself get this stuff up, because I want y’all to see it! (If I get through Thailand maybe I can start a Vietnam Vednesday and a Cambodia… I got nothing.)
Anyway, quick precursor: I spent a few weeks in Thailand in November/December and got to do some pretty amazing things. I figured, this being a travel/food/happy blog after all, that I could start out with something near and dear to our hearts: cooking class in Thailand!
I went to Thailand with very few concrete plans besides a flight into the country, and one of the only things I knew I simply HAD to do was take a cooking class (or three) in the beautiful northern city of Chiang Mai. There are a ton of options, and we decided to go to Baan Thai Thai Cookery School. (“Baan” is Thai for house/home).
We were taking class with a group of people from all over–the States, Canada, Slovakia, Scandinavia… Thailand definitely attracts travelers from all over the world. Our first assignment was to pick which dishes we wanted to cook.
Easier said than done. There were SO many choices and of course I wanted to learn how to make everything, but I ended up choosing the spring rolls, the pad thai, the hot and sour soup, green curry with chicken, and mango with sticky rice for dessert.
After making our choices, we took a “field trip” to the local market inside Chiang Mai’s old city (the center of the city is surrounded by moats and a city wall. It’s awesome. Will post more about it later.) Here we got a lesson from our teacher about the principal ingredients in all Thai cooking. The produce and random fruits and fish and herbs there was just incredible.
We had some free time to wander through the market, and of course I grabbed a Thai iced tea (strong, with a ton of condensed milk and sugar–love it) and some peanuts glazed with something delish. Total cost, one dollar. This is why Thailand is my favorite country.
When we got back to the cooking school, we relaxed on our cushions while the staff prepped the ingredients, and we got to enjoy a tasting plate of thai snacks. Check this out.
We have (clockwise from left): two small oranges/tangerines, Thai version; java apple; Thai grapefruit; some sort of plum/peach I’d never seen before; Thai rice cakes; sesame balls (my favorite! I think it was taro or sweetened red bean paste which was then fried–delicious) and lastly, an unnamed snack made of sweetened fruit and sticky rice wrapped in taro and then rolled in coconut (if anyone knows the name, tell me!) plus similar sweet peanuts in the middle.
I wish every day started like that.
We learned about the basics of Thai cooking–the seasonings (soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, mushroom sauce, shrimp paste… a lot of these smell NASTY but are soooo good); the spices (coriander, cumin, cadamom, anise, bay leaves, thai garlic) and herbs and veggies (thai ginger, a ton of different type of chilis including “mouse shit chili”, keffir lime and leaves, lemongrass, several kind of eggplant).
The first course was the pad thai. We started preparing our ingredients at the table (wouldn’t it be great if all cooking started like this?) and then went over to our personal woks to do the cooking. After a short demo, we were turned loose.
I learned a ton of new things today. We cooked everything but the noodles in the wok, then just smushed them up to one side, added some water and cooked the noodles right there. Super easy and quick.
Yes, I made this.
(I made the mistake of eating most of this because it was around lunch, failing to recognize that I’d be cooking myself several MORE meals in the next few hours–needless to say, a ton went untouched, and I’ve got a HUGE appetite. Today I met my match.)
Thai cooking tip: if a recipe calls for fish sauce or oyster sauce, USE IT. While salt and soy sauce are touted as substitutions, it WILL taste much different. These sauces smell pretty horrendous out of the bottle, but they add a rich, salty, and distinctive flavor that is crucial to an authentic Thai flavor.
Next up were the spring rolls, which were much easier to make than I thought. Make filling, put in rice paper, roll up and seal with some water, drop in vat of boiling goodness, consume.
One of our teachers also friend the small Thai bananas and shared them with us, and me being a lover of all things banana (and all things fried), rated it two big Thai thumbs up.
Then it was time for hot and sour soup, which I thought would be complicated and filled with oil. Neither! Pretty easy.
Believe me when I say that the apron adds twenty pounds. But it was the only picture of me from the day (albeit unattractive), so here it is. (Actually, after this cooking class, maybe this is an accurate shot…)
The most complicated recipe was the green curry paste. It had a ton of ingredients that needed to be mixed and mashed and it was a group effort, for sure!
But the results were absolutely delicious.
The last course (yes, we were all barely able to stand up at this point) was dessert. I went with the mango and sticky rice and was NOT disappointed. I had heard this was a classic Thai dessert and I was skeptical, but I tried it very soon after I arrived in the country and almost died of ecstasy. You sweeten the rice with coconut milk and palm sugar and with the mango… man.
This was an amazing cooking class. I learned so much and now am totally not intimidated of Thai cooking. I wish I had gone to a class every day I was there! If anyone goes to Thailand, you HAVE to do this–the entire day was maybe $30 for all the food and an 8-hour experience and it might have been the most expensive thing that I did when I was in Thailand.
I leave you with a Thai recipe! I have several so let’s start with a classic.
Phad Thai (fried noodles) recipe courtesy of Baan Thai
- 250g rice noodle
- 50g chicken in small pieces (or can sub textured soy or vegetable protein)
- 3T oil
- 20g spring onion
- 1t sugar
- 2T fish sauce (can sub soy sauce)
- 2T oyster sauce (can sub mushroom sauce)
- 1 egg
- 30g bean sprouts
- 1T chopped garlic
- 50g tofu, cut into 1cm cubes
- 1/2c water
- Heat oil over low heat, add garlic and fry til fragrant
- Add chicken, tofu and stir until the chicken is cooked
- Break the egg in and spread around with the chicken
- Add noodles and water, stir until tender (push the other stuff up on one side of the wok so the noodles can cook in the water)
- Season with the fish sauce, oyster sauce and sugar
- Add bean sprouts and green onions/chinese chives
- Turn off heat
- Serve with fresh vegetables (cabbage, bean sprouts, spring onion) and garnish with lime juice, grounded peanuts and chilis to taste.
Have you ever taken a cooking class? What is your favorite Thai food??