We started with a visit to the local market
If you’re a foodie and you’re excited about the cuisine of a culture you’re about to visit, consider taking a cooking class while you’re there. I’d taken a cooking class in Paris and had a wonderful experience. The good ones (cooking classes) include a trip to the local farmer’s market to purchase fresh ingredients needed for the dishes you’re gonna cook. You get a great snapshot of the local flavor and style of living from seeing what people eat and how they purchase it, and if you’re with a local it will help you feel more comfortable in the markets in general so you can shop in them when you’re traveling on your own.
So when working out the logistics of our trip, I figured Thailand would be a great place for a cooking class since I had so much to learn about Asian cuisine. My trepidation for cooking Thai food stemmed from an unfamiliarity with its unique ingredients: lemon grass, galangal root, curry pastes, etc.; but how was I going to get over those fears if I didn’t take the chance to learn it while I could. Hence the all day cooking class in Chiang Mai.
The class started in the early morning, We booked with Classic Home Cooking that picked us up in the morning in one of the pickup trucks with the cab in the back converted into a seating area with benches on either side (no seatbelts). Our first stop was the market.
The markets in Thailand are amazing. Everything you could possibly want: fresh produce, ripe fruit, recently caught fish, ground and whole spices, butchered meats, whole animals, pickled veggies, sauces, desserts, candy, ready made food, etc. It’s all there for the taking, and it’s cheap!
Having Vanee, our instructor and retired Bangkok restaurateur with us was great, because I could point to anything and ask “what’s that?” and she’d have the answer. So we made our way through the market and purchased the veggies, proteins, and fresh coconut milk we needed for the six recipes (6 for each of us) we were going to make.
Morning glory vegetables needed for Pad Bung Fai Daeng.
This is Vanee with a giant bunch of long string beans.
Giant pieces of fresh ginger root and Thai chilies, which were practically used in every dish we made. Vanee taught us that the smaller they are the spicier they are, and that the color (red or green) didn’t make a difference in heat or taste.
We needed some Kafir limes, which are considerably more flavorful than western limes and have these bumpy warts on their skins like toads.
Thai green eggplants for green curry and little Thai garlic cloves. The garlic cloves have a slightly softer taste than the larger garlic cloves we find in most US and European supermarkets. The skins are also so delicate that you just leave them on and cook with them as is.
Green fresh peppercorns that was used in the Jungle curry (really spicy). You’ll find these are used as a garnish on entrees in authentic Thai restaurants in the states. Sorry the pic is a little blurry, but my camera was salivating!
This is fresh tamarind root, which I never see in the market so I thought it was interesting. Notice the orange hue under the skin.
These are banana flowers, which we didn’t actually use in anything, but I was so curious to see what they tasted like or how they were used in Thai dishes so I took a picture.
This merchant specialized in picked tofu and veggies. These are hearts of palm and pickled bok choy. Not your average dill-pickling flavor let me tell you!
Fresh beetlenut and dried beetlenut hanging behind it, which the Thai chew on like tobacco, making their mouths and teeth black.
Vanee showing us some oyster mushrooms from the mushroom vendor.
Little fish cured with salt in bamboo baskets.
Curry pastes, which Vanee said we didn’t need to buy because we were going to make our own from scratch….and then she said, “after you make you’ll just buy in market, because it a lot of work.”
Live eels, which I wasn’t even going to consider eating!
Fish merchant preparing whole fish for a customer.
This was the shrimp and calamari (squid) vendor, selling all sorts of shrimps (small, pink, frozen, large, tiger prawns, etc), and other shellfish. When we bought the calamari she removed the interior skeleton inside which looks like a clear piece of plastic. Wasn’t that nice of her?
Once we moved into the meat room, we saw this table with a pig’s head and snout on it, next to all the pig parts laid out for us to see and buy. PASS!
And then my heart stopped when I stumbled on this giant pile of bacon….yum! I may have even muttered a prayer or two that it would all get sold to good families and none of it would be left behind.
This merchant sold fish cakes and fish balls that were shaped into different things. Some looked like Picachu the Japanimation character and these looked like little mice with pink ears. To the right of those (and it’s hard to tell from this picture) the fish balls were shaped to look like brains.
Here’s the meat lady cutting us a few pieces of beef that we needed for the Thai beef salads we were going to make.
Then there’s the noodle lady who sells every kind of noodle you can imagine. Glass noodles, egg noodles, rice noodles, thick noodles, thin noodles, wonton wrappers and so on. We got some glass noodles for the vegetable glass noodle dish I was going to make and some egg noodles for the Kao soi soup (a local Chiang Mai dish) my step mother remembered loving from her last time in region.
These are obviously oranges and above them are rose apples, which we don’t get in the US. They’re crisp and juicy, but don’t have tons of flavor. If I had to describe their taste I’d say they’re like the bastard child of a water chestnut and Asian pear….only not as crisp as the water chestnut.
Here’s the info on the Chiang Mai cooking class. So worth it!
Classic Home Cooking with Vannee (pronounced Wanee) and Meo
tel: 081-6710231 or 086-7288103
website: www.Chiangmai1.com (scroll down on the page)
19 Mahachoke Soi 22 Tambon Pharton Amphur Muang
Chiangmai 50000 Thailand