To read the first part of this Chiang Mai story, Part 1 of 2
After a few hours of picking over the Chiang Mai market for the ingredients we needed, we piled back into the covered bed of the rickety red pickup truck and Wanee’s driver took us to our next destination– the cooking school. I overlooked my starvation because I was so excited to learn how to cook Thai food, which I’ll admit, I’ve always been scared to tackle, because the cooking style and staple ingredients are so different from what I’m used to cooking with. Fortunately I’m a great student in the kitchen (check out the Paris cooking class) and I was ready to learn.
The Chiang Mai cooking school was attached to a farmhouse about 30 minutes outside of the city center. Our truck pulled passed a rot iron security gate and stopped next to the quintessential spirit house covered with offerings of fresh fruit and flowers. Under a giant aluminum RV carport were several rows of cooking stations; each one consisting of a double burner, a well seasoned carbon steel wok, and a small transaction top for the four main sauces (fish sauce, oyster sauce, Maggi cooking sauce, black bean sauce).
After taking in the scenery of lily pads in cinder block ponds and the neighboring homes, we were given floral print aprons and Wanee called us to the prep table.
“Okay we’ve got a rot of dishes to make so ret’s get this show on the load.” Wanee said, motioning with the back of her hands as if a nun ready to smack us with a stick. “I want you arr to have fun, but if you don’t risten to me, I’m gonna smack you sirry!”
I giggled under my breath at her egregious swapping of L’s and R’s, and she pointed at me with that overtly thick grin. “You wirr be tloubre I can terrr.” We all laughed together, knowing the next few hours were gonna be a blast.
We went through each course first standing around a large table in the back of the school so Wanee could walk us through the next steps and point out the various ingredients we’d be using in the dishes. The biggest take away for me is that we learned the color of the Thai chili peppers doesn’t affect their scoville scores, but that it’s actually the size; the smaller ones are hotter. I guess size does matter!
When there were items to crush, chop, or slice we had a cutting board and knives. If we were mixing sauces they gave us bowls. The workers in the back prepped the majority of the mise en place so we could move quickly from one dish to the next.
With items prepped we’d walk over to our respective burners and steam, stir fry, flambé, etc. whatever we needed. What was amazing was watching Wanee, this four-foot tall little red lipstick wearing Thai woman wrapped in a giant lavender sarong with the body and posture of Ghandi- oversee all eight of us in the group simultaneously. We were the musicians and she was our conductor, effortlessly guiding us from one dish to the next. She told us when to add the next ingredients, when to stir and for how long, when to turn the heat up or down, etc., and not once were any of our dishes in jeopardy of turning to shit.
Now before I get into all the dishes that we made I will just put out this safety disclaimer. There might be some casualties in your group. Between the giant flames from Pad bung phe dang (stir-fried morning glory)….
and the ignition of the stoves every ten minutes which is how I singed the hairs on my arm…..well, you get the point. Just be careful!
First we made our own curry pastes from scratch, sitting crossed legged on bamboo mats on the floor with a giant stone pestle and mortar between our legs.
Wanee told us this would be the first and last time we’d make curry paste from scratch, because it’s a lot of work (my arms were sore the next day) when you can buy the stuff in the market and achieve the same results. I chose masaman curry, because I love it’s combination of spicy and sweet.
Between the two of us, Jonathan and I made 14 different dishes (some more popular in Chiang Mai than in the US), and everything was fantastic to taste and easy to make.
Below is a list of all the dishes we made during our cooking lessons in Chiang Mai. If there are any that you want the recipe for, just send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or leave a comment and ask, because the best part of our day with Classic Home Cooking is that it ended with a parting gift; a bound cookbook with all the traditional Thai recipes we could choose from.
Panaeng Curry with peanuts and chicken
Green Curry with eggplants
Jungle Curry with fresh green peppercorns, vegetables and tons of chili peppers.
Massaman Curry with chicken and potatoes.
Thai Glass Noodles with vegetables.
Chicken with hot basil leaves with peas.
Pad bung phae dang aka stir-fried morning glory vegetables.
Crispy pork with kale.
Pad Si-ew aka noodles with black bean sauce.
Pad Thai aka Thai Fried Noodles.
Khanom Gluay aka Steamed banana cake.
These were steamed inside banana leaves. Each pouch was filled with bananas, sugar, salt, shredded coconut, coconut cream, rice flour and after steaming for 10-15 minutes they were little spongy pillows of joy.
Tod Man Pla aka Fish cakes with cucumber relish sauce.
Hor Mok Pla aka Steamed Curry Flish in banana leaf pouches.
Somtam Malagor aka Spicy Papaya Salad.
This is the traditional pestle and mortar used to mash all the ingredients of the salad together.
And here’s the completed product.
Yam Nua aka Spicy Thai Beef Salad.
Yam Pla Mueg aka Spicy Squid Salad.
Tom Yam Gung or Gai aka Hot & Sour Soup with prawns or chicken.
Tom Kha Gai aka Coconut Soup.
Khao Niew Mamuang aka Sticky rice with yellow mango with mungbeans.
This is one of my favorite desserts of all time, and having the chance to make it myself in Chiang Mai was amazing.
Been to Chiang Mai? Tell us all about it by writing us or leaving a comment and let us know if you happen to want any of the recipes we got for any of the above dishes…..and now I’m hungry again.