When Sandy and I made our way up the railways of Thailand to the city of Chiang Mai, we each had a certain ‘must do’ experience in mind. For Sandy, it was the Elephant Nature Park we went to on Thursday. For me, it was taking a cooking class at the Siam Rice Thai Cookery School. Anyone who has known me for more than a few minutes knows that I absolutely love food. I like seeing it, I like smelling it, I like eating it. I like thinking about what I’m going to eat, cooking what I’m going to eat, and then shoveling every last morsel into my face. Pretty much the only thing I don’t like is the cleanup. I’m pretty sure someone at Siam Rice knew all these things about me, because yesterday (Saturday) was a day tailor fit to fulfill all my wildest foodie fantasies.
The morning started off a bit rocky. We got up and were ready early to be picked up from our hotel, only to end up waiting. When we called the school, we found out they’d emailed us that morning telling us to be ready at 8:00 instead of 8:45. The email was sent at 7:40 a.m. Not the best first impression, but we figured things out over the phone and were picked up within 15 minutes. From there, we went straight to a local market to do some warm-up food gawking.
Our guide for the market taught us about some different herbs and veggies we’d be using throughout the day. We felt, smelled, and longed to taste every thing she handed us. Afterwards, we got 10 minutes to wander through the vendor stalls. I took the opportunity to snag some sai ua, a local specialty. It’s a spicy pork sausage that is absolutely fantastic. However, if you’re like my momma and don’t like spice, steer clear!
After the market, we drove post haste to the school; tucked back in a maze of single-car wide side streets and local dwellings. Upon arrival, we sat down and had a brief orientation with our teacher, Mink, while we perused the menu. For the full day participants (Sandy and myself) there were SEVEN different courses to pick dishes for. Each course had about four choices. For someone like myself who chooses between two dishes by saying, “Both please?”, this presented a huge problem. I managed to make my choices, but it took some serious strength of will. I ended up going with hot and sour soup, chicken pad thai, green curry with chicken (the curry base counts as a course), green mango salad, cashew chicken, and mangoes with sticky rice. As soon as we’d made our selections, the ecstasy began…
Hot and sour soup came first. We got all of our ingredients divvied out to us, then followed Mink’s instructions. One thing I really enjoyed about the experience was that the portions and amounts were already set out. All we had to do was pick out the veggie/whatever that we needed to add, chop it up according to instructions, and add it when told to. It was pretty stupid proof… and for that I was thankful.
Once everyone had all the ingredients chopped up and ready, we moved to the cooking area. Mink effortlessly coached the whole class in cooking their individual recipes… at the same time. Thai foods use a lot of base ingredients as a starting point, then branch off from there to create unique dishes. This makes it so many dishes involve a very similar preparation process, with only slight differences in ingredients. This made it easier to instruct people making different recipes simultaneously, but the ease with which Mink managed to do it was still very impressive.
Within what seemed a matter of minutes, the soup was ready. Then, it was Mink’s favorite time (mine as well). Time to eat!
After finishing our tasty soups, we waited only a few minutes before jumping on to the next dish. I chose to make my favorite (albeit extremely common) Thai dish: chicken pad thai. Maybe it was the fact that I cooked it myself, maybe it wasn’t, but that was the best freaking pad thai I’ve ever eaten. Soooo good.
Then came the curry! Before we made the actual recipe we would be eating, we had to make the curry paste. I chose green curry, but there were many other options. Making curry involves taking all the ingredients and using a stone mortar and pestle.
You basically pound the ever-lovin’ daylights out of everything until it becomes a chunkless, smooth, paste. It was pretty tough work, but we all ended up finishing.
Mine is the green curry, Sandy’s the red.
Once our curries were finished, we moved on to making our curry recipes. Mine was green curry with chicken. And boy, was it tasty!
This is where we bid farewell to the rest of our group, who were only there for a half day class of cooking. A half day is 700 baht, which is about $23-24 dollars, while a full day is 900 baht. I think we definitely got the most for our money by doing the full day course.
Yeah, I can dig it
I managed to finish eating both those dishes, then immediately felt like I was going to explode. We’d been cooking and eating almost non-stop for over 6 hours. I was so full and so happy all I wanted to do was just lay down and have a nice little food coma. To me, that is the sign of a perfect day.
Look at that happy face!
Enjoy the rest of my pictures below. I didn’t get TOO many… I was a little preoccupied I guess…