Taking a Thai cooking class is something everyone should do at some point in their lives. It is always exciting to try something new for the first time. Cooking classes are especially exciting when you are traveling the world. In Asia, there are some things involving food that you can’t just get where you live or would have never known about without traveling, like eating live octopus or cooked tarantula spiders. But most people have been brought up in the lesson that learning how to cook should be a necessary life skill, even if you might be a novice.
That doesn’t mean it can’t also be enjoyable. Experience in cooking and developing your skillset will be nothing but positive. Because I’m sure most of us feel the same way about it in that context. Plus the added benefits to it. Cooking can help relax you after a long day at 9-5. Picking ingredients at the local market is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon and will get you outside your home. Make it a day special event with friends and family where everyone can contribute what they have learned.
A cooking class is a good way to combine all these things to assist you in that process. And doing this in an entirely new country is an exciting way to spend part of your travels. Each country you visit has its unique cuisine and eating customs and it’s great to change up your idea of “normal” eating habits. Develop cooking techniques, learn new cooking methods, and enjoy some menu planning.
During my trip to Thailand, I decided to take an authentic Thai cooking class. It was when making my way traveling through inland in Chiang Mai, one of the best places to visit in Thailand. It was part of my Contiki Asian Adventure tour (you can take this cooking class by itself without needing to take a tour), it was well worth the extra Baht spent to take this cooking course and only came out to USD 30. If you know compared to other cooking courses in the US that can be two to three times as much for a single person. It is a pretty reasonable price for a main dish, side dish, and dessert.
This was an extra activity on my group tour through Thailand. If you are touring solo, with your significant other, or a group of fellow travelers I suggest you sign up if given the opportunity.
Finding the local ingredients
You and your class will start at the Chiang Mai marketplace which even without taking the class is a great way to spend the day. Some of you may expect this marketplace to be something similar to the farmer’s markets you may find in major cities. You’ll find out like me how different this place can be from your usual marketplace hangouts. Everything is more packed together. There is little open space between stalls and the fresh ingredients and humidity of Thailand make the smells even stronger. The aroma of the array of Thai herbs and spices mixed in with cute local arts and crafts.
It’s a culmination of everything you’d hope for in exotic travel. You’ll get a quick lesson on each of the specific ingredients of what you will be cooking and tips on what to look out for if you go market shopping on your own. Of course, you don’t want to choose items that will soon be expired or unripened fruits and vegetables for your meal. This stroll through the market is a nice leisurely walk to where you will be doing the cooking.
Time to fire up the stove
In a small classroom, the professional chef will give a quick tutorial on cooking tools and cookware you will be using and a demonstration of the meals you will be making during the class. One of you might even volunteer or get picked to come up in front and show how it’s done.
After that, you will be taken into an open outdoor kitchen area with individual cooking stations for 20-30 people. You’ll have plenty of room and instruction on how to prepare the food and the cool weather helps compliments the fire of the cooking station. The menu will consist of learning to cook yummy Pad Thai, spicy Thai green curry, and top off with some delicious mango sticky rice.
Experienced instructors will help you the entire time and take everything one step at a time with you. Don’t worry if you consider yourself a terrible or average cook as this is supposed to be fun while traveling. Cooking Thai food depends on what you are trying to make, whether it’s a single meal or making it for a large group. It can be simple or a little more advanced.
Some consider it an art that can be hard to master perfectly. I was very particular and focused about what I was doing and consistently asked questions for the instructor to check my work. I wanted it to taste like it just came from the kitchen of a native Thai who had been making this recipe for years.
What I learned in cooking class and you will too
Thai recipes can sometimes be complicated with the amounts of specific spices and aromatic herbs we have to add to complement and complete the meal. Aside from that sometimes massive hurdle they are relatively simple to make and don’t require a lot of time. You may want to keep asking the instructor how you are doing just for the confidence booster but remember this is supposed to be fun, no pressure. The main pad Thai dish we made for this course only took about 20 min to make and it came out great, giving me an A+. I savored every bite of it.
My next dish to make was Thai green curry. I’ve never been a big fan of eating curry. It has never agreed with my stomach and I will usually pass on it at a restaurant. I made the green curry tonight just because it was part of the cooking course and let someone have it as an extra bowl.
My travel buddy said it was pretty good curry for a beginner who had never really tried his hand at it before. I took that as a good sign of my slowly growing culinary expertise and chef-in-training status. You might be more used to making food for only yourself. I know I am and that’s how I measure most meals in my head. Party of one right over here!
We finished off with mango sticky rice for dessert. This is a Thai classic and you can’t finish a cooking course or meal without having it. A sweet and sticky dish. This is by far the easiest to make. Don’t feel concerned about getting all that stickiness on your hands. You can even eat the dessert with your hands if you prefer it that way. The coconut milk and mango give it that extra flavor that will leave you wanting more.
Thai Thursdays Anyone?
At the end of the cooking course, you will be given a complimentary Thai Cooking Course cookbook. Perfect for beginners, it will have all the delicious recipes that you made and others to make you an expert in Thai cuisine. Use it for menu planning, host a weekly Thai food night with friends and family when you get back home, or just keep it in your skill set for when you don’t feel like takeout.
I find it is always best to adjust the recipes to your personal preferences. When it comes to spicy we are not all the same. This is a must-have for any person looking to increase their knowledge in the culinary arts and learn to cook the best Thai.