BarclAysia Day 11: Cooking School

(posted by Emily) 

29 December 2014
Chiang Mai, Thailand

We are doing a lot of really cool things in Chiang Mai, and I was really looking forward to our Thai cooking class. We booked our class through Thai Farm Cooking school, and similar to a booked excursion in Mexico or any other big tourist town, the comapny came to pick us up from our hotel for the day's events. 

We were extremely lucky to be with a group of young, friendly couples--Michael and Jen from North Carolina, Peter and Marion from New York, Dennis and Michelle from New Jersey (who had mutual friends with Peter and Marion but had no idea they'd be on the same excursion that day--small world!), and Robyn and Ben from London. Everyone was recently married or engaged, and it was fun to hear about all of their travels and adventures. 

Our first stop was the market, where Liam, our instructor, showed us the various ingredients we'd be using that day and explained a bit about Thai cooking. Then, we had some time to look around while Liam and her staff bought some of the food we would be using to cook with. The rest would come from the farm where the cooking school is located. 

comparing sticky (glutenous) and jasmine rices

After the market, we hopped back in the truck and made our way to the farm. The complex is beautiful, with a large open air kitchen with stations for each person. We were greeted with aprons, water, and tea. 

Peter had picked up a few local delicacies at the market, including fried bugs. He at a huge grasshopper/cricket thing for the group's amusement. He also picked up some fermented, pickled eggs that had aged over 100 days. More on those later! 

Next Liam showed us around the farms and gardens, picking off bits of fresh produce for us to try as we went along. It was fun to see the fruits and veggies in their natural forms, since so many of these things are not grown in California--or at least, not in my back yard :) 

Thai basil
Once the tour was over, we got right to work. The cooking school is set up to teach you over 5 different courses. We had a choice between dishes for each course, and it seemed everyone had the same strategy--don't make the same thing as your partner :) 

We began by making curry paste. I chose green curry and Rick made red. Only 8 (9 for me) ingredients--dried cumin seed and coriander seed, lemongrass, galangal (Thai ginger root), shallot, garlic, kaffir lime zest, and chilies. Mine also included basil. We chopped everything very finely, and then got to work with the mortar and pestle. 

Though we made the curry paste first, our first dish was soup. Rick made coconut milk soup and I made Tom Yam. Thai Farm was very friendly to the various food allergies and dietary restrictions of our group--2 vegans, a few gluten frees, and 1 soy allergy. 

Rick at his station, making the soup
My Tom Yam
Following the soup course, it was back into the kitchen to put together our curries and stir fry dishes. The curry paste gets mixed in with herbs and coconut milk to look like a soup. Rick made a cashew tofu stirfry and I made sweet and sour stir fry--and somehow don't have pictures of those on my phone! We ate the curries and stir fried with jasmine and sticky rice. Fresh and so delicious. 

Green curry
Red curry
While we were eating our main dishes, Peter's pickled eggs got sliced open and some were fried up by the ladies helping Liam in the kitchen. The shells turn pink from the pickling process and the insides are black. Everyone said they tasted great! 

Our last course was dessert--either banana in coconut milk, like a sweet soup (for Rick) or mango with sticky rice (my choice). 

The rice is green because of a plant used to give the rice a vanilla-y flavor. Toasted mung beans are sprinkled on top, and taste like rice crispies. The ladies in the kitchen made up our plates with flowers "for the Instagram" :) 

By this point, everyone was stuffed. But, if you are keeping count, you know there was one more course to be had--Thai fast food or street food. All of this was made to go, and we got to take doggy bags back with us to the hotel. Rick fried up spring rolls (and was the expert roller of said rolls) while I made pad Thai. 

Ben putting his rolls in the fryer
We received cookbooks with the recipes we'd used and then headed back into downtown Chiang Mai. Rick and I both had a blast making and talking with new friends about everything from Rodriguez, to Cuba, to the Sony hack, to food allergies and food quality. We wish them all the best on their adventures!

After some down time in the hotel and spring rolls--honestly the best we've had yet (good job, Barclay)--we headed out to see the Kalare Night Market and street vendors around our hotel. 

There are tons of fish spas around here--you stick your feet in the tank and the fish eat the dead skin off of them. Doesn't sound too appealing to me...
We stopped for drinks at a bar and had fun playing JENGA and a new-to-us game, Shut the Box or Jackpot. You roll the dice, and try to get all of the numbers flipped over. 

We wandered some more, stopping for massages--Thai for Rick and foot for me. 

One of these masseurs is not like the others.... :) 
We wanted to stop in the English pub for a Pimms, but somehow this is yet another one we have stumbled across in our travels that doesn't have it (I'm looking at you, Brussels). 

We walked around a bit more, past the red light district section of bars, a Muay Thai fight, and ended up grabbing a snack in an Indian restaurant, just down the block from our hotel. Then, it was off to bed because we have to be up early in the morning to meet ELEPHANTS. 

Massage Count: 7



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