Thai Cooking Class | Chiang Mai
I don't cook. I don't like to cook, I can't cook, I don't see the point in cooking. So it was with some trepidation that I booked myself onto a Thai cooking class, and you know what? I actually enjoyed it.
Cooking schools are a dime a dozen in Chiang Mai: they all offer near-identical menus and they all cost the same - making it pretty tough to choose which one to go for. I must've spent a good hour or so researching them all before finally deciding on Zabb E Lee. They offer half day courses in either the morning or the afternoon/evening for 900Baht per person. This price includes transportation, all the food, a visit to a local food market, and the recipe book at the end. Complimentary water, tea and coffee is provided and there's also the opportunity to purchase soft and alcoholic drinks during lunch (for reference the beer is 60Baht).
I went for the morning class (09:00-14:00) with a hotel pick up at around 08:30. The evening class runs from 16:30-21:00 and let's be honest, the chances of me being awake at 21:00 were slim. Anyway, at the beginning of the class you have to choose your dishes. You'll be making one appetiser, one stir fry, one soup, one curry and one curry paste - plus everyone gets sticky rice. I went for spring rolls, pad Thai, Tom Yum Kung soup (hot and sour, to you and I), panang curry paste and a panang curry with chicken. A full list of options can be found here. What I really liked about this class was that you could make whatever you wanted, even if you were the only one. For example, only one girl made papaya salad so she got her own 1-to-1 session.
After you've chosen what to make, it's back into the cars and off to the market. Don't worry about having to source the ingredients yourself as they'll magically appear in your baskets at the end. In the meantime you'll be talked through basically every vegetable and noodle in the market. There's so much information to take in from their flavours, to their uses, to what they can be substituted for at home. I've conveniently forgotten everything, so I've just dumped the photos at the end. In the recipe book you'll get given there are all the vegetables needed with their Thai name, English name and their picture.
Back at the school it's time to prep! You'll all stand around a big table with your own chopping block and knife whilst being talked through what ingredients you'll need and how they should be prepared. It's a similar set up with the cooking too, with the teacher in the middle keeping an eye on things. There's a brief break after cooking the soup and stir fry to eat. After lunch it's on to more 'group' activities. You'll start the mango sticky rice (well, you'll watch it being made) and then it's time for the curry. Each curry group gets a mortar and pestle and it's a team effort to make the paste . . . just kidding, we left it to the men because we're weaklings. Once the curry paste and the curry has been made it's onto the appetiser. First of all the filling needs to be cooked, then the rolls rolled, then finally you can deep fry it. I say deep fry but it was just a wok with a lot of oil - something that can be easily replicated at home.
If, like me, you can't really eat much food in one sitting, you can have the leftovers packaged up to take home. As someone who dislikes cooking, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the class. The girls are really funny and I felt so accomplished having cooked something actually edible for once. I think this shorter, half day course is best for beginners: it's not too long nor too short, and time just flies by. All in all a very enjoyable morning. BRB going to add 'chef' to my CV.