One of the best things Jordan and I did in Chiang Rai was take a cooking class. There are plenty of options in Thailand to choose from for a course. We chose one that included a trip to the market with the teacher and allowed each of us to make five meals and one dessert on a near-by farm. The course cost included everything from the market as well as a cookbook we got to bring home with us.
Now Jordan and I had spent many hours in markets in Thailand before the class brought us. Going with the teacher, however, was a different experience. She was able to point out what everything is, and speak in very fast Thai to the vendors as well as in Chinese and English to communicate with those of us in the group.
Many of the ingredients used in Thai cooking are unique to that area of the world. While wandering the cramped isles of the market, our teacher would constantly say “in your country….” maybe you can find something similar to say, saw tooth mint leaves. This has become a running joke between Jordan and I. Every time we miss the food or culture from a place we have traveled, we joke “in your country….” and let the moment of nostalgia pass.
The cooking classroom was set in a beautiful wooden outdoor kitchen with two long rows of cooking stations. Most of the prep work had been done for us for each dish we had pre-registered we wanted to make. There were four Thai chefs who took groups of each dish and led us in cooking the dish we had selected.
Recipes Featured Above:
Tom Yum (coconut soup).
Tom yum is a classic dish to get while in Thailand. It is a sweet and sour soup usually served with shrimp or prawn in it. Tom, in fact, means soup in Thai. Like curry, this soup begins with a paste filled with classic Thai spices like keefer lime and galangal (thai ginger.) The final result is heaven.
Another Thai classic is papaya salad; popular as you can imagine with the California tourists. This salad involves no cooking but a mortar and pestle are definitely tools needed for this dish.
Pad Thai has been a favorite of mine long before having the real thing in Thailand. Pad Thai is this amazing dish that can be transformed with many different ingredients depending on who is cooking and in what region. “Pad” means “fried” in Thai.
Fun fact: Pad Thai is Thailand’s national dish! In the 1930s, the Prime Minister Phibun was trying to Westernize Thailand. He did this in many ways, including changing the country’s name form Siam to Thailand. To unify Thai people and create Thai culture, Phibun created a street food contest, challenging the citizens of Bangkok to invent a dish that reflected their kingdom. The winning dish, pad thai, is actually of Chinese origin. The rice noodle dish came at a time when the citizens of Thailand needed a nutritious and filling food to keep them healthy and disease at bay.
Recipes Featured above:
Banana Spring Roll
Spring roll wrappers are not just for the main course people! They can also be used for this delicious fried banana dessert. The dessert is easy, quick and delicious.
Mango Sticky Rice
One thing I learned traveling SouthEast Asia is there are many, many different kinds of rice. Sticky rice is shorter than regular rice, creamier in color and texture when cooked, and definitely tastes different. For desserts, sticky rice is used in Black Sticky Rice Pudding and in the ever popular Mango Sticky Rice. Mango sticky rice is cooked in coconut milk and topped with a coconut milk and sugar drizzle with half a diced mango on top. Yup, yum is right.