Thailand was a country that grabbed me by the stomach! Even though I wasn't a fan of spicy food, I gradually surrendered to the strange pleasure of having my lips burning and my nose running at the end of each meal. Of all the countries I've lived in, this was the only one that I didn't have a kitchen at home. But it wasn't an excuse for not learning about the local cuisine, visiting markets and, of course, many restaurants!
The relationship between Southeast Asia and food is fascinating! Since Malaysia, I have been enchanted by how easy is to find delicious food at any time and anywhere! And yes, it's on the street that you find the best dishes, besides, of course, the greatest adventures...
When I arrived in Southeast Asia, I confess that I was a little afraid to eat in stalls whose hygiene seemed doubtful to me. However, the truth is that I decided to give a chance and never had a bad time!
In Thailand, food is something so important and so interesting that cooking classes have become a tourist attraction. Living there, I couldn't miss the chance to learn about my favorite dishes and a little more about the local cuisine.
Cooking class in Chiang Mai: how to choose yours?
There is a bunch of cooking classes in Chiang Mai for tourists. It's for all tastes and all budgets. However, I wanted to take Ae's class, who is the mother of a dear Thai friend, Mo.
Ae was a chef in two restaurants and today she's teaching cooking classes. She has lived in several countries since her husband is a diplomat. Cooking is visibly her passion and part of her story, as she tells me herself while serving me a coffee.
Cooking classes are held in the family home, which is a traditional Thai house. All the herbs and some vegetables used in the dishes are grown in the garden of the house, which is really amazing. Just for the environment, I thought the class worth a lot!
In Ae's classes, however, only four dishes will be made, which seems little compared to other tourist cooking class packages. Well, I didn't do any other classes, but I think the number of dishes was enough to taste a good portion of flavors and get out of there rolling!
I believe that making a lot of dishes, besides being tiring, ends up learning nothing and everything gets very rushed. But, finally, it's worth researching and choosing the class that seems the coolest for you!
From the market to the table
The first part of the class is to visit one of the most traditional markets in Chiang Mai, which is located in the center of the old town. I love to visit markets around the world and I think it's one of the best ways to get to know the local culture and people.
We had the opportunity to get to know some of the herbs and spices, and of course, have some laughs!
Dishes to taste (and learn how to make!)
The second course was my favorite: pad kaprao! This is a kind of well-peppered chop served with basil leaves, rice and a fried egg (soft yolk, obvious!). Pad kaprao is a kind of Thai daily dish. You will find it everywhere and it is really wonderful! I'm a big fan of this kind of dish because my mother in Brazil always made a similar one for me. So pad kaprao ended up becoming my "comfort food" while I was in Thailand!
After Pad Krapao, it's time to prepare the Som Tum, or green papaya salad. This delicacy from Thai cuisine goes green papaya, fish sauce, coconut sugar, lemon, garlic, pepper and peanut. Yeah, it sounds weird, but it's delicious!
Finally, the class ends with the most typical dish from Northern Thailand: the Khao Soi. This is the famous Thai curry and is made from a spice paste, egg pasta, coconut milk, and a chicken thigh. In class we made most of the ingredients, including coconut milk. Khao Soi was also one of my favorite dishes. It can be found not only in Northern Thailand, but also in Laos and Myanmar. The difference, however, is coconut milk. In the Tai version, very dense coconut milk is used, while in other countries this ingredient is not part of the recipe.
Khao Soi is served with fried noodles, mustard pickles, onion, and lemon.
Thai cuisine: simplicity is the secret
Thai cuisine is rich in flavors and maybe that's why it makes me fall in love so much for it. Traveling through this world, I have always found delicious dishes, but I confess that Thai cuisine has gained a special space in my heart and, of course, in my stomach!
Despite the complex flavors, the preparation of the dishes is very simple. The great secret is the seasoning pastes that serve as a base for different stews. Before starting each dish, peppers, ginger, garlic and all kinds of seasoning are beaten in the pestle. Ae told me that every Thai woman who gets married gets a pestle as a gift. This basic kitchen utensil is essential for preparing any dish.
In the daily kitchen, the seasoning pastes are made in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Because of this technique, the preparation of most Thai dishes does not take more than seconds.
Today the prepared seasoning pastes are also found in the markets. However, just like all over the world, in Thailand spice pastes keep family secrets and unique flavors that are passed down from generation to generation.
Taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai is a must-see program and should not be left out of the itinerary of those who visit the city. Along with temples and elephants, it is worth learning about the spices and delights of this fascinating cuisine!
To take classes with Ae just make your reservation through the Airbnb website at this link here.