For our second activity in Chiang Mai we chose to do a day in a cookery school. Adam and I both love Thai food, but we never cook it fresh at home. Usually we buy a sauce in a jar, add some chicken, vegetables and noodles or rice and voila! But even though the jar sauces always have the right list of ingredients, they never taste authentic. We thought it would actually be nice to know how the different ingredients come together, how they are added and cooked in all our favourite Thai dishes.
When signing up for a cookery school in Chiang Mai you have a lot of options available, many different cookery school to choose from. When we first arrived in Chiang Mai we picked up some brochures at the train station, read through all of them and chose a couple we liked the sound of. We then checked online for reviews and decided to go for the Thai Farm Cookery School. This school advertised themselves as having their own farm and that we would be picking our own ingredients from the farm. This sounded pretty cool and something different from all the other cookery schools.
Luckily their main office was only about a 5 minute walk from our guesthouse, so we walked there to sign up and walked there again the next morning. We climbed unto the back of the truck, which had been converted to transport around 8 people with seats on both sides, picked up the rest of our group from their respective hotels and we were on our way! These trucks (while not the most comfortable mode of transport) are a good way to throw some strangers together who will be spending the day together, but don’t know anything about each other. Our forced proximity meant that everyone got to talking and got to know each other by the time we got off the truck at the farm! In our group we had 2 other people from the UK, a girl from Germany, a guy from Switzerland and two ladies from France.
The farm was about half an hour outside of Chiang Mai, but en-route we stopped at the local market. This is also where we met with our teacher for the day, Benny.
Benny was fantastic! Full of fun, energy, great one-liners, a person of a charming disposition who kept up the energy all day long, remained enthusiastic and forged a team out of the eight of us while we slowly learnt the basics of a Thai cooking.
At the local market Benny took us around and introduced us go different kinds of rice, curry pastes, fish oils and soy, oyster and mushroom sauces. She showed us how coconut milk is extracted from the coconuts and introduced us to the spices and seeds that are necessary for most dishes. She then did her shopping for the day ahead while we were left to roam the isles, soaking up the atmosphere of the morning market.
Once we arrived at the farm we all got our hats and aprons on and Benny lead us around the fruit, herb and vegetable garden attached to the school. We were encouraged to smell and taste the different herbs and leaves.
Adam and I were really impressed by the quality of the whole day! Once we got into the kitchen it was clear that this was carefully thought out process: we all had our workstations in the big open kitchen and Benny was very good at explaining what to do how and when and at no point did I feel her teaching to be too fast or too slow. There were a couple of super lovely ladies who washed up after us and prepared the ingredients for the next dishes with military precision.
In total we each learnt to make a curry, a soup, a chicken dish, a noodle dish and a dessert. But we had a choice of two or three dishes in each category, so Adam and I always chose to make something different to have as many dishes in our repertoire as possible!
Here is what we made during our day at Thai Farm Cookery School:
- Green curry with chicken
- Tom Yam soup with chicken
- Fried chicken with basil leaves
- Spring rolls
- Mango with sticky rice
- Yellow curry with tofu
- Chicken and Galangal Coconut Soup
- Fried chicken with cashew nuts
- Pad Thai
- Bananas in Coconut milk
That’s a lot of food! And the best thing was we got to eat all of it!! 🙂
My absolute favourite of the day (and a big revelation I might add) was the mango with sticky rice. I had seen this on Thai menus offered as a dessert option but somehow I just couldn’t imagine that as a dessert… Mango as a fruit is ok, a bit meh, and rice as dessert, I only know it as rice pudding, which is again a bit meh…
But mango sticky rice!!!! It’s amazing. For the rest of our stay in Thailand I went on to ask for it in restaurants almost every time I had the opportunity and I cannot wait to make it at home 🙂
I think so far in Thailand this was one of my favourite days. Some cooking skills was learnt, lots of fun was had AND loads of food was eaten, what’s not to like? 🙂
Thai Farm Cooking School: