3rd September, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Learning to cook Thai food was the mission for today. With so many Thai cookery classes available in Chiang Mai, it is difficult to choose between them - especially since all the menus and prices are so similar. We decided to go with Baan Thai (meaning 'Thai home') in the end as they provide an additional 'Web photo album' service, which stood out from the rest. This kinda clinched the deal for us. This didn't stop us from bringing our own cameras along though!
We started off bright and early, arriving at the cookery school to a full class. Our teacher, Boom ("It is nickname - it mean dimples!"), took us through the introductions and programme for the day. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, Ian realised he was the only male in our class of nine - he was definitely out-numbered on this occasion.
After a brief description about how to cook rice, we took a stroll over to the markets to buy our ingredients. We were all given small wicker baskets to carry our fresh produce back to 'the house'. Looping the basket on my forearm, I couldn't help but do a skip and kick my legs from side to side - like you do! Before you think I am completely barmy, I did this at the back of the group and made sure no one was looking!
At the market, Boom showed us around, pausing at several stalls to describe the different types of produce on offer. She took us to a colourful stand of desserts and was quick to point out one tray of white, innocent-looking, small, round balls of cake - with a couple of chillies lying on top! The Thais like the hot stuff!
Once again, there was no shortage of stray dogs mooching around nonchalantly. They were trying to blend in with the background and looking longingly at food to accidentally fall off the heavily ladened displays.
With all the descriptions out of the way, we were given ten minutes to walk around at our own leisure. This was a good time to watch what the locals were up to. Apparantly not much:
Once back at Baan Thai, we started slicing and dicing almost straight away. Our first dish of the day was 'Chicken with Cashew Nuts' - not really a Thai dish, but I'll let that one slide for now. It was a good 'warm up' to the authentic Thai dishes that we'd cook up later on in the day. Over to the woks next and under Boom's supervision this went smoothly, giving us the extra bit of confidence we needed.
Throughout the day, we prepared, cooked and ate the food. By the end of the day, we had successfully served up six dishes of: -
Making the red curry paste was hard work. In the recipe book, the method was described in one simple step: 'put all the ingredients into a blender and blend well'. This was not an electric blender, though - we did it the difficult way, using a pestle and mortar. We were split into two teams and after slicing ingredients to near-powder-like granules, building up a few callouses on our hands along the way, we ground up the mixture into a blob of goo. A lot of elbow grease went into making the paste, which was later used to make fish cakes and red curry. I'm definitely going to make the most of modern appliances the next time I make this!
By the end of the day, we were all feeling rather full. The course was definitely worthwhile and there was so much food that we all left with a doggy bag each to finish later. Well, that's what they think, I'm taking my leftovers over to the night market to see if I can get a few baht for them! :-)
It seemed strange to say 'Compliments to the Chef' when you have in fact cooked the dishes yourself but we felt like saying it! The compliments should naturally go to Boom who made the day a success.