Cooking schools and classes are an awesome activity to add to your travels. It's a fun way to connect with the people you are traveling with and you will undoubtedly meet some characters at the other chopping blocks.
These classes enable you to learn about the food culture of the place you are visiting, see and use local ingredients, and go home with a super-full belly! And the best part is... you don't have to do the dishes!!!! (hopefully ;) )
These classes can range from fancy schools with upscale kitchen setups to right in a local's home kitchen.
Chiang Mai has a ton of options for cooking classes and we decided to go with Thai Farm Cooking School.
What You Can Cook
Some schools have a set menu for each day of the week. However, if you don't have availability to go on the day that they are cooking the dish you want to make.. that kinda stinks. We liked that this school allows you to choose what you want to cook and since we both chose different dishes, we got to try almost anything!
The current choices are as follows and you choose one from each category:
* Green Curry Paste
* Red Curry Paste
* Yellow Curry Paste
* Green Curry with Chicken
* Red Curry with Chicken
* Yellow Curry with Chicken
* Shrimp Tom Yum
* Chicken in Coconut Milk (Tom Kha Gai)
* Thai Vegetables Soup
* Chicken with Cashew Nuts
* Sweet and Sour
* Chicken with Basil
* Pad Thai Fried Noodles
* Spring Rolls
* Bananas in Coconut Milk
* Mango with Sticky Rice
In addition to that, everyone gets Fresh Papaya Salad and Lemongrass Tea!
We chose a one day class which picked us up at our hotel between 8:30-9:30 and dropped us back off around 4:30. After we picked up the others at the surrounding hotels we made a van full of variety: some from LA, Texas, Pennsylvania, Britain, Germany, etc. A great, diverse group!
First Stop: A Wet Market
Stopping at a wet market was a great experience. To walk around where the locals are selling their food goods was really interesting. We learned about some of the ingredients and saw how coconut milk is extracted from fresh coconut. You can pass the flesh through the "cow" machine several times and after all moisture is extracted, feel the coconut! It's unbelievably light and airy between your fingers!
After a brief tour of the market, we were encouraged to walk around and investigate the rest of the place for a length of time. There were packaged ingredients, produce, fish and seafood, and other meats.
After we met back up we learned about different types of rice: sticky rice, white, black, brown, red, jasmine and so on. Rice is a staple in many cultures and I love how it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes!
Next Stop: The farm!!
Exploring The Farm
Exploring the farm at the cooking school was nice. It's not real big or anything, but it is really fun ( to me at least ) to see the ingredients where they grow! To pick some herbs and taste them, to see a papaya on a tree, sometimes you see produce at your local grocery store, but you honestly have no idea what type of plant it grows on. That's kindof sad... :(
The instructor walks you through each dish and offers assistance as needed. At the end of each session you take your dirty dishes around back to some sweet, lovely ladies who will wash them up for you. After you drop your dishes off back there you pick up your new tray of stuff
Well would you like to see how things turned out for us?! Check it out:
1300 Baht per person is the cost for this program. That's about $36 USD and includes transportation, touring the wet market, touring the farm, the ingredients, instruction, and the eating of 6 dishes of your choice, plus papaya salad and lemongrass tea (and water), and a really nice quality recipe book for you to take home.
I was impressed with the book. I love that it includes information about the ingredients themselves as well as instructions on making the dishes and beautiful, full-color photos.
Personally, I think it's a great value and we would absolutely do this class again!
Have you taken a cooking class on your travels? Where at?! What was the coolest thing you learned to make or your favorite part of it?