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Thai cooking class recap

last month

I recently returned from a trip to Thailand, and Judi asked about a cooking class I took in Chiang Mai. It was my favorite experience of the trip. I just found out the hard way that I cannot post a link, but if you search Smile Organic Farm Cooking School, you'll find it.

The school arranged transportation to/from participants' hotels. On the way to the farm, we stopped by a market for a quick tour of local ingredients. Once at the farm, we each chose from a menu which dishes we wanted to cook.

We toured the farm's organic gardens, and then received an explanation of key Thai ingredients we would be using. Below was our instructor, and you can see the gardens in the background.



We each were assigned a cooking station:



Most dishes we cooked individually, but some, like sauces and dessert rice, we collaborated in groups. In addition, we all sat together to take turns grinding curry paste. Here were the ingredients, and mortar and pestle, for red curry paste.



Below were my final results...Pad Thai and spring roll:


Tom Yum Kai (top left) and Khao Soi (bottom):

(Too many of the crispy toppings on the Khao Soi for my taste, but the heart of the dish was excellent.)


Som Tum (papaya salad) (top right), sticky rice and coconut (bottom) and herbal drink:

Both the herbal drink and the sticky rice got their coloring from the Butterfly Pea Flower.

It was such a fun day, with interesting people, and the first time, in fact, that I met Americans during my trip (this class was about halfway through a nearly month-long journey). But the highlight was the cooking itself. Although I'm an avid cook, there are 2 Thai restaurants within walking distance of my home here in Chicagoland. So, I've never bothered cooking Thai food before.

I learned there is nothing like grinding your own curry paste, mixing your own Pad Thai sauce, etc. The school was clean and organized, and some of the prep was done for us. But we were instructed, step-by-step and with explanation, throughout the cooking process.

Northern Thai food is not as spicy as in the southern areas. Before we began cooking, our instructor asked how we liked our spice... baby spice (mild), high school spice (medium) or se* xy spice (hot). I chose high school, and was pleased with the level of spiciness. A young, brave Englishman chose se* xy spice, but may have regretted it.

Obviously, it was a lot of food, and the school had containers so that we could take our leftovers. I only ate the first dish I made on site. The rest I boxed up as soon as they were cooked and cooled, and then reheated in my hotel room microwave the next day. Excellent.

Afterward, the school shared more photos with us on its FB page, and we were emailed the recipe book, which is also available from its web site.

I came across other cooking schools in other areas of Thailand during my trip. When I reviewed what they offered, it was nothing like what this school did, so I didn't bother taking them. Perhaps I should have to learn some new techniques. But none offered the extensive menu that this school did, and many were much more expensive, to boot

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