Gateway to Northern Thailand the city of Chiang Mai is where many travellers head before or after their time on the beach to get a taste of Thai culture. We stayed 5 nights in Chiang Mai and had lots of plans for our time there. Including some really unique experiences like an Elephant Sanctuary, a Fish Spa and a Monk Chat.
Thai Cooking Class
First up was a Thai cooking class, this time we were prepared and did our research to choose a reputable class with good reviews. We chose Zabb- E- Lee, for their small group classes where everyone has the opportunity to cook, rather than just watching a demonstration. This class allows visitors at a cheaper price, this meant we could pair up with the kids and it was much more cost effective than paying full price for them. Also some of the classes didn’t allow children under 12 years.
The class started with a short market tour where we were introduced to some of the ingredients we would use later in our dishes. This was a great experience for L & S as they got to taste and smell the different herbs, Thai Basil, Kaffir Lime Leaf, Lemongrass, Coriander, so fresh and pungent. L particularly loved the Kaffir Lime.
The market was clearly where all cooking class tours visit each morning, a lot of stalls were selling meal kits for tourists with all the dried spices, ginger and mushrooms, noodles, coconut milk powder, needed to make Thai dishes at home. I personally would prefer to buy all these ingredients fresh at home as most of them are easy enough to find. Our guide tried to suggest she would do the shopping for ingredients for our cooking at that market, but it was more of a tourist market than a genuine produce market. I didn’t believe for a second the cooking school was doing their shopping there! Still if you were completely new to Thai cooking and hadn’t visited many markets before you would enjoy this experience.
Arriving at the cooking school it was well set up and super organised, participants were divided into groups, we were with a group with 5 other adults. They were cooking individually but we cooked in pairs with the kids. This meant we cooked a more manageable amount of food than the Penang class. We selected dishes off a menu choosing from a selection of appetisers, a stir fry, a soup, a curry and the relevant paste. We also learnt how to make mango sticky rice as a class.
With two of us cooking we were able to make a good selection of dishes, Fried and fresh spring rolls, Pad Thai and Cashew Nut with Chicken, Tom Yum Kung and Tom Kha Kai Soups, Massamun and Panang Curries.
A lot of prep work was done for us and our teacher had an assistant. Every time we needed something it was at our fingertips, nothing was too much trouble. I was really impressed with how our guide Eye, managed to instruct different people doing different dishes and never get mixed up. She kept up a fast pace and was very funny too.
As the day progressed we got to know the other people in our group, one couple had their little toddler with them and as L & S got a bit bored of the class they played a little bit with him and fed him from our emergency stash of Oreos. We heard about their travel plans and told them about our trip and our blog.
All the food was genuinely delicious and the class with Eye was lots of fun. She kept the kids involved as much as possible and since we were technically only cooking for 2 she sent any extra food our way, although there was no danger of going hungry. At the end of the class we received recipe books to take home and loads of delicious mango sticky rice for afternoon tea!
People who know us know that Paul hates cooking and finds it very stressful but he really enjoyed this class so I think it can be recommended even to people that don’t like cooking! Also, don’t worry if you don’t like spicy food, for every dish there were options for how much chilli you wanted to add and we were able to keep ours mild for the kids.
It probably seems like we do more classes and educational activities because we are worldschooling, which is true. But I’d recommend doing something like a cooking class even if you are on holiday. An added benefit is you learn more about the local dishes so when you are eating at restaurants or street food, you are familiar with dishes on the menu and can get more adventurous with your ordering. I think we’ll do more cooking classes later in our trip.
Our second day in Chiang Mai we had an unforgettable day at an Elephant Sanctuary. It needs a blog post of it’s very own so that is coming up next, also look out for our chat with a Monk, and the famous Fish Spa / Pedicure.