Friday, January 11, 2013

Cooking School

On our final full day in Chiang Mai, we  finally made it to the cooking school that we were supposed to go to earlier in the week:  Siam Rice Cookery.  

After all of the students were picked up we were taken to a local market and given a short tutorial on some of the ingredients we would be using.  I knew what most things were yet some of the items looked so different, like the mini (and I mean mini) eggplants.  While our guide purchased all the ingredients we would need we were able to roam around the market.  Here they are processing fresh coconuts.

All the meat for the day was being butchered and laid out in the middle of the market.
When we arrived at the cookery, I noticed that this seemed to be someone's house, which made it a very cozy experience.  And like many other places we had to take off our shoes to go inside.  (Side Note:  I wonder why we don't do that in the US?  Or do people do that?  We tried it when we came home because we thought it would keep the house cleaner but the habit isn't sticking.) The main area was set up with two large dining room tables and outside there were two large cook stations and a couple more dining tables so there was plenty of room for more than one group to cook and eat.  We were able to choose the dishes we wanted to make.  I had originally signed us up for a full day but after we realized that would mean we would make and eat 7 dishes we decided to do only the half day, which involved making 4 items.  Nancy explained to us that most Thai dishes use the same main ingredients so that is why we didn't have to choose which dishes we all wanted to make before the shopping trip to the market.  I chose to make:  Hot and Creamy Soup, Fried Big Noodles, Panang Curry Paste, and Shrimp and Chicken Panang Curry (using my handmade curry paste).  Ryan chose to make:  Chicken Coconut Soup, Drunken Noodles, Jungle Curry Paste, and Shrimp and Chicken Jungle Curry.

Here Nancy is explaining the basic ingredients to us and telling us the different items needed for our first dishes.
Chopping our ingredients:

Making and eating our noodles.  I'm happy to report no one lost any eyebrows or nose hairs in the making of the noodles.  Well, actually I can't confirm on the nose hairs.

Immediately after we finished eating our noodles it was time to make soup.  Here's mine:

Here's Ryan's:
Mine was delicious.  Ryan really liked his too (minus the kaffir lime leaves).

Then on to curry paste.  Making curry paste is actually quite a process.  First you take all the ingredients, such as chilies and other veggies, and cut them up before you place them in a mortar and have to beat it all with a pestle for what seemed like an eternity.  Seriously, it was a workout.

And eventually you end up with this:

And then you use your curry paste to create this:

Everything we made was really good and it didn't seem that difficult but I think that might be because someone planned and shopped for all the ingredients and led us step by step.  Also, I wonder if it would be difficult to get some of the ingredients in the States, like oyster mushrooms and wee little eggplants.  Clearly I haven't made an effort to find out but if I ever want to I have all the recipes from Siam Rice Cookery as we were all given recipe books upon departure.  Going to cooking school made for a really fun day and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who loves food and is travelling to the area.  I felt like I wouldn't need to eat for the rest of the day but I rallied and convinced Ryan to take me out for Thai Iced Tea later.  :)
In turn, Ryan convinced me to change out of my short dress into pants.  He politely suggested I might not scratch my legs as much if I were wearing pants, but I know the truth.  He was subtly trying to get me to stop showing everyone and their mother my giant leg rashes I developed  from riding Ruby (my sweet elephant) bareback.  Apparently it is inappropriate to talk about leg rashes to strangers.  I just wanted to let people know that if they were going to ride elephants to make sure their pants didn't ride up causing their skin to directly contact the elephant's skin.  Those elephant hairs are like wires poking you!  So anyway, I put on pants.  And Ryan was able to breathe easier.  The man has a very high (and climbing) threshold for embarrassment being married to me but I think the rash incident was a bit much for him.


  1. Yum. This all looks so good I am actually going to go discuss our dinner options with Jason because suddenly Thai sounds way better than black bean tacos. And panang is my absolute favorite. I get it almost every time. However, I am very intimidated by Asian cooking for some reason so I think I will probably stick with my jarred curry paste for the foreseeable future, though I am sure homemade is much more delicious.

    I am very serious about wanting everyone in my family to take off their shoes when they come in the house, mostly because we have carpet and it seems gross not to (yet the dogs coming in and out I live with, not because it's not gross, but because I love them I guess). I don't ask visitors to do it because it seems rude, though I am always happy when they choose to. I think it's regional in the US. I have heard that in heavier snow places like MN (and also Canada), it is more common, though I haven't personally lived anywhere where people do it except Guam and most people wore flip flops or sandals there all the time so it was easy compared to here.

  2. I love this post! What an incredible trip. I love the cooking class! I wonder if you'd be able to find a lot of the more difficult-to-find ingredients at H-Mart at Parker and Yale in Aurora! They have a HUGE selection of veggies and mushrooms. Let's get together soon!!