I recently attempted to merge further into Thai culture by taking a Thai cooking class on an organic farm. Where I wrote a really long blog post about all of the specific things we did [in excessive detail], here instead is a list of my 10 take-aways from the class. It occurs to me now we didn’t learn the Thai equivalent of “bon appétit” but enjoy regardless!
1. Food tastes better straight off the vine.
Our instructor, Ning, did a show and tell (and eat) of the various vegetables and herbs that we’d be using as we worked our way through the garden. She plucked a vegetable or herb from the vine or ground and passed it around for us to try while explaining the different properties of the items. We munched along, savoring these treats even as they burned our tongues. She’d said the long green chili pepper was “less hot” but never clarified to what, certainly not fresh jalapeño!
2. Sugar is felt more than measured.
Where it is a known fact that sugar is used in many [most] Thai dishes, I was amused by the lack of measuring. The other ingredients were calculated with measuring spoon but the sugar was either added via:
- a pinch -or- a “crocodile pinch” [a unit I am still not clear on] for the brown sugar
- or “this much” on a spoon for the cane sugar.
These directions yielded me an initially too sour curry but Ning doctored it with more of each sugar and I ended up with a very sweet, but delicious, curry.
3. Using a mortar and pestle is great for stress relief.
We each made a curry paste from scratch which involved finely dicing the various components before putting them into the mortar to be ground with the pestle. This created a wonderful cacophony of noise and was a nice workout, just mind the flying chili pieces in your eyes!
4. Heating curry paste is like a pepper gas simulation.
I’m guessing, since I’ve never actually been in a pepper or tear gas simulation, but it had our class coughing as the chili cloud hung over our heads until we added in the coconut milk and other ingredients.
5. As in any culture, food is an easy thing to bond over.
The class had seven students in total and we quickly bonded over the many dishes shared. The numerous breaks while we sampled our food gave us ample time to chat over our varied travel experiences and outlooks on life. It was definitely a highlight of the class!
6. I am severely out of practiced in the kitchen.
James kicked me out of the kitchen about three years ago and apparently complete “rest” of my cooking skills has not improved them. When I was faced with the large chef knife on the cutting board, I wondered what I’d actually signed up for. The little voice in my head singing “don’t cut yourself” probably didn’t help either. Then again, it also may have been Ning’s voice reminding us to be careful because we were far away from the nearest hospital. I returned without any cuts or bruises though!
7. Family farms are awesome!
The farm was my favorite part, it was a peaceful setting complete with a lake of lotuses but I enjoyed just walking through the lines of growing vegetables and herbs. I savored feeling like an outsider and not knowing what any of the plants were. It was like being a kid again, amazed that vegetables come out of the ground versus magically appearing in the grocery store for purchase.
8. Bugs are legit-ly sold for food in Thailand.
Ok, not directly related to the cooking class, we thankfully didn’t cook with any, but the trip had begun at a local market where there were four different varieties of bugs available for purchase. I didn’t even consider trying them, like every other time, but a classmate did say the deep-fried silkworms were tasty so I will definitely try them next time. [not]
9. One day of cooking didn’t make me an instant chef.
Sad but true. It was however fun to play one for the day and I felt very accomplished in creating my five edible dishes. It appeared the magic of the school had flitted away by the time I attempted to recreate a dish at home though. It was edible but seemed to take forever to cook, flipping my pieces of chicken (as instructed, to cook it evenly) before adding in my vegetables and sauce. Which leaves me with #10:
10. Thai food is quick to prepare and yet still absolutely worth the dollar to have someone else do it.
I was surprised to see how quickly the food was cooked, maybe 10 minutes, but add in the preparation time and my preference will always be to pay the dollar (or $1.50) to have a “professional” do it [they understand the feel of the sugar after all].
Class Details –
I went to the “Thai Farm Cooking School”, in Chiang Mai. Price was 1300B, for an all day class, from about 8am to 4pm. I would definitely recommend our teacher Ning who called us all “Huney” in the most melodious way. Just be sure to go hungry because you will eat all day long.
Connect with me in the comments –
Ever take a cooking class? What would you want to try to cook?
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