One of the highlights of my visit to Chiang Mai was actually when I took a cooking class. As simple as it sound, my friends where were quite surprised that I would actually cook. The only food I cooked before were instant noddles and fried eggs and I don’t even think they are qualified as cooking! Being in Thailand for several months, I got accustomed to the taste of Thai food. Thai and Indonesian food basically use similar ingredients and cook using similar techniques. Rice is also one staple food mostly eaten during each meal of the day in both countries. One difference in my opinion is that some Thai food tend to be more spicy and sour, while Indonesian food tend to be oily and hot (as we use a lot of chilies while sambal is present almost in all Indonesian dishes).
The cooking class which I took was Asia Scenic Thai Cooking Class. After I registered for the class, I was picked up at my hotel for the class. The cooking school itself is located inside the walled city, actually not too far from where I was staying in Thapae. I registered for a half day program as I had another plan for the evening. There were around 10 of us joining the class and we were all visitors from different countries. We started the program with selecting the dishes that we were going to cook from the menu. There are a lot of dishes to choose from but we are supposed to choose one from each category.
As welcome snack, we were provided with Meang Khum, a traditional Thai snack which consists of leaf (normally betel leave but we can also use other vegetable leaves), chili, sliced lime, sliced shallot, sliced ginger, roasted peanut, roasted coconut and the syrup. Interestingly, the dish is presented not in a ready-to-eat state, but we need to fold the leaf and put in the ingredients first before eating it in one bite. It was an explosion of flavors as we can taste a combination of sour, sweet, bitter, salty and spicy at the same time. Once we finished, we were then taken to a small herb garden at the back of the house to learn more about basic Thai ingredients like basil, galangal or tumeric.
While a lot of the ingredients can be found in the garden, for some other ingredients we can buy them in a market. So, to fully embrace the Thai cooking experience, we headed to a market a couple of blocks away. In the market, we received more knowledge on Thai ingredients and other useful information like different types of rice. We were not supposed to get anything in the market for the cooking itself but we were given a short time to explore the market a bit in case we were interested in buying anything before heading back to the class. Once we returned to the class, we would start the cooking class.
Fortunately in this class, all ingredients have been prepared for each dished. So we would ‘only’ need to chop, slice or pound them. But since each of us was working with individual wok, all of us got the experience of cooking by ourselves. For this class, we made fried spring rolls for the appetizer. For other dishes, I chose to cook Tom Kha Kai (chicken in coconut milk) for the soup, Khao Soi (nothern Thai’s noodle soup) for the curry and mango sticky rice for the dessert. It was a nice experience and it was also quite satisfying once all the dishes were cooked. We finished the class by having a nice lunch. What’s the menu? The dishes that we had prepared earlier of course!