I am a huge fan of taking cooking classes in the countries I travel to. Even after the one lesson in Barcelona led me to the unfortunate conclusion that I don’t like paella. Hopefully, there would be no such outcome while learning to make Pad Thai at Thai Orchid Cookery in Chiang Mai. I might be devastated.
With dozens of cooking schools in Chiang Mai to choose from, we selected the Thai Orchid Cookery because it was just a couple doors down from our hotel, the 3 Sis, and it had rave reviews on Tripadvisor.
Upon arrival, we quickly selected the dishes we would like to learn how to make, each choosing five out of the fifteen potentials. Of course, I made Peter pick all the things that I didn’t. More bang for the buck.
And then we immediately got to cooking. Though I am a chef, I have never used a wok and, quite frankly, they kind of scare the crap out of me with their high rims and sizzling oil. I am prone to burns. If you need proof, just take a look at my branded forearms.
Unlike other classes I have taken, here we each had our own station, including our very own wok. This was going to be hands on. Maybe I should have worn long sleeves.
The instructors, a friendly brother and sister team, first took us to a tiny classroom for a demonstration and then brought us to our work stations for a shot at duplicating what was just shown. Thankfully, they were always on hand to guide us all along the way.
Then it was on to the soup portion of the lesson, Chicken in Coconut Milk and Hot & Sour Prawn. The major technique necessary for these dishes was mostly slicing and dicing.
No wok needed for these dishes. Phew. Though I am apt to burn myself, I usually don’t cut off my fingers.
After slurping down the delicious soup, we took a break from cooking and our teacher escorted us on a trip to Somphet Market to give us a brief overview of Thai ingredients and to make purchases for our upcoming meals. This was a traditional market filled with a variety of vegetables, vibrant fruit and fish being scaled on premise.
While perusing the stalls we were also given the opportunity to eat a century egg, preserved for several weeks, which I did. And that strange food experience is a whole different story that you can read about here: Eating a Preserved Century Egg.
We returned to the kitchen to make homemade curry with a mortar & pestle. Though, the teacher did admit that it was much easier to just put it in the food processor. I like easy.
We used the curry to make our next two dishes, Panang Curry with Pork and Yellow Curry with Chicken. Panang, a milder version from the rest, is now my favorite type of the bunch.
Then came my favorite part of the day, learning to make Pad Thai, which was surprisingly easy. It was mostly about balancing the flavors of sweet, salty, sour and spicy; not too much or too little fish sauce.
This balance here was perfect.
There was just something so delicious about the flavors of crushed peanuts, sweet palm sugar and crunchy bean sprouts. I may not like paella, but I do love pad thai.
The 7 of us in the cooking class sat at a large communal table sharing Chiang Mai stories and eating the feast we had made. We were so preoccupied with the array of flavors bursting in our mouths that we almost forgot that there was one more course…dessert.
For dessert we learned how to execute one of the most traditional sweets in Thailand, Mango with Sticky Rice. Up until that point, I had never indulged in this treat and really couldn’t understand the hype.
It is just mango with rice people.
We left with our bellies protruding over our belts, a colorful souvenir book filled with the recipes that we just made and no burns on my arms. An ideal afternoon.