Fish Sauce, Chilli & Chopsticks!
Ever wanted to try your hand at making an authentic Thai green curry instead of buying a ready-made jar of the stuff? Or wondered how to get that perfect mango sticky rice?
Well as a food conscious couple, known to hold the odd dinner party or two back home, we were keen to find out.
We had heard on the backpacker grapevine that Chiang Mai was ‘the place’ for food enthusiasts to learn the secrets behind the famous Thai dishes we had been sampling in Bangkok and Ayutthaya. So on arrival in Chiang Mai, we signed up to a day of cooking lessons at the Baan Thai Cookery School, which came highly recommended by our hostel – Baan Nud Kun.
Wayne’s ‘Stir-Fried Curried Prawns’
It was quite an intense day in the kitchen, especially as Thai food is the authentic fast food, and timing has always been an issue for me! But with our bellies well and truly full, we came away with many new culinary skills and an abundance of recipes that we were excited to try out.
We enjoyed the class so much that we opted for another Thai cookery school a few months later when we returned to Thailand to explore the islands in the south.
This is a photo essay of our first Thai Cooking Experience:
Our welcome snack on arrival – a selection of fruit, rice cakes and sugared peanuts.
We then had to choose the dishes we wanted to learn how to make from a given selection.
Next, it was off to the market with our environmentally friendly baskets to collect our ingredients.
Freshly shredded coconut goes in the basket ready to make coconut milk.
There were lots of tasty fresh vegetables on offer at the nearby Somphet Market.
We even saw potatoes, one of our favourite English staples. We hadn’t seen them for weeks, pretty much indulging in rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner here in Thailand.
Back to school… Fellow chefs getting prepared. There were 6 people in our cooking group so we found ourselves having a lot of 1 to 1 tuition.
My first dish was ‘Stir-fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts’… Go-girl!
I was so nervous about this cooking with strangers malarkey but wasn’t doing too badly by the look of my finished dish.
Now for the taste test!
Wayne’s first dish was Tom Yum Goong, a hot and sour prawn soup with lemongrass. It tasted spicy but so fresh with the addition of the lemongrass and finishing touch, coriander. These were the perfect ingredients to balance the fish sauce, which is inherently added to just about every Thai dish as a substitute for salt.
Traveller Tip: No matter how strong the urge, resist visiting a fish sauce factory. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted, and that’s in reference to the smell alone!
Wayne’s version of ‘Tom Yum Goong’!
Wayne’s next dish was home-made Fried Fish Cakes and proving true to their name, they tasted very fishy! Maybe too much fish sauce, not enough balance going on? We often have Thai fish cakes if they are on the menu back home in England, but these we made at the cookery school tasted a lot different.
Thumbs down to this dish.
Next, we made deep fried Spring Rolls. We cheated a little by using ready made spring roll pastry from a packet. But we did prepare and make our own filling and rolled them by hand.
(It’s not only the West that uses convenience food!)
And voila, ready to serve… Look how neatly wrapped the end is! (My efforts at Christmas present wrapping have come in handy hehe!)
Another tasting session… Enjoying ‘Stir-fried Chilli Prawns’.
Next, learning which ingredients go into a red curry paste. Amongst other things, lots of chillies! We took turns using the large pestle & mortar to grind the ingredients into the red curry paste ready for a Panang Curry.
Did you know the small super hot chillies used in soups, salads and curries in Thailand are called ‘Mouse shit chillies’? – See I do listen in class!
Making the curry paste was hard work and took quite a while.
Wayne is adding the freshly squeezed coconut milk to his ‘Thai Green Curry’, the final dish of the day.
The finished dish: Homemade ‘Thai Green Curry’, which was very tasty. Wayne only put in 7 chillies out of a possible 20!!!
After cooking, we got to sample every dish we made and even took left-overs back to the hostel in doggy bags as we had seriously eaten enough throughout the day. We also took with us complimentary recipe books, ready to cook up a Thai feast when we returned home to England. (And so that we wouldn’t forget any important steps – well who could forget the fish sauce?!)
What an informative and fun day it turned out to be!