After spending the previous night watching the fights, we woke up early to experience another aspect of Thai culture… the food. Of the top things to do in Chiang Mai (according to TripAdvisor.com), other than spending some time with some elephants, is to take a cooking class. We chose one that seemed to fit our speed : A Lot of Thai. It was a family run, 10 year business which offered small classes for full & half day.
The pickup was done in an old VW bus by the chef’s husband and partner, Kwan (also the graphic designer for their site, business cards, advertisement, etc). We had eaten a small breakfast beforehand not sure what to expect. That was a big mistake. As soon as we arrived, Yui (Siripen Sriyabhaya) introduced herself, handed us our aprons, complementary take-home cookbook and then started cooking. She would demonstrate making the dish first and then we would each go to our stations and try the same. The first dish we would make would be pad thai breakfast.
Other dishes soon followed : tom yum goong, green/red curry, simple stir-fry chicken with cashews, spring rolls and even mango sticky rice. I could go into details about how to make it and how it tasted, but it won’t do you or the food justice. It is something that you will just have to experience on your own.
Yui makes simple versions of these dishes using only the necessary amount of oil and fresh ingredients. I have had a lot of Thai food prior to my visit to Thailand (and even in Thailand itself) but none have been as good. We had originally signed up for the half day class not sure that we would want to stay for the whole day, but after making several dishes we were hooked. We immediately asked if we could stay for the whole day.
After several hours of cooking and eating, we take a much needed break and shuffle into the VW to go to the market. There we see some of our ingredients up close, meet some of Yui’s merchant friends and have a quick snack. After the break, we said goodbye to the ‘half-dayers’ and returned to the kitchen to make some more dishes.
The main attraction in all this is Yui. She mentions quite often that she learned to cook simply because she liked to eat and making it herself was the only way to keep the cost down. She smiles and laughs frequently, with mannerisms similar to Martin Yan. Her stories are varied and personal but definitely do NOT get her mad as she can throw a wicked hook (thankfully we only experienced it in story form). The mood here is light and informative, where no one should feel self conscious or out of place.
This was one of the main attractions of Chiang Mai and of Thailand itself. We learned to cook some of our favorite dishes, were stuffed to the gills on great Thai food, heard some great stories and we even met another American couple that was also traveling the world (Two Backpacks One World). Who could ask for a better end to our time in the north and our first venture into Thailand?