Like a child in a candy store, I was giddy – so many choices. I could choose 6 from 60 different options. Would I chose old favorites or try something new and maybe discover a new favorite? Decisions, decisions.
I was one of four students in the Classic Home Cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were given a list of the 60 tantalizing items from which we could each choose: a curry, a stirfry, a noodle, a soup, a salad, and a dessert or appetizer. Decisions made, Vannee prepared a quick shopping list, and we followed him into the market.
Markets are so interesting and colorful. I always have questions as there are so many unusual foods. This market opens at 3:30am each morning for restauranteurs!
The quintessential chili – the Bird Eyes chili pepper. Red or green doesn’t make any difference, but the smaller ones are fiery hot. They are smashed and smeared with the knife blade, not cut! In the foreground are round white eggplants.
These are some very long green beans – 12″ and longer!
Thai essentials: kaffir lime leaf, galangal or Chinese ginger, and lemongrass. There’s some unidentified green leaf thing between the galangal and lemongrass.
They call this baby eggplant or pea eggplant.
It was great to have a guide, but he couldn’t answer all my questions about all the unfamiliar and intriguing items such as these pink Century Eggs. All I could gather was that they are cooked in a special time consuming manner.
I recognize fish when I see it.
I recognize mushrooms too, although I saw many different varieties.
Everything hog – from pig ear to piggy toes at the pork stall.
These are the curry pastes, but they are blended by machine. In the class we prepared curry paste with a stone mortar and pestle.
This machine processes the coconut and presses out the coconut cream.
After marketing we drove into the country and arrived at our cooking classroom.
Classic Home Cooking offers a day class and an evening class in this open air covered patio containing 20 individual cooking stations.
First up: curry paste for our curry sauce. To make a red curry paste for the Panang Curry I diced and chopped lemongrass, kaffir lime rind, galangal, garlic (the skins of the tiny asian garlic cloves are left on!) and shallots adding them to my stone bowl with some shrimp paste, cumin and coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and dried red chili peppers that have been soaked in water.
We carried our mortar and pestle to the tatami mat, removed our shoes and sat down to pound and grind our ingredients into curry paste. The making of curry paste, a staple in the Thai diet, could be a social event to sit and visit while preparing the paste. The final product can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 months.
I learned that the way I had made curry in the past was all wrong! First, the curry paste is sauteed in oil until it releases its rich fragrance and then the coconut cream is added and brought to a boil. Finally the meat is placed in the pan with some fish sauce, sugar, chopped peanuts and kaffir leaf to simmer in the sauce. Garnish with julienned chili pepper and kaffir lime leaf and some coconut cream.
The beautiful ingredients for Drunken Noodles: Chinese kale, baby corn, hot basil and big flat noodles (left) and the finished product (upper right). Prepared pork, green beans and the quintessential chilis and garlic are ready to stir-fry (lower right). We were pampered in the class; kitchen staff washed and prepped our ingredients before placing them all together on a plate so all we had to do was pinch, chop, slice, or dice as directed. The kitchen helper did all the dishes as well!
Lunch time! By lunch time we had prepared 4 entrees each and we sampled each other’s accomplishments declaring that they were all tastier than what we have been eating at restaurants! Aaah, good, ol’ home cooking!
Tummy full and feeling drowsy I looked for a hammock, but it was time to get back to work. Next up, Thai Beef Salad with the delightfully fragrant and refreshing flavors of mint leaf, lemongrass, lime, as well as garlic, shallots, fish sauce and chilis with cucumber, green onion and tomato. Delicious!
The finale was Pumpkin Balls in Coconut Milk, but, alas, it was a disappointment! I should’ve picked Mango and Sticky Rice or the Steamed Banana (and fresh coconut) Cake pictured lower right.
In summary: Guay Tiew Pad Khee Mao or Drunken Noodles is one of my all-time favorite Thai dishes so I chose it first. I love all the curries, but could only chose one, so I opted for the Panang Curry. The lime, lemongrass and mint flavors of the Yam Nua (Thai Beef Salad) are fantastic, the Pad Prig Khing Thaou (Stir-fry Pork with Chili Paste) was deliciously spicy, and the Tom Jued Wun Sen (Chicken Glass Noodle Soup) was flavorful, but not spicy – a perfect choice for those chicken soup kind of days and something I’d love to find at a restaurant here. The only loser was the bland Bua Loi (Pumpkin Balls in Coconut Milk) even swimming in sweetened coconut milk!
It was a day well spent and I highly recommend Classic Home Cooking School.
It was a great day of cooking and making new friends. My classmates are Yoko from Tokyo and Esmee and Marina from Holland. The happy team of students, instructors, and kitchen staff.
I know you’d like to take a Thai cooking class!
Contact Information: email@example.com
Cost: $25 (900 Thai baht for booking directly, a 100 baht savings)
Hours: 9:45am – 3:30pm
The price included pick up and delivery, market tour, preparing a curry paste and 6 entrees to eat or take away, a cookbook of all 60 recipes, and a day of fun and new friends.
Tripadvisor lists 70+ cooking schools in Chiang Mai. I read the reviews and perused the websites of more than 50 of them before choosing to contact Classic Home Cooking by email. They responded promptly and were efficient and easy to communicate with. I liked that the day class didn’t start before 9:00am, included the market tour, and that they allow the student to choose from over 60 entrees (including Drunken Noodles).
What is this Mystery Item I purchased at the market? Mineral? Animal? Plant????
It is the tamarind fruit. The name derives from Arabic: تمر هندي, romanized tamar hindi, “Indian date”. Interesting, because I thought the chewy texture was similar to a date – or a dried banana. Inside the crisp shell, the fruit is entwined by strange root-like fibers. Finally, the irregular-shaped pits are dark glossy brown that resemble pebbles.
Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a leguminous tree that produces edible, pod-like fruit which is used extensively in cuisines around the world.
The fruit is an indehiscent legume, sometimes called a pod, 12 to 15 cm (4.7 to 5.9 in) in length, with a hard, brown shell.
The fruit has a fleshy, acidulous pulp.
The tamarind is best described as sweet and sour in taste, and is high in tartaric acid, sugar, B vitamins and, oddly for a fruit, calcium. ~Wikipedia
Foodie Fact: The sweetness of Pad Thai comes from the tamarind.
Meet You in the Morning next week – same city, same country. Thanks for reading!