Well if you are like me you are thankful for each and everyday. Yet some days are just better than other days……lucky for us this was one of those days! Our plan was to go to an all day cooking school called the Thai Secret Cooking School. We had once again gotten the suggestion by watching this Vlog over at Kara and Nate’s You Tube channel! Now I know what you are thinking….Lyn does not need to learn how to cook and there is no hope for myself or Julie but after watching the video I got it in my head that this might be fun. Both Lyn and Julie agreed and Lyn was actually looking forward to broadening her knowledge of Thai cooking. Both Julie and I where just hoping to ride Lyn’s coat tails and not burn the school down in the process! I had actually booked the class for all three of us by email and no payment had taken place. They just told us that we would be picked up at our hotel at 8:30 AM so after a good breakfast at the hotel we waited to be picked up. Right on time a red truck pulled up and the driver told our hotel host that he was here to pick us up. We knew the class sizes usually ranged in size from about 10 to 18 but when the truck arrived it was empty. We got in and after about a 15 minute drive we stopped and picked up a young couple. They had literally just finished up teaching English at an International school in China for the last year and were rewarding themselves with a trip around Asia before they went back home to rejoin the real world. One was from Canada and one from England. They had originally met in Germany on an exchange program. Anyway they were super interesting and super nice! In about 15 minutes more we stopped and picked up another young couple. They were both from California and were on a vacation touring Thailand like the rest of us. They were also super nice and interesting. We even shared dog pictures ha ha! Our next shop was at the open air market and this is where we met May our host for the day! She had a bubbly personality, a warm smile and within minutes we were picking the meals that we wanted to prepare. She then took us through the markets and stopped to show us the different ingredients that we would be using. She had such a good way of explaining everything. She would not only talk about the vegetables but would also pass them around getting us to feel and smell them individually. With all the sights and smells we were in sensory overload and loving every minute of it. You can see a short video of the market by clicking here! By the time we left the market we could see this was going to be a cool experience. We all piled back in the Red truck and in about 20 minutes later we were at May’s house (The cooking school.) It was out in the country and beautiful in just about every way. The entire underneath area of her house was open with multiple cook stations set up. We felt very fortunate that we were only a class of 7 and Julie and I breathed a sigh of relief as we knew we would probably need more hands on help than anyone else in the class. We had all chosen the all day class which had us cooking multiple meals, appetizers and desserts. May’s husband took pictures through out the day that he will send us by email at a later date. May also had some helpers that helped prepare the food for us in other words when I would cook my meal I would be given a plate of raw food that would be in the correct proportions before I started cooking. Of course I would still have to cut and prepare the raw food and learned when to add the ingredients for the best results. Before we started cooking May had us go out in her garden and pick a variety of vegetables that we would use in our dishes. We picked, long beans, Thai basil, chilli peppers, Kaffir leaves just to name a few. After we got back we actually went to our workstations and before long we were cooking with gas as they say. Even with her help it took all my concentration not to mess up. I would like to say this was because of jet lag but I am sure it was due to my total lack of cooking skills. I am a warm it up type of cook and usually use a microwave. At any given time all 7 of us might be cooking two or three different dishes depending on what we had picked. After May would give us our directions we would all walk back to our stations and try to remember everything. May would then walk back and forth between us answering questions and keeping us on track, all why giving us some great history and background of Thai cooking. It was somehow intense and laid back all at the same time. I credit that to May and the group of people we had been lucky enough to be thrown in with.
After we prepared our first meal which included a Thai stir fry and a soup we all got to sit at a table together and enjoy the fruits of our labor. I must say for the first time there was a lull in our conversation as we ate some of the best food on our trip so far. (And to think we all cooked it!) Next we went back and cooked another round. Each station had a preparation area as well as a gas cooktop. We also had sauce pots and a big wok. This time we made an appetizer. Seemed backwards at first but remember we are preparing another meal later so this was perfect thing to have between meals. Lyn and I made the papaya salad and Julie made the beef salad. May did her usual great job of explaining, correcting and teaching us as we made this dish. After we all ate our appetizer we had a break where we could walk across the street to get a beer and also look around May’s place. It was beautiful and fun just to see and experience another way of life! After our break we came back to learn how to cook another meal and finally dessert. We learned that before we could make our next meal we had to make two types of curry paste and also we needed to shave some coconuts for dessert. We all went out to a shaded area and May showed us how to shave all the hair off the coconut with a small machete and then how to safely crack open the coconut. Then she took one of the halves and showed us how to scrape out the coconut flesh on a little stool with a sharp shredder attached to it. Several people took turns scraping and Lyn started having flashbacks to her childhood. It turns out she had done this many times when she was a kid. You can see Lyn in action by clicking here! In a matter of minutes we had all of the coconut ready for dessert preparation. We then made the curry paste which I will have to admit took a little patience and muscle power. We were given the ingredients and then told the proper way to mash them in the mortar pestle. Luckily we all got to take turns mashing the ingredients until we finally had yummy looking curry paste. Next Julie volunteered to extract the coconut milk from the shaved coconut. This involved repeatedly squeezing the coconut over and over again and letting the milk sift through into a sauce pan. You can see Julie in action by clicking here! May let us try some store-bought coconut milk and then she let us all try the fresh coconut milk. Well as you expect there was a world of difference. The fresh was so much better.
Now it was time to prepare our final meal and our dessert so that we could enjoy our last meal with each other. Two of us prepared Panaeng Curry with pork and everyone else prepared the Green curry chicken. For dessert I was the only one to pick the pumpkin in coconut milk while everyone else prepared sweet sticky rice with mango. The sticky rice was actually dyed blue during the process by putting blue flowers in water and then taking the blue water and infusing it into the rice. You can see a short clip of the process here! Very cool! With May’s help we pulled off another great meal and thoroughly enjoyed eating the fruits and vegetables of our labor. Finally it was time to go and we all climbed back into the Red truck and headed back to our hotels. We all exchanged FB information so we could follow each others trips. After about 45 minutes and saying goodbye to the two other couples we were dropped off back at our hotel. We had eaten so much that we did not need dinner so we did the next best thing and went and got a massage a couple of doors down from our hotel. About $12 US dollars later we were super relaxed and decided to have one drink and call it a night. We walked down to the really cool eclectic bar and had a big Mango drink and called it a night. By the time we got back it was about 11. A big shout out to May, her staff and our fellow classmates for making this the best day of our trip so far. Oh and before I forget a big shout out to Chelsea and Justin for giving me these cooking classes for my birthday/fathers day present. Turned out to be one of the best presents ever! Tomorrow we are heading to see Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. It is a Buddhist temple that overlooks the lovely city of Chiang Mai then we will be in search of a special dessert! Thanks for reading!