Well I was in a bit of a mope for my first couple of days in Chiang Mai (quite understandably I think, not that that made it any better.) I had forms to fill in, I had frustrating phone calls to make, I had replacement shopping to do. Shopping is never fun for me when it’s essential. My hiking shoes broke in Malaysia as well, so I had the added dread of shoe shopping on top of that. Yeah, I know, I’m not a normal girl. Anyway, all that added up to a lot of mediocre western comfort food. To be fair the TexMex wasn’t too bad, but I think I can now pinpoint the worst pizza of my life. Definitely needed to get back onto Asian food, and make sure I did it properly.
Enter Asia Scenic cooking school.
I really recommend this class, not least because I’m completely enamoured with the mini cookbook we got to take away with us, and the rose apples we were given as an impromptu snack when they fell from the tree in the garden.
You can choose to cook either in the city or out at the farm – I went for city because, well, a kitchen is a kitchen wherever and I think I made the right choice because I ended up in a group half the size of the farm students.
This is a traditional Thai welcome snack that we were given while we were picking our menu. I can’t remember what it was called as I’ve already posted my cookbook home, but I’m planning Thai dinner parties just so I can serve this! You take a little chopped up lime, shallot, ginger, dried coconut and roast peanut, a drizzle of honey or syrup and a tiny green chili if you’re brave, wrap it up in a lettuce leaf – or more traditionally a betel leaf- and eat all in one go. Fantastic. I was sitting next to Joy from Chongqing (aka the spiciest part of China) so she ate all my share of chilies.
Part one of the day long eating session! I was quite surprised that we were all allowed to choose our own dishes. I was expecting to have to agree with everyone on what we were cooking but our teacher Gaz did a really good job of coordinating our group so we were all cooking different things at the same time. After picking our 4 recipes (technically 5, but one was curry paste in order to make curry, and I’m very grateful as I really couldn’t have eaten any more at that point) we had a tour of the local market and the school’s herb garden before getting down to work.
Pounding curry paste. Apparently you make the smoothest curry paste after you’ve been married for a few years. Can’t think why that is.
After we’d all collaborated on the paste Gaz asked us to decide how much we wanted for our dish. She said we could choose between kindergarten, elementary, high school or university levels. I went for nursery.
Actually it wasn’t too spicy. Maybe I’ll be braver when i make it at home.
I also went on a tour with Chiang Mai Street Food Tours, which I foolishly did on my last night in town, so I couldn’t go back and get more Khao Ka Moo the next day (slow cooked pork knuckles in cinnamon and five spice. Rocked my world)
Frogs ready to go in the stir fry. If you don’t count the cow skin in Jogjakarta I guess this is the first unusual meat I’ve eaten on the trip. Eh. Not much to write home about. Maybe if you took the bones out…
Sharing deep fried tilapia with Mark and Wendy from Australia. I’m very glad we were sharing because I counted up and by the end of the tour we had been given TWELVE MEALS. I didn’t eat the next day.
(No, I’m totally lying. I’m a greedy pig. I didn’t eat breakfast though)
Our guide (I can’t remember his name! Dammit. But I think he owns the company so if you go on a tour you’ll probably meet him) showing us how to get into sticky rice steamed in bamboo.
Little mini rice flour and coconut… things. For some reason these are cooked as half shells, then put together into spheres to be served, but then you’re supposed to separate the halves again before you eat them. Why put them together in the first place? Our guide didn’t have time to tell me this before I had hastily bitten into one and splurged the still liquid (and hot) centre all over my hand. And my foot. Well done Hannah.
And with that, the world was a happier place again.