One of many recommended activities in Chiang Mai is taking a cooking class. Brecht likes to cook and I like to eat what he cooks, so this activity ended up on our “to do in Chiang Mai” list. Thai Farm Cooking School has great ratings and seems to be very busy, but we were able to book a cooking class one week in advance.
Brecht made the reservation online through their website, but you can also call them or stop by their office, situated in the old town. Paying (฿1,300 per person) is unfortunately not possible online and it has to be done before the day of the cooking class, as a confirmation of your reservation. You can go pay at their office in the old town. That’s when you have to choose the dishes you want to cook. We both chose different dishes for every meal so we could cook and taste all the possibilities. We recommend you to do the same!
Thai Farm Cooking School is a cooking school at a farm about an hour outside of the city. The cooking class occupies a whole day, starting between 8h30 and 9h in the morning, when they come pick you up at your hotel. First you stop at a fresh market for some explanation. At the farm you’ll get a tour through the organic garden before you start cooking. After all the dishes are cooked and eaten, you get a cookbook to remember what you’ve learned. You’ll be back at your hotel between 17h and 18h, stuffed.
Visiting the Fresh Market
We were the last passengers to be picked up at about 9h10 at our hotel. (Read about our stay here.) There were already nine people in the minibus, so we were a group of eleven Thai chefs-to-be. Our first stop would be a fresh market. MB was our teacher, the chef, an enthusiastic Thai woman full of jokes and laughs.
She gave us a short tour around the fresh market, showing us the difference between sticky and jasmin rice and some other essential ingredients in Thai coooking. She also explained that the typical Thai fish sauce can be replaced with soy sauce and the (stinky) oyster sauce with mushroom sauce. I was avidly taking notes, a needless effort, as everything is explained in the cookbook you receive at the end of the day. We got 15 minutes to walk around the fresh market before we would take off to the cooking school.
Cooking Class at Thai Farm Cooking School
At about 10h40 we arrived at the Thai Farm Cooking School. We were welcomed with some lovely lemongrass tea and cold drinking water. There was some time to relax, have a drink and visit the toilet.
When everyone was relieved from excess fluids and hydrated again, we all got an apron and a straw hat to take a walk through the organic garden at the farm. They showed us different spices, vegetables and fruit, growing happily together in the big garden. We smelled and tasted, and discovered a few edible plants we hadn’t seen before. Once again I was needlessly taking notes, as everything is written down in the cookbook.
Back at our working station, a range of spices were laid out, ready to be processed into a homemade curry paste. Some ingredients needed to be cut, others were small enough to be crushed and grinded by our pestle and mortar. Making your own curry paste means you can choose the ingredients and spiciness. Both of us went easy on the coriander and I turned down the spiciness a notch by not adding any chili. You have to grind for some time to get the right texture. Don’t look at what your doing though, as flying chili will burn your eyes.
The first course we made was soup. We moved to our cooking stations and each got a plate with all the ingredients to make the soup of our choice. Everything was cleaned and cut, ready to start the real cooking, no more preparations needed. When they tell you what to do when you have to do it, cooking is really easy and fun! We made a delicious (not too spicy) Tom Yam with Shrimps and a tasty (no koriander) Chicken Coconut Soup.
After every round of cooking, we ate what we made, outside on the porch. Turns out the Thai soups have a lot of ingredients you aren’t supposed to eat, they’re just in there for flavour. That explains a lot!
Next dish: the curries, made with our homemade curry paste. I made Yellow Curry with Chicken and Brecht Green Curry with Chicken. Sticky rice was served to go with them. They had showed us how to make sticky and jasmin rice after the walk through the garden. For jasmin rice you just start the rice cooker and wait. Sticky rice is a little more work, but again mostly waiting. We already felt quite full after cooking and enjoying our first two dishes, but there was a lot more to come.
Next we made noodle dishes: Pad Thai or Spring Rolls, way to feel like a real Thai cook! Then we cooked some rice dishes: Sweet and Sour Chicken and Fried Chicken with Cashew Nuts, generally our favourite Thai dish. While eating our delicious rice dishes, our chef prepared papaya salad at the table. Fun, watching the “show cooking” while eating, but we were all quite stuffed by then, so everyone just tried a bite or two. We still had to keep some room for dessert!
Time for the last round of cooking of the day: dessert. I made the famous Mango Sticky Rice and Brecht Banana in Coconut Milk. We learned a trick to give our white sticky rice a nice colour, but sadly I ruined it by adding too much palm sugar. We tried Mango Sticky Rice quite a few times already and really liked it. Banana in Coconut Milk, however, we’d never had before. I’m not a banana fan, but Brecht loved it, he couldn’t get enough. Great way to end the day!
By then it was almost 16h and everyone was stuffed and tired. We received a cookbook containing all the information and recipes we had learned throughout the day. It even had an autograph of our chef, MB! We had a blast, but were glad to go home as well.
What we thought about Thai Farm Cooking School
Thai Farm Cooking School is a lovely cooking school, located an hour outside of the city on an organic farm. It’s a nice and quiet environment to do some relaxed cooking and tasting the result. Everything is neatly organized and well prepared, most of the time the vegetables were even cut for us. A nice bonus: you don’t have to do your own dishes!
We recommend to eat breakfast before you start your day at Thai Farm Cooking School, as our first dish was ready at 12h20. Dinner on the other hand might not be necessary. We had our last dish at about 15h30 and went to bed without a bite more. We ate everything we cooked, but it’s also possible to take doggy bags, so you can enjoy some leftovers later. They showed us how they manage to close the bags bursting with air, like they bag dishes on the streets, cool!
In short, we had a great time, met some fun people and learned how to cook some delicious Thai food. You should try it too!
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