Happy Wednesday to you all! I spent my 2nd full day in Chiang Mai at a cooking school run by a lovely chef named Neung, which actually means 1 in Thai. Though she said in her family she’s child number 10. ha! But in my book, she was number 1 in personality, patience and overall teacher. The name of her school is Best Trip Cooking School (www.bestripcookingschool.com)
I found her through Trip Advisor and she was highly recommended and once I arrived at my guesthouse they were able to book me for today. I loved that it was a small class and there were only 4 of us. The max that Neung usually takes is 6, so she’s able to tend to us without being overwhelmed. My class was the Asian women class – LOL. Our ethnicities were Filipino, Korean and Chinese. Claire was from S. Korea but also studied in the states in NY and Austin, TX and the other two were sisters named Koko and Kaka from Macau.
You choose 5 dishes that you want to make; I’ll list them below in the order that I made them. I was amazed at how incredibly simple these dishes are to make but the trick for all of us in class is really finding the right ingredients where we live. Neung was really good about telling us what ingredients we could use to substitute for those we might not be able to find.
Our class started by visiting a local market near her home. Neung lives about 25-30 minutes north of Chiang Mai city in the Sansai district where she owns about 2 acres of land that she grows her own fruits, herbs and vegetables but there were some key ingredients she still needed to buy at the market. She also introduced us to some authentic Thai delicacies and we got to see lots of various produce and some stomach turning items too. Heh! I’ll do my best to spare you the really gross pics I had to take and I’ll leave that for my cousin Malia. LOL
We tasted fried banana and sweet potato and a dish I kept seeing around town called Khanom Krok, a coconut custard dessert. Inside this cast iron pan is the custard or pancake batter and they add corn or green onions. It was sweet, light and incredibly tasty. I’ll be going back for more before I leave. So yummy or as they say here, “Aroy mak ka!”
Next we visited a stand that made fresh coconut milk. They take out the coconut meat and then place it through a big strainer and out comes this sweet and fresh coconut milk. Neung usually gets her coconut milk from here.
At the same stand, we saw fresh curry that we would eventually learn how to make ourselves. Neung then showed us some of the vegetables and herbs that are unique to Thailand, showing us a smaller eggplant, panda leaves, and also the different lemongrasses they use.
From there we ventured into where the meats are and thankfully I had a solid stomach, not many people would be able to handle some of this but I also had to take photos of some of the meats they sold. Everything from pig, water buffalo, chicken and frogs. Poor guys were alive and placed in a net until they were purchased and just like that they were made into just frog legs. Tofu was also sold in here and in Thailand, the tofu used for pad thai is colored yellow, that is a firm tofu.
I spared you some of the more stomach twisting pics 🙂 Lisa B.(NYC) I thought of you with the chicken feet when we ate dim sum in Chinatown and the lady eating the chicken feet just was smiling and laughing at us. Ha!
After we left the market we then headed to Neung’s home only 5 minutes away. It’s very peaceful and it was a nice escape from the city. Her teaching kitchen is outdoors which is great as we were getting nice breezes while we cooked and during breaks we could hang out in her hammocks under her mango trees.
She has an assistant named Joy that helps her prepare the ingredients for us and the dishes we chose to make. Neung is actually from southern Thailand so her dishes reflected that. The main difference is that Northern Thai dishes don’t use coconut milk for many and southern does which was something I never knew. As I said, we chose 5 dishes that you wanted to make. I’ll just be showing you the finished product to spare you all the other photos I took to just know what some of the ingredients looked liked.
My first dish was Tom Yum Goong, which is a popular Thai soup. It’s a sweet and sour dish and spicy depending on how hot you want it. I went for the Thai spicy which cleared out my sinuses well. It contains shrimp, lemongrass, mushrooms, onion, tomato, chicken stock and galangal which is a different type of ginger than the ones we usually use back home. You then season it with chili peppers, chili curry paste, non-diary creamer, lime juice, fish sauce, some sugar and a little salt. The soup was done in a matter of 10 minutes – so simple.
After that I made green curry with chicken and fried cashew nut with chicken. I won in making my curry paste in terms of speed and consistency. Mine was the closest to the one I took a pic of in the market. We pounded it with a mortar and pestle. Neung said there’s a legend that Thai men pick their wives by how fast they pound the ingredients and how smooth it is, apparently they make the best wives. LOL In this case, the Filipino beat the other Asians. 😉
While our curry was sitting before we placed our last ingredients, I started on my fried cashew nut with chicken. I liked that she prepared our dishes for one person so we didn’t waste our food. The cashew chicken was a simple stirfry dish and it wasn’t heavy with oil which is another thing I liked about her teaching. No crazy MSG stuff and your stomach wasn’t churning after you consumed it.
We then sat down to eat our finished dishes and had a bit of break before we started on our last two.
After eating and resting, we were ready to make our last two dishes. Most of us chose to make pad thai and we all made a well-known dessert here, mango with sticky rice. We were so stuffed from our previous dishes that we made our pad thai to go. Neung and Joy wrapped it up in banana leaves, it sure beats styrofoam and/or recycled containers. 🙂
And the dish that I think will be most challenging for me to make is actually the sticky rice with mango. The rice is something that will probably be a lot of trial and error as you can’t exactly use a rice cooker. When I first heard of this dish, I thought the combination of ingredients was a little weird, but I could totally eat this dish every night for dessert. I love the coconut milk and the rice is really sweet. Aroy mak ka!
I really enjoyed this class and would definitely take this again and learn new dishes. She’ll also personalize it if there’s a dish that you want to make that’s not on the main list. Neung was awesome and if you come to Chiang Mai, please go to her school. She really does treat you like family and she will also personally pick you up and drop you off. Her smile and personality really does radiate and you leave feeling full and happy. 🙂 Kop kuhn ka, Neung! I look forward to meeting and learning again.
I’ll be laying low tomorrow as I have an early morning flight to Hanoi on Friday to meet up with my best travel buddy, Betty Lin in Hanoi, Vietnam. My next blog will more than likely be from there. Tomorrow I’ll be checking out more of the old city and more markets. Also I hope to have another tour in the evening to check out more street food.
So until I land in Vietnam, enjoy my foodie blog! Mahalo and thanks for following!