Day of cooking in Chiang Mai
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)
Our cookbook with all 15 recipes she teaches.
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.
Fresh eggplant – It’s smaller than the purple one we usually see and use in the states.
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!
Chiang Mai – Day of the Temples and eating lots of ono food
Good morning to most of you. It’s about 9pm here in Chiang Mai, Thailand and I’ve had a full touring day of temples.
I arrived late afternoon yesterday and I’m staying in a great guesthouse near the Warorot Market, called Rustic Guesthouse. Nan greeted me and gave me the first official impression of the Thai people here. She was extremely gracious with great curiosity and everything with a smile. My room is on the “2nd floor” but be wary it’s technically on the 3rd. There’s no elevator so prepare to climb. The handy thing about a backpack it fits in narrow staircases. 😉 Beds are comfy and they have AC – yay! Good thing because during the days it’s about 96 degrees F or about 35 C, at night it’s about 70 F.
View from the kitchen at Rustic
Nick the owner came in after I settled in and squared away some tours with Nan. He was great, very sweet and took me on a quick tour of the sights nearby. We took a few of the bicycles they had and we rode around the markets and headed into the night bazaar and over the bridges of the Ping River. We crossed both the Iron Bridge and Nawarat bridge before returning to the guesthouse. After the intro tour I ventured out to the market and got some street food. I admit that I was safe this time around as I got some spring rolls, some awesome spicy pad thai and I bought some fruit as well. I hope to get more pics hopefully tomorrow evening but I have to make sure to ask as many vendors don’t want pics. I had hoped to arrange a photography tour with a talented photographer here in Chiang Mai. He’s an ex-pat that has been living here for some time but when I contacted him, his workshops were closed for the season and won’t start up until September. 🙁 Bummer but gives me all the more reason to return.
Today I did a tour of the city temples located in the Old City and then ended the day by seeing one of the biggest attractions here the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
In the morning we toured about 4-5 temples, the first being Wat Chiang Man, which is said to be the oldest temple within the city walls built in 1296. All the temples here have been well kept and continue to be. They are all vibrant with color and have ornate designs but it was never gaudy to me. Perhaps the essence of Buddha is what makes it peaceful and calm. We saw many monks who were as young as 10 years old and also saw wax monks for those that have passed. Believe me the wax ones freaked some of us out on the tour because they looked so real, but it is all done so in reverence and respect.
Offerings placed at one of the pagodas
The next we visited was Wat Chedi Luang, which was believed to house the tallest structure in Chiang Mai but according to our guide, an earthquake in 1545 destroyed the top of it and to this day the pagoda still hasn’t been reconstructed.
Inside some of the temples you can make an offering and get some of these banners to place inside. They are placed on strings across the interior of the temple and it’s supposed to provide you with good luck. These in particular below had the animals just like in the Chinese horoscope.
We also visited Wat Phan Tao and ended our 1/2 day tour by visiting Wat Phra Sing. The latter is the highlight with it’s tall ceilings and open air temple and of course with a massive Buddha. It is here that the Thai people bring in the New Year (Songkran).
After my morning tour, I took in a quick lunch of shrimp with ginger and veggies and ended it with an ice cream cone from the famous McDonald’s 😉 It was here I met my tour group to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
It’s located up in the hills about 30-40 min away from Chiang Mai proper. The gold shimmered in the sun once we arrived and it thrived with many tourists and monks giving blessings. I received one earlier from a monk in Wat Chedi Luang and they bless you with holy water and give you a white string on your wrist. It’s said that this will bring you luck, you keep the string on your wrist for a minimum of 3 days before you cut it off. We received another blessing at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
I’ve always been intrigued by Buddism and after learning more here in Thailand, I can understand why many convert to it. There’s something peaceful and nurturing about this religion and all in all, they seem to have a calmer outlook on life with a lot of simplicity which is what I like about it. I have to have more conversations with Fr. Jim Fredericks when I get back to LA. 🙂
I wrote my name on the orange fabric as they will wrap this around the pagoda. Much of what you do at the temples seem to be all of good luck and fortune. I also kept hearing these shaking sounds and they were sticks in a bamboo cup. You must shake it until 1 comes out, once one does there is a number and you select the proper paper and it gives you a fortune or outlook on your future. Mine said I had enough luck – ha! Should you shake it and 2 come out than you must do it again.
We then walked down the 307 steps. The legend of this temple is that a white elephant climbed up here from Chiang Mai and there was a Buddha relic on its back. The elephant walked up and went around 3 times until it died and therefore it became the the relic’s new home. Many people will walk around the pagoda 3x just like the white elephant out of respect and for the sacredness of the temple.
My day then ended with a meal at a place called The Kitchen in the night bazaar with a bean sprout and tofu dish complete with a small Chang beer and rice shaped like a bear. Ha! I also bought some fresh lychee that I’m about to dig into now.
Tomorrow I head to a Thai cooking class and I’m also hoping to join a street food tour on Thursday night. I may end up just browsing the many markets here on Thursday during the day but we’ll see what pops up. Till then hope everyone is well and good night!