So I took a cooking course. Initial sentiments likely revolve around whether of not an International Incident occurred, the kitchen burnt down or if anybody was carried out on a stretcher.
Sorry to disappoint, but none of the above occurred. In fact, the entire process of learning how to cook some of my favorite Thai dishes was truly an ingratiating experience. All of this coming from an individual who has mastered the art of making a delectable peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Before you laugh consider the following skills necessary to perfect such a craft. The ratio of peanut butter to jelly needs to be exact. It´s an art as much as it is a science. A little too much jam and you´re drowning in a sugary mucilaginous mess. A little heavy on the peanut butter and you´ve got a salty stick in the throat emergency room fiasco. Moreover, selecting the proper kind of bread (rye, sourdough, pumpernickel) is of utmost importance – no generically ´white´ crap is going to cut it here. Anyhow, enough with the self-depreciating humor.
I can make a few things well, namely pizza and cheesecake – both from scratch. However, the truth is that ever since I´ve been living abroad working and traveling in Asia, the necessity to become a whiz in the kitchen has been trumped by the plentiful supply of nickel-and-dime scrumptious local/regional cuisine readily available at my fingertips literally at any hour of the day. In the past few years, I´ve more likely spent time rummaging around in the pantry for a late night snack than I have cooking up any sort of gormandizing dainty delights to enjoy myself or to share with others.
Many a farang/backpacker comes to Thailand to soak up the sun and sand that the southern most parts of the country dish out readily both ponderous in quantity and quality. It´s truly world class in this area and I´m not at all suggesting the experience should be skipped. However, for those who head up to the less popular area in the northwest region, the cultural HUB of Chiang Mai awaits.
A smorgasbord of cultural and adventurous activities are on offer to satisfy the craving of just about any individual.
If you´re into trekking, elephant rides and exotic tropical rain-forests you´ve hit the right spot. On the other hand, if you´re looking to soak up as much culture as possible with visits to hill-tribes, temples, bustling outdoor markets along with mastering the arts of Muay Thai, massage, yoga and cooking you´ll never exhaust the abundant opportunities awaiting. I had dabbled in most of the above but had never taken a cooking course before in my life. I decided to plunge right in and take the ´full´ instead of the half day course. One might think it´s a bit much for such a rookie, but I managed to turn a few heads when it was all said and done.
As foreigners we all assembled in a very quaint and cozy cooking school in downtown Chiang Mai for a quick meet & great followed by a trip to the local market where our head chef and cooking instructor for the day carefully explained the ingredients used for Thai cooking along with a host of other useful tips to consider when selecting items or cooking things in general. Upon returning, we decide upon a host of different dishes we´re going to individually make for the day. A soup, spring roll, salad, noodle, main, curry and dessert dish are all offered in three different forms. It was hard to narrow it down to just one of each but I´m glad we had the choice!
The cooking itself was a lot of fun. The instructor carefully walked us through the procedures and dished out a plethora of useful information regarding techniques and general background of Thai food. It was fool proof enough in the sense that a dummy (such as myself) could feel comfortable enough to complete each task; yet, it had enough appeal for even the seasoned chef to gain a few tidbits of useful knowledge. The best part is that we got to devour each of our creations as the crowning achievement.
Overall, the experience was fantastic in the sense that it gave me a lot more confidence to try things in the kitchen. I don´t see myself as ever becoming a world class chef but I certainly can now make some tasty Thai dishes to impress company every once in a while. The best part, at least in my opinion, was the guide/recipe book given out at the end. From front to cover it covers all of the recipes along with introductions to Thai cuisine, ingredients and background information. Anything forgotten on the intensive one day cooking experience is within the cover of the book for future reference.
It´s something I highly recommend for those willing to give it a shot. I truly mean it when I say the following: If I can do it ANYBODY CAN!