For food lovers out there, Thailand is known to be one of the best travel destinations in the world. While Thai restaurants are now a staple in most western towns, real Thai food in Thailand is an experience on another level. The Food is likely to be one of the highlights of your trip to Thailand, but there is no better way to immerse yourself in Thai cuisine and learn about its composition and the intricate use of herbs and spices, then to attend a Thai cooking class.
I fell in love with Thai cooking during my Thai cooking class at a Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai. The school came highly recommended by the staff at my hostel and offered a variety of 1-3 day cooking classes to choose from. While a full day cooking class seemed like a big time investment, I went for it anyway. And I’m so glad I did! In the end it was one of the highlights of my trip to Thailand.
An Early Start To a Great Day at the Thai Farm Cooking School
On the day of the cooking class I was picked up from my hostel around 8:30am in the morning. After a few more pick-ups at other hostels and hotels in town, we were on our way to a local market to learn about and purchase the ingredients for our class.
We arrived at the Ruamchook Market shortly after 9am. The market was large and fairly clean and was a true example of where the locals shop on a day to day basis. The market was divided into a number of sections: fruits and veggies, meats, fish, grains, and sauces and spices. Seeing where the food comes from made me feel so much better about local cuisine. The produce was fresh, sold directly by farmers, and nothing like the stuff you are used to buying at a local supermarket back home.
Our Thai Farm Cooking School guide took us through the aisles, taking the time to explain the differences between dozens of varieties of rices, sauces, spices, and other condiments. After picking up a few spices and sauces for our class, we had some time to roam around the market and explore. Photographer enthusiasts beware: the photo ops in the market are incredible!
Shortly after purchasing our spices and sauces we were on our way to the farm. The Thai Farm Cooking School was located in the country side on a large piece of land with banana crops and coconut trees lining the roads. The grass on the farm was so green that it almost looked photoshoped.
We started off with a walk around the farm, learning about many of the ingredients used in Thai cooking. Most of the ingredients like coconuts, chili, eggplant, long beans, papaya, lemons, and all of the herbs were freshly grown right there on the farm. I was surprised to learned that many Thai people do not use pesticides to control insects on their crops, instead they purposefully plant herbs and spices near the crops that effectively and organically repel pesticides.
Once inside, I was blown away by the professional set up of the classroom. Each of us had our own stove, pots and pans, and a clean area for cutting and other prep. I guess that’s the benefit of having a school out in the country side, where space isn’t an issue and you can afford the luxury of a large classroom.
It was finally time to start cooking! Each one of us got to choose our own menu for the day. There were 5 menu categories with 3 dish choices per category. I choose to cook Green Curry with Chicken, Tom Yam Soup with Shrimp, Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Pad Thai, and Mango Sticky Rice. Some of these I had tried before, others were an attempt to explore something new.
The first 3 dishes were cooked in the morning and eaten at lunch. The other 2 were made in the afternoon. To make our life in the kitchen a little bit easier, most of the ingredients were prepped for us ahead of time. But the chopping, the mixing, the frying and seasoning was under our control. I always thought cooking Thai food was a complicated process, but with no prior experiences I whipped up some delicious looking dishes!
Tom Yum Soup
Chicken with Cashew Nuts
Mango Sticky Rice
By the 3rd dish I was stuffed! I gladly took the leftovers back to the hostel and feasted on them for the rest of the day!
The 1 day cooking class is the most popular option at the Thai Farm Cooking School, although the school does also offer 2 and 3 day courses. The price is 1100 Baht for a 1-day course (equivalent of about $35-37) A great price to pay for a 5 course meal!
Cooking classes, like the one at Thai Farm Cooking School, are widely available in most major tourist cities in Thailand, and are by no means limited to Chiang Mai. Although, be warned that the quality of the classes, the authenticity of the recipes, and the value for your money varies drastically. Be careful when signing up for cooking classes in Bangkok and Phuket. Being the biggest tourist hubs, these cities will have a plethora of cooking classes to choose from but the majority of them are very touristy.
My experience with another Thai cooking class at the Pum Thai Restaurant & Cooking School in Phuket was nothing compared to the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai. Our class at the Pum Thai restaurant did not include a trip to the market or an in-depth explanation of the history of the cuisine and its basics. The actual cooking took place in a small room at the back of the restaurant where 10 of us crammed in and crowded over 4 stoves.
For more details on my experience at the Pum Thai Cooking School read my review on Tripadvisor
Have you ever taken a cooking class in Thailand? Did you bring any of your knowledge home? Please feel free to leave a comment with your own story.
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