Generally, cooking food relaxes me. Sounds really weird hey, but it does. When I travel I love to learn, thats usually why most of us travel right? Ok theres the days around the pool doing nothing but finishing a book or two, but travel is also about experiencing the destination and one of those major experiences is the food. So travel + learning + food + cooking it = very happy me. If you’re like me and a lover of Thai food, this is a must do in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand.
Baan Hongnual Cookery School is located around 15 minutes from Chiang Mai. Set in a village location surrounded by herb and fruit gardens the owner Rang and her mother started some 15 years ago. I had researched other cooking schools in the area and this by far seemed the best because not only did I get to choose what to cook, I was doing it all myself – with instruction of course.
I was picked up from my hotel by my instructor, Pua and our first stop was the local market to shop for our ingredients. Now, I didn’t just wander through the market following Pua as she purchased the products, she actually had me engage with the locals, challenged me to know what each ingredient was, why we were buying it and what it was for. We had several ingredients to purchase from a list of around eighteen dishes, I chosen the following six:
✈ Som Tam – Green papaya salad
✈ Por Piah – Vegetarian spring rolls
✈ Pad Thai – Fried noodles Thai style
✈ Gaeng Kio Waan – Green chicken curry
✈ Paneang chicken curry
✈ Tom Yam Goon – Hot and sour prawn soup (Tom Yum)
Som Tam – Green Papaya Salad
After pounding some garlic, chilies and a few pieces of long beans (snake beans in Australia), it was time to master the shredder – kind of like a potato peeler that juliennes – the green papaya and carrot. Separately, I mixed the dressing: fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar to taste then mixed all the ingredients including chopped tomatoes and dried shrimp paste back in the mortar and pestle to slightly bruise. Serve topped with unsalted peanuts. Appetiser done.
Note: You can substitute green apples for green papaya.
Por Piah – Vegetarian Spring Rolls
The spring rolls were REALLY fun, surprisingly easy to make and tasted delicious. After lightly cooking some finely chopped tofu and garlic, I added in some chopped garlic chives, bean sprouts, sliced fresh oyster mushroom and a small amount of soy sauce. Once Pua taught me the correct way to roll these little beauties, I was on my way to deep frying them in a wok. I am proud to say, except for Pua’s first example, I made them all!
Pad Thai – Fried noodles Thai style
Although it’s considered a street food, I would say this is the most common dish Australians know of and available at every Thai restaurant in Australia and around the world. Chopped tofu, green shallots, egg and chicken stir fried with some rice noodles and a sauce made of chilli, fish sauce and vinegar. Crushed peanuts finish this national dish.
Gaeng Kio Waan – Green chicken curry &
Paneang chicken curry
I’m going to talk about these two dishes two together as they were quite similar in techniques, except for the curry paste and a couple of the final ingredients/ garnish items. The trick is using both coconut cream and coconut milk. Kaffir lime leaves (and how to use them) feature in both dishes, as does fish sauce and sugar, but both taste quiet different. My favourite of both, in fact of all the dishes of the day was the Gaeng Kio Waan (green chicken curry), the best I had ever tasted – and I cooked it myself! The making of the actual curry pastes isn’t included in the half day course, but written instructions are given should you wish to attempt your own.
Note: Coconut milk can be made by mixing both equal parts of coconut cream with water.
Tom Yam Goon – Hot and sour prawn soup
Again, another easy dish, however I think I overdid it with the chilli, so really only enjoyed the bursty prawns. Starting with boiling water, the mortar and pestle came out again when fresh lemongrass stalk, chilli, sliced galangal and kaffir lime leaves were pounded just enough to bruise them then added to the water. Once boiling again, an onion and a tomato, both quartered were added and left for a few minutes to simmer. Fish sauce, sugar, salt and more chilli paste (if you like heat) were added before dropping in the fresh prawns for 1 minute.
I have to say it was one of the most amazing touristic educational activities I have done to date. EVER. I received a complete cookbook of all the dishes on offer plus descriptions of some herbs and vegetables we don’t use in Australia, so I will be taking a part of Chiang Mai home with me, and yes there will be dinner parties VERY soon – guess whats on the menu?
Disclosure: The cooking class was paid for by friends of FreakyFlier as a travel gift. The post was not written for any beneficial gain for Bann Hongnual Cookery School nor monetary gain for FreakyFlier or any other entity.
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