We woke up early the next day, went downstairs for another phenomenal hotel breakfast buffet experience and then loaded into vans to drive twenty minutes outside the city to the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. Riding with us from the hotel were three of the cooking school instructors and before we reached the school we stopped off at a food market so they could walk us through the market to teach us about the foods we would be using to cook with.
After wandering around the market and learning about Asian vegetables for about a half an hour we piled back into the vans and drove to the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. The school was established in 1993 and was the first cookery school to open in Chiang Mai. It is owned and run by Sompon Nabnian and his English wife, Elizabeth. With over ten years of experience in teaching thousands of people from all over the world it is the leading cookery school in Chiang Mai. Sompson has written a best- selling cook book called “A Passion for Thai Cooking” and has made guest appearances on travel and food programs around the world including The National Geographic Channel and the BBC. In 2001 he made his own series for UK television called “Thai Way” which has since been shown around the world.
Once we arrived at the school we found partners, put on aprons and were led into a small classroom where one of the instructors walked us through how to make our first dish, thai hot and sour prawn soup. Once we had seen it demonstrated we picked up our ingredients and were sent back to our individual cooking stations to try our hand at it.
Thai Hot and Sour Prawn Soup
2 cups prawns- washed, peeled and deveined, keep the peelings
3 cups water or chicken stock
6 cloves of garlic- crushed
6 shallots- sliced
2 stalks of lemon grass, slice into 1 in pieces
10 thin slices of ginza, skin removed
2 cups straw mushrooms cut in half
2 tomatoes- each cut into 8 pieces
20 small green chillies- cut in 1/2 legnthwise
3 tbs fish sauce
5 kaffir lime leaves- torn into pieces discarding the stems
2 tbs lime juice
1/2 cup coriander- chopped
Directions: Put the heads and peelings of the prawns in a pan with the water and bring it to a boil. Remove the prawn peelings from the pan and bring the stock back to a boil. Add the garlic, shallots, lemongrass and ginza and bring to a boil. Then add the mushrooms and tomatoes and bring them to a boil. Add the chillies and fish sauce followe by the kaffir lime leaves. Cook gently for two minutes and then add the prawns and cook for another one minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice. Serve garnished with the coriander.
Linsday and I worked together on this, and since we are both vegetarians we did not use prawns in our soup, but it turned out pretty good despite. We were given time to eat our soup and then we all filed back into the classroom to learn how to make the next dish, green curry with chicken, only the version I made was vegetarian.
Green Curry with Chicken
1 1/2 cups chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 cup thick coconut milk- keep 2 tbs to use as a garnish
1 cup thin coconut milk
4 tablespoons green curry paste
3 big eggplants cut into 1/2 in pieces
1/2 cup small eggplants
2 tbs palm sugar-optional
2 tbs fish sauce
2 kaffir lim leaves- torn into pieces discarding the stems
1 cup sweet basil leaves
1 big green chili- sliced
1 big red chili- sliced
Directions: Put the thick coconut milk into a wok and fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the coconut oil begins to separate out. Then add the green curry paste and fry for 1-2 minutes. Once the paste is cooked add the thin coconut milk and when it is boiling add the big and small egg plants. Simmer for about four minutes until the egg plants are slightly soft. Then add the palm sugar along with the edge of the wok so that it melts and add the fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and half of the basil leaves. Turn off the heat and serve garnished with the big green chillies, the big red chillies, and the remaining thick coconut milk .
This dish was very spicy, we made much smaller portions than the recipe lists since we were only cooking for two people, and we were given seven chilies to include in our soup, but cautioned that including all seven would result in a VERY spicy soup. We put in two and my mouth was still on fire. A bunch of the boys got into idiotic macho chili eating contests, but nobody could handle more than four chilies in their soup. They were crazy hot. We were allowed a few minutes to sample our curry, but then covered it and set it aside while we prepared the final two dishes. The next dish we made was a steamed banana cake, because it required fifteen minutes to cook.
Steamed Banana Cake
10 small bananas (or 5 large bananas)- mashed
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
3 cups grated coconut
Directions: Put the bananas into a large bowl along with the rice flour, tapioca flour, sugar, salt, coconut milk, and 3/4 of the grated coconut. Mix well until all the ingredients are throughly combined. Put the mixture into a steaming ot baking tin (8″ x 8″) and sprinkle the rest of the grated coconut on the top. Steam for 30 minutes in the oven at 360 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Once it is cooked turn the cake out of the tin and serve hot or cold.
Instead of cooking large banana cakes we made tiny individual ones in banana leaf bowls. While these steamed we got to work on our final dish, Pad Thai.
10 oz fresh rice noodles (or dried noodles soaked in water for 10-15 minutes)
3 tbs oil
1 tbs garlic- chopped
1 tbs dried shrimps
1 cup tofu- chopped into small pieces
6 tbs chicken stock or water
2 eggs- beaten
3 tbs roasted peanuts- chopped
1/4 cup chives- cut into 1 in pieces
1 cup bean sprouts
2 limes cut into wedges
Fresh Vegetables (bean sprouts, cabbage, and chives)
3 tbs sugar
3 tbs fish sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs tamarind juice
Directions: Put the oil into a wok and fry the garlic, dried shrimps, and tofu until the garlic turns golden brown and then add the rice noodles. Keep stirring over a high heat. Then add the chicken stock and stir-fry until the noodles are soft. Then turn down the head and add the sauce ingredients and stir well to combine. Add the eggs and stir-fry until the eggs are cooked and well combined with the noodles. Add the peanuts and chives. Stir-fry to combine and then add the bean sprouts and stir together. Turn off the heat and serve garnished with the lime wedges and fresh vegetables.
Once we had finished this dish we took out banana cake out of the steam pot and sat down to a feast.
After feasting on the fruits of our cooking school labors we were given cookbooks containing recipes for all the dishes we made and a bunch more we didn’t. We then said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel for some downtime before going out for the evening.