Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thai Cooking School and Market Adventure

"Don't eat any lunch..."
Advice that was wasted on me.  I didn't really mean to break the rules, its just that we were running late in our sightseeing endeavors, and didn't stop to think when we enjoyed a nice lunch after shopping and walking fabulous Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Clearly, the cooking school knew what to expect when their website warned that... dang it, I wished I'd paid better attention. The "tuk-tuk" bus came to pick the three of us up from our hotel at 3:45 for an afternoon/evening of market grocery shopping, cooking lessons and dinner.  If you don't know what a "tuk-tuk" bus is, here's an example... an open air van/truck.  Nice for sight seeing as you zip through the streets, but a bit dampish in the monsoon season. Ask me how I know.

Our cooking instructor dispensed the shopping baskets as we alighted from our chariot, ahem... I mean pick up truck.  She walked us through a a small alleyway local market filled with a dizzying array of fresh veggies, explaining the ones we were going to use that evening, and some suggestions for substitutions we might consider when we were at home.  We also walked a couple spice/condiment stalls as she explained the key seasonings in Thai food. This cat was actually alive contrary to what it looks like, and NOT for sale in spite of what people say about cats n' dogs in Asia.  Just a simple shopkeeper's cat chilling on top of the boxed goods.  I love orange tabbies... certainly NOT Got It, Cook It.  HAhahaha.

We were a small group of 7 total; 3 co-workers, a delightful couple from Hong Kong with impeccable English, and a Thai gal and her San Diego Boyfriend. It was a fun compatible group of cooks, foodies, and just people wanting to have a new experience. 

The fun part was that with such a small group, we really did get the hands on experience that I was hoping for.  While in the market, we saw huge 20-30 person groups seemingly on the same type of adventure, but ours was small and intimate. Each "cook" got to choose six different things to cook from an individual menu.... ha, it was so fun!

I chose the Pad Thai, Fried Cashew Chicken, Hot n' Sour Shrimp Soup, Green Papaya Salad, Green Curry and Black Sticky Rice. There are some pictures of each finished dish at the end...

I'd like to tell you about each one, but that would take too long. 
So.... I am going to tell you about the pad thai today, but promise to blog about some others soon.  With pad thai, my reasoning is that it's SO easy, and plus, I used to do it incorrectly, so if I can help you to make it more simple at home, my job here is done.

Each of us had our own work station and a pre-set up platter of ingredients to prep.  It was fun, because in each course, 2-3 of us each were working on the same dish.  By the end of the night, we were eating from each other's plates as we shared, and compared, our creations.  It's funny how 3 people making the same dish can get such different results!  It's all about the ratios, how you follow instructions and what your tastes are like.

Below on my plate is chopped shallots and Thai garlic (I chopped those), a basket with noodles and a raw egg, firm tofu (chopped again by me) preserved radish (salty, yummy mild flavor) and mung beans and Thai chives. We also mixed a sauce of tamarind sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce and some palm sugar.

There was a row of cook tops and overhead fans for each of us, plus we had a clean wok with every dish we created, and a helper giving instructions and offering advice over our shoulders.

First fry up the garlic and shallots in some soybean oil, add in the preserved radish and tofu

Add the chicken slivers and cook until white, add the egg and scramble up together.  Push it to the top side of your wok.  Add the uncooked noodles to the wok and add a cup of water.  Stir them in a little circle to cook, being careful to keep the chicken/egg mixture on the side.  Add a little more water if it looks dry.   Mix together and add your sauce mixture (which we had mixed earlier) and then your chives and bean sprouts.  Serve at once.  We topped with a squeeze of lime, but no peanuts. A one pot dinner is served.

Fried Cashew Chicken.  Easy and even those not enamoured by Thai food loved. 

Hot n' Sour Shrimp Soup (Tom Yum Goong).

Green Papaya Salad (my new favorite, plus I found an awesome new gadget to make easy shreds for the salad!)... sorry for the awful picture. 

Green Curry, we made our own curry paste, so much fun, and flavor! Not much to look at, but it sure was great.  FYI- green curries are spicier than red curries.

Black Sticky Rice.  
OK... by now you can see the food coma is starting to set in and I am unable to take a good picture anymore.  THIS was the hit of the class, and truly, one of the best things I ever ate.  That stuff on top is caramelized coconut, then hot sweetened coconut milk over mild sticky black rice. It was the only dish I finished to the last drop, and clearly, I should have stopped.
Interestingly, we made this coconut milk by soaking shredded coconut in a cloth bag and then massaging and twisting it to make the milk.  Opening a can might be easier, but this was a blast to play with our food (with clean hands).

The whole class and dinner experience took a bit over 4 hours and went so fast.  By the time it was over, the fun had set and the September rains had begun again.  It was to be a wet and exciting ride back to our hotel in that tuk tuk bus. Here's a little shot of the courtyard outside the Basil's Cooking School.  I believe this was someone's home, complete with a outdoor kitchen in the backyard courtyard. 

It was a grand first day in Thailand.

Where in the world have you been? Here's a couple other travel posts I've written over the past couple years.

Meat Anyone?  A trip to Hamburg
Japan- Best Boxed Lunch EVER
Japan Adventure- Part 1
Japan Adventure- The Food- Part 2
Iceland- The Weekend Adventure
In n' Out Burger "Animal Style"
Singapore Flying Crab 
Singapore Fruit
Turkish Spice Market Delight

No comments:

Post a Comment