I think a lot of traveling comes down to just knowing yourself. Knowing what you like, what you’re “eh” about, and what gets your heart racing. And if I’m keeping in 100% real with you… I’m just going to come right out and say that my heart goes pitter patter for Thai food. I love it. I could wax philosophic about it. It’s probably one of the main reasons why I’ve wanted to travel here for so long. Laura loves Thai food forever. This relationship is a strong and passionate and I am committed to it until the end of time!
So, of course, what’s any Thai food lover to do when slightly handicapped and hungry? Oh, that’s right. You sign up for a Thai cooking class. And man, signing up for a day with Thai Farm Cooking School, located outside of Chiang Mai’s Old City was just what the doctor ordered (okay, maybe he would have suggested an ace bandage and ice… but you catch my drift). Best. Day. Ever. Here are eight things my time learning how to cook at the Thai Farm Cooking School taught me!
1. There’s “Thai Hot” and “Tourist Hot” (And I’m Somewhere In Between)
Aw man, this is a serious thing. “Tourist hot” is essentially a level of heat that anyone could handle. Don’t get me wrong, a little restrained flavor never hurt nobody! Typically, this is the level of heat that most street vendors and restaurants prepare for non-Thai folks, which is actually a little frustrating for spice lovers like myself and Luke. Our cooking instructor, the adorable and hilarious Benny, made sure that all recipes included an option for spice avoid-ers and spice magnets. Folks, I once considered myself the latter. But after a taste of what true “Thai hot” was, I had to knock myself down a few pegs. On a scale of 1 to solar heat, I’d say I’m a good 7.5. Know thyself, right?
2. Ingredients, People, Ingredients!
Bird’s eye chili’s, galangas, coconut cream, jack fruit, holy basil… I could go on. Thailand is filled to the brim with the most delicious, unique produce. And the fresher they are (like when your instructor asks everyone to go out of the farm to pick lemongrass straight from the stalk!), the more delicious your meal will be. No pesticides, no preservatives, none of it! Sure, when preparing these meals in their complete authenticity at home, a quick trip to the Asian market may be a necessity, but most of the natural produce listed in the recipes have similar ingredients available in most groceries stores.
3. Most Meals Don’t Require A Thousand Steps
1-2-3 and you eat. Gather your delicious and fresh ingredients described above, turn the heat on, simmer for just a little bit and BOOM! I’m not even kidding. Most of our meals took about 10 minutes tops to complete. Which is awesome if you consider yourself to be an occasionally lazy cook (slowly raises hand in embarrassment). Even better, most meals don’t require a thousand pots and pans either. Now if only I could justify buying a mortar and pestle into my carry on luggage!
4. Thai Markets Are The Best
Do I really need to say more? The strange, the smelly, the colorfully packaged. It’s all there. And it’s all fresh. And it’s all the best.
5. A Forgiving And Humorous Instructor Is Key
“Smile, honeys! Smile! Your food can taste your feelings!” I don’t think you could ever ask for a perkier, more energetic and fun loving instructor. Thai Farm Cooking School… props. Your teacher’s energy was absolutely infectious! I found myself laughing and smiling to myself while wok-ing away on my Pad Thai dish. This could be considered insanity in the states, but whatever guys! Cooking with a sense of humor and a plastered smile is the new thing!
6. Tiny Is Mighty
See those cute little chili’s in the above picture? Yeah. Two words… HEAT MONSTERS. After eating half (I repeat, half!) of one of these fingernail length peppers, my ears were ringing and little puffs of smoke started expelling from my ears. No joke, guys. HEAT MONSTERS. The big guys? No problem. Tame and easily sauteed in a nice little stir fry for some pizzazz. The little ones? Toss ten of these in if you’re concocting a death stew for your worst enemy. In which case, maybe you should think about joining the cast of Game Of Thrones or something (everybody’s killing each other and dying anyway). Like many of my girlfriends say, it’s always the little ones you have to look out for!
7. The Process Is The Fun Part
Note to self: Cooking shouldn’t always be utilitarian. The process of cutting the vegetables just right, simmering the coconut milk just so, measuring the sauces to the brim, washing the warm dishes… it can all be therapeutic and, dare I say it, fun? Plus who doesn’t love hearing the “pok pok pok” noise of curry being mashed up in all its deliciousness? Am I right?
8. There’s Nothing Wrong With A Good Sweat In The Kitchen (Or While Eating)
Especially in Thailand. Sure, my nose was running and I had sweat beads gathering into a pointillistic masterpiece on my forehead, but it was totally and completely worth it.
If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, do yourself a huge favor and sign up for a cooking class with the Thai Farm Cooking School. I loved every single second of my time and that’s not even an exaggeration. From the morning market visit with Thai locals, to the hilarity of our instructor’s jokes, to cooking the authentic meals in the completely adorable wooden hut on the farm… everything was incredible!
Oh and P.S. I’m hosting a Thai dinner when we return stateside after our adventures abroad. Who’s coming over?