Today was excellent and definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
We spent the day in a small group of 10 with Yui, a world-renowned Thai chef, in her cooking class run through her company A Lot of Thai. The course itself is actually quite affordable and Yui takes the class through a varied series of dishes and couples instruction with stories from her travels and a visit to a local market in Chiang Mai. Yui also provides everyone with her personal cookbook of recipes used in all the courses and suggests appropriate substitutes in the West since some of the ingredients are native exclusively to Thailand or Southeast Asia.
We cooked everything from Pad Thai to Chicken Curry to Sticky Rice with Mango and everything in between. We really covered all of the classics of Thai food and then some. In the course, you also gain great insight into Thai culture and cuisine. Yui is also happy to teach everyone a little bit of Thai along the way, too. During the course itself I was honestly too busy paying attention to the food to take out my camera very often. I made a few snapshots for us while cooking but nothing worth really sharing outside of Facebook.
The market visit was one of my favorite parts of the day. Yui shows you where she gets her own ingredients, introduces you to some local farmers and sellers and shows you what everything at the market is that you previously had no clue about. Some things I had never seen in my life until Yui showed them to us. It's easy to forget that there's a whole world of food out there that is not only very different but also very tasty. Here I was really able to take the time and photograph - the day was a bit cooler, there weren't so many people at the market so I could really relax and take the time to capture some images.
One of my favorite aspects of markets in Thailand is that no one annoys you. If you want to look around, no one bothers you. They know that the tourists can't buy everything but they know it's something new for them and it's no harm to look around. Everyone is extremely pleasant, friendly and courteous - why can't more places be like this?
Our class was also quite international: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the USA (3x), Austria, Argentina and France (2x) were all represented in our little group. This made it especially fun since we were all coming from different culinary backgrounds. Some were there alone, some were expats that recently moved to Thailand, some were couples – it was mixed in every way and all around a great experience.
We ended the course trading stories and drinking beers in the sitting area next to the cooking stations, which were all outside but well-cooled thanks to a large fan (no need to get scared that the Chiang Mai heat will ruin your day – it won’t). Unfortunately, Yui had to leave immediately after the class ended to catch a flight to Bangkok but her husband, Kwan, let us stay as long as we liked before driving us back to our hotels in their turquoise VW Bus.
There are quite a few cooking courses in Chiang Mai and Yui says many of them copy hers so stick to the original and go to Yui. She’s funny, smart and explains the why behind some tricks in the kitchen. After getting back to the hotel, my wife and I agreed that if you are passing through Chiang Mai visiting this course is an absolute must.
We can't wait to get back to Austria and try some of the recipes out myself. Most of the ingredients we can get in Austria relatively easy, so we shouldn't have a problem keeping it truly authentic.