Learning to Cook in Thailand

When you think of a vacation in Thailand, what do you think of? The stunning beaches of Phuket or Koh Phi Phi? The Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan? The friendly people?

For me, a trip to Thailand is about one thing above all others – delicious Thai food! Whether you’re addicted to the delicious mix of sweet and spicy that are Thai curries or you’re a sucker for spring rolls shared over a pair of fresh fruit smoothies, a trip to Thailand can be a food enthusiast’s dream. There’s something magical about the way the sweetness of coconut milk mingles with the spiciness of red or green peppers, or the way that the zestiness of khaffir lime and the distinctive flavor of ginger do battle for your affection.

While it’s easy to simply dine out on delicious Thai meals every night, why not get a bit more hands on in your love of Thai food and learn how to make it yourself? Rather than going home and missing the flavours you left behind, you can learn how to introduce them to your friends and family at home! While It’s possible to find cooking schools or one off cooking classes all over Thailand, I opted to take my class in Chiang Mai in the country’s north. Not only does the cooler weather better lend itself to standing over a hot-plate and slaving away, but the region also tends to be cheaper that more tourist heavy Phuket or Bangkok.

There is no shortage of schools offering the opportunity to learn how to make your favourite dishes, but I opted for Smart Cook Thai Cookery School because they had the right combination of small class sizes and an affordable cost. Many of Chiang Mai’s cooking schools not only pick you up from your hotel, but also drive you to markets where you’re introduced to the ingredients you’ll be using and shown how to best pick the right ones for you. Once you’ve had your opportunity to soak in Thai market culture, you’re whisked off to kitchens where the chef teaches you how to prepare your ingredients, cook them, and best serve them to ensure you’re providing a feast for the eyes as well as one for the taste buds.

Beautiful, fresh produce at Chiang Mai market

In many cases, classes get to choose what they’ll be making, and the same was true in my group. Most of us had opted to prepare a red or green curry, while our second dish was split down the middle – half of us preparing Tom Yum Goong (a spicy soup) and the other half opting for spring rolls instead. We were all in agreement that banana spring rolls were what we wanted and needed for dessert, however!

After we had all finished cooking our meals, we then had the opportunity to tuck into a delicious Thai meal all of our own creation! While a few of us swapped to see who had done the best, I was more than content to tuck into the meal I’d worked up an appetite preparing. You might think that an experience like this would be rather pricey, but we paid only 700 baht (around $25 US) for the entire package – pick-up, ingredients, cooking lessons, and the privilege of eating the meals we’d created. We even got a recipe book of other Thai recipes so we could continue to expand our Thai cooking repertoire when we got home!

It might not be quite as exciting as zip-lining through the jungle or as relaxing as unwinding on a windswept beach with a book, but learning to cook Thai food in Thailand is a great day out for a couple or a family. You’ll learn a new skill, get a great ‘home cooked’ meal, and have a lot of fun doing it.

Making new friends and cooking up a storm

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