The last time I stayed in Chiang Mai I would often be walking past the Asia Scenic cookery school on my way back from massage school or on my way to get something to eat. Whatever they were doing in there they seemed to be having a good time! Knowing that I had a few days to get over my jet lag and settle in this time I arranged to do a full day course with them.
We met at the school just before 9am and were assigned to a group. We met our teacher, Merry, and headed out to the little local market “Sompat Market”. There Merry taught about some of the ingredients, and showed us where to buy them. All the ingredients for the day were supplied by the school but it was helpful to be shown what they look like on the market stall. Back at the school she showed us the little organic herb and vegetable garden at the back and talked about the various properties of the plants.
After a quick snack it was down to work making our first stir-fry. Merry gave a demonstration, made us chant out the proportions of sugar, fish sauce and oyster sauce we should used (proportions of 1:2:3 in that order) and then off we went. Could we remember everything she did? No, but it didn’t matter because Merry flew between all nine of us telling us when to add the next thing to the wok, when to turn the heat up or down or off, when to serve it onto a place and somehow within a couple of minutes we were all back at the table tucking in. And guess what? It tasted fantastic. Given that it was still only 11am it’s just as well I had skipped breakfast.
Next in the running order were spring rolls. Two of us followed Merry’s instructions and stir-fried batches of the filling. Merry then showed us how to get a perfect roll and the secret to having the perfect fried finish. (Make sure the the soft surface of the wrap is downwards before you start.) Then we fried them in batches, served them and ate them too.
Next Merry had us preparing ingredients for soup, carefully chopping or slicing and placing the ingredients on a plate in groups according to when they would be added in the cooking process. This was all set to one side and we then prepared ingredients for our chosen curry. Again these were set to the side under covers whilst we gathered round again to make batches of curry paste. There were three basic mixes, and then the red curry paste was split and various other ingredients incorporated to make several derivatives.
Finally came the time to cook everything. More certain of ourselves this time, and safe in the knowledge that Merry would ensure we did the right thing at the right time, the woks started clattering and the currys came together in a few minutes. We put them back on the table under covers and made the soup – my choice was “Tom Sab” a spicy soup with mushroom and kale. At last we sat down to eat it all.
For those who had arranged the half day it was time to go home. However three of us were booked for the full day. We then prepared two more dishes. First we made the coconut flavoured sticky rice needed for “mango sticky rice” Something I’ve never seen before was using a tea made from butterfly pea flower to colour the rice blue. (Yeah, blue, isn’t there a law against blue food?) Olivia, from Istanbul, made banana in coconut milk instead. Then we prepared the dressing for papaya salad. This was a bit of a cheat because the papaya and carrot had already been shredded for us. By the time we had eated all this newly prepared food we could barely move.
After saying our goodbyes I headed back to The White House for a rest. After chatting to BP, the manager there, I decided to take myself off for a Thai massage at a nearby place he recommended. It was indeed very good and that meant that I had a great siesta around 5pm as the temperature peaked at around 40C.
It being Saturday there is a night market just outside the South gate to the walled city. I wandered down there and faced the crowds to pick up some Thai-style cotton 3/4 length shorts as I’ve been finding the Slazenger ones I bought at home quite uncomfortable in the heat. I certainly didn’t need to eat again, so I picked up a coconut smoothie on the way out of the market and made it back to the guest house for an early night.