Included on just about everyone’s trip to Thailand is Chiang Mai. The former northern capital is rich with history, filled with cafes and is the starting point for adventure treks throughout northern Thailand. There is a bustling night market, lots of fantastic food and unbeatable massages; it is pretty easy to figure out why Lonely Planet ranked it as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2011. So, what is the number one tourist attraction in Chiang Mai? It is visiting an elephant camp. What is the second most popular attraction? Cooking school. Guess which one I did.
Take a quick look on Trip Advisor and you will see just how many cooking schools there are in Chiang Mai. This was going to be my second Thai cooking school in a month and I was concerned that I would not pick up anything new. I was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The market tour in followed the usual path of introducing the basics which is helpful for people without prior knowledge of Thai cooking. “Smell this.” It’s green curry paste. “What’s this?” It’s galangal. “Who wants to smell Thai chocolate?” Not me, I love to cook with shrimp paste but do not care to put my nose in it unless I have to.
The course become a lot more interesting after I started up a conversation with our instructor. It turned out he (I hate to write it but I can not remember his name) was educated at a culinary school in Chiang Mai. Shortly into our conversation I got the impression he knew what he was talking about and I asked him to show me how to cook the Thai food the way the northern Thais do. This request turned out to be the best decision of the entire day. Let me breakdown some of the lessons for you.
Lesson number one: cleavers are an important part of Thai cooking.
Lesson number two: you can never add enough chillies.
Lesson number three: real northern food doesn’t include coconut milk.
Lesson number four: cooking with fire is fun.
Lesson number five: jungle curry has to be one of the hottest curries in the Thailand.
If you are passing through Chiang Mai and are interested in learning more about the food you’ve been eating then I strongly recommend doing a day long course at the Siam Rice Thai Cookery School. The instructors are very knowledgeable about their cuisine and more than happy to share with you if you just ask them to.