Photo: Cook with your heart.

Thai cooking classes

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Chiang Mai is very well regarded for its cooking classes and if you’re at a loose end for a half day—or even a full day—then why not sign up for a fun and interesting Thai cookery course?

These days you’ll find Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Lao and even Khmer cookery lessons on offer right across Southeast Asia from Hoi An to Bagan. Chiang Mai however, was one of the first spots where this idea really caught on and so not surprisingly, today the city has a plethora of options. While we wouldn’t guarantee the following are the absolute best of the bunch they’re definitely very good, excellently run, fine value for money and all make for a great half day or day out.

Start here. Photo taken in or around Thai cooking classes, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Start here. Photo: Mark Ord

Overall formulas vary little between one “school” and another with classes either morning, afternoon or all day, though longer, two and three day courses are available for the more enthusiastic. Prices and menus don’t range too much either so for us criteria boils down to setting, organisation and importantly the chef/teacher. (The cookery group itself is an important factor but you obviously can’t do much about that.)

The modestly named Best Thai Cookery School performed very well in each department with a smoothly run course, delightful garden setting and an amusing, comprehensible and professional chef.

This is not weed. Photo taken in or around Thai cooking classes, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

This is not weed. Photo: Mark Ord

The open-sided kitchen looking onto a pond and wide garden area was cool and spacious and though slightly out of town—in this case Mae Rim—the price includes return transportation from your hotel. The meeting point will generally be an in-town market, (for example Somphet), where the teacher will show you around, stock up on ingredients, and explain some of the bewildering array of herbs, vegetables and fruit to the students. After this you’ll transfer to the kitchen and cook a half dozen or so dishes for lunch, (if it’s the morning class), or dinner if you sign up for an afternoon one.

Cooking is hands-on with clear and concise directions and when we tried even the least experienced cooks managed to create edible meals. Standard menus usually include a soup—maybe tom yam or tom kha kai—with several classic stir-fried dishes and a dessert to follow. Spring rolls, (though not really Thai at all), is another popular option and some basic fruit carving may well be demonstrated. You’ll need to arrive hungry since there will inevitably be lots to sample and you’ll go home with a cookery book, (of varying quality, though Best Thai’s is very professional.) Vegetarians are catered for and alternatives are suggested for perhaps some of the harder to find at home ingredients.

This is how you make an omelette. Photo taken in or around Thai cooking classes, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

This is how you make an omelette. Photo: Mark Ord

Times will change but an 08:00-ish kick off is standard, finishing around 13:00 and a 14:00-15:00 afternoon start until 19:00-20:00. Classes with downtown locations may set their kitchen as meeting points, others outside a market while some, such as Best Thai with a suburban location, will rendezvous with you at your hotel or guesthouse.

There are, as we said, a host of cookery schools in Chiang Mai offering similar courses, many of which get very good reviews, but another personal fave would be Thai Akha Kitchen. A slightly different style then as they combine classic Thai favourites with far less known Akha specialities and also show some thinking outside the box by taking students to Chiang Mai Gate Market instead of the usual Somphet where on a busy day half the shoppers can be cookery school participants. The two Akha women running this small, low-key show have excellent levels of English and are a lot of fun too.

You didn’t need those eyebrows did you? Photo taken in or around Thai cooking classes, Chiang Mai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

You didn’t need those eyebrows did you? Photo: Mark Ord

Another interesting one, Asian Scenic, emphasise the organic touch and have a choice of an in-town location or cooking at an organic farm around 20 minutes out of Chiang Mai. Both also propose half or full day courses for those with a bit more time.

Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School 31 Ratchadamneon Soi 5, Sri Phum T: (053) 418 657-8 800–1,200 baht per person.
Thai Akha Kitchen 15/1 Arak Soi 4, Phra Singh T: (062) 356 8863;(061) 325 4611 900–1,100 baht per person
The Best Thai Cookery School T: (089) 755 2632 1,000 baht per person.

Thai cooking classes

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Mai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Mai.
 Check out our listings of other things to do in and around Chiang Mai.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Mai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Chiang Mai? Please read this.
 Browse tours in Thailand with Tourradar.


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