Fun way to pass a morning
Published/Last edited or updated: 24th August, 2017
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?
You’ll find Thai, Burmese, Vietnamese, Lao and Khmer cookery lessons on offer right across Southeast Asia. Chiang Mai, however, was one of the first cities where the idea of teaching foreigners the local cuisine really caught on. Not surprisingly, today it hosts 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 make for a great way to spend some holiday time.
The overall formulas vary little between one school and another, with classes either morning, afternoon or all day. 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. 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 will rendezvous with you at your hotel or guesthouse.
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.
The open-sided kitchen looking onto a pond and wide garden was cool and spacious and though slightly out of town—in this case Mae Rim—the price includes return transport 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 or dinner.
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.
Another fave of ours is Thai Akha Kitchen. 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 students). The two Akha women running this small, low-key show have excellent levels of English and are a lot of fun, too.
Another interesting choice is Asian Scenic, who 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.
Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School: 31 Ratchadamneon Soi 5, Sri Phum; T: (053) 418 657-8; http://www.asiascenic.com; 800–1,200 baht per person.
Thai Akha Kitchen: 15/1 Arak Soi 4, Phra Singh; T: (062) 356 8863;(061) 325 4611; http://www.thaiakhakitchen.com 900–1,100 baht per person.
The Best Thai Cookery School: T: (089) 755 2632; http://www.thebestthaicookeryschool.com 1,000 baht per person.
Address: All over and around Chiang Mai
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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