When I first moved in with my now husband Matt, his kitchen was brand-spanking new. In fact I don’t think he’d even bothered walking in there.
I don’t cook much myself either. I blame this on the fact that Malaysian women love to have full reign over their kitchens, so it’s typically not until after they get married, move out from their family household and start their own that they learn to cook.
Seeing as we’re newly married and Matt’s favourite cuisine is Thai, it only seemed right to enrol in a cooking class. It was a struggle but I managed to talk him into taking part. The result was nothing short of a miracle.
Basil Cookery School stood out from the rest due to the small class size (8 people max); the fact that they provide transport to and from your hotel; morning or night classes are available and all the food is MSG free plus mostly organic.
We chose the morning class. Whatever you do, skip breakfast. You’ll have plenty of food here, and then some! And don’t worry, you can takeaway anything you don’t finish.
One of the instructors, in our case Tom, picks you up between 8.30 and 9am and you head straight to the market. We were joined by two Canadian couples. You learn all about Thai ingredients, most of which you should be able to find at your local supermarket. For the others, you learn some handy substitutes.
Our classroom is impressive. It’s bright, airy and super clean. There are eight cooking and prepping stations so everyone has their own space. Adjoining this is a dining room where we get to taste each creation straight after cooking it.
First up is fried noodles. I chose Pad Thai while Matt chose ‘Drunken Noodles’. What’s ‘drunken’ about it? Apparently it’s the meal of choice after a big night out due to the soaking-up ability of the thick rice noodles.
It gets crazy hot in the kitchen with woks firing full noise so make sure you wear cool clothing. I got a little anxy when I realised there was no fire extinguisher or sprinklers in sight but all went smoothly and Tom said in his 12 years, there’s never been a screw-up.
Even with all of us going at it with different dishes, Tom calmly kept total control of everyone whilst entertaining us with his quirky Thai humour.
Five minutes later, voila! We had just cooked amazing authentic tasting noodles! I was having so much fun working the wok that I almost missed a lady scurrying around our stations cleaning up our mess and setting up for our next dish. No wonder it felt so easy – I would cook every single meal if it was like this at home!
My Pad Thai was delicious and authentic tasting albeit a little sweet (too heavy-handed with the palm sugar) and it even had that deep charcoal flavour you get from a street side vendor’s blackened wok. Unbelievable. Was this really MSG-free?
Next was appetisers. I chose hot and sour prawn soup and minced chicken salad while Matt made hot and sour chicken soup and papaya salad.
You also learn how to make Thailand’s most famous desserts: mango with sweet sticky rice, black sticky rice pudding with caramelised coconut flakes and deep fried bananas with ice cream. So good.
The final lesson is stir-fries and curries. My heart swelled with pride making a stunning green curry (the brightest green curry I’ve ever seen!) with freshly pounded curry paste from scratch and freshly squeezed coconut milk.
It was my favourite day in Chiang Mai. Even Matt really enjoyed himself and I really enjoyed watching him! It was great to meet and chat with the others in the class in between blowing our noses and wiping away sweat. We were trying to out-do each other with the chillies which was just stupid.
Walking out with a full belly, takeaways for later, a recipe book (so no need to take notes, yes!), new friends and the invaluable know-how for hosting future Thai dinner parties plus and husband bargaining power, and all for only 1000THB – I felt like I was almost SAVING money!
Have you ever taken a cooking class while travelling?