Culinary delights in Chiang Mai

Arrival in Chiang Mai

Got the bus up from Sukhothai (6hrs 203THB) so i arrived in Chiang Mai just before 4pm. Took a motorcycle taxi (don’t worry mum, i wore a helmet!) from the bus station to Julie’s Guesthouse, as all the tuk tuk drivers wanted over 100THB for a 5 minute journey! It was all going so well until me and my huge backpack disembarked rather clumsily from the vehicle and i caught my bare leg on the burning exhaust . . ouch! I think that’s going to scar!

I’ve got mixed views about Julie’s Guesthouse. I was placed in a dorm room (ok so it’s cheap – only 60THB per night) on the promise that a single room would be available for me the following night. However when i queried the proceedure of changing rooms later on that evening, i was told that there was no guaranntee of a single room but that i was on the waiting list! I felt that as they’d got my trade (by placing me in a dormitory), they were not bothered about how i was treated afterwards. I’ve worked in sales and customer service for years and that’s not the way to make your customers feel valued or encourage repeat trade. You should always under promise and over deliver and that’s not something the staff at Julie’s are very good at.

On the plus side, it is a very sociable guesthouse (i met Sabrina, a German girl as soon as i got back to the dorm this evening and we had dinner together), and has a fantastic common room/chill out area, complete with pool table. I’ll have to see how the sleep (or lack of) goes tonight and how i get on with the lack of privacy.

Gap’s Thai Culinary Art School

Took a fantastic cookery course today with Gap’s Thai Culinary Art School. The school was featured in my Lonely Planet Guide and had been recommended by a number of users on the Thorn Tree travel forum. I checked out their website beforehand and discovered that they’re able to adapt the recipes to accommodate vegetarians, which appealed to me as so many of the dishes a lot of the cookery schools advertise include chicken.

There were only 5 of us in the group (another 2 people were on the 2nd day of the course so they were working seperately on a more advanced level) so you really felt valued as an individual.

Before arriving at the school (it was actually a small kitchen built in the middle of some beautiful gardens) we visited a local market for an attack on the senses and to have a look at some of the vegetables, herbs and seasonings that we’d be working with. The market in itself was fascinating : i never realised there were so many different varieties of eggplant (in fact, all of the vegetables used in a Thai Green Curry are a type of eggplant – bitter, long and crunchy). I also learnt that Papaya is great for your digestive system, Pineapple helps make your sweat smell sweet, and rubbing fresh Turmeric on mosquito bites will help to reduce the swelling and itching!

We had 2 superb teachers : crazy Yae and his partner in crime, Joe. They helped us prepare and cook the following dishes :

  1. POH PIA (Thai spring rolls)
  2. TOM YAM KOUNG (spicy and sour lemon grass soup with shrimp)
  3. KAI PHAT MET-MAMUANG (chicken sauteed with cashew nuts)
  4. PHAT THAI SAI KHAI (fried noodle Thai style)
  5. KAENG KHIAW WAAN KAI (Chicken green curry)
  6. TORT MAN PLAA (Thai style fish cake)
  7. HO MOK PLAA (fish souffle)
  8. SANG KAI YAA FAK THAWNG (steamed whole pumpkin with coconut custard
N.B. I substituted the chicken for tofu in all above dishes

Our tutors managed to break down some of Thailand’s most famous dishes into their raw ingredients, and therefore made it less of a daunting task for us very amateur cooks to be able to attempt them. The course was fun, educational, interesting and most of all, hands-on. We ate some of our own dishes for lunch and were able to take the rest home with us for dinner (although i’m not sure ‘dinner’ will be happening this evening after the amount i consumed for lunch!)

I think the 2 day course would have been a little too much information to absorb all at once, but the 1 day course was a perfect introduction to all the dishes and flavours and aromas that shout “Thailand!”

Course details

1 day course with Gap’s Thai Culinary Art School 900THB 9:30am-4pm Includes :
  • Transport to and from the school
  • A book giving you an introduction to Thailand’s ingredients and a little history about the methods of preparation and consumption)
  • 53 easy to follow recipes
  • A certificate of your completion of the course
  • A very large doggy bag to take home!
Photo is not of some purple chilli peppers but actually of a variety of eggplant we saw at the market, Chiang Mai

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