Asia Scenic Thai Cooking Class: Cooking on an Organic Farm
One of the main draws of traveling to Thailand is the amazing food. What better way to take that experience home than to learn how to cook it yourself. Chiang Mai offers lots of opportunities to take a Thai cooking class and we decided to do our first course with Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School. We were excited about their philosophy of sustainable tourism and their classes offered on their organic farm.
The owner and one of the class instructors, Gayray (or Gay for short), has traveled the world learning about other cultures and their cooking styles. Her worldly knowledge became apparent as she explained techniques and ingredients in relation to those in our home countries. Impressive, considering the group we were with hailed from Portugal, Germany and the US.
The cooking school in Old City is located near Thae Pae Gate and Asia Scenic offers pick-up from your hotel or apartment in their large vans. The farm, which is also the owner’s home is about a 30 minute drive from the Old City. One the way to the farm, we stopped at a market to learn about local ingredients.
Gay walked us through the market explaining different fruits and vegetables, their flavors, and how they are eaten. She taught us the difference between the different types of noodles and showed us where to buy fermented fish in case we were ever so inclined. We had a few minutes to wander by ourselves at the end of the market tour so we used the time to buy some fresh fruits and pastries that we had not yet tried.
When we arrived at Gay’s farm we entered through an open pavilion surrounded by trees and hammocks. A pond to one side was surrounded by talkative geese and a path lead out into the garden. Gay took us on a tour of her organic farm, explaining the different varieties of plants and picking leaves and flowers for us to taste all the while. Gay practices organic farming and doesn’t use any pesticides on her crops. Although the farm was only about two acres, it was home to a wide variety of flora including rice, bananas, lemongrass, ginger and bamboo.
There were plenty of things we had never heard of like a large hanging squash called… well, it’s a four letter word and it starts with F. As you can imagine, this made every subsequent piece of information about the vegetable pretty hilarious.
We started our class with a plate of Meang Kum, a delicious traditional welcome snack consisting of peanuts, lime, shallots, a sweet sauce and toasted coconut wrapped in a betel leaf. Everyone created their menu with one dish from each of five categories: stir fry, appetizer, soup, curry and dessert. We were able to cook the dishes we wanted, but we also learned the techniques for everyone else’s dishes.
Gay reminded us throughout the day that Thai cooking is done with emotion. Rather than following strict measurements, flavors are almost entirely added “to taste.” Another key aspect of Thai food is balancing the five flavors. Most dishes contain salty, sweet, bitter, spicy and sour elements. To balance a spicy curry, sugar will is added and to balance a sweet dessert, a pinch of salt is thrown in.
Our class fell on a day when few others signed up so we had an intimate experience with just three other people. The whole day was very laid back and we had fun getting to know fellow travelers and laughing together at Gay’s frequent jokes. After we made each dish, we sat down to enjoy it and taste what everyone else had created.
Included in the class is a copy of Gay’s easy-to-read cookbook. All the recipes from the day and more are illustrated and clearly explained. It’s a great souvenir and we will get a lot of use out of it!
We had a great experience at Asia Scenic Cooking School. We learned so much more than how to make our specific menu items. Now we know why certain ingredients are used in certain dishes and where different flavors come from. A cooking class is a wonderful insight to how a Thai kitchen works and now we even know which dishes will come out first at a restaurant!
- Full and half-day courses offered in town and full day courses offered on the farm; register here
- We lucked out and had a small group, but classes often get up to 20 people so make reservations in advance
- Asia Scenic will take photos during your class which you can download for free from their website
- Cooking and eating is hard work! The full day course involves a lot of standing and we all fell asleep on the ride back
Poplar Travels participated in this course as a guest of Asia Scenic. Our opinion is always our own.
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