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Asia Scenic Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai
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Sep 18 2014

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.

Thai Cooking class

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.

Thai Cooking class

Gay explained the difference between sticky and normal rice.

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.

Thai Cooking class

Thai Cooking class

Eric learning how to dye sticky rice blue using an edible flower found in Gay’s garden.

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!

Thai cooking class

Our finished Pad See Uw and cashew chicken

Thai Cooking class

Thai Cooking class

Enjoying our fresh meal with new friends!

Quick Tips:

  • 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.


We’re linking up with some fantastic bloggers this week on #WeekendWanderlust! Check them out:

 A Southern Gypsy | A Brit and A Southerner  | Carmen’s Travel Tips | Justin Plus Lauren | Outbound Adventurer

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Eric
poplartravels@gmail.com

Evanne and Eric left jobs in Washington, D.C., headed for Chiang Mai, and look forward to exploring everywhere in between.

14 Comments
  • What a fun experience! The instructor seemed very knowledgeable. On that of that, she has her own organic farm! Will definitely check out next time I visit Thailand. Thank you for sharing this amazing experience at this week’s #WeekendWanderlust linkup!

    September 21, 2014 at 8:28 am
  • malaysianmeanders
    Reply

    I now have a craving for Thai food. That mango sticky rice with the blue pea flower is especially tempting. I took a cooking class when I was in Chiang Mai, too, but it was in the midst of the city. I like that you got to go out to the farm and have a look around.

    September 22, 2014 at 4:36 am
    • So delicious! We were very proud of ourselves 😉 those blue flowers came from the farm- we even ate some right off the bush!

      September 23, 2014 at 1:10 am
  • This looks so fun! I’m heading to Thailand this winter and I’ve been wanting to do a cooking class so I’ll be sure to Pin this for later!

    September 22, 2014 at 8:56 am
  • Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy
    Reply

    I’ll be in Chiang Mai in November and wanted to take a cooking class- looks like I just figured out which one I’m signing up for! 🙂 Thanks for linking up to #WeekendWanderlust

    September 23, 2014 at 12:47 am
    • Awesome, you’ll have so much fun! Let us know when you’re in town we’d love to meet up!

      September 23, 2014 at 1:08 am
  • This looks so interesting and so much fun – I love that it is an organic farm! I wonder if they would allow us to prepare only vegetarian food?

    September 23, 2014 at 1:34 am
    • I was literally just going to the website to check out if they have vegetarian food! I would love to take a vegetarian cooking class while in Thailand.

      September 23, 2014 at 1:43 am
    • I bet she would! No one in our class was vegetarian, but she still told us about substitute options like mushroom sauce instead of oyster sauce and soy sauce instead of fish sauce. Chiang Mai in general is super veggie-friendly from what we’ve seen!

      September 23, 2014 at 11:15 am
  • This is really cool, thanks for sharing your photos and experience. I am traveling to Thailand early 2015, and I would love to take a cooking class. I am glad to learn about this program, it seems like your teacher was very knowledgeable, and it looks like you had a lot of fun.
    Katie

    September 23, 2014 at 1:46 am
  • What a great way to spend a few hours taking cooking classes in Thailand. My husband would of probably signed me up, since I’m a terrible cook. Thanks for linking up to #WeekendWanderlust.

    September 26, 2014 at 3:07 am
  • dontforgettomove
    Reply

    Love the pics! Pretty awesome that Asia Scenic take pics for you during the cooking. When we did a cooking class I was too worried about burning my ingredients, or tipping my wok, to take that many photos.

    January 7, 2016 at 7:16 am
    • Evanne
      Reply

      It happens so fast, doesn’t it! Thai cooking is quick. Even after taking a few cooking classes, we still had the same fears, but it is sooo delicious!

      January 10, 2016 at 12:54 am

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