Bucket List: Cooking Around the World – Chiang Mai, Thailand

A friend who recently studied and lived in Thailand recommended Tom Yum Cooking School to us, so we booked a half day class to learn about (and taste) some traditional Thai dishes. The class was fantastic! The instructor was nice, helpful, and funny and the food was delicious. We walked away feeling like we really could make some of these meals when we’re back home (one day we’ll have a home and a kitchen again, right?!).



We were picked up at our hostel at eight in the morning and went to the market to pick up ingredients for the day’s menu. It was nice to be guided through the market, since it can be overwhelming, and to hear about the ingredients used in almost all Thai cooking: coriander, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, galangal, lime, shallots, garlic, black peppercorn, and chilis (green and red), of course! Then we got to explore the market on our own for a bit, and Kyle and Johnny introduced us to some of the fruits they tasted in India and Malaysia – rambutan, yum!
After an hour at the market we headed to the home where our cooking class was held, and no time was wasted before we all had aprons around our necks and knives in our hands. We each got to choose a few dishes to create, and here’s what Jeff and I made:
Pad Thai
Pad See Ew
Tom Yum Soup
Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup
Spring Rolls
Papaya Salad
Green Curry
Panang Curry
Mango Sticky Rice


Here are some interesting things we learned:
  • Thai cooking requires the extensive use of a mortar and pestle. In fact, one of the most interesting things we did was prepare fresh curry paste for the green curry and panang curry we made, and this included a lot of grinding, pounding, and mixing ingredients with the mortar and pestle (being careful that the chilis didn’t splash up into our face!). Even the salad we made was mixed in this way. I guess we need to invest in one of these when we get home.
  • We were a bit surprised to discover that Thai cooking often includes pre-made ingredients, such as bottled fish sauce, that cut down on time and allow for a consistent taste. Although this was a bit of a relief and made us feel like recreating the dishes at home would be easier and less time consuming.
  • Once the task of chopping is complete, Thai cooking is very fast paced. For example, our Pad Thai only took about three minutes to cook once we had it in the wok. This means that it’s important to add each ingredient to the pan at just the right moment.
  • Almost everything includes sugar. (No wonder it all tastes so good!) Palm sugar is the most common type of sweetener, and it is comes in the form of a thick, brown paste. However, apparently in the US you only get palm sugar in blocks.

During this class we tasted each dish right after we finished making it so the meals were piping hot and full of maximum spice and flavor. I think my favorites were the Tom Yum Soup and the Mango Sticky Rice we had for dessert. Jeff loved the Spring Rolls and the Mango Sticky Rice, too. Hopefully we’ll make these again one day, and if they taste half as good as they did in Thailand we’ll be satisfied.


One thought on “Bucket List: Cooking Around the World – Chiang Mai, Thailand

  1. I know I am way behind on your news of your travels. I don’t know how that has happened because I so enjoy reading this travel blog! And I especially loved everything about this post. I loved it so much …

    If I Had a Bucket List
    * Explore Norway
    * Visit the penguins at Boulders Beach in South Africa
    * Go on a safari at Nkorho Bush Lodge in the Sabi Sands region of South Africa, just outside of Kruger National Park.
    * Take a cooking class in Thailand (Tom Yum Cooking School in Chiang Mai).


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