Anyone that has been to Thailand knows that Thai cooking is wonderful. Between all the curries, Pad Thai, and delicious street food, it’s like food heaven. So even given my inability to cook, I decided to try taking a Thai cooking class while in Pai.
Pai is a little town in the north of Thailand, up in the mountains a few hours from Chiang Mai. For being fairly small and remote, Pai is pretty busy. There are lots of bars, restaurants, and other stuff to do. Plus, the surrounding scenery is gorgeous.
We found one restaurant that we kept going back to called Charlie and Lek’s Health Restaurant. One night during dinner I noticed a flyer for a Thai cooking class that they hold there, so I inquired. They offer half-day classes where you make 5 different dishes that you choose between your group. Each person makes every dish, but you all make the same 5 dishes. Now being that there were 4 of us (Emily, Mark, Ryan, and myself), we chose pad thai, a massaman curry, a green curry, papaya salad, and spring rolls as the common choice.
Once we decided on our dishes, Lek (our instructor) took us on a tour of a local market down the street to pick out all of our ingredients. After wandering around there picking out all of our exotic fruits and peppers to make the curries, we headed back to get started.
Let me say that when someone is going through step-by-step how to prepare a dish it makes it so much simpler. I think I would cook more often if that was the case all the time. That being said, I have a new appreciation for the process of making Thai food. There is a lot more to it than I previously thought, even just with making the curry paste. Once you chop up all the ingredients, then you put them in a mortar and grind them into a paste.
Once we had the curry paste (by far the most time-consuming part), it went into a wok with the rest of the pad thai ingredients. Then we added a pinch of this and a dash of that and VOILA…pad thai! What do you think? Do I look like a good chef?
After taking a quick couple of bites, it was on to the next dish – our first curry. We first made the massaman curry, which is potato-based. For an idea of everything that goes into a curry, we added cumin seeds, coriander seeds, salt, pepper, cloves, cardamom, tumeric, galangal, lemon grass, shallot, garlic, and dried chili. That was just for the paste! Then you add potatoes, chicken, bay leaves, roasted peanuts, coconut milk, tamarind paste, soy sauce, and a bit of sugar. The soy, sugar, and tamarind you can adjust to your liking.
From there, we made the spring rolls and the papaya salad. Look at how golden brown my spring rolls were.
Once we finished the first 4 courses and were all feeling pretty full, we still had one more round to go. No one told me I should have been training for this delicious Thai food marathon we were embarking on, but it was definitely worth it.
The last dish was the green curry. The process was similar to the first curry we made, but interestingly, there was the most variety here between the 4 of us.
Our wonderful instructor sent us all the recipes for the dishes we made and more. While I had a great time making them when I was there, I highly doubt I’d be able to recreate any of them on my own.
If you want to test your culinary abilities, I highly recommend enrolling in a Thai cooking class. You’ll be amazed with what you can come up with and you’ll gain a whole new appreciation for Thai cooking.