What better place to have a Thai cooking class than a local Thai homestay? We'd been travelling around Thailand for nearly a month when we decided it was time to learn the secrets of the delicious Thai cuisine.
If you are planning to take A Thai cooking class in Chiang Rai, you might consider staying at Ann's Greenhouse for a few days. You can easily find her on Airbnb.
Tempted by the fact that we were already living in the Thai home where the action happens, we booked a Cooking Class with Ann for 1,100 THB each.
It was a great experience and we cooked everything from scratch, exactly what we wanted. We had to prepare things ourselves and Ann was there to assist us if we needed help.
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Shopping at the local market
At 9.30 am we all met up in the kitchen for the epic Thai cocking class. It was time to decide what dishes we were going to cook.
Each of us had a choice of either sharing 2 main courses and a dessert or cooking 4 separate dishes each (3 main courses and one dessert). Without thinking of how much preparation it will actually involve, we opted for the latter.
Now we know how elaborate our choice was and would recommend instead settling for a shared option.
Once we had the list of dishes ready, Ann took us to the local market in her car. It was very nice to go to the market with the locals and be able to find out what certain things are.
Since we left the house without breakfast, we picked up a few things while walking through the stalls. Some things we weren't sure about when tasting them, but we loved the deep-fried plantain and sweet potato - great breakfast option.
We also enjoyed a special small pineapple, only grown in northern Thailand, which was much sweeter than the regular fruit.
Some of our dishes contained meat so the best time to shop for a chicken is of course in the morning. We also wanted to get some freshly minced pork for Nam Phric Ong (similar to Bolognese sauce), but unfortunately, it was sold out already.
As we were hovering over the market stalls, we were distracted by a box of pink eggs. The colour is so vibrant and beautiful that we just had to pick a few of them. Later, during our Thai cooking class, we boiled them and discovered that the whites were actually black. It tasted slightly salty and earthy, but rather nice.
It was great shopping with Ann, she was quick and knew where things were, so no wandering around for hours. Ann was also great at explaining the ingredients, we bought so much fresh lovely stuff.
Equally, shopping with the locals meant no made-up prices and tourist rip-offs, ha!
At the end of the shopping for our long-awaited Thai cooking class, we stopped for some refreshments and each bought a cup of traditional Thai iced tea. It was so good!
Ann's fruit and veg garden
While at the market, we didn't need to buy ingredients such as papaya, banana leaves (for the sweet sticky rice) or lemongrass. Instead, we harvested these ourselves in Ann's abundant garden.
It was especially fun to learn how to properly cut the lemongrass, neither of us had done it before but soon became pros with the machete.
Preparations for the Thai cooking class
First things first, preparation. Everything we bought at the market, we had to prepare, even the chicken that still had its head and claws on, eeek…
Ann was very kind to wash it for us. First, she massaged it with salt and then rinsed it with cold water.
I was doing a less labour-intensive job during our intense Thai cooking class, such as washing and peeling prawns and chopping vegetables. But Charlie was employed as a butcher and learned how to properly chop up a whole chicken, Look at that massive knife! I think he rather enjoyed it.
In the process, Ann prepared special large plates for each dish where we placed the peeled and chopped ingredients. That way we could clearly see what goes into each dish, which was great. You can see the peeled pink egg in the picture below.
Ann also prepared little dishes with various condiments such as fish sauce, vinegar, salt, palm sugar, coconut milk, dried shrimp, cumin and lots of other spices.
The hardest job during this labour-intensive Thai cooking class was making the paste for the Thai Green and Massaman curries.
We enjoyed learning the order of the ingredients that should go into a mortar and pestle. But, it was a bloody hard job to crush all the ingredients, however, the taste was worth the sweat. The colours were so vibrant and it smelled great.
Cooking the Thai dishes
It took us hours to prepare for the actual cooking. At around 4 pm we were nearly done, but also feeling slightly peckish, all of us, including Ann.
This was partly our fault for choosing so many different dishes for our elaborate Thai cooking class. We thought we would only be making sampling portions and eating them as we go.
Never mind the hunger, cooking the dishes was a sheer joy. Adding colourful ingredients to a pot, mixing them with coconut milk, spices, and palm sugar and making them into a Thai fusion was an incredible experience.
We really enjoyed it and were proud of each dish. My Thai green curry tasted completely different from the curry I used to make at home back in London, from the ready-made shop-bought paste.
Another great bit in this full-on Thai cooking class was learning the process of making sweet sticky rice, my favourite dessert. The fun part was going to the garden and cutting a giant palm tree leaf to wrap up my sweet treats.
The Thai dishes we cooked
Both Charlie and I chose Massaman Curry, which Charlie executed gracefully. It involved a lot of work to prepare the curry paste from scratch, but it was worth it in the end. The dish was beautiful and so satisfying. Look at Charlie proudly presenting his creation.
Next on Charlie's wish list was Nam Phric Ong (a Bolognese sauce-like dish). Combined with garlic, lemongrass, palm sugar and other spices it smelled so good even I (non-red meat eater) wanted to try it.
Carefully placed on a banana tree leaf, I think it might have been Charlie's favourite dish.
Charlie's choice of Morning Glory during our Thai cooking class was cooked slightly differently from what we've been enjoying in Thailand. Usually presented as fresh veg, this version was deep-fried, known as Yum Puk Boong Grob.
First, we made the batter, then we dipped the morning glory and fried it in a pan until crisp. Charlie also made a dipping sauce with pork, garlic, lime juice and coconut milk, it smelled gorgeous!
I know it's boring and even Ann asked me why I've chosen to cook Thai Green Curry, but I wanted to see what it's like when it's made properly. Back in London, I would often make this fragrant curry, but using a ready-made paste and it just wasn't the same.
It was very labour-intensive to make the paste, but so great to see it coming together. Also, so much fun cooking with real palm sugar which I never used before.
Beware of its sweetness when adding to your curry. I overdosed slightly and had to balance it out with more water and fish sauce, another great tip I picked up during our all-day Thai cooking class.
Despite a few hick-ups, my Kang Keaw Wan Kai turned out beautifully green and tasty.
When visiting Koh Tao, we tried Som Tum - Green Papaya Salad and really loved the juiciness and the freshness of the dish.
So to make the dish I made a little trip to Ann's garden where I picked the biggest papaya fruit right from the tree. Then we washed it, peeled and washed it again until it was ready to be grated.
Apart from all the fresh ingredients that were grated and then lightly mixed together in the mortar and pestle to get the juice out, we also added pink egg and prawns for decoration.
As our Thai cooking class was slowly wrapping up, I was the most excited to make Khao Tom Mad - a sweet sticky rice and black beans dessert. Since trying it at the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market in Bangkok, it became my absolute favourite dish.
The cooking process is easier than I thought, the only problem living anywhere else would be finding massive banana tree leaves. During the class, I simply trotted out to Ann's garden in search of a biggest leaf I could find to wrap up the little parcels of sticky rice.
Combined with coconut milk and palm sugar this dish is incredibly simple, but so tasty. The wrapping is the most challenging, as we seemed to overfill the banana leaf with too much rice.
Once it's wrapped, it can be steamed or grilled, we did the latter version. Just so you know, black beans are a perfect addition to this sweet stickiness.
We also had Coconut soup on our Thai cooking class menu, but in the end, after all the cooking agreed to leave it out as we already had so many dishes waiting for us to be eaten.
The Thai fusion feast
After a day of cooking, we finally sat down at the table, but were so knackered that we could barely eat, we tasted each a little, but had to ask Ann to store all that gorgeous food, thanks Ann!
Next day, after an active day out at the White Temple and the Khun Korn Waterfall, we demolished the dishes in one go with a heap of Ann’s organic, freshly steamed rice.
Pros and cons
There are many pros of having a Thai cooking class with Ann and these are just a few we wanted to highlight:
- a trip to the market was great. Going shopping with a local is a completely different experience
- Ann was very patient and even though, we think out Thai cooking class overrun due to our slowness, Ann kept her cool
- we had an advantage of staying at Ann's house and were very grateful to have been able to store our dishes in Ann's fridge for a couple of days
- the class was a good fun. It was tiring, but really enjoyable
- after the class, Ann sent us an an email with the recipes (in English) and a few pictures with us in the market
- easy to book and flexible timings
- we didn't have to buy food for a couple of days after the class!
We obviously loved the Thai cooking class and Ann was a great teacher, but both of us thought that a few tiny bits could improve the experience:
- the portions or the choice of dishes could be smaller per person. It's probably a good idea to check with Ann first how big the portions will be
- if you are a couple, try sharing the dishes with your partner rather than attempting to cook a number of different dishes, like us. This way your preparation time will be shorter, you will be less tired and have more time to enjoy your creations
- we forgot to cook some rice with our dishes, oops.
Would we recommend Ann’s Thai cooking class?
Absolutely Yes. It was a great experience, especially because it felt so personal. Compared to other cooking schools, Ann's classes have an advantage as she doesn't take on more than 4 students at a time.
Ann is very friendly, funny, knowledgeable and accommodating. She has a passion for cooking and it shines through her classes. We are really glad we did the class and learnt a little bit about the beautiful Thai cuisine.
You can book Ann's Thai cooking class directly via her website - this content is not sponsored!
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