Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thai Cooking Class: Part 1

When you travel, the world seems to get a lot smaller. It's amazing how common it is to bump into acquaintances or friends of friends, even in far-flung locales thousands of miles from home. It turned out that a friend of a friend from college was going to Thailand right around the same time I was. She ended up in the south, and I ended up in the north, but this week she happened to be traveling around Chiang Mai, and we took a cooking class together.
I have been complaining about our lack of a kitchen since the day we got here, so I was overjoyed to be cooking again. I got to spend about 5 hours learning how to make all sorts of great Thai dishes! The class was great because there were only three students, so we got plenty of individual attention from the teacher, a fun and energetic woman named Duan.


The first hour of the class was spent walking around the market, where we were introduced to different ingredients.   First, we got a look at the different chiles and learned about what they are used for.  The larger ones are mild and are common in stir fries.  The smaller ones are much spicier and are used in sauces and curry paste.  

These are fresh wheat noodles, which are used in my beloved Khow Soi
This is hand-pressed tofu.  It's nice and firm, and I wish I could find stuff like this in California!  The yellow tofu is colored with turmeric.
We bought a bunch of vegetables to use in the class:
Here, Duan explains different rices.  White basmati rice is most common, but there are also brown and red varieties. Sticky rice can be either black or white. A lot of people buy sticky rice in Thailand and don't understand why it doesn't work when they try to cook it.  Apparently it has to soak overnight first.
Tons of spices!  
Green papaya, jackfruit, and banana flowers (the big purple things).  Green papaya gets shredded for som tham, jackfruit is commonly used in desserts, and banana flowers are thinly sliced and used in soup or stir fry.
Thai shallots (on the left) are much smaller than the ones typically available in the US.
Their garlic (on the right) is much smaller too.  Fried garlic is a common garnish, and they don't peel the cloves first.
A comparison of galangal and ginger:
There are a few different kinds of eggplant, and they're all green: long thin ones, small green and white golf-ball sized ones (that are commonly found in green curry and some stir fries), and tiny pea-sized ones that are crunchy and incredibly bitter).
The markets usually have big tubs of live fish...
and a lot of them end up stuffed with lemongrass and grilled.
Check back for another post on all the things we made!

7 comments:

Steph said...

Cate, thanks for sharing all those photos. Seeing all the stuff you get to do makes me want to go away! Then I won't have to deal w/ all the stuff here...haha. I can't wait to see the Thai dishes you make. Are sponge cakes popular in Thailand? What kind of desserts do they usually eat?

Liz said...

I loved this post, thanks for sharing it with us!

Rebel said...

I totally know which market this was. It stressed me out with the fish in the bucket right next to the ones on the grill. But you know, freshness counts.

I'm glad you took a class - that's knowledge you'll get to keep with you when/if you go back home. Plus, it's nice to learn the names of all the foods. Good for you!!

Hamster said...

Try this Thai cooking website.
www.thaifoodtonight.com
It's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along.

HaveShoesWillTravel said...

I'm adding your blog to my Google Reader now. We're planning to go to Chiang Mai next December and were hoping to take a cooking class. Do you have the contact info for this class?

biz319 said...

Wow, how overwhelming to have all those spices in reach! Looking forward to what you guys put together!

I'd be scared to eat the fresh grilled fish but I bet its good!

Lisa said...

Great pictures! This just looks so interesting and fun. I really admire you and your husband's bravery to just pick up and move half-way around the world. It's something people talk about all the time but you guys did it! And it looks like you're having an awesome time. Very inspiring!