Food Photojournal: If You’ve Ever Wondered How Chiang Mai Cuisine Looks LikeOctober 2, 2014
- Abbey SyWords
There’s always something fulfilling about cooking. It’s probably the wannabe Masterchef in me, but I always appreciated learning how to cook– and the fact that getting to eat what I cook makes the experience even more fun.
Interestingly enough, Thai food has always been known to be prevalent and distinct by nature. This holds true because of the wide variety of natural ingredients found in this region, and the cooking styles they have learned to adapt to. From noodles to curry and everything in between, the play of flavor and textures make Thai cuisine unique and above the ordinary.
This is why during our trip to Chiang Mai, we tried out the local cooking class—which, apparently, is pretty popular with travelers. It was a great way to learn about Thailand’s cooking culture, talk to locals, and to meet other travelers as well. Here are a few dishes my friend and I whipped up during our whole day cooking class at Baan Thai Cookery School.
For appetizers, we chose to cook spring rolls and papaya salad, commonly known Thai favorites. The play of textures and flavors was interesting—with the crunchiness of spring rolls and tartness of the salad.
Of course, we’re all very familiar with the popular Pad Thai, which is a stir-fried noodle dish mixed with a number of ingredients—from tofu, onions and lime to chicken or shrimp.
Sompet Market along Moonmuang Road is the best place to find local ingredients and condiments if you’re up for cooking Thai cuisine. Some of the freshest vegetables and fruits can be found here at the best prices.
Some common Thai ingredients that are present in almost any dish include lime, tomatoes, oyster mushroom, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, sweet basil & onions.
Coconut milk is usually the broth of choice for Thai cuisine, oftentimes used for curries and soups.
We tried cooking a variation of soups—one with a coconut milk broth and one with a clear broth. Seafood in coconut milk (Tom Kha Gai) was creamy and flavorful, while the hot & spicy prawn soup (Tom Yum Goong) was refreshing and delicious.
Khao Soy (or Chiang Mai noodle) is a specialty in northern Thailand. A twist on the typical noodle soup, Khao Soy comprises of yellow noodles in a thick pool of coconut milk curry and is topped off with crispy fried noodles and your protein of choice.
Tasting curry may be just typical for most of us, but getting to make the actual curry paste is a different story. It’s a hodgepodge of ingredients all pounded together the traditional way – with a mortar and pestle. After the paste is made, it is then incorporated into coconut milk to be made into a curry base.
We ended our class with mango and sticky rice for dessert. Sweet, creamy and indulgent, this dessert made with fresh mangoes and sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and sugar, making it a classic Thai specialty/favorite.
Cooking for a whole day was no piece of cake—but it was definitely a fun learning experience. It also helped that we had great teachers and a productive learning environment. They taught us not only about food but a big deal about their culture as well. I have developed a deeper appreciation for food preparation and hopefully, I get to fulfill my wannabe Masterchef dream soon.