Chiang Mai

The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School

The 3 days in Chiang Mai with my mom were pretty flexible. However, attending a one-day course in a Thai cooking school was something set ahead of schedule, not only because we have had tremendous experience of eating Thai food and now would like to continue having the option of eating authentic Thai food no matter where we are, but also because my mom avidly loves cooking. As a matter of fact, her own cooking is insane! (We created a website for her catering business in Shanghai. It’s in Chinese but you can see the food pictures here.) Her eyes were shining when she’s told about the idea!

Influenced by my mom who is an incredibly dedicated cooking lover, we learnt that one of the most important elements behind any kind of culinary is the ingredients. That sounds pretty obvious but when it comes into practice, couple of sweet basil leaves could make your soup taste very different. That’s why out of all the cooking school pamphlets we collected in Chiang Mai from our previous trip (Yeah, we were so predictable and prepared that we knew we were coming back to this small lovely place for sure! :-P), The Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School drew our attention. It has a farm and it’s organic! In other words, they use organic ingredients directly from their own farm to teach cooking! Great!

The Only Cooking School In Chiang Mai Who Has Their Own Organic Farm

AmbeeOur cooking day started off at a local market after the teacher Ambee (She’s awesome!) gathered 11 of us as a group on a tuk-tuk from different hotels in the morning. Visiting a local market seems to be part of the lessons in every cooking school in Chiang Mai. However, the difference is that we were at the market only to learn about the ingredients which can not be found in the organic farm, such as all kinds of rice, how coconut milk is processed and all sorts of sauces and seasonings. Most of the fresh ingredients were introduced at the farm! I mean it’s pick-and-eat kind of fresh!

Ambee, our incredibly energetic and knowledgeable teacher, was introducing raw ingredients to us at the school’s organic farm in above photo. (I believe she’s holding green hot chilli in her hands which later on, was tasted by us students.) Great personality, fluent English, funny! She made our entire learning process very relaxing and easy to follow.

Neem LeavesQuestions were welcomed anytime. So “How do you keep the farm organic???” Ambee looked up and pointed out the neem tree, said, “We put neem and tobacco leaves into hot water and spray the water onto plants.”

The neem tree in the farm that Ambee was pointing at…——->

Before we take you through the course, let me show you how the school and the farm look like -

The school is set right next to the farm where we got most of the ingredients for our cooking classes. Walk out the kitchen and the farm is on your left. It’s not that big but covers enough important main Thai cooking ingredients. I wasn’t able to catch all the names of the plants though if you notice the photo titles above. :-P

U Shape Cooking Station Setting Kitchens 

I think including the 11-student group we were in, they had 4 groups of students learning cooking simultaneously on the same day, which means all 4 kitchens in the school were occupied. However, the space and the layout of the school provides a very comfortable environment so that we didn’t feel crowded at all. They are building the fifth kitchen now and it’s going to be the biggest one in the school.

Speaking of the kitchens, the way they set up the cooking station including gas, stoves and everything else that necessary is pretty smart and effective. It’s in a U shape. So it’s easy for the students to follow the teacher’s instructions and also convenient for the teacher to check on the students’ progress.

The U shape layout kitchen where we had our cooking classes

U shape kitchen

My cooking station was all the way at the back of the kitchen. Even though it’s further from the teacher’s station, I had no problem follow every step of the way. Ambee and her assistant Aor came over to each station and checked on us pretty much on every step.

Loved Ambee’s teaching and her laugh!

in class

The One-day Course 

Before the course started, each student was required to choose one dish from each row of this piece of paper below. As there were 3 of us, we all chose different dishes from each other and pretty much covered the entire menu. :-) Suggest you to choose different ingredients from each row so that you can have chicken, veggies and shrimp instead of eating one type for a whole day.

dish choosing

First of all, rice cooking! Some of the students from our group had never used a rice cooker before. Han volunteered to work on it since he’s pretty familiar with the machine by living in Shanghai for 2 years. (Yeah, of course he’s taught by me. :-P)

Han’s washing regular rice while our classmate Dean from Washington DC was rinsing sticky rice.

rice cooking

When the rice was all set, we stood by our own cooking station inside the kitchen starting to learn the first dish. Amazingly, they taught us how to make curry paste with raw ingredients from scratch! Later on, the curry paste made on our own was used in our curry dishes. Nice!

Tom Yam Soup with shrimp made by my mom, Coconut milk chicken soup made by me and vegetables Thai soup made by Han

Soups

One of the awesome parts of the course is that you get to eat whatever you make. Soup was our second dish. As soon as we finished cooking it, everybody went outside of the kitchen sitting by the long dining table and enjoyed our own cooking. That was before lunch though. What’s lunch? For me, it was curry chicken and vegetables with basil. I like how it sounds. It sounds like I am a Thai cooking pro! haha…

sticky rice steamerBy the time lunch was served by ourselves, the regular rice and sticky rice were all done. Lunch time!!!! Hold on. There’s one more dish for everyone – Papaya salad! We didn’t have to make the salad. The lovely assistant Aor showed us the entire making process while we were eating…

Sticky rice steamer—–>

Aor making Papaya Salad

Aor making papaya salad

Way too much to eat…

lunch

Ambee and Aor were still preparing for the ingredients for the classes in the afternoon after a quick lunch. What were we doing during our lunch break at the school? Check it out -

The dishes we learnt to cook in the afternoon were Spring Rolls, Pad Thai Noodles and Stir-fried Big Noodles plus desserts. I chose to learn how to make spring rolls with Aor, who asked me to teach her Chinese afterwards. While the spring rolls were being steamed, I got the chance to shoot some videos for those who were cooking Pad Thai Noodles and Stir-fried big noodles. Watch the video below to see the process.

Here are the finished spring rolls right before steaming.

Spring Rolls

Dessert making was fairly easy. I tried my best but still couldn’t finish my dessert. Also no one touched the cooked spring rolls as our stomachs were completely fulfilled with too much delicious Thai food from the class. We originally had our dinner plans but ended up eating leftovers in the hotel. Don’t forget that there were 3 of us and Han can eat A LOT. That’s how much food we are talking about here…

Pumpkin in coconut milk

Pumpkin in coconut milk

Everyone got a recipe book after the class. By the way, that’s lemongrass tea in the cup, it’s good for digestion.

recipe book

Great teachers and lovely classmates!

classmates and teachers

So what do you think? Quite rewarding and fun, right? Would you consider to take a cooking class in Chiang Mai too? :-)

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