Today we spent the day learning how to make delicious Thai dishes at the Thai Orchid Cookery School in the Old Town of Chiang Mai.
Our instructor was A, who showed our group of 8 how to make a full Thai meal from a selection of choices. For me that included fresh spring roll appetizers, chicken in coconut soup, panang curry, pad thai with prawns, and steamed banana cake.
We jumped right in by heating veggies and sauce for spring rolls – just ignore the messy folding technique on my part and they are perfect. A showed us how to make stock for the soups using shrimp and veggies, so all we had to do was add a few final ingredients and we were set. It goes much quicker than the heavier stews and soups I am used to that simmer all day – just a few minutes to get the flavors in (and some more potent ingredients only go in for the last 10-15 seconds) and you are done and ready to eat!
To break up the day, we went on a tour of the local market to see what the ingredients look like whole and a lesson on how to tell the some of the similar ones apart (three types of basil, for instance, and different gingers).
A was also thoughtful enough to have samples of various fruits, so I can now cross trying durian off my list. It wasn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe, but it also isn’t a food I feel the need to try again. To me, it tastes a bit like something molding – a sewer or rotten silage perhaps. On the other hand, rose apples (crunchy and not too sweet, often eaten with a sugar and chili powder mix) and custard apples (sweet and creamy) were delicious and I’ll be looking for those in our future shopping.
We spent the first part of the afternoon producing the two main courses for our lunch – the panang curry and quick-cooking pad thai. Honestly, I can’t believe I produced an entire meal! Normally, Hamburger Helper is beyond my skill level, so it was a testament to the great instruction that everything was yummy and I didn’t burn or under/overseason my dishes. (Poor Kevin – the one time I cooked a meal, and he still had to make his own food!) Of course, I don’t even have an excuse not to try these at home since we received a cookbook with all the recipes and ingredient information. I guess I might need to invest in an apron in the future…
This class made me suspect I am even more of a spice/pepper wuss than I thought – A insists that most Thais can handle between 5 and 10 of the super-hot bird’s eye peppers in their curries… I only put one in the dishes where they were used…and I didn’t even slice it, just smashed it with the flat side of the knife to bring out a hint of flavor. I’ll have to try and up my game since I don’t want to keep embarrassing myself when we eat out!