Thai cooking, take two

I had a few days in Chiang Mai after my week at Elephant Nature Park (and before Stephanie finished her yoga retreat), so I decided to look for a second Thai cooking class, preferably one that focused more on quality than quantity. After surveying a few, A lot of Thai caught my eye mostly due to the notice on their website that said:

We don’t have class during April 2011. Yui will go to Brazil to be a guest chef at Obá restaurant.

It’s one thing to teach tourists your native cuisine, it’s another to be invited to a foreign country on another continent as a guest chef. Even better, I saw that their menu had students cook all the same dishes, rather than choosing different things to cook all at once (an apparent rarity in the Chiang Mai cooking class scene). Sounded like I had stumbled upon a gem.

But alas, it seemed I was cursed with poor timing again. No, wait. I rechecked the calendar: it was only March 28th—there were 3 days left in April! I called and was able to sign up for a class the next day. Then later that night—funny story—I went out to dinner with two volunteers I’d met at Elephant Nature Park, and by coincidence, one of them had crossed paths with a friend of a friend from Canada who accompanied us to dinner and who had signed up for the same cooking class—on the same day!

The next morning Yui and her husband Kwan (the dynamic duo behind A lot of Thai) picked me up in their classic, baby blue, VW van and handed me their gorgeous, full-color, 56-page cookbook. I could already tell this was going to be great.

A lot of Thai's open-air kitchen classroom (complete with VW van) in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The open-air kitchen classroom (complete with VW van)

Yui, (YOU-ee) was extremely gregarious (she loved to tell stories), but she also had a keen eye for detail. While cooking she focused on teaching us mise-en-place and technical knife skills, something most instructors gloss over, if address at all. She’d cook each dish herself and discuss what she was doing while we all looked on.

Yui from A lot of Thai showing how to make Tamarind paste for pad thai in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Yui showing us how to make tamarind paste for pad thai

After we’d sampled her dish, we’d go back to our stations, complete any prep work that needed to be done, and cook the dish for ourselves while she looked on and assisted where necessary. Then we’d sit down to eat before starting the next dish.

Justin cutting a mushroom at A lot of Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cutting for the camera

The menu was an array of fairly well-known Thai dishes:

  1. Pad Thai (Thai-style stir-fried noodles, Thailand’s signature culinary export)
  2. Tom yam goong (hot and sour soup with prawns)
  3. Gang keow wan gai (green curry with chicken)
  4. Gai pad med ma muang him ma pan (stir-fried chicken with cashews)
  5. Paw pia tawd (spring rolls)
  6. Kao niew ma muang (sweet sticky rice with mango)

I managed to get pretty decent photos of the dishes we cooked, with the exception of the spring rolls (but you’ve seen spring rolls before) and the sticky rice with mango—I was so full by the end, they sent me home with a cute little takeout container.

Tangy pad thai made at A lot of Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tangy pad thai for breakfast
Tom yam goong made at A lot of Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Spicy tom yam goong
Green curry with chicken made at A lot of Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Subtly sweet green curry with chicken
Stir-fried chicken with cashews made at A lot of Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Savory stir-fried chicken with cashews

Originally I had signed up just for the half day session, but I was having such a blast, I stuck around for the whole day. We ended up chatting with Yui so long, we didn’t leave until 6:30 at night (it was supposed to finish around 4). Suffice it to say, it stands out as the best cooking class I’ve taken in Southeast Asia.


oooh – do you still have the cookbook? could I take a peek?

Yep, in fact I might even have a spare copy, as they did such a good job with it. We’ll get it over to you one of these days.

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