16 Jan 2014

Cooking Thai In Chiang Mai

After two and a half months backpacking we finally managed to find a cooking school that fit in to our travelling movements. We had scheduled a visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand's second biggest city and also home to some top rated Thai cooking schools. It was the perfect opportunity to explore our love for Asian food, we often attempt curries such as Massamans at home and have missed cooking since being away.  

Chiang Mai Food market

We booked a full day course at Siam Rice Cooking School the day after our arrival in Chiang Mai as we couldn't wait to get cooking, after ten days lazing on Koh Lipe we were itching for an activity. Siam Rice teach you to cook six dishes and one curry paste of your choice, for each dish there were at least four options to choose from, so it was very flexible and catered to individual tastes rather than a group vote or set menu.

deep fried catepillas thailand
"Caterpillars - a local delicacy we declined to try."

At 9am our lift arrived and we jumped into the back of a Songthaew alongside nine other eager wannabe Thai chefs. We headed straight to a local food market for a lesson in buying fresh. Our Master Chef/Teacher for the day was enthusiastic Ton, first he gave us an interesting show and tell of the key herbs and vegatables used in Thai cooking. Amusingly we learnt that string green beans are called Tua Fuk Yaw in Thai - the whole group found this very funny so it was good to know we all shared the same sophisticated humour!

Chillies are synonymous to Thai cuisine.  Red chillies are hot and you feel their burn on your lips whereas green chillies are spicy burning inside your mouth and stomach, also the smaller the chilli the hotter it will be and in Thailand they are tiny about 1cm. 

chiang mai food market
"Must not eat sausages before cooking school!"

Next we were left to our own devices to wander around the market and take in its colourful stalls and exotic smells, it was a challenge not to purchase breakfast especially on our empty stomachs and with the tempting cumberland style sausages being cooked on every corner. We managed to resist knowing we'd be full soon enough on our own hand prepared Thai food. 

Once at Siam Rice HQ we hungrily eyed up the choices for each dish we were going to cook, the options were really good and we quickly spotted our favourites and a few newbies. We strategically chose different dishes to each other so we had more tasty treats to try and broaden our cooking skills with.

Vicky's Menu
Tom Yam Soup
Pad Thai
Stir Fried Chicken and Holy Basil
Spicy Glass Noodle Salad
Chicken and Pineapple Red Curry (including curry paste)
Mango and Sticky Coconut Rice

Steve's Menu
Spicy Chicken & Coconut Soup
Drunken Noodles
Stir Fried Chicken and Ginger
Spring Rolls
Chicken Massaman Curry (including curry paste)
Coconut Sticky Rice

Siam Rice cooking school Chiang Mai

Our group was pretty good fun with people from The Netherlands, Japan, US and of course, UK. Ton was hilarious and kept us chuckling all day with his jokes. The open plan outdoor kitchen/classroom was meticulously organised. We each had an individual 'prep station' at the 'group prep table' and our kit included a meat cleaver-esque knife and sturdy chopping board, in the kitchen we had our own gas hob and wok or pan to cook with. Once we'd washed our hands it was time to don our quirky elephant adorned aprons and get started. 

Siam Rice cooking school Chiang Mai

The ingredients for each dish had already been weighed for us so all we had to do was chop, dice, smash and pummel dependent on the recipe. This saved a considerable amount of time and made it much easier to co-ordinate cooking (and eating) as a group.

First we made our soups which are probably our second favourite Thai dishes after curry. Each soup had a similar base of ingredients and everyone was given free reign to make it as hot and spicy as they liked. Anything over eight chillies Ton deemed to be Superman strength. Steve 'not quite Superman' Drew braved seven chillies and Vicky a respectable six - we hoped we hadn't gotten too cocky! 

thai cooking school
"Vic's Pad Thai tasted better than it looks here, honest!"

thai cooking school
"If you can't stand the heat..."

Cooking the soup was super easy and done in less than ten minutes, we proudly took our steaming bowls to the dinner table and covered with a plate to keep warm whilst we made our noodle dish. It was our first go with the wok and Steve chose Drunken Noodles - giant flames were involved - luckily no eyebrows were lost in the making of this dish. Finally around 11.30am it was time to savour our first culinary creations, we'd skipped breakfast so were pretty much salivating at this point. We both amazed ourselves (and each other!) with our soups and the spice level was spot on, not bad at all for our first attempt!

thai cooking school
"Steve's first two courses were delicious!"

We also really enjoyed cooking our Thai curries, for these we had to make a curry paste from scratch. In our group of 11 we were making five different curries, so five different pastes, surprisingly Thai curry pastes are all pretty similar with just a few tweaks of difference and Massaman has the most amount of ingredients. Making the paste was the most strenuous part of our day, we pummelled away with our heavy old school mortal and pester on and off for at least twenty minutes. 

thai red curry paste
"Thai Red Curry Paste before..."

Finally we got the nod from Ton to say our pastes were smooth enough to create a curry. Phew!

handmade thai red curry and massaman paste
"... and after. Massaman and Red Curry Paste."

Once we had smooth pastes the rest of the curry recipe was reasonably straightforward. We stir fried our paste and simply added carrots, chicken, coconut milk, fish sauce, onion, palm sugar, pineapple, potato, sugar and a little water - 10 to 15 minutes later our masterpieces were complete. As our bellies were full from the other dishes we'd devoured in the past five hours we opted to package them for a takeaway dinner later that evening back at our guest house which had a communal kitchen. Again we surpassed ourselves and disagreed over who'd made the best curry!

chicken and pineapple thai red curry
"Vic's Spicy Chicken and Pineapple Red Curry."

As part of the experience we received a customised recipe book and a certificate proving our competency! Cooking schools are a really fun and interactive day - we highly recommend Siam Rice if you're in Chiang Mai, if not, then take a cooking class wherever you are in the world. We paid 900 Baht (£17 each) for our course which lasted from 9am till 4pm, it was thoroughly enjoyable and excellent value for money as it covered our breakfast, lunch and dinner that day too.

siam rice cooking school chiang mai
"Sticky are now available for weddings, birthdays etc"

We look forward to throwing a Thai themed dinner party when we return to the UK. Please let us know if you would like any of the recipes and we'll put them up :)


  1. Can you post the pad thai and curry recipes please? They all sound delicious! Aby xx

    1. Hey Aby! Yes of course, will get the details up ASAP for you xx

    2. Sorry for the delay, here's our Pad Thai recipe to serve one:

      100g Rice Noodles, 2 tbsp cooking oil, 80g Chicken, Prawn or Tofu (or all), 50g chopped chive, bean spout and string green beans, 1 egg, 1-2 cloves garlic, 5 tbsp water, 2tbsp oyster sauce, 1tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp soya sauce, 1 tsp black soy sauce

      Method: 1. Peel and smash garlic, add to wok with cooking oil and stir fry with chicken, tofu and/or prawn. 2. When almost cooked (4 mins?) add your egg and stir until thats cooked. 3. Add water, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, black soy sauce and soy sauce. 4. Add noodles and add your vegetables and chives, cook until soft and turn off the gas. Serve with ground peanut, chilli flakes, lime and sugar.

      Hope is easy to follow and looking forward to a food pic, you know I love them :)

      V x

  2. I'll definitely be up for testing your new skills :)

    1. Definitely Laura - we need to be in the same country first ! X