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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 108: A new Thai masterchef!

THAILAND | Thursday, 21 February 2008 | Views [1197]

Thursday 21st February

The cookery course was scheduled to start at 10.00, so I got there a bit early and met a few of the guys that were also hoping to pick up a few new tips and techniques, many of whom, I am sure, were thinking that one day they might come in handy and impress someone in the future (I'm sure I wasn't the only one!). The class was made up of about fifteen people from all over, but I first got chatting to a Dubliner called Mark, and I haven't met too many Irish people on this trip. There were three teachers who would demonstrate the dishes, and supervise our cooking.

The first part of the course involved us taking a trip to a local market, where we were introduced to the key ingredients in Thai cooking: rice, noodles, vegetables, herbs, spices, pastes, and other important condiments such as fish and oyster sauce. The markets here are very vibrant places, and I enjoy just veering off the main road and taking a look around them from time to time. They are full of ordinary people trying to make a living from local produce, and it must make shopping a much more intimate affair than what we are used to at home.  Things have become so processed at home that we are far more removed from the raw produce than in Thailand.

After we returned to the cookery school, we were given a demonstration on how to cook the first dish on our menu: chicken in coconut milk. Once again, we were given some information on each of the ingredients, and one of the teachers cooked them all up, producing a really tasty soup. It was now our turn, so we made our way to our individual work stations, where we found all of the individual ingredients measured out and prepared for us in advance. But, it was up to us to cook it all, and to risk burning, cutting or poisoning ourselves in the process, so it did involve a fair level of thought and skill on our parts. Thai cooking seems to be all about ease and speed of cooking, and maximisation of flavours (a very efficient form of cooking), and the soup was ready in a matter of minutes. Once we had finished, we sat down to eat our creations, and we were all impressed at how tasty the dish was, given how little time and effort it took to make it.

This routine of cooking and then eating our food continued for the rest of the course, as we made our way through five other dishes. By the end of it all, I was completely stuffed (which doesn't happen very often), and we left the school with full tummies and smiles on our faces after a very enjoyable and worthwhile day. I had met some nice, fun people, the teachers were all very professional and had a good sense of humour, and I was now equipped to cook some very tasty Thai food, which I will no doubt be cooking up when I get home.

I wasn't fit for too much else during the evening, and only managed to put off going back to the guesthouse for a snooze by going for a drink with Mark from the course. We had a good chat and went our separate ways, thinking that we might bump into each other further down the road, perhaps in Laos, where both of us intended to spend time in the following few weeks.

Later in the evening, I took a walk to the 'night bazaar' on the other side of town. I had aniticpated it being full of arts and crafts, with influences from the local tribes people, but I found a row of stalls on either side of a busy main street, with traders selling ripped-off novelty t-shirts (which are everywhere!), pirate DVDs and CDs, and the usual textiles that you find all over the place. I was lead to believe that Chiang Mai was a thoroughly cultural centre, and didn't realise that there was a downtown area along the bright and busy Chang Khlan Road that was home to McDonald's, Burger King, and Starbucks, just like everywhere else. It wasn't overly nasty, but neither did it convince me to stay any longer than half an hour. The one up side to it was that I now realised that the part of town in which I was staying now seemed a whole lot more appealing (not that I disliked it before then).

I was in no mood for food despite the sheer quantity of places to eat, so I headed back to the guesthouse, worked on my journal for a while before trying to get some sleep.    

Tags: Culture


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