When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes

There was no way a Culinary Adventure to Chiang Mai with Paleo Nick and Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo was going to go down without a cooking class or two! We ate plenty of delights while we were in Thailand but honestly, the most delicious things I enjoyed were those we made for ourselves during these cooking schools. (Commence the tooting of our own horns!)

Cooking School #1: Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School

Situated a little way out of town, the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School is a very snazzy purpose-built treehouse with picturesque semi-rural surrounds. With access to all the bells and whistles (or utensils and gas burners, as the case was) we learnt how to make a whole menu of delicious Thai dishes and even got a cookbook to recreate the magic at home.

Chef Steph | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

While the food was all super tasty, this class certainly wasn’t paleo – Nick’s face at the mention of soybean oil in a hot wok has akin to that of a small child after a fall, in that quiet moment of realisation before they let out the epic scream. There was soy sauce, seed oils, refined sugar and rice products galore. I thought that Thai food wouldn’t be too far from paleo but we quickly came to the conclusion that, just like back home, unless you make it yourself, it’s pretty hard to know exactly what’s in your meal.

Fried noodles | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Case in point was this fried noodle dish… but just quietly, it was one of my favourites! It’s not something I can see myself trying to recreate at home so it was total guilt-free vacation food. I’m not much of a pizza and cakes kind of girl – give me a random interesting dish like this that’s totally different to my everyday eats & I’m there.

This involved frying a little pile of sauced-up rice noodles until they started to crisp up together into a pattie. It was then set aside while the pork and vegetable mixture hit the wok. See, somehow I don’t think this one will be the same if I attempt to paleofy it with zucchini noodles!

Coconut milk soup & red curry fish | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

The closest-to-paleo dishes at this school were the Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup, the Red Curry with Fish and the Papaya Salad. By switching to coconut oil and using a good clean curry paste, the curry has already found its way into my kitchen and I’m keen to try out the soup soon too. I may just have to post up my recreation!

One of the fun things about this cooking school was learning how to prepare ingredients in the Thai way. We learnt all the ways to slice green onion and how to cut a chilli depending on your heat-preference, as well as some kitschy decorative skills. In the vegetable dish above the curry, you’ll be able to see my green onion art and possibly make out the star I carved atop my mushroom, while below, note my attempt of a tomato rose. I haven’t cracked these out on my home dinners yet but I might just have to at least get a tomato flower into a salad sometime soon!

Papaya salad - Som tam | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Originally, we were going to have 2 days out at this cooking school but, while we learnt a lot about how the flavours of Thai food work and what the foundation ingredients are, we weren’t so fussed on learning how to make more food we’d have to paleofy so much to cook at home. Enter the Inpoo Food Shop.

Cooking School #2: Stupid Easy Paleo Nick Cooking Class

Across the road from our accommodation was a small restaurant named Inpoo Food Shop. Fronted by a roadside kitchen (wo)manned by Som with occasional assistance from her tuk-tuk driving significant other Payut, Inpoo was a deliciously easy favourite with the ninjas. Nick befriended the couple on day 1 and by the time we needed a second day of cooking school, Som graciously let us take over her restaurant.

Som's pad thai | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

We broke up into small teams to tackle a dish from a menu Nick created. I joined with Jose and Jen to become the Friendship Curry team. Using what we’d learnt at the first cooking school but applying paleo principles, we put together a list of ingredients and hit the markets to shop for what we needed.

Som's curry paste | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Lucky for us, Som made us a fresh batch of curry paste to use (as well as a plate of her pad thai for us to taste-test!) so we didn’t need much more than some eggs, pork, coconut milk and a couple of fresh vegetables.

Our friendship curry | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

And didn’t it turn out pretty! To boost the protein, Jen had the brilliant idea of decorating the top of the curry with boiled eggs. I was sceptical at first but I loved the finished product – both the flavour and the texture of the eggs really complemented the spicy curry. I’m keen to try doing this in my own kitchen now too.

Friendship curry team | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

Our team was pretty special – we were the only group with each person from a different country! I’m Australian, Jen is from Malaysia and Jose resides in the U.S. We thought that was totally appropriate for a team taking on a Friendship Curry.

Paleo chicken satay skewers & laarb | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

It wasn’t all about the Friendship Curry though – the other dishes that made the final feast were chicken satay skewers, laarb with cabbage leaves for scooping and wrapping, an epic fruit salad served up on a banana leaf and a spicy papaya salad. We invited Som & Payut to dig in first and then we all finally got to sample each others dishes. The feast even lured in some hungry Canadian backpackers so they piled up a plate too.

Sharing our feast | When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes | lizniland.com

It was such a fun challenge at the Inpoo but I think we really needed the first day’s cooking school to be able to know what we were doing once we were on our own. Even just knowing what all the different vegetables were at the markets would have been difficult without a bit of education. Being able to take on the Inpoo kitchen with Som really solidified the skills and techniques we learned at school #1. Even though it was a bit of an unplanned change, I thought our whole cooking class experience was great fun and totally beneficial for my expanding my cheffing abilities.

Have you seen my other posts about Thailand? So far I’ve posted about why I went to Chiang Mai, the amazing Chiang Mai lantern festival and the elephant park and ziplining adventure. It was a great trip!

6 Thoughts on “When in Chiang Mai: Cooking classes

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  3. Liz!
    These recap articles are awesome! I hope you don’t mind me borrowing a pic of the curry past for my post today. I figured they were my hands, so I could blackmail you if you really threw a fuss 😉
    Your work is aaaaaamazing and I look forward to planning that Culinary Adventure Down Under when you and the “gas station drinker” are ready to put pen to paper…
    Congrats again to you and Mick!
    Your Pal,
    Nick

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