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December 10, 2003

Happy Birthday, Bon Appetit

For the past 2 days, I've been slicing, frying and eating... and eating... and eating some more. This has been the only time that Claudia's wanted to get something to eat, and I haven't. For my birthday (Christmas Eve) Claudia got me cooking lessons at the Baan Thai Cooking School — really, a gift for her too, since she loves Asian food, especially Thai.

We chose the Baan Thai after seeing recommended in LP, and after a traveler in Sukhothai gave it good reviews as well. If you're interested in taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend these guys; if you want to go a bit swisher, the Chiang Mai Cookery School is also the most well-known and has the biggest reputation. Walking around Chiang Mai, you'll see about as many cooking schools as you will see things-on-sticks vendors. Most of these classes are yet another offering at guesthouses trying to cash in more on their guests (in addition to the usual visa services, bus/train tickets, tours, treks, etc.). Screw that. Go to a dedicated school: you'll have smaller classes and better staff.

Don't eat breakfast.

Baan Thai's courses are 700 baht ($18US) a day. Even if you're on a tight budget, this can work out pretty well. During your 9:30a.m. - 4:30 p.m. "class", you'll be munching pretty much all day — so no extra cost for meals later. When I went to sign up a class was going on; someone shouted out, "Do NOT each breakfast before coming here!" Everyone in the class nodded.

The teachers are as varied as the students. My first day, "Sam" taught us how to cook

  • Fried Cashew Nut with Chicken
  • Chicken in Coconut Milk
  • Red Curry Paste
  • Red Curry Chicken
  • Spicy Noodle Salad
  • Fried Fish Cake

    In between prepping vegetables and tasting our latest experiments, Sam told us about his experiences in Thailand. Originally from Loei in the northeastern province of Isaan, Sam lived for a year in Derradun, India (near Claudia's favorite deep town of Rishikesh), where he went to boarding school. He also lived in San Francisco for 4 years, working at a Thai restaurant... but developing a taste for Mexican food. Back in CM, he's trying to gain more experience so he can go work in a Mexican restaurant. As you do.

    For my second day, our teacher was "Chai". (Yes, spelled like the word for good ol' milky sugary Indian tea.) Chai's about my age, but from 13-21 he was a monk. Now he's studying English at university, so he's out of the monastery and probably won't be going back. At the end of the day we all had a Chang (30 baht, or 80 cents, for a small bottle), but Chai kept to his monastic commandment of no booze. More for us.

    Today we learned how to make:

  • Spring Rolls
  • Fried Rice
  • Papaya Salad
  • Yellow Curry Paste
  • Chiang Mai Noodle with Chicken
  • Deep-Fried Bananas

    I have but one word: yum.

    The cooking is great fun, and so is hanging out with all the other students. I've smashed garlic, pounded chilis and sliced lemongrass with Aussies, Spaniards, Yanks, Welsh, Swedes and English. They've been chefs, pensioners, Wall Street bankers, and just career (at least for now) travelers. They've all been a great laugh (and we're probably meeting up with some of them later).

    As souvenirs of my classes, there are photos (Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 target="_blank") and... heh-heh... recipe books.

    Be warned, my friends: I plan to feed you full of prik kii noo... in English, "rat-shit chili".

    Next time I cook, keep a glass of milk handy, and prepare to eat rat-shit!

    Posted by Ant on December 10, 2003 07:04 AM
    Category: Thailand
  • Comments

    very cute pic. of Ant in his apron. Could this be a new career for him? Shall we look for a new Thai restaurant to be opening soon in the Big Apple. I can just see it with a sign posted on the window.

    Today's Special: Rat-Shit-Chili

    Yummmmmm, doesn't that sound appealing!

    Posted by: socalgirl on December 10, 2003 05:57 PM

    Thanx socal! *blush*

    I don't know that I could cook professionally, but it is one of my favorite things to do, especially for friends. I love having people over and whipping up a few things. From here I'm going to have all sorts of recipes to experiment with... the deep-fried bananas, for example, would be great with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce...

    And I like the rat-shit chili idea. I'll have to experiment... bit of cheese, some beans, probably a beer, and some rat-shit. I sense hot food in cold winters...

    Posted by: Ant on December 11, 2003 06:06 AM

    I'm gonna be in Thailand in about 2 weeks and until I read this about cooking schools, I never even considered going to one... but it sounds really interesting and I might just do it!

    Posted by: tickles on January 25, 2004 12:56 PM

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