After enjoying Bangkok for a few days, we hopped an overnight bus to Chiang Mai…a city located about 9 hours north of Bangkok. We arrived around 6am after a surprisingly decent nights sleep on the bus and found our way to the Holiday Inn. We have accumulated a lot of hotel points and decided to cash them in on the trip…and WOW, we are so glad that we did. The Holiday Inn in Chiang Mai made us feel like royalty….not only was our stay free, they upgraded us to a suite that was basically bigger than any apartment that we have lived in. We had an unbelievable view over the Ping River and really the entire city. We were spoiled with fresh fruit baskets, chocolate trays, and fancy drinks through out our stay…what a huge, relaxing blessing!
Once we settled into our new home, we booked a cooking class (probably our favorite part of the trip so far). We were picked up from our hotel by Yui in a 1960′s VW van and taken to her beautiful home to learn to cook Thai food. Yui is an excellent chef known throughout Chiang Mai and we were so impressed by not only her teaching methods, but also the care and technique that she puts into each dish.
When we arrived, she gave us the run-down on all of the most important Thai ingredients. What they are used for, what they should be paired with, and how they should be used to best enhance a dish. Then we dove straight in to the cooking with the most obvious choice of dishes…Pad Thai! We each had our own cooking station…so Yui lead us step by step through the proper use of a wok, the proper cutting techniques and took us step by step through making the PERFECT Pad Thai dish. It had a much different taste than Pad Thai that I have had in the states…the flavors were clean and simple, with just a little added zing from the Thai chili. After tasting our first dish, we were even more excited for what was to come.
After thoroughly enjoying the Pad Thai, we moved on to another favorite, Tom Yum Soup. Again, the soup was much easier than it would seam…we started with a basic mushroom broth and then added lots of amazing fresh Thai herbs (that I am really hoping to find in Atlanta), then topped it off with pranws, mushrooms and some perfectly ripe tomatoes. The result…a wonderfully soothing, hot and sour soup. Tom YUM!
After the soup, we moved on to the most challenging dish…Thai curry. I say it is the most challenging dish because we used home-made red and green curry paste…which has about a million ingredients. We started with some super creamy coconut milk, followed by garlic and spices, curry paste, onions, Thai green eggplant (think bitter zucchini) and chicken. Gavin made the green and I made the red so that we could try both. Once the dishes were finished, Yui brought out a combination of brown, black and purple steamed rice and even though we were quite full, we ate again and it was the richest, creamiest, yummiest Thai curry I have ever had.
After our tummies were about to burst from all of the amazing food, we took a break to head to the local market for a tour and further introduction of Thai veggies, herbs, spices, rices and noodles. If you know me, you know that one of my favorite places in the world, no matter where in the world I am, is the local market. I think that these markets are the heart beat of a culture…we spent about an hour walking around, asking questions, trying new fruits and veggies and getting to know the locals (Gavin and I ended up eating every other meal that we consumed in Chiang Mai, right there in that market!)
After our nice market break, we headed back to the house to start our next dishes. Cashew chicken was next on the list. Honestly, I wasn’t super excited about this one…it seems pretty boring…but let me tell you, I was eating my words because this one turned out to be my favorite dish. We started with crispy red peppers, shallots, peppers, garlic and onion, then added the chicken, soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce. We finished it with the cashews, and fresh green onion. It took all of 3 minutes to cook, but it was so light and fresh and perfectly crispy…sweet and spicy…so so good!
At this point, I would have been completely satisfied going home because everything was just so good, I felt like we had learned so much, and we were so full…but we still had 2 dishes left.
We moved on to “non-greasy” spring rolls (these weren’t my favorite because they were a little boring but I am glad I learned how to make them!) We started these rolls with chicken, cabbage, carrots, soy sauce, salt and pepper and then threw in some rice noodles at the last minute. Then, came the hard part…the rolling technique. We were given two spring roll wrappers and we scooped filling onto each. They key to a non-greasy spring roll is the way that you roll it. It has to be super tight, the same thickness throughout and folded at an exact angle to prevent grease from getting trapped. Not gonna lie, it took me a good three tries to get it right. Then we headed for the wok filled with oil and fried our rolls until they were golden brown. When finished the rolls were beautiful and perfectly crisp (I just thought they needed a little spice)!
The last dish was AMAZING. Coconut sticky rice with custard and fresh mango. Though I have loved all of the new fruits that I have tried here in Thailand, mango still holds the keys to my heart….There really isn’t much that taste better to me than a cool, perfectly ripe mango…when you combined this mango with gooey coconut sticky rice and lightly sweetened coconut custard, it makes the perfect dessert….so perfect, that the one picture I took is terrible and makes the dish look pretty unappetizing because we dug in before I thought to take a picture!