31 March 2013

Chiang Mai Thai Cookery, Day 1 of 3.

I left the hotel around 9:20am on Saturday morning for my first cooking class at Chiang Mai Thai Cookery. I was one of the first clients to be picked up. Afterwards, we drove around picking up other people. It reminded me of being in Bali. And it was a great way to see the city. I noticed that I was a bit out from the old city. Most tourists stay in the old city. So as we were picking up people, I was hopping out of the van to take pictures of things we passed. 

When we got to the office, we were officially introduced to our teaching chef (Pon) and given a cookbook. We also did introductions. We had about 13 people in our group. Four tall guys from Great Britain that the chef ended up referring to as boy band, which I found hilarious. After chatting for a bit, we hopped back in our vans and traveled about 45 minutes to a gated community out in the middle of the country. There we found Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School.

The school was located on a large piece of land, including a huge garden, a sizeable vineyard, and a small lake. There were several houses on the premises, as well as two large open-air cooking facilities. As you can see--like my hotel--this place was also a huge attraction to cats.

This was my cooking station for my first day of classes. It was awesome! 

When I have taken classes before, I had to share cooking stations with other people. When that happens, I tend to subconsciously divert my responsibilities. It's better and easier for me to learn on cooking stations that are completely my own, which sounds really selfish I know. In the large classroom pictured below, my station is on the lefthand side of this image next to the girl with dark hair.

Basically, the day rotated like this: coffee, classroom, cooking, eating, repeat. We learned six courses between 10am and 4pm. And it went by so quickly!

The dishes we made for the day were: Panaeng Curry with Pork (Panaeng Muu), Chiang Mai Curry with Chicken (Gaeng Hanglay Gai), Fried Fish with Chili and Basil (Plaa Nin Laad Prik Bai Horapa), Sweet and Sour Vegetables (Phad Prio Wan Phak), Spicy Glass Noodle Salad (Yam Wun Sen), and Black Sticky Rice Pudding (Khao Neow Dam Piak).

While I can't possibly go through every single recipe that we learned during this lesson, I can show you some of the finished pieces and tell you about some of the things I learned along the way.

For our first recipe, Panaeng Curry with Pork, we made a Panaeng curry paste to start off. The curry paste consisted of: coriander, cumin, mace, green peppers, cardamom, peppercorns, salt, and dried chilies (soaked overnight). We used a mortar and pestle to grind everything down. I am now obsessed with having a mortar and pestle . . . 

It's amazing how much muscle it takes to grind down these items into a fine paste. It was imperative that we make a knocking sound with the mortar and pestle to know that we were putting the right amount of pressure onto the items being ground.

Once the paste was made, he showed us a variety of dishes that could be made from this . . . (Some on the second day of classes, using not homemade but purchased Panaeng curry paste.) 

Another thing we learned about on our first day of classes was the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk. To me it was like learning about glazes in ceramics: were they thick enough to use or not? 

In the kitchen, the thicker substance is the coconut cream. To me this is obvious: cream is heavier and usually contains some sort of fatty/binding substance (oil), whereas milk is generally thinner and runny. 

This is my wok as I am cooking the coconut cream, initiating the separation of oil and cream.

The above image is of the Panaeng Curry with Pork, served with steamy rice. It was probably one of my more favorite dishes and super spicy!

I was kind of obsessed with the mirror on the ceiling in our cooking classroom, and I kept taking pictures during the demonstrations . . .  

The above image is of Fried Fish with Chili and Basil. Never-ever have I liked fish before now. This was amazingly light and fresh tasting. And he put me in charge of cooking up everyone's fish in a ginormous wok at the cooking station next to mine.

We learned about how to find tamarind, and the differences between using the packaged liquid tamarind and the whole tamarind. (It's okay to use the packaged tamarind every once and again.) We also learned about a variety of different kinds of ginger.

This was our second to last project: Sweet and Sour Vegetables with Chiang Mai Curry and Chicken. I was starting to get full by this point, as it was closing in on about 2:30pm. But this was our last big dish before the finishing pieces.

Up left you can see the walkway that leads to the gardens, lake, and the vineyard. On the right, you can see the cat from an image further up in this post feeding her kittens . . . In the kitchen. These two images reminded me a lot of my time in Italy

Above is my Spicy Glass Noodle Salad. Below is our awesome chef Pon finishing up our dessert: Black Sticky Rice Pudding. He's pouring in the coconut cream. This dessert tasted fabulous and was incredibly light.

He sent us off on our way home in a Jeepney. You remember me telling you about Jeepneys, right? 

Such a great time meeting lots of new people and learning about foods together. 

Up next? Day 2 of cooking school, and lots and lots of tigers . . . 

Hot 20: March Instagram Favorites.

Follow me on Instagram for daily updates on fun things happening in and out of the studio . . . Yay!! March 2013!

30 March 2013

What up, Easter?!

Happy Easter, folks! 

I hope everyone is having the best weekend ever, celebrating Easter exactly as they see fit! Might I remind you all of the hilarious attempt at a Spring Fling my friend Emma and I held last year at this time. No words in that post, because no words could describe that small and intimate affair organized and planned for three people. Except maybe the words: honey, champagne, and vodka. (Which--if memory serves me--should never, ever be mixed together.) 

I will be celebrating Easter in Thailand by taking a cooking class at Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. It's my second day at the school, but it works! It's new and exciting, just like spring. Now if only I had some chocolate bunnies . . .