Learn to Cook Your Favorite Thai Foods in Chiang Mai!
Chiang Mai is bursting at the seams with cooking schools these days. There are many operations conveniently run out of guesthouses and hotels in town, as well as outright cooking schools. Most are on an equal par with each other and will deliver a great half- or full- day of fun and food. Typically, they will all start off with a walk in a local fresh market to explain a bit about Thai herbs and vegetables, and give you an up-close look at where the locals shop. Afterwards, there will be a little classroom theory and instruction time, and then finally you’ll move on to cooking at individual stations. Every school should have assistants floating about the kitchen-classrooms to guide you and keep everything safe. Standards are high enough in the competitive local market that you should expect intelligent helpers with fairly good English to be at your service. As an extra bonus, part of the value of your cooking school experience should be some freebies to take home as well, such as a packet of recipes, and perhaps an apron with the school’s logo on it. In the nicer schools the recipe books are bound and may include a few extra recipes you didn’t have time to make.
For those not sure if Thai cooking classes are for them, there are a couple good points to be made in favor of taking a day out from a typical touring schedule. First off is that you will eat a lot of food – great food – that you will have impressively made yourself! Second is they are family and child friendly! So there you have it – a day of cooking and eating is certainly a lot easier on the legs and a great way to spend family time. For those who aren’t up to another strenuous day of touring, or who are burnt out on temples, cooking school should be the perfect thing!
Different Schools of cooking -The Big, the Cozy, and the Pricey
Cooking schools around town come in a variety of sizes. The bigger schools like Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, established in 1993, are quite popular due to longstanding reputation and because of the sheer numbers they can accommodate. They have plenty of equipment and stations for larger classes, and ideally each person gets plenty of hands-on experience. However, on busier days, a well-established school like this usually takes on as many as it can handle, and your class may be packed. This means you may end up with several people prepping and cooking in turns. This can be fun if you’re along for the ride and like group-spirit exercises. Larger classes are perfect for those who enjoy socializing and aren’t that serious about their cooking. However, sometimes the larger schools will also offer more intimate instruction for those who are more advanced and wish to take a master class. In any case, be forewarned that the larger schools definitely have more of a backpacker group vibe to them and tend to go by the numbers.
If you’re looking for a one-on-one approach, and to come out feeling like you were definitely the cook, it’s best to go with a smaller cooking school that will put a more personal touch on recipes, instruction, and technique. Several schools like A Lot of Thai and Siam Rice offer intimate time being regaled by the chefs’ colorful stories while learning in a small house setting. These are schools where humble family homes have been opened to you, giving a friendly family-style experience. Usually the size of the space at the homes keeps the numbers down to about six people maximum, which creates a sense of being taught by your good Thai friend, rather than by a teacher at a tourist school. It’s very rare that you hear a complaint about the smaller cooking schools and their intimate settings. On the contrary, many say it is the best day of their travels!
There is also one type of cooking class that stands out from the crowd, and it costs a fair bit more than the rest. If you’ve got the money to spare, and want to learn with just a few individuals in elegant surroundings overlooking manicured rice fields, then a place like the Four Seasons in Mae Rim is just for you. Their classes run all week long, with the menu rotating day by day so that over the course of one week you can be exposed to methods for many different types of Thai dishes. They will even give a price break when you sign up for more than a couple of days. These classes combine intimacy, superior ingredients, and elegance all in one. Many of the top hotels in and out of town have some form of cooking classes available, so be sure to ask if you’re in the market for fancy lessons.
Some Last Interesting Bits
Cooking classes will usually involve some fun side activities in addition to making chili pastes and cooking food. In some schools there is an exotic herb garden that you will tour before classes. And then in the class itself, there will be downtime spent learning about garnishing your food by doing some Thai fruit and vegetable carving.
If you and your friends take up the whole group, you can usually bend the menu towards your favorite dish preferences. And for those who have dietary restrictions like vegetarians, the schools are usually prepared to accommodate you. Of course it’s always better to try and set that up when booking your classes, so that you’ll be sure your needs are looked after.
Overall, cooking classes are a blast, and money well spent. It’s something completely different from the usual touring activities, and sometimes it’s nice to give yourself a break from aggressive touring. Lastly, be sure not to plan a big meal for the evening immediately following your cooking class because you’re sure to walk out feeling stuffed from eating all of your delicious food in class!
A Lot of Thai
Address: 165 Chiang Mai-Lampoon Road, Soi 9
Asia Scenic Cooking School
Address: 31 Rachadumneon Soi 5, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 053 418 657
Baan Thai Cookery School
Address: 11 Ratchadamnoen Road, Soi 5
Basil Healthy Thai Cookery School
Address: 22/4 Soi 5 Siri Mangkalajarn Road, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 083 3320 7693
Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School (Office)
Address:47/2 Moon Muang Road
Tel: 053-206-388, 053-206-315
Cooking@Home Thai Culinary School
Address: 66/1 Moo 5, Soi 4, T. Sankhampaeng, A. Sankhampaeng, Chiang Mai 50130
Tel: 086 911 4143
Four Seasons Cooking School
Address: Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road
May Kaidee Vegetarian & Vegan Cooking School
Address: 46/32 Ratwithi Rd, Sripoom, Chiang Ma
Oriental Cuisine Thai Cooking School
Address: 84/377 Chotana Village, T. Chang Phak, Chiang Mai
Tel: 089 730 0229
Siam Rice Thai Cookery School
Address: 211 Moo 13, Canal Road, Soi 5
Tel: 053-329-091, 084-177-3160, 085-038-8600
Thai Farm Cooking School
Tel: 081 288 5989
Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre
Address: 32 Loi Khroa Road, So1 T. Changklan, Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 272 569
Thai Orchid Cookery School
Address: 1/1 Soi 8 Prapokkloa Road, Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 418 349
The Best Thai Cookery School
Address: 189/177 Chokwareehome, Sansai, Chiang Mai 50210
Tel: 089 755 2632
Traidhos Three Generation Cooking School
Address: 234 Moo 3, T. Huay Sai, A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, 50180