Smile Organic Cooking School

I really debated on whether to take yet another cooking class. The last three I took were outstanding and my Thai food cooking skills have improved dramatically. The food I cook at home is still not the same as the food in Thailand; not all of the same ingredients are available. But, when it came right down to it, I decided to go ahead. What could be wrong with a day spent cooking and eating? I invited my friend, Mary Jo, to join me. The first three classes I took solo, so I was looking forward to having a friend to chat with.

When you take a cooking class in Chiang Mai, transportation to the school is included. I have ridden in the back of a truck, in a metal sidecar attached to a motorbike, and in an air-conditioned van to get to my previous classes. I was pleased when a van pulled up promptly at 8 am to pick me up. The van gathered a few more participants before picking up Mary Jo. Mary Jo had invited two of her friends, Jo and Ellen, to join us. We ended up with a group of thirteen, which was a large group! One of the participants was a boy of about 9 or 10; he was there mainly to watch, so twelve of us were cooking.

Our first stop was at a local market. I was relieved to find that it was not the local market that I shop at for produce; this one was a bit out of town and quite clean. The instructor, CiCi, showed us many of the products available for purchase. In addition to fresh produce, pre-made, pre-packaged curries were also available. Just add coconut milk and meat and you will have a meal!

We loaded up the van and continued out to the farm. There were 4 or 5 other classes running concurrent with ours, so this is a fairly large operation. They are very highly rated on Trip Advisor and Viator and quite economical as well, so quite popular. We were given aprons and sun hats and taken out to the garden to look at the plants. Cici explained what each plant was and how it was used in Thai cooking.

Typically, in a Thai cooking class, several courses are produced. We each could choose what we wanted to make from a menu of options. Everyone made a spring roll. I went with pad thai for the stir-fry course. I just can’t resist pad thai! Most of the ingredients were pre-cut for us, so we had very little actual chopping to do. After stir-frying the first course, we sat down by our cooking stations to eat. This was not the most flavorful pad thai I have eaten; I guess I have gotten spoiled during my time in Thailand! It was a bit bland; it needed some more spice. Nonetheless, I polished it off.

Next up was the curry course. I have made curry paste from scratch before. It is a real workout! A mortar and pestle are used to grind the ingredients. Mary Jo and I opted to sit on stools rather than on the floor and as such, managed to avoid our turn with the mortar and pestle. Let those young whipper-snappers do the work, right?

Choices for the curry course were red curry, green curry, Penang curry, and Massaman curry. I really love Penang and Massaman curry but have a special place in my heart for Khao Soi, so I went with that. Teacher CiCi put a great big spoonful of curry paste in my wok, perhaps too big a spoonful. Mary Jo was much smarter and went with a half-spoonful.

We had one more dish to make, the soup course. It was a tough decision for me – Tom Kha Gai (coconut chicken soup) or Tom Yum Kung (hot and sour creamy soup with prawn). I can make a pretty good Tom Kha Gai so settled on the Tom Yum Kung. This turned out to be more hot than sour!

I was still so full from the pad thai that I could barely eat more than a few spoonfuls of the Khao Soi or Tom Yum Kung. It’s a good thing I didn’t take the full day course; that also included dessert. We were able to have our leftovers bagged up so we could enjoy them later.

Overall, this was a good class. Unfortunately, I got extremely ill the night after I took it. I don’t know if it was food poisoning or if I simply ate too much spicy food. I will say that unlike other cooking schools in Chiang Mai, this one did not cover uncooked food. I was at the end station and flies kept landing on my chicken and prawns while CiCi gave directions. Fortunately, neither Mary Jo, Jo, nor Ellen got sick, but none of them had prawns and none had flies landing on their food to the degree that I did. I let the school know that it would be beneficial for them to provide covers for their food; hopefully, they will take me up on the suggestion.