MP3 track of the day: Mr Brightside - The Killers
Weather: Hot, but I didn't really feel it as I was inside most of the day.
Today cooking; I have to admit that when planning my round-the-world tour cooking thai dishes wasn't something I thought I would be paying to learn. However now that I am here I was quite looking forward to it, even though I may have paid too much. At 9:15am a gentleman came to my hostel to pick me up; he was a youngish guy who was actually one of the cooking teachers, though I didn't know that at the time.
We drove around Chang-Mai for a little while, picking up two other people, before making it to where my cooking lesson would commence. 'Thai Orchid Cookery School' was the name and once there I joined a group of eleven tourists which consisted of three British, two Americans and six Dutch people. We where shown into a room where we were given a drink and a list of sixteen thai dishes put into four groups:
For me the choices where simple, for a soup I went for a traditional prawn soup. For the appetizer I went for spring rolls … as I love spring rolls. I chose the traditional green curry for my … err curry and then a 'pad-thai' for my main dish as that's one of my favorite thai dishes.
I started off with the spring rolls; the group split into smaller groups each concentrating on their chosen appetizer. I went into this smaller room with a large mirror, angled at forty-five degrees, on the roof so that all could see what was happening on the cooking table. It didn't seem too taxing and after the teacher (who was the guy who gave me a lift this morning) had done a demonstration we where given out our ingredients, escorted to where the cooking tables where, and off we went. First off all I had to chop up my vegetables and fry them in a wok … which didn't take long at all. After separating my fried vegetables into two even piles I was given two pieces of rice paper. I put the vegetables ontop of the rice paper and then folder then into 'spring roll' packages sealing it with beaten egg yoke ... All was going well so far. Next the teacher fired up the deep fryer where I placed my spring rolls to cook, occasionally turning them, which again happened surprisingly quickly. After fifteen seconds I took them out of the fryer and over to the table where we all congregated to eat our 'fruits of our labor'. 'Not bad' is how I would describe them, not bad at all … sure I've had better spring rolls but for my first attempted they were edible, tasty and didn't kill me … 10/10 in my book.
Next up was the soup; this time we were all put into one big group and all headed to the room with the big mirror. All three soups, which I chose one from, followed the same method and so the lady teacher (who happened to be the guys sister) went through all of the soups one-by-one allowing us to taste them once she had cooked them. Again it didn't seem too taxing and so, just like before, I got my ingredients and headed outside to my cooking area. Once all the vegetables where chopped up the cooking time within a pan of 'prawn stock' was incredibly quick with the vegetables taking a minute to cook and the prawns (which were all ready cut for me) taking a further ten seconds.
Just as before we brought our food to a dining table and ate the contents; the soup was really good and tasted just like the food that I've been purchasing for meals. Before I could create my next two master pieces we all got into their people carrier and took a short drive into town. Our destination was a fruit and vegetable market which I had walked past the previous day. The lady teacher took us around and showed us all the produce that needed to be bought for thai cooking; you could really tell that she enjoyed her job but I was still shocked when she broke produce to show us the inside colour, and smells, of certain items (they have these black eggs, which she picked one up and broke so that we could have a look inside … It wasn't pretty) without paying for them. I reckon she does this tour everyday so the locals are used to it, besides she purchases all of her food from here.
We spent around twenty minutes looking at all the stalls and talking about all the different ingredients that could be used in Thai cooking. Once this had been done we headed back to the cooking school and, before getting on with the next dish, had a glass of cool water as it was really hot in the market. Next up was the curry; the dish I had been looking forward to the most as for me it's the dish that represents Thailand the most. Yet again we were all sat in the room with the big mirror and yet again the lady was our teacher. In front of her were three pots of 'curry paste'; she explained that each paste had twelve individual ingredients and took over an hour to prepare and so it wasn't feasible for us, within this short time, to make our own. Three curries where on offer, the green, the red and the yellow curry; again each followed the same principles with subtle differences in ingredients and method. Again she started off with the easiest curry, which was the yellow curry followed by the green and red. We all got to taste what she had prepared … which was a great tasting sensation.
Once back at the cooking table I went to work on my green curry, cutting up the vegetables ready to put into the wok when the green curry paste was nice and warm. Once the paste was warm coconut milk was added and allowed to bubble for a short while before the vegetables, and then the meat, were added. All looked good however I couldn't eat this meal just yet as the plan was to make the pad-thai dish before eating the whole lot.
Once more we where split into smaller groups but this time the room with the mirror was given to another group and I remained where my cooking station was. The lady teacher, who by now I was liking a lot as she was a really nice and a very enthusiastic person, showed us how to make pad-thai and she showed me how to make it without egg. All went well and soon I was sat down with my green curry to my right, my pad-thai plus rice to my left and a plate in front of me with a glass of cold water … heaven. As I was hungry I ate pretty quickly which then signaled the end of my half-day course, whereas my other class mates would remain for another two courses.
I paid my 750 baht (£15.00) and said thank you very much for a great day. They presented me with a cookery book (which is great and I must get it back home) and asked if I wanted a lift back to my hostel, which I declined as I quite fancied the walk. Once out of the cooking school I thought about what I had just done; the class was quite expensive but I loved every minute of it. Thai cooking, once the food is prepared for cooking and the paste is made, its so quick to cook in a wok that you have to be alert all the time or else your 'pad-thai' will become 'burnt-thai'. Maybe it was because I was cooking small portions … I don't think so. One of my objectives, once home, is to learn how to cook properly and so this course will certainly help me move me in the right direction.
I soon arrived at my hostel, ice cream in hand. I sat down with a large group of travelers leaving today; they where watching 'Lock, Stock and two smoking barrels', one of my favorite films of all time. I watched the end of the film, they left, and then the remaining travelers here put on more films though-out the evening. At one point in our 'film marathon' we had to get some food and so the group of us headed out to a local street food place called 'Organic'. Thirty baht (60p), and a lovely red curry later, we where heading back to our own private cinema when one of the guys in our group explained that there was a great cake shop just across the road. CAKE! I made a straight path through scooters, trucks and old ladies to the door off this cake shop. Being greeted by a glass door, a white surgical floor and designer furniture could only mean one thing … expensive. Looking at the cakes in the glass cases they were all expensive for Thailand with none being below sixty baht (double the cost of my main meal). However looking at all those beautiful cakes within the glass cabinets, all the different colours, sizes and shapes I new I wanted one. I had been told that the 'banana mousse' was great but looking in the cabinets the strawberry slice, mango cheesecake, white cream cake … in fact all of them looked great. In the end I did go for the banana mousse which was brought over to me, by a lady-boy (can't have everything you know), on a small white plate. I picked up the spoon and took a small spoonful of the yellow and golden dessert … It was heaven; sixty baht or not I decided that I would be back tomorrow for another cake as I polished this one off. We then returned to watch 'Sahara' before heading to sleep.
Today has been a very good day … a very mouth watering day of different tastes (my sister would have liked today). I still don't know what my next move will be for certain but I have a fair idea.