Summary: We enjoyed our farm-to-table cooking class with Thai Secret Cooking school. This all-day class includes a trip to the market, gardening, and cooking authentic Thai cuisine. Remarkably, this class permits each person to choose their own menus and still cook all at the same time. It was well-organized and super tasty. $38/person, includes custom recipe book/souvenir, and four-course meal. Small groups, non-private; transportation from Chiang Mai City Center included.
To The Market, Then Garden. Our day started with a pick up just outside the McDonald's in Chiang Mai's city center. After we climbed into the bed of a truck designed to haul passengers, we were taken to a local market where we were greeted by the owner, May. At the market, May spent time teaching us about particular spices and ingredients, like Tamarind and Kaffir lime leaves, that are essential to many Thai dishes. Tip: Buy some dry and paste spices when you are here. Not only are they a fraction of the cost you pay back home, they are fabulously potent and aromatic.
The Market also happens to be where we believe Joey picked up food poisoning. Three of us had purchased iced coffee drinks and Joey selected a pineapple smoothie. More on that below but it was an unfortunate slip up as we knew generally to stay away from fresh fruits.
Next, we jumped back into the bed of the truck and traveled to the Thai Secret Cooking School. Donning the school-supplied woven hats, we set off to the adjacent garden to pick vegetables, like Thai Eggplant, for our dishes. After that, we hand-ground the spices to make our own Thai curry.
Cooking. Back in the kitchen area, May has the process remarkably organized, even though not everyone is making the same dish at the same time. The kitchen is sparkling clean and each station has everything you needed to prepare your dish except deep frying, which was offered at a communal station. Some ingredients are pre-cut, and others are left for us to prepare as part of the learning process. May gave clear instructions and walked around to each station helping any of us struggling along the way. Our family made dishes like, fried spring rolls, hot & sour prawn soup, red curry with chicken, pad Thai, deep fried banana.
All of the dishes were amazing and we were stuffed silly by the end of the day. May's special treat is a custom printed paper cookbook that she sends home with each participant. The book contains a photo of your group in the garden, along with all the recipes from the day.
...And now the story of poor Joey's food poisoning. As the day progressed, Joey started to feel worse and basically stopped eating the food we were preparing. We initially thought our picky eater was being just that, but by the time we reached the airport that night to fly to Bangkok, he was looking pretty green. Upon arrival in Bangkok, our plan was head to the hotel for a night and take our early flight the next day to Hanoi. Bangkok, I discovered, that night, has two airports that are about an hour apart from each other by taxi, DMK and BKK. A rookie move by this veteran traveler, I had mistakenly booked an incoming flight into one airport and an outgoing flight to Hanoi from the other. This wouldn't have been too much of a goof up if Joey hadn't started barfing in the trash can while we waited in the taxi line (!). While three of us smooshed into the back seat of a tiny taxi, I sat anxiously waiting for Joey to have throw up more in the car and likely all over me. Fortunately, he did not. We arrived at our hotel after what felt like the longest drive, and settled in for the night. For good measure, Joey threw up one more time on hotel room floor and then called it a night. This ended up being the only incidence of food poisoning the whole trip and while not ideal, it was not unexpected. Joey for his part had a great attitude about it and by the end of the next day, was back at it and in full swing.