This Thai Farming Cooking School is not only beautiful but also great fun.
I am blessed with culinary skills similar to those of a guinea pig, I am just not good at it. Not for lack of trying though, as I often attempt to copy some sort of recipe or cooking show and serve elaborate meals to my guests. This usually results in smoke detectors needing to be disarmed and subsequently a few boxes of pizza being ordered. So when my best friend arrived to visit me, with one of the top things on her “To Do” list being a Thai cooking course, I had a small flash of setting fire to a quiet Thai woman’s house or burning down an entire village. But, as a good tour guide, I hastily agreed to book something for her, and that was when I came across the Thai Farm Cooking School. I had a look at a map and figured that they were far enough out of town for me to not pose a potential fire hazard to the entire city.
The van picked us up promptly at 9 am and took us to the Mae Jo market where our instructor/tour guide/chef explained all the ingredients that we were picking up for the kitchen, and we were then allowed to wander around to look at food or buy some beer to take for lunch.
The grounds are 17 km out of Chiang Mai itself, and the drive out to the farm is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Arriving at the farm, my first impressions were already good, and from there they only got better. The kitchens themselves are made completely out of wood, and extend out onto a deck that overlooks a small pond and some huge lotus lilies.
Our hilarious and attentive guide Pui Pui then took us out into the organic garden to learn about some of the ingredients we would be using. We got to smell and taste everything from lime leaves and chilies, to Thai basil and lemongrass. The same lessons were then applied to the other ingredients in the kitchen such as chili paste, soy sauce, palm sugar and tamarind paste.
Then the cooking started. Pui Pui was attentive and hilarious throughout the entire 6 courses that we managed to get through, constantly trying to convince us to throw more chilies into our food. Before each course she did a demonstration for us and at one stage she even encouraged me to let my wok catch on fire to properly stir fry my cashew nut chicken dish–now THAT was my kind of cooking.
The 6 dishes that I managed to make (and eat) without burning things/endangering my classmates, were a red Thai curry, a chicken cashew nut stir fry, pad thai, spring rolls, tom yum and mango sticky rice. Perhaps the only complaint I had about the place was that I ate so much I almost had to roll myself back into the van when it was time to go home. The dishes were all incredible and it was really great to sit with the other travelers in the class and hear their stories. Free papaya salad, water and lemongrass tea were provided for us throughout the day, and a free recipe book was given out at the end of the day.
If you are in Chiang Mai and are thinking about learning how to cook Thai food, then the Thai Farm Cooking School is the place to go. It is not only beautiful but also great fun, and while it may not be the best thing for your holiday diet (pssssshhhht) it is completely worth the sacrifice. If they managed to safely get me in and out of the kitchen with 6 courses in between, then you know that they are good.