Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thai Cooking Class Part 1: Getting Ready

Last Saturday, Gerry and I spent the day at Thai Farm Cooking School, about 17 km north of Chiang Mai. We stopped along the way at a local market so our instructor, Kook (pronounced "cook"), could explain about the ingredients, how they are made, and how they are used. The market turned out to be the same one Gerry and I visited daily during lunch break from massage school, so we ran into an old friend who serves great Ka Prao. This is stir-fried meat (pork, chicken) served over steamed jasmine rice with the option of a fried egg on top. Our lovely new friend from Slovakia introduced us to both the place and the dish, kop khun ka Tomas!

fresh veggies and herbs at the market
thanks for the great ka prao :)
Kook explained that MSG is often used at restaurants here, but is added separately from sauces, so we can easily request  a meal without it

mmmm, chicken

Kook explained how jasmine rice, brown, and red rice are prepared differently than sticky rice 
This is palm sugar. We used it in the green papaya salad. It is semi-liquid with a wonderfully mellow flavor , similar to real maple syrup. Kook said we could substitute honey or brown sugar - but I need to find this stuff - yum!

bugs, anyone?

I ate one of these, couldn't manage to try the beetles or crickets. These weren't half bad - salty and crispy like french fries

this nice girl from Canada tried one first

I don't think she minded the taste, just couldn't get over mental side ;)

It's not all bugs at the market - you can also buy donuts :)

these small grilled bananas are delicious and cheap! 4 for 10 baht (about 35 cents)

Kook opened a "century egg" and encouraged us to try it - I was first to take a bite, and it wasn't that bad! Just very "eggy." It was more the texture combined with taste that was weird - like egg flavored jello :)

After our trip to the market, we head off to the farm, about 10 minutes down the road.

These lily pads were HUGE! I was tempted to step across them,...

The kitchen

outside the kitchen: sinks to the left, dining table to the right
Before taking us on a garden tour, Kook taught us how to prepare the sticky rice....

She rinsed the rice two times, strains it, then pours it into a bamboo steamer

She sets the rice to steam for 30 minutes as we tour the farm
Jasmine rice was even easier: just add rice and water to the electric cooker ;)

Next post: touring the farm and first course: curry and soup...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chiang Mai Culture and Food tour: Part 3

I can hardly believe how busy we've been the past week and a half - there is so much to see and do in this area! Today Gerry is a taking a course in "fire therapy" - yes, it's as crazy as it sounds - and I decided to take a day to sleep in, relax, and use his computer. So I am finally going to finish the series about our walking tour - it was a very full day! The last post ended at the food market, and after that we headed over to a Vietnamese restaurant (there are many in Chiang Mai) for some lunch.

Gade took us to this Vietnamese restaurant because Gerry mentioned his love of spicy food

The sandwiches on the left were sort of like "mini" banh mi. Very tasty!

Gade explained that Thai people love condiments - most restaurants will have a large assortment

the darker piece in the center is blood curd (sort of like blood pudding) - it tasted iron-y ;)

Gade had a side of poached eggs with her meal

After lunch we headed over to a couple more nearby temples...

A bird pooped on Gerry's head while he took this photo - Gade said it was good luck. I asked if the dog poop I stepped in earlier was good luck too, but alas it was just poop ;)

For a small donation, visitors are able to honor a relative or their ancestors on a brick, which will later be used to build or repair a wat somewhere in northern Thailand

The stupa at this wat is very old. Our second weekend in Chiang Mai was a buddhist holiday celebrating the beginning of the rainy season (Khao Phansaa). On that Friday night, city residents walk around stupas like this one three times,  praying as they walk. On Saturday they bring offerings (candles, light bulbs, incense, etc) to the monks. Traditionally the monks would not leave the wat for the full three months of rainy season, relying only on the offerings to survive. But, judging by the monk I saw walking into 7-11 last night, this is no longer strictly followed ;)

The shelf to the right has robes for those who need to cover shoulders and knees to enter the temple - I wore one and it was quite warm!

This is where a monk would sit while teaching a lesson 

Phew - it's hot in this thing!

This wooden temple is very old and very suay (beautiful)! The yellow flags to the left have buddhist dharma wheels printed on them, and they are placed in sand "castles" called chedi in preparation for the holiday "Khao Phansaa"

These are "birthday buddhas." Depending on the day and time you were born, you will have a different buddha  - sort of like astrology :)
After visiting the wats we walked around a bit, then headed to more food stalls - don't ask how I found room for more food - I'm not sure myself....

These little pastries were filled with a sort of meringue and custard - aroi dee ka (yummy)!

This lady was so sweet. She was cooking these coconut pudding "cakes," but they weren't quite ready so she kept opening the cooker for Gerry to take photos. Then she even let me try to flip one  - I goofed it up of course ;) The type she was making are a special local flavor which get their color from blue flowers

She is a pro at flipping these things!
She had us eat the ones that had cooled a bit, apparently the fresh ones will burn your mouth

These are castrated chickens. Gade said they are highly prized and supposed to be delicious - we took her word for it ;)
This is the local take on potato chips. It is basically a potato spiral cut and skewered, then deep fried and seasoned....if you like chips you would love these! It was a bit much for our full tummies, but cool to try. Who doesn't love freshly fried potatoes on a stick? :D

Little did we know we were going to end with a feast! Gade took us to a "southern style" Thai restaurant because it has VERY spicy food - and it did not disappoint! I tried a little of each dish - most were too spicy for me and just right for Gerry. The egg dish on the right was sweet with a star anise flavor. We had many leftovers - luckily another couple staying at our guesthouse walked in and we passed them along :)

This is fried mackerel with a spicy dipping sauce. It was pek pek (very spicy)!
This concludes our food and cultural walking tour inside the "old city" of Chiang Mai. I hope you enjoyed reading about it! I feel full again just looking at the photos ;) My next post will be about a full-day cooking class Gerry and I took a few days ago...