I’ve been telling people for half a year (since we decided to come to Thailand) that I was coming here so I could learn how to cook Thai food.
I could eat curry for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (oh, and now I have)!!
Imagine my excitement when my friend said she had located the perfect cooking class for us! We found an ideal class at Sammy’s Organic Thai Cooking School…run by Sammy and his wife on their rice farm on the outskirts of Chiang Mai.
First, Sammy picked up our large group at a friend’s hotel in town. Our friends from A King’s Life and Worldschool Adventures accompanied us! Two other single travelers ended up joining our group (one from Canada, the other from Mexico!), and Sammy took us to a local fresh market to give us the some hands-on shopping lessons!
He took us in the market and explained to us the difference in rice. Apparently the names on the top of these cards tells the origin of the rice (geographically), and the various numbers are for various bulk quantities.
Sticky rice is on the left, and Jasmine rice is on the right. Sticky rice is a milky white color, but when cooked turns a translucent color. On the other hand, Jasmine rice starts out translucent, but turns milky white when cooked! How interesting!
Also, he told us that the traditional way of buying rice in Thailand is via a measurement cup such as this (was it a “pint”? I think so!). One cup like this will feed 2 people for one day. Nowadays, the new generation is using measurements in kilos, but the older folks still measure the old-fashioned way.
He also showed us how coconut milk is made. Fresh coconut milk is made by shredding the coconut first…
It is so full of moisture that you can pick up a handful and squeeze it to produce the coconut milk!
But, since that cane take awhile, they have another piece of machinery that takes the shredded fresh coconut and squeezes every last bit of milkout, leaving completely dry coconut behind (not good for cooking…but good as chicken feed, etc). The kids were so fascinated!
Sammy told us that fresh coconut milk only lasts about 1 day. If you need it for longer you can boil it to kill off any impurities, and then store it…but that will only buy you perhaps 3 more days or so.
He let us loose in the fresh market for a little while, so we could wander around and buy some morning snacks (we had left home very early in the morning to take songteows to meet our friends).
We found some yummy “Thai pancakes,” which are made from coconut milk, chives, and corn, I believe. A bit wiggly jiggly…but yummy, for sure!
Who likes spicy?! And you thought Mexican food was hot?! Haha! Even with my high tolerance for heat, I now ask for “no spice” when ordering Thai food!
Then Sammy drove us to his property, and showed us around. He started with his jungle toilet, of which he is very very proud! Hahaa!
He is also very well-praised by TripAdvisor reviewers for his hammocks. We’d be testing them later….
He grows a large portion of his own ingredients:
As we walked through his organic garden, he handed all of us all sorts of herbs to taste and smell. Do you realize how many types of BASIL there are?! Yum!
Have you ever wondered how peanuts grow? I have! And here is the answer:
And here’s what the rice looks like:
In Thailand they grow the rice, and at harvest time they chop it down and let it lay in the fields for a few days until it is dry. Then they collect it and put it through machinery that completes the process of preparing it for sale. If they experience a lot of rain during this drying period, they simply leave the rice in the fields longer, until the fields are finally dry again!
While the adults prepared for some seriously good cookin’, the kids tried out the hammocks!
At the market earlier, the adults had selected which dishes we wanted to cook from a big checklist Sammy had provided. We each picked 5 dishes, and since Jared was cooking, as well, he picked 5 different dishes than me—so we prepared 10 dishes in total.
WAIT—did you catch that?
My husband had agreed to COOK for the day!
Don’t get me wrong…He is an excellent cook.
If the menu is nachos.
But alas, I had pointed out to him that the other spouses would be attending, and he didn’t really want to be left out of all of the fun…did he?! He agreed!
Sammy’s wife and their staff prepared all of our necessary ingredients on little plates, making everything very efficient and well-organized.
We started by making fresh curry paste!
We grinded the lime peel, garlic, ginger, peppers, and even lemongrass into smithereens with our fancy little mortar and pestle.
Have you seen fresh pepper before?
Everyone was chopping away, and the kids were excited to help with the some of the easier parts. Knowing that I would make a fool of myself if I used their normal chopping knives, I smartly packed my ulu knife.
What is an ulu knife?
It’s an Alaskan-derived knife that is made with a mezzaluna-like curve, and cuts with a rocking motion. I fell in love with one 10 years ago, and I am now completely inefficient with normal chopping knives. The up and down motion is absolutely foreign to me! I thought I could live without my ulu knife while traveling, but I quickly realized how much I missed it and had one shipped to me in Germany! This knife is technically not an “ulu” knife, but an “herb” knife. It’s heavy-duty, and it does the job very similarly!
Okay…back to getting proof that my husband can CHOP! WOW!
Even Ethan has good potential for being a good cook, someday!
Our curry paste took a good 10-15 minutes of mashing/grinding…quite a workout!
When our other veggies were chopped and ready to go, we moved to the stovetop area.
Dish by dish, Sammy’s wife told us what to add, and when!
Here are the ingredients for pad thai, which our friend made! Sadly, Jared is not a fan of pad thai…boo hoo for me!
Those Worldschool Adventure peeps are a funny crew!
The kids busied themselves by trekking throughout the paths in the garden, swinging on the hammocks, and doing other creative crafts at a nearby table. They were having a blast, and we had very few interruptions (and the interruptions were limited to offers to help cook)!
After each of us had cooked our various 3 dishes, we all sat down for a giant Thanksgiving feast. WOW…the flavors were EXCEPTIONAL! Everyone was kind enough to share every dish, so we had bellies bulging with goodness!
We also had our first lesson in sticky rice. Sticky rice is steam-cooked in a mesh bag, preferably in a bamboo basket (umm…is that what you’d call that? Check out this specially-designed pot with a fitting bamboo basket on top!):
After it is cooked, it is served on the table in little closed bamboo boxes that keep the warmth in. You eat sticky rice with your fingers, and as the name suggests, it is sticky enough to press into little balls, and dip or spoon them into your curry! It was a hit with adults and children, alike!
After filling ourselves to the absolute limit, we took a relaxation break in the hammocks, chatting away the time and digesting
After what was a perfectly pleasant, long amount of relaxing, we were back in the kitchen to prepare our appetizers and desserts.
Jared was the only person who had selected the Chicken in Pandanus Leaves dish. He opted to have everyone help him make them, which everyone eagerly did (including Ella)!
With a a lot of cutting and folding of leaves…we had cute little triangle-shaped packets ready for steaming!
I opted to make spring rolls. Easy as pie (Sammy did the deep-frying…so I didn’t have to deal with that)!
The other crew made Papaya Salad, which I thought sounded awful…considering I don’t like Papaya. What I didn’t realize, however, is that Papaya salad is made with GREEN papaya, and it is made into a spicy/limey fresh salad that would be a perfect fit in Mexico (in fact, jicama would be a great replacement for the green papaya…since it has a similar texture and bland flavor that soaks up lime well)! Too bad most Papaya Salad has a pinch of dried shrimp in it–that part grosses me out (and my hubby is allergic)!
Sabina displaying her perfect Pad Thai (she’d been testing all around town):
A King’s Life…living it up!
Ella made Mango with Sticky Rice, and did a darn good job at it, too!
Look at this girl’s presentation! Anyone who knows me well, knows that presentation is not my strong point…
So, we made room for more appetizers and desserts, and couldn’t stop raving about the wonderful food and company! We got a group photo at the end…with our waists 2” wider!
Fortunately, Sammy gave us a wonderfully-printed Thai Cookbook sharing the recipes for each dish that we prepared. It is well-done, and so easy to follow that I have already made several of the dishes at home with great results! I was surprised to learn that Thai food is actually quite easy to prepare and cook, but the big issue is having the right ingredients!
If you want to do some Thai cooking, DON’T MISS SAMMY’S SCHOOL!
Don’t believe ME? His Trip Advisor reviews don’t lie!