As we ground the ingredients pictured above with a mortar and pestle. Our instructor stated that you can tell a lot about how someone makes love by how they make curry paste. She said that people who pound the mortar and pestle together harder are better in bed and as she said this everyone increased their pace as a smile slowly spread across their face. Back from my adventure in Pai, this cooking class in Chiang Mai was a great way to recenter myself in my body after an amazing trip. Even better I was doing it with my friend Rika whom I had originally met in Bangkok. She was like the mother of our travel group and it felt right to be spending my last days in the north with her. I would have never gotten to experience the magic of Loi Krathong if it wasn't for the initial seed that she planted and the community she brought along the way.
The morning started with a trip to the local market. The city that unfolded before me from the back of our tuk tuk was a familiar one. There's so much beauty in familiarity. There's some irony in the fact that while traveling I'm most happy when I feel a familiarity in an unfamiliar place. The tuk tuk stopped to pick up a couple more people before we got to the market. Our guide lead us down concrete floors lined with tables filled with bright colors. She stopped in front of one covered with bright green herbs. She began to explain the three types of basil used in Thai cuisine: thai basil, holy basil, and lemon basil. We smelled each one and got a sense of the different notes they contained. She then showed us the difference between ginger, that we eat in America and galangal which is what they use in Thailand.
She sent us away to go explore on our own. As I wandered down the twisting aisles I thought back to the markets I would wander in DC when I was younger. The fruits and vegetables were different but you could still spot the penny pincher arguing with the vendors. The mother gathering her daily harvest to feed her kids. The stages were different but the roles were very similar.
There was a group of 6 of us gathered to learn how to make Thai cuisine. Rika and I, this gorgeous German couple and then two other individuals. The first dish we made was soup. I choose to make my favorite Tom Yum. It was surprising how easy it is to whip together. In fact throughout the day I was shocked by the fact that once you finished chopping everything the actual cooking time was very low.
Two different chefs took us through the seven course menu. We took breaks in between each dish to eat our creations. The photo above is the pad see ew my second favorite Thai dish after pad kra pao. Cooking is a really fun communal activity to do with friends and if you're solo its a great way to make new friends. Rika and I chatted with the other attendees about their travels and how they liked Chiang Mai. They gave us tips for some southern cities they had just visited and we raved about Pai.
My favorite part of the day was when we learned to make curry paste from scratch. We each got to choose the type we wanted and I went for the jungle curry one of the spiciest in Thailand. Everyone else had a couple chilli's in their paste but mines had triple that amount. I can no longer pay the $12-15 in the states for mediocre thai curries now that I have seen how easy it is to make from scratch. I preemptively asked for some coconut milk before I started eating to soothe my taste buds. It wasn't the hottest dish I'd ever eaten but it was for sure up there and in spite of all the heat you still got a sense for its deep and delicious flavor. I left with a full belly and a brain full of techniques I couldn't wait to try on my own.
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