One of my favorite parts of exploring the world is getting to eat the food. I’m never really vocal about this so as much as when I visit a place and spend years complaining about the fact that I didn’t have local food. Did I rave about the pad thai in Bangkok enough for you? Lately, when people visit different countries (Brazil, Italy, anywhere in Africa, etc.) they mention wanting to take a cooking class. As if they’re really going to go back home to Atlanta or Los Angeles to make that perfect, al dente frutti di mare. Maybe they will. I decided to hop on the cooking class train in Chiang Mai and put my below average cooking skills to the test. I opted for Pantawan Cooking School over all of the others.
I chose Pantawan because they advertised themselves as “the finest cooking school in Chiang Mai.” Naturally I wanted to challenge that. Okay not really. But I did want to go with the best, so I promptly scheduled a class. What stood out to me were the pictures of the actual school (they don’t do that majestic place justice) and the fact that they have a different menu every day. While that may only matter if you plan to visit them several times, I still thought it was pretty cool. It also makes the chef’s job more enjoyable. Who really wants to cook literally the same thing on a daily basis? Hell, I don’t even like to cook once, let alone everyday.
Prior to heading over to the school I was picked up to head to a market where the word fresh doesn’t even begin to describe it. Things were being picked off freshly cut branches to be prepped for sale. Cuts of meet were being freshly hung and anything deep fried or grilled was being deep fried and/or grilled…freshly. It was a super cool experience and one of the places in Thailand where I can vividly remember the stares. Our chef for the day, Yam (she’ll also go by Jam) had to relay the compliment one vendor gave. I think she didn’t want me to be offended by her staring. Not a day went by that I wasn’t told how pretty my hair was or how beautiful I was. I say this to say…jeez Thai people are SO sweet and kind. They may have the Italians beat. But I digress.
On my day of class we cooked what are advertised as healthy choices. Looking at this menu again I’m wishing I would’ve visited on an unhealthy day. Deep fried spiced pork wontons on Fridays? Spicy grilled beef (or pork) salad on Sunday’s? *Schedules next trip to Chiang Mai to take a class at Pantawan every day of the week.* On the menu for the Wednesday I attended were fresh spring rolls, steamed ruby fish in pickled plum sauce, spicy prawn and lemon grass soup with mushrooms, and fried rice with pork. Being an uber American, I’ll go ahead and mention that my favorite dishes were the pork fried rice (Chef Mo with the pots) and the lemon grass soup, although I hate milk. So having to pour the coconut milk into the soup hurt my soul a wee bit. I noshed on everything but as usual, when your the cook, you slowly lose your appetite while in the kitchen. It was a crazy amount of food and I choose my battles wisely.
We roamed the market for a bit while Yam showed us some popular ingredients used in Thai cooking, many of which we’d use that very afternoon. We also got to taste a lot of foods, fresh pork rinds (I forgot what they’re called there) and the sausage you’ll see amongst street vendors being a couple. Next stop, the
jungle paradise cooking school! You can’t tell me we didn’t prepare every single ingredient from scratch. I’m surprised we didn’t grow the leaves and fish and pork too. Press play below to check out all that went down.