During a recent visit to Chiang Mai, one of the activities I most wanted to undertake was a cookery course.
Chiang Mai is chock-full of cookery schools, each offering to teach you how to cook a variety of typical Thai dishes.
After checking out Trip Advisor and rummaging round a few websites, we opted for Classic Home Cooking. The price was good (around £15 a head), the reviews excellent, it included a market trip and it also allowed you to select your own dishes from a series of categories.
We were picked up from our guest house by the owner Vannee and her husband. After stopping to pick up 3 more students, we parked up by a large food market. We reviewed the list of possible dishes (which was slightly different to that on the website) and each picked one paste, one curry, one stir-fry, one noodle dish, one soup, one salad and one miscellaneous (appetiser/dessert).
I opted for yellow curry paste (nam prik gaeng gari), yellow curry (gaeng gari gai), crispy pork with kale (khana moo grob), Northern chicken egg noodle soup (khao soy kai), galangal chicken and coconut soup (tom kha gai), spicy glass noodle salad (yam wun sen) and Thai herbal chicken (gai sammunprai).
Vannee then took us round the market to pick up a few fresh ingredients (she had the majority of staples already).
We saw some coconut being freshly grated and then pressed for coconut milk, strolled around the raw meat section and cruised the vegetable aisles, with Vannee purchasing items along the way.
She answered all our questions and told us interesting tit-bits about other items we passed.
We then hopped back into the truck for a short drive north of the city.
The school itself is a large, open-air, covered area, adjacent to a house.
There was enough room for 10 students, so the 5 of us had ample space.
We started off making our curry pastes, which after assembling ingredients in our pestles, led to some heavy manual pounding to get the desired consistency.
We then went on to create our curries, noodle dishes, stir-fries and soups in a flurry of activity. Even though we were nearly all making different dishes, Vannee was there to instruct us, with her husband occasionally taking charge of a few of us when the dishes demanded different cooking steps.
One particularly exciting moment was when I added my pork and kale into a blisteringly hot wok. I had been forewarned to be very quick and careful, but the resultant pillar of flame was startling none-the-less. The fact I am absent from the photo is because I had leapt well clear!
We broke for lunch and crammed as much of our creations into our mouths as we could fit, although Vannee was happy to bag items up for us to take away.
The course then resumed with our final dishes of salad and, for me, Thai herbal chicken, which was marinated in lemongrass and fried.
My boyfriend made an entirely different set of dishes, including a classic Thai beef salad (yam nua) and steamed banana cake (khanom kluay). The latter was wrapped in banana leaves before steaming, and he got the hang of the intricate parcels straightaway, whereas my one attempt was sadly lacking.
We snacked on our last dishes before calling it quits and requesting the remainder to take away. A cook book full of all the recipes that can be learned at the school was given to us on departure, and we were dropped back at our guest house feeling full but very content.