What do an organic farm, delicious and spicy Thai food, and 8 fun new friends have in common?
You can find all three while taking a full-day cooking class at Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai!
As much as I loved every moment of my trip to Thailand, signing up for a cooking class at Thai Farm Cooking School was easily one of the highlights of my trip. After all, when I visited Thailand I had three key things I was hoping to find: a unique culture, beautiful temples, and LOTS of food.
Thailand completely over-delivered in all three of these areas, especially in the food category, and my cooking class in Chiang Mai totally deserves credit for some of that success.
Thai Farm Cooking School Key Information
- Classes typically last between 8:30am and 4:30pm
- Located on a gorgeous organic farm outside of Chiang Mai
- Cost: 1300 THB (around 38 USD)
- Each course allows you to prepare 6 items: a curry paste, a curry dish, a soup, a stir fry, choice of spring rolls or Pad Thai, and a dessert. You are given 2-3 choices per item.
- Includes hotel pick-up and drop-off
The day officially begins when the cooking school picks you up directly from your hotel or guesthouse sometime around 8:30am, via songthaew. Derek and I were the first to be picked up, and were excited/nervous to see who else would be joining us for our full-day adventure.
We ended up picking up a total of 8 others on our way to the farm: a pair of 20-something girls from Scotland, a young couple from California, a young couple from England, an older gentleman from Switzerland, and a middle-aged woman from California.
Due to our close quarters in the songthaew, our group was quick to bond and I was super relieved to find that not only did we end up with a good class, we ended up with a great class. Everyone was extremely cool, and I loved having such a diverse group of travelers to spend the day with.
Our first stop before arriving at the farm was a local market, where our guide (who was incredibly hilarious and spoke near-flawless English) showed us around and introduced us to some of the ingredients we’d be cooking with: various types of rice, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and more.
When we finally did arrive to the farm, the very first thing I noticed was that it was stunning. It was so tropical and green, with dirt paths and simple wooden buildings where the classes were held.
As an added bonus, the weather had cooperated beautifully that day, with a cool breeze, a warm sun and relatively low humidity. Check, check and check.
We began our visit to the farm with a tour, as our guide pulled various plants, herbs, vegetables and roots from the earth and explained how we’d be using them. We sampled small pieces of ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime, chives, bitter eggplant and more, and saw plots of land where fruits and herbs grew.
I was so excited to be cooking with such fresh and local ingredients–especially since this was my first ever cooking course. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous; I enjoy cooking at home, but I was a teensy bit worried that my skills wouldn’t be quite up to par.
Thankfully, this only ended up being true during one very specific part of the course: pounding the ingredients for curry paste with a mortar and pestle, until it gained the right consistency.
Like most beings in the 21st century, I had never used a mortar and pestle before, and as I watched our instructor demonstrate the process, I knew that I was going to be up for a challenge. And it was true: pounding curry paste was hard work, and a killer arm workout. Selfishly, I was very relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one having a hard time.
As we all stood there sweating, complaining, and pounding away at our chunky curry paste, our instructor attempted to lighten the mood by comparing the up-and-down motion of using the pestle to the motion of…um…doing something a bit more suggestive.
“If a Thai woman can make good curry paste very fast, that is how you know she will make good Thai wife–for more reasons than one,” she said with a wink.
I took a moment to evaluate my poorly-pounded, clumpy curry paste–the result of many long minutes of hard work.
Well, this was embarrassing.
Also, because I care about my readers, I will provide you with this special insider tip: do not make eye contact with anyone during this portion of the cooking class. I repeat, no eye contact.
Fortunately, that unexpectedly awkward portion of the class soon became a distant memory when we all brought our finished products into the actual classroom and prepared for the real fun: finally, it was time to cook some Thai food!
I prepared tom yam soup with shrimp, yellow curry with chicken, and chicken with cashew nuts, all served with plenty of rice and papaya salad. So yes, I essentially ate three full meals worth of food all within the span of an hour or two. Go ahead and judge–I sure wasn’t going to waste it!
The best part was that to my complete and utter shock, my dishes turned out damn good. I mean like really, really, mouth-wateringly delicious. It was way better than I ever could have hoped for! Sure, I had
a bit a whole lot of help, but I was still pretty proud of myself for not completely destroying any of my dishes. Who knew I was such a chef at heart?
After our big meal, we had about an hour long break to relax, nap, or explore the farm (hint: you’re going to need the nap!)
When we re-grouped for the final part of our meal, we were tasked with making either Pad Thai or spring rolls, plus a dessert. We were making the dessert last, so our instructor recommended that we make our Pad Thai or spring rolls and box it up immediately to take home and eat later, so that we’d have room to eat our desserts on the farm.
I opted for the spring rolls, which was actually a slightly terrifying experience since you had to use the fryer, and there was a very specific and short amount of time that you had to leave the rolls in the fryer before they’d burn. Luckily, our instructor was right there to yell “TAKE THEM OUT, TAKE THEM OUT, HURRY!!!” if you slacked off a bit…what a relief, right?!
Even with boxing up my spring rolls to eat later, I barely made it through my dessert because I was so utterly stuffed (I actually made bananas in coconut milk…the mango sticky rice pictured above is Derek’s, isn’t he an artist?!)
When it came time to leave the farm around 4pm, I was perhaps the most relaxed and lethargic I’ve ever been in my life, thanks to the combination of a full belly and the Thai afternoon heat. As we made our way back to town in the songthaew, I could barely keep my eyes open to enjoy the lush rural landscapes we were leaving behind.
It’s safe to say that we did not need any additional meals when we arrived back in town that day, and instead spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening lazing around and sipping cold Chang in outdoor cafes. And the best part? This entire day cost us less than 40 USD.
Yep, Thailand may officially be the greatest place on earth.
Have you ever taken a cooking class? If so, where, and what did you think of it?