Photo of the day: The cooking station @ Zabb E Lee Thai Cooking School.
We decided today will be a chill day for us. We just had breakfast at home and Aaron went out to a coffee shop to get some work done, while I stayed in bed. I was tired of being sick for so much of this trip and I was motivated to get better.
Since my morning was pretty boring and since we are almost at the half-way point of this trip, let’s do a supply check. There are some things that I probably could use more of, that I did not know when packing for this trip:
- Toothpaste – We actually go through toothpaste faster than I expected. We brought quite a few travel-sized tubes of these but we will soon be running out and will have to replenish. It’s not a big deal to buy and I wouldn’t have brought more. P.S. the tiny little tubes hotels provide do not lather up well so we didn’t use them.
- PJ’s – I realize that one set is probably not enough, since if it’s in the wash, then I would have to borrow a t-shirt and shorts from Aaron. I think my mistake was not realizing that most places do not have dryers here. I will probably need to go on a shopping trip at some point.
- Tissue – I’ve been buying these like crazy it probably because I’ve had a cold and Aaron has allergies sometimes. Easily purchased and no need to pack a lot but definitely someone thing you can buy in few packages of at a time and just to have handy (especially for those washroom trips without toilet paper).
There are also things that we probably did not need to pack so much of:
- Insect repellent – Because of my fear for mosquito-borne diseases, we packed 180mL of picaridin spray, as well as another 50mL of heavy duty DEET lotion. We (well I, since Aaron’s native Malaysian self does not get bites) have been using the spray and still have at least 70mL left and have not touched the DEET lotion at all. Staying in mostly cities, I haven’t had too many bites, compared to my previous trips to warm countries. There are too many variables though. Is it because of the cooler time of year? Or the picaridin I used instead of the DEET? Or because of the cities we chose to go to? More rigorous studies will need to be conducted to get to the bottom of this.
- Cotton swabs – I personally have no use for cotton swabs but just so you know, if you do, they are provided at every hotel/Airbnb I’ve been too.
- Cotton pads – These are kind of bulky and they can be purchased anywhere. I would probably bring less next time and just reload along the way.
Of course, napping is not my forte, so I ended up catching up on YouTube. I rewatched Galvin and Katie’s Chiang Mai episode and found out there was a really good beef noodle place close to us (Rod Yiam). Perfect! That’s where we’ll go for lunch! We ended up having a late lunch so it wasn’t too busy. I was very confused by the menu because I only saw pork options. I decided to just write down streaky beef and tendon anyway as recommended by Galvin and Katie. I also ordered a large size as suggested. To my surprise, Aaron decided to get the fried chicken curry! Apparently Foursquare says it’s really good here. It reminded me of really good Japanese Chicken Katsu Don. The beef noodle definitely did not disappoint! The beef was flavourful and the perfect texture. The broth was amazing, even more so than the one we had yesterday near Wat Suan Dok. And the noodles just brought everything together.
After lunch, we just went back to the condo to hang out at the rooftop patio before our ride arrived for our cooking class with Zabb E Lee Cooking School. Our instructor came perfectly on time to pick us up in his truck – Song Thaew style. Song thaews are the red bus/taxis that are ubiquitous in Chiang Mai. They are basically a pick up truck with 2 rows of covered seats in the back. So we hopped onto the back and picked up quite a few more participants before arriving at the market. At the market, our instructor, Art, showed us the different ingredients used in our recipes tonight. It was nice to be able to feel, smell and guess what these ingredients are, most of which I have never seen before. The nice part about this cooking class is that we can choose our own menu. We each got to choose one appetizer, stir-fry, curry paste and curry and we all got to end with the mango sticky rice. After taking count of who is making what, Art went to gather the ingredients, while we were given some free time to buy souvenirs (including curry packets and Pad Thai sets). We also got an avocado mango smoothie here. It was good but nothing will ever compare to Five Boy in HCMC.
Next, we were driven to the cooking school. The set up here was very cute! There was a cutting area, a cooking area with gas stoves, as well as a dining area. There was a fridge full of soft drinks and beer with payment at the end (honour system). After some initial settling down and after enjoying some herbal, likely hibiscus tea, we got to work. The first dishes we prepared was the stir-fry and soup. We were given instructions on which ingredients were required and taught how to cut/prepare these ingredients. Then, we moved as group over to the cooking station and cooked our stir-fry and soup. We were given the option to make it mild/spicy/Thai spicy, as we please. It was then time to enjoy the fruits of our labour! I chose to make the chicken with cashew nuts and the Tom Yum Goong, while Aaron made the Pad Thai and Tom Kha Kai. I usually never think to order the chicken and cashew nuts dish but it was so delicious! It was the perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy. The Pad Thai was good and the soups were nice and creamy as well.
Next, we split up into groups to make the various curry pastes. I didn’t realize the work involved in making curry pastes. It was definitely a work out, mixing and grinding all the ingredients using the mortar and pestle. Once Art approves of our paste, we moved on to make our appetizers. I chose the spring rolls and it was interesting to see the different ingredients used to make it compared to the ones we made in Vietnam, including the wrapper. We also cooked the filling first, before wrapping it, so it only took a few seconds in the oil to fry the spring rolls. Then we cooked our curry, again to the level of spiciness we preferred, which is determined by the amount of curry paste to add to it. I found my curry a bit salty, so Art just added a bit of palm sugar and it completely masked the saltiness! It was amazing! Again, we sat down to enjoy the rest of our meal. We also made some mango sticky rice as a group. I now know why the mango sticky rice is so yummy. It’s cooked with coconut milk and Pandan leaves! I really enjoyed the green curry, but not so much the spring rolls. I prefer the Vietnamese ones a lot more. Aaron made the Khao Soi and papaya salad. One of the main reasons we chose this cooking school was because they taught how to make Khao Soi, our favourite Thai dish, unfortunately, it did not taste nearly as good as the ones we’ve had. We believe the problems were too much fish sauce, not enough sugar and the noodles were not as good. Once again, we really enjoyed our cooking class. As much as it is nice to have a private class, I liked the interaction with other tourists. It was nice to meet different people and hear about their traveling stories. Let me know if you’ve done any cooking classes in Thailand and how it compares!