Learning about Thai Cooking
Delicious Reason to Take a Break
Chiangmai has all types of adventures for visitors. The great outdoors of northern Thailand has unlimited opportunities; indoors, visitors can find adventure too when participating in cooking classes. These classes are very popular and in great demand by food experts and c ooking enthusiasts throughout the world. They visit from every continent in the world in search of knowledge and understanding the intricacies of Thai food.
Nearly every week the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) brings in groups of food experts in the international media for a seven-day journey throughout Thailand. Recently a group of genial and amiable food editors based in the UK spent two days in Chiangmai. They were in the capable hands of a skillful chef who led the group through the Warowot Municipal Market on a busy Saturday morning. The group caused quite a commotion as it is unusual to see such a large group of foreigners studying, handling and speaking about the diverse culinary provisions on display as this particular group was doing. There the food experts viewed culinary delicacies in all states from fresh, sun-dried to prepared. The entire gamut on display in the market seafood, vegetables, condiments, fruit, seasonal gourmet items such as larva, live frogs and insects were questioned and sometimes sampled by this jocular, inquisitive group of cooking enthusiasts.
Just in case you are wondering, the large, white larva were going for Baht 400 per kilogram that day in July. The vendor assured us the larva have that creamy taste of cheese. Now there's a lady who knows hot to appear to foreigners. One gourmand in the group had eaten a handful of larvae and insects the day before. Upon seeing the selection again, his face turned the same shade as the jumping frogs in the adjacent bucket. When I heard the larva was an important ingredient in my favorite "Nam Prig Noom", I thought I might swear off that delicacy forever.
After purchasing traditional items for the cooking lesson, the group returned to the kitchen to prepare the dishes. Most recipes were taken from a Thai cook book dating back 60 years. Initially the Thai cook book was purchased more as a novelty conversation piece. Little did the owner ever imagine that he would be the owner of a cooking school in charming Chiangmai.
The preparations remain true to the original method described in the book. For example, the eggplants for the "Yum Makeua" eggplant salad are first roasted over an open fire for easy removal of the peel as well as to impart fragrance to the interior vegetable. Today, to save time, the eggplant is peeled, sliced and then cooked. The western experts were surprised to note that ground pork and shrimp were combined for this dish. A mixture of this type is simply not done in western cooking.
Other dishes prepared for the experts are :"Lanna Silapin" or an assortment of tasty Chiangmai sausages, chicken curry served in a freshly cut bamboo shaft, "Gaeng Phet Yang" roasted duck curry, Grilled mackerel fish and Beef with Mae Khong flambe.
How does one measure the traditional food culture of Thailand? The warmth of a Thai meal is not measured in the amount of "prig kee noo" fiery chilly peppers but in the genuine, caring feeling of Thai hospitality. As typical of a Thai meal, the repast ended with delicate bite size pieces of Thai dessert and fresh fruit along with a glimpse of the enduring Thai lifestyle.
The group unanimously agreed that the food prepared and presented in Chiangmai was the finest they had during their galloping gourmet exploration across the Kingdom of Thailand.
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