Whoever has tasted (good) Thai food would understand why we were looking forward to learn how to reproduce it, in a good way! There are more than 70 cooking classes in Chiang Mai so it is easy to get lost but luckily Berit had met an enthusiastic fellow traveler in Laos who highly recommended us to try Benny’s Home Cooking Class. Oh thank you for this advice, we really enjoyed our day there! Passing on the knowledge, we ourselves would recommend it to anyone!
Who is Benny?
Benny is very lovely, happy and enthusiastic Thai woman who worked for many years as a cooking teacher before she decided to open her own business. The classes take place in her house, about half an hour outside Chiang Mai. She is helped by her partner and her mother, aka the Kitchen Fairies.
Most of the ingredients come from her own garden (70% as she would say), other are bought in the local market. The meat is coming from a supermarket in order to make sure it is compatible with foreigners’ stomach. Benny also provided us with a list of ingredients from our countries that we could use instead of the local Thai products. At the cooking class, you can choose 5 dishes that you would like to cook, from a total list of 15 dishes. Not only that you get to prepare your chosen dishes, but you also follow the preparation of the other dishes and … taste them!
The class itself is very chill: they prepare the ingredients for you, Benny demonstrates a recipe, you do it and you eat what you just made! There is a break at midday for us to relax and digest before the last dishes.
Here is how the day went for us:
Visit of the market
After the tuk-tuk pick-up, we headed to a local market that is surprisingly clean and pleasant. It is definitely worth a visit since it is not touristy (yet) and it has a great local atmosphere.
There we got to taste one of Chiang Mai specialty: Sai Ua. Similar to the one from Luang Prabang, it is a sausage filled with spices and herbs like lemongrass. The market stand we went to was apparently known to be one of the best in town, producing (and selling) about 200kg of sausages a day!!!
Afterwards we went to the coconut milk section, where a lady had a very professional machine to extract the cream and milk from the coconut! We received explanation on how coconut is processed.
We continued by the meat section where we were shown beautiful (sarcasm here) livers; and to the fish stand with plenty of squids, shells, frogs and turtles… We finished the tour by the vegetables and herbs section where a bunch of greens which look the same, happened to contain about 5 different plants… same, same but different!
We had another few minutes to explore the market so Silviu took this opportunity to get a fruit shake (look at their menu in the pictures!) while I went to get a real cappuccino.
Arriving at Benny’s house is like being welcomed in a little heaven! In a quiet neighborhood, this simple but nice house is very clean and welcoming. The best part is actually it’s garden: so many plants are growing there! And then you have the open cooking class area where our work station is waiting for us all prepared and neat. And in the back: the chillout area! A space full of inviting chairs and mattresses that open on a beautiful rice field! This is really a great place to spend a day!
Benny has prepared everything: we are offered a refreshing welcoming drink made of Butterfly Pea Flowers. The drink is blue but when you add some lime in it it turns purple. Funny! Of course fresh water is also made available all day long as well as a delicious home-made tea (Butterfly Pea Flower + Lemongrass + Pandanus leave)… all from the garden!
Appetizers: Fresh Spring Rolls and Soup!
Silviu and I were both eager to make and eat fresh springrolls. It was so yummy! It is much easier to make it once you get the right technique… And we included some flowers for the final touch! As Benny would say, to make it more expensive. We also made some peanut satay sauce and got to try the home-made plum-pineapple sauce!
Luckily, some other people had chosen to make some chicken satay so we got to try some too!
Once that part done we started cooking our soups: Tom Kha Gai (coconut soup with chicken) for Silviu and Tom Yum Gung (spicy soup with shrimps) for me! Both turned out delicious! No need to say we were very proud!
Once the appetizers ready it was time for degustation. The good part with being in a friendly group is that you can taste everybody’s masterpiece. And it was very funny to see that with exactly the same ingredients but just some variation in the dosage, the taste could change a lot! This is another good thing with this class: Benny gives you the base and then you can adjust to your taste!
Time for noodles!
If you know Thai food, you know the Pad Thai. The most classic and famous street food! So among the choices we had we could not resist the temptation of learning to make our own! If you have a wok and the ingredients (the most complicated part I believe) the recipe is actually super easy! We are looking forward to try it again at home! When we will have a home… 😀
The next dish was the curry! Out of the list I choose to make a Vegetarian Khao Soi as this dish is Chiang Mai specialty, while Silviu opted for a Panang Curry that offers a nutty taste. We actually started the class by making our own curry paste and it was now time to use it!
The best tip we had here: mix the oil with some coconut milk so that it doesn’t jump everywhere and burn yourself. It works!
Again the hardest part to re-create these recipes at home will be to find the right ingredients!
Always space for dessert!
For dessert I opted for the classic but delicious sticky rice with mango, while Silviu chose the banana steam cake. To be honest Silviu’s dessert was the best out of all, so tasteful! And I don’t say that only because I hope he will make it again (and again) for me at home! 😉
All in all we had a great day. The balance between cooking, eating and chilling was great, and we left Benny’s home happy and full… Oh yeah we still had dinner after, our stomach has no end! 😀