Friday, January 7, 2011

Woking it out part deux, Chiang Mai style

Attention readers: This entry has been statistically proven to cause the reader serious hunger pains. If you are looking at this post and don't have a delicious meal in your immediate future, may I suggest that you spare yourself the pain and stop reading now. Thank you, this has been a recording.

Just kidding! Don't you want to read about our Chiang Mai cooking class??

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Sigh, Thai food. Extremely delicious and deceptively complex. So many layers. So much to learn.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Will and I have made plenty of yummy meals with his wok back home, but our focus has always been on Chinese cooking. In fact, my knowledge of Thai, Malay and Singaporean cuisine before this trip was largely limited to whatever I picked up from compulsively re-watching episodes of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations."

Once we got to Thailand, I knew that I wanted to take the most in-depth cooking course that we could find. Will, never one to come between me and my desire to learn new, delicious things to cook, promptly agreed and so we set off to Vannee & Meo's "Classic Home Cooking" course outside of the city.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Will is shown here getting together his mise en place for curry paste— the base of a "simple" yellow curry. Chopping up small pieces of Thai garlic (which I was shocked to learn one does not peel the skin from) is the final step before crushing all of the base ingredients in the stone mortar provided.

I've typed up the recipes and a few tips for cooking our favorite Chiang Mai dishes. Please note that any ingredients I'm calling "optional" is based on my own judgment. Although following the recipe exactly will obviously yield a more traditional result, I think that even that if you leave out some of the ingredients which are more expensive/harder to find, the final dish will still taste phenomenally delicious.

*All recipes courtesy of Vannee & Meo*

For the yellow curry base (Nam Prik Gaeng Gari):

6 dried red chillies, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes and chopped
3 T chopped shallots
5 small cloves of garlic
1 T chopped "galangal" (what we know as ginger)
1 T chopped lemon grass
10 pepper corns
1 T roasted dry coriander seeds (optional) substitute coriander powder
1 T roasted cumin seeds (optional) substitute cumin powder
1 T shrimp paste (optional)
1-2 T Indian yellow curry powder


Crush ingredients with mortar & pestle until paste is formed. (Alternatively, I think you could probably get away with grinding the ingredients up in a small food processor if you add a bit of vegetable oil).

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

On the right you can see Will's yellow curry cooking away— made yellow by Indian curry powder. Mine is on the left, a traditional red Thai chicken curry (Gaeng Phed Gai). If you want to make a red curry instead of the yellow one, omit the curry powder and use chopped (raw) eggplant in lieu of the cooked potatoes.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

To make Thai Indian Chicken Curry (Gaeng Gari Gai) you need:

Chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces (or substitute tofu or vegetables for a vegetarian version)
Cooked potato, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 T yellow curry paste (explained above)
1 T fish sauce
1 1/2 t sugar
1/2 t salt


1. Put 1/4 cup of coconut milk in a wok, boil over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly
2. Add the curry paste, stir well and simmer for 10 mins
3. Add fish sauce, sugar, salt and remaining coconut milk and simmer for 10 more minutes
4. Add potatoes and chicken, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to continue cooking. Curry is ready when chicken is cooked through. 

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Compared to our Chinese cooking class in Yang Shuo, this course was much more informative— plus the class was held outdoors, which made preparing the food especially enjoyable.  

Since the three of us were each given the opportunity to cook 6 dishes of our choice (the instructor handed out an extensive list of possibilities before we went to the market to shop for ingredients), we learned 18 different preparations in one day!

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Here are some of the ingredients for everyone's favorite Thai Fried Noodles, more commonly known as Pad Thai. As we've learned, authentic Pad Thai is not as sweet and has less sauce than the dish that bears its name in the States. The traditional version is also vegetarian.

Want to make authentic Pad Thai? Here's how.

Ingredients for Pad Thai:

Rice noodles
3 eggs
Tofu, cut into small pieces
1 T ground chili (red pepper flakes would work here)
Bean sprouts
Chopped pickled white radish (optional)
3 T tamarind sauce (tamarind juice with palm sugar and salt), optional. (I would substitute a mixture of light soy sauce and sugar here if you can't find tamarind juice).
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
Chopped garlic
Chopped chives
Lemon or lime for squeezing over final dish


1. Heat oil in walk and add garlic. Add tofu and picked radish. Spread the beaten eggs in a thin layer over the contents of the wok. When the eggs begin to set, mix well with the tofu and picked radish.
2. Add rice noodles and use high heat. Put tamarind sauce (or soy mixture) into the wok and stir well Add chili or red pepper flakes along with half of the bean sprouts, chives, ground peanuts and stir fry.
3. Remove to plate and sprinkle with ground peanuts. Serve topped with the rest of the bean sprouts, chives and lemon or lime for squeezing.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

This photo was taken by our instructor after we made our first "round" of food. The girl across from us is Kristen, a fellow American who was also staying at our hostel.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Here's everything Will made in round 1!

From left to right, Thai Indian Chicken Curry (Gaeng Gari Gai), Stir-fried Chicken with ginger (Gai Pad Khing) and Pad Thai.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Here are my first dishes!

From left to right, Stir-fried Kale with Pork in Oyster Sauce (Phad Kha-na Nam Man Hoi), Noodles with Black Sweet Soy Sauce (Guay Tiew Pad Si-ew) and Chicken in Red Curry with Bamboo Shoots and Coconut Milk (Kaeng Phet Kai Sai NoMai).

Pad Si-ew is my favorite dish to order at Thai restaurants in New York, and this version blew them all away. Want to know how to make it yourself? Here's what you need for 1 serving:

150 g Flat rice noodles
100 g kale (or similar green), cut and sliced lengthwise in 2-inch segments
50 g pork, chopped and marinated with sugar (or substitute tofu and add a little extra sugar to the sauce at the end)
1 beaten egg
Few small cloves of garlic
1 T black soy sauce (dark)
1 T oyster sauce
1 T white pepper
1 T sugar


1. Place cooking oil in wok and heat until smoking hot
2. Place in noodles, cook and flip for about 5 minutes. You want to sear the noodles so that they are just shy of burnt.
3. Put the kale in a small pot of boiling water and par-boil until just soft. Remove from the water and put aside. 
4. Remove the noodles to a plate and place some more cooking oil in the wok, reducing to medium heat. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Then add the diced pork and beaten egg and stir well. The pork and egg will cook very quickly, so move the contents of the wok around a lot to distribute well.
5. Put noodles back in the wok, turn up the heat to high and add the kale, soy sauce, oyster sauce, pepper and sugar.
6. Stir vigorously until evenly distributed, remove from the wok and serve to hungry humans who will love you forever.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

After round 1, it was time to get back behind the wok.

Of course, we were no longer hungry, but we found room to keep eating... somehow.

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

Will made Thai Fried Rice (Khao Pad) and two dishes that I somehow forgot to take pictures of: Thai Beef Salad (Yam Nua) and Egg Soup (Tom Yued Khai Nam).

"Classic home cooking" in Chiang Mai, day 61

My final dishes were Mango sticky rice (Khao Niew Mamuang), Spicy Papaya Salad (Somtam Malagor) and Spicy Prawn Soup (Tom Yam Gung).

I'd put down more recipes but I'm exhausted and it's after midnight here in Malaysia. (We're behind on blog entries, but we'll update you all on our time in Penang soon!) Please don't hesitate to contact me if you want any of the other recipes, either by leaving a comment or via e-mail at



  1. Pad Si Ew is my favorite Thai dish too! Thanks for the recipe, I will definitely have to try it!

  2. Granmere says that she is so intimidated that she will never want to cook for you two again. Thankfully we watched this after dinner!How about a cooking school by you two at Sunset Beach?

  3. Iron Chef Taproot will never be the same.


All text and photos © 2011