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With a few weeks to tour the north of Thailand, taking a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai was right up there on our must do list. Thai food is scrumptious and to don an apron and wave an oversized chopping knife around in one hand, a wok in the other exclaiming “ooh la la” like a Michelin star chef was something we weren’t going to miss out on. So we booked ourselves a class and did we strike it lucky? Oh yeah! If you’re visiting Chiang Mai, it’d be a missed opportunity if you don’t book what has to be the best Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai.
Yui (Siripen Sriyabhaya) is Thailand’s international TV chef and has been teaching Thai cooking skills since 1999. She is so popular that even the likes of Gordon Ramsay have been taught by her. When you meet Yui you’ll be bowled over by her passion for food. Yes she has great expertise and knowledge but her passion for the food is what’s most contagious. She’s precious about the ingredients and talks you through the flavours you’re experiencing on your palette in such a way that she makes you feel like you have the ability to be the next host of MasterChef.
The class is run in Yui’s home and despite having 8 workstations for her students, there’s a distinct feeling of being in a family home. You certainly don’t feel that you’re on the premises of a business or even in a classroom; you’re quickly and effortlessly made welcome.
The Best Thai Cooking Class in Chiang Mai
After being picked up in an ultra-cool VW camper, we donned our aprons and watched the master go to work.
Yui demonstrates the cooking of a dish at her workstation. She’s so very engaging and funny as she explains each step of the process, peppering her lesson with a few personal stories too. Ask as many questions as you like, and watch how she simply but beautifully presents her dish. Then it’s in for a taste. As you sample her dish, Yui has a knack for describing the taste and the flavour journey each mouthful has on your palette. I know that sounds crazy but when it comes to sampling your own food, you can make the necessary adjustments to your ingredients to get the flavours just right. Rather than simply telling us what to do, Yui explains why and teaches the importance of not simply following a recipe but using your senses to cook to perfection!
Heading back to your own workstation with all the ingredients prepared and laid out for you, it’s your turn. I tell you, what great fun! There were lots of exclamations of “ooh la la” from us and it was totally appropriate! We did actually feel like we knew what we were doing! This is simply a reflection on Yui and her great ability to teach.
After you’re dish is cooked, of course it must be eaten. Joining the group at the family dining table, you tuck into your creation. Who would have thought that the best food we’d eat in Thailand would be cooked by ourselves? The food was scrumptious and it was massively satisfying that we’d been able to cook it.
There’s at least another 2 dishes to be cooked, 4 if you take the full day course. After 3 dishes, you’ll take a break to visit the local market. Here again, Yui’s enthusiasm for the food and her support of the local community is evident. She’ll show you ingredients you’ve probably not seen before (until you’d just cooked with them). Fresh produce begins to deteriorate with every prod and poke from the would-be customer and in a Thai food market, if you touch it, you buy it. So Yui has learnt over the years to assess freshness by sight. As an international chef, Yui is very knowledgeable about what ingredients may not be available in other parts of the world and she’ll let you know the best alternatives to use back home.
As a parting gift, you’ll receive one of Yui’s recipe books. It’s colourful, informative and everything is explained very simply. So much so that we’re using this book at least a couple of times a month and our (Thai) food still tastes great! Next time we’re in Chiang Mai, we’ll definitely be going back for seconds!
Top tip: Skip breakfast! Seriously, even if you have a big appetite, skip breakfast. You will be so full by the end of the day you’ll be skipping dinner too.
Contact Details: A Lot of Thai, 165 Soi 9 Chiang Mai – Lampoon Rd, T. Nonghoi Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
Cost: We paid 1200 Baht ¦ $34 ¦ £23 for the half day (3 dishes) course. You will want to upgrade to the full day half way through though. The full day cost is 1500 Baht.
If you have any dietary requirements, let Yui know about them at the time of booking and your needs will be accommodated.
To avoid disappointment, book in advance. We booked only a couple of days before but were really lucky it was during the low season and Yui had a couple of spaces free. I’d imagine in the high season, we’d not have been so fortunate.
Don’t worry if you’re a novice cook. Yui is fantastic and you’ll gain so much from the experience. We’ve been known to burn boiled eggs before now and we had a great time.
This is not a paid review, simply a reflection on a fantastic cooking class that you really shouldn’t miss.