Cooking up a storm

Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand is a great city. It bustles with good energy, delicious food and foreigners soaking up all the lessons they have the time for. Here you can spend your days doing just about any course or adventure your heart desires: reflexology, yoga, massage, Thai cooking, biking, trekking, cruising along the river, petting rescued elephants…the list is endless.

I spent a fair bit of time here when I travelled through Thailand two years ago, but I managed not to sign up for any courses. Instead I enjoyed the great number of book stores around the old city, all stocked with titles to make your bookworm mouth water. Never mind that many of the books are photocopied – you can still find great reads for affordable prices. I ended up shipping a box of books back to South Africa (some of which I am yet to read).

In that box were also gifts bought at the weekend night markets. On Saturday and Sundays nights the main street in the old city, as well as some alleyways and temple courtyards, morph into some of the best craft shopping you can do in the country. Hundreds of stalls line the streets, each one selling something different and beautiful with which to decorate your house or body. The street is jam-packed with locals and visitors, and at various points musicians – young, old, blind – entertain the crowds for tips. The best part of the markets must be the food. Come hungry because you will find all kinds of exotic and tasty dishes to try along your wander.

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Chiang Mai Sunday night market.

This time round I did a Thai cooking course. Phon, the owner of the school, started us off with a tour of a local food market where he named and described the local vegetables and spices we would be using in the dishes.

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After shopping for all the ingredients we drove to his school and garden outside the city proper. We each had our own cooking station, complete with pot, coconut spoon, spatula and the necessary wok. We could pick six dishes we wanted to make, but since a recipe book is part of the package we can try the others another time. Our teacher showed us his tricks but only a few students managed to flip their stir fry in their wok without spilling it all over the place. And rolling the perfect spring roll takes practise. But it was a fun day, filled with the smells of lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger and many spicy chillies.

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You can book me for dinner parties. Payment in hugs.

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