A Very Unique Lanna Experience!!!
Traveling to Chiang Mai, I wanted to do two main things: to do a cooking class and see the elephants. The stacks of flyers for both at the hostels were overwhelming, to say the least. I grew up cooking and I still cook a lot so I wanted something as authentic as possible.
I came across takemetour.com where they offer 1-day tours with a local for everything from cooking classes, tuk tuk tours to secret tours. They even offer a new Pokemon tour. They have a huge amount of budget friendly tours that will run you $15 USD or less. They offer tours from Phuket to Chiang Mai. In Chiang Mai, I chose “A Unique Lanna Experience” with a chef that has been teaching cooking class for more than 5 years.
I made arrangements to meet Panphailin at Chiang Mai Gate on the edge of the old city. The meeting point wasn’t that clear but we were able to find each other. The meeting spot was right next to a local hot spot for night time street food as well as Bumrung Buri Market. She walked me over to the market where she talked about how most of the vendors shut down in the afternoon after a very busy morning. We walked down an alleyway to find a lady selling fish. I had told Panphailin that I don’t eat meat, only fish. The vendor pulled up a catfish and sliced it up along with two snake fish. Panphailin explained that since Chiang Mai is inland, it isn’t as common for local people to eat fish and seafood. We got our fish and headed across the street and jumped on a songthaews, a red truck with covered seats in the back. Locals and tourists use them to get around the city with no particular route or direction. After about 15 minutes, we arrived at a corner where we hopped on a tuk tuk and a few minutes later we arrived at Panphailin’s house. It was located in a quiet neighborhood and was a beautiful property. The first thing I noticed was the garden, and then the kitchen area. Located outside, the kitchen had tons of gas burners along with charcoal clay taos. Some of the ingredients were already out on the table but then we headed out into the garden where we collected lemongrass, beans, herds and limes. She did a great job of explaining what she was growing and how it will change throughout the year.
We started with making a curry paste for catfish that would be wrapped in palm leaves and placed over low heat to cook. We used a mortar and pestle to combine the fresh garlic, lemongrass, chile and the top secret ingredients (you have to take the class to learn them). She then taught me how to wrap the fish so that the palm leaves wouldn’t break. We wrapped them together while enjoying a conversation about my travels and her history of teaching cooking classes. Once we got the fish wrapped and placed over the heat we started on the fish soup.
Crushed garlic, lemongrass, salt and few other ingredients went into boiling water. We then started on another curry paste that would go into a fish curry with sardines in tomato sauce to cook over high heat and very fast. Before we did that we cut up pumpkin for our dessert of pumpkin in coconut milk.
As the fish in palm leaves simmered away, we added the snake fish and more chile to the soup and let it cook. We moved to the wok, added oil, crushed garlic and ginger, then tomatoes and sardines, stirred and let it cook for about 2 minutes. As we let that finish, Panphailin’s daughter “Monster” plated rice in the shape of a heart and set the table. We set everything on the table and enjoyed a great conversation and some of the best food I have had on my trip.
I had never felt like a one on one cooking experience was worth it, but I actually felt like I was a part of her family. She helped but her style was to teach me and encourage me to cook on my own knowing she was there if I needed anything. Traveling to her house the way a local would, cooking with local ingredients, and learning about them was a highlight of Chiang Mai and my trip.
Panphailin was so grateful I was there and always smiling. She shared stories about her life in Thailand along with her love for her daughter. I never once felt bored or that I wasn’t learning something. It was a great learning experience as well as travel experience. Being away from the city and cooking was peaceful and blissful. Taking her class was a great opportunity and I would be happy to go back and spend more time learning from her. The two previous cooking classes I had taken during my trip were not nearly as good. Panphailin’s bubbly personality, love and knowledge made all the difference.
Find out more information about tours at http://www.takemetour.com
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