Got spice?

Trip Start Apr 10, 2011
Trip End May 07, 2011

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Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today was our first official weekend event associated with the program. We left the hotel at 9:00 and took off for the country side to visit an organic farm and have a lesson in Thai cooking. It was about a 30 minute drive outside of Chiang Mai into a very rural area. It was great to see a bit of a contrast compared to the city. Rice paddies, farm animals and small huts dotted the landscape as we drove out to the farm.

It was a blistering hot day when we arrived and the first thing we did was meet our teacher for the day. He was a pleasant young man and started out by explaining the two types of rice that are typical in the Thai diet. Sticky and jasmine rice. The native Thai people eat rice with each meal and compliment it with curry, noodles and other sauces and dishes. We started both kinds of rice cooking and then took a tour of the garden. A lot of herbs and spices were in the garden, lemon grass, thai basil, chili's. He picked leaves of each one and had us smell and taste. Many were familiar from our Thai dinners we had already had. In addition we saw mango's, jack fruit, papaya, and long beans.

Once the tour was done, it was down to cooking. We were making 3 dishes: green or red curry, pad thai and a mango/sticky rice dessert. We started by picking which color of curry we'd be making. I chose green along with a few others while the others went with red. We then picked how spicy we wanted it and he gave us the type and number of chili's to our liking. We started out by mashing up several ingredients to make our curry paste...garlic, onion, chili's, plus a few other items were mixed together until it looked almost like a guacamole sauce for the green curry, once that was done it was time to cook. We sliced up pumpkin, onion, a lemon like fruit and mixed those into the curry along with chicken. We then added some herbs at the end for flavor. We tasted how it was and added additional spice if needed or he said: all flavors should taste as one, if you can't taste all the flavors please add until you can.

With the curry complete we moved to the pad thai. It really is a pretty simple dish. We had shrimp, garlic with chili pepper on top, and a few other ingredients that we put into a wok with a smattering of oil and cooked that for just a couple of minutes until the shrimp turned white. Then we added bean sprouts, carrots and an egg and mixed that in. Once cooked we removed that and added the Thai noodles to cook along with a bit of soy sauce for color. Once complete we added in the first mix to the noodles and mixed those together, added some crushed up peanuts and sugar to taste.

The final dish was dessert, mango sticky rice which was my favorite. We took the sticky rice and added pure palm sugar along with a little salt. Then put a sliced mango on top and it was ready.

We then sat down to eat what we created and I have to say it was excellent! We had a good teacher and he kept an eye on all of us to make sure we didn't go too awry. I was pretty amazed that we all created these three dishes in such short time and they were all relatively simple once you knew what you were doing. We finished off lunch with some lemon grass tea which was a perfect ending to our Thai cooking class.
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