View from the hill!

View from the hill!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pad Thai??

One of the things I was most looking forward to about this trip was the delicious Thai food. I had heard stories of getting gigantic bowls of pad thai and green curry for as little as a dollar from the food stalls lining every street. But one bowl of thai noodles later and those dreams of delicious thai feasts were long gone. Apparently my Federal Hill favorite, Thai Arroy had mislead me on the true tastes of Thailand.

I think a large part of the problem is the manner in which this food is presented. When walking through Bangkok every few feet you are greeted with a skinned pigs head or chicken legs on display at a food stall. The animal hanging above the chef is indicative of what is being served. Call me crazy, but staring straight into the eyes of a skinned pig does not make me crave some fried pork and noodles. Likewise looking on at the chicken feet and neck does not make me salvate for chicken and rice. Another issue for me is the excessive use of shrimp, shrimp paste, shirmp sauce and any thing else with the name shirmp in it. I hate shrimp. My first bowl of pad thai (which was actually harder to find than one would expect- oily rice and chicken or pork and noodles are more common among the street stalls) was an exceptionally disappointing expereince. I was massively hungover (common theme in Bangkok) and so excited to finally find the pad thai food stall I had been searching for for days. When it came out of the wok and onto my plate I was thrilled, it looked just like Thai Arroys. However after my first bite, containing what I thought was shredded carrots, I wanted to vomit. Those little orange bits that I thought were carrots had eyeballs staring at me, they were miniature dried shrimp. Ew.

I was not yet ready to give up on my dreams of delicious Thai feast, I thought maybe I just needed to get out of Bangkok and far far away from street stalls. I thought the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai would be just what I needed to understand and love the true tastes of Thailand.

After arriving in Chiang Mai the first thing I did was book into the Thai Farm class. Unlike the dozens of other cooking classes offered in the city this one took you far outside of the city walls to the school's organic farm. After being picked up from my hotel my group stopped at a local market for a briefing on some of the ingredients we would be using throughout the day. We learned about the different types of rice, cocconut milk and spices that make up the root of Thai cooking. Next it was time to head into the country. After passing through numerous rice fields being harvested we turned onto a small dirt road and arrived at the Thai Organic Farm. We were able to select a type of chili paste to create then 4 dishes to prepare. I chose yellow curry, coconut milk soup, chicken with cashew nuts, pad thai noodles and mango with sticky rice. We began by making our own chili paste with the mortar and pestel. This noisy and tiring task proved why so many people go the easy route and simply buy the prepared packet!

Next up was our tour of the farm. This was the part of our day that really set this school apart from the others. Through an hour long tour of the property we learned all about the unique fruits, vegetables and herbs that form the foundation of Thai cooking. And I learned alot....those nasty little pea looking things that were in my green curry are actually bitter eggplant. And the large leaves that I thought were basil and meant to be eaten are actually kaffir lime leaves only meant to add flavor. We were able to taste long beans and rose apples stright out of the garden. After a day of picking, cooking and tasting really fresh thai food I have come to have a much better appreciation of the flavors and styles of cooking. And now I know what true Thai Pad Thai should taste like and I know to ask for it with NO shrimp! We were given a cook book with the recipes to all of our creations so I plan to test out my skils once I get home, do you think the Sunday dinner crowd can handle a menu of Kaeng Phed Gai, Tom Yam Kung and Pad Si-Ew? ?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great cooking school, I think it would make a great Sunday dinner! (just don't tell Conner if there are any Thai onions!)