Travel Diary: Zabb E Lee Thai cooking school, Chiang Mai

When we first arrived in Chiang Mai I was a little bit disillusioned by the way that tourism has taken over the city- there seemed to be more foreigners than Thais in downtown Chiang Mai, their 'Night Bazaar' was a very large collection of stands selling plasticky souvenirs to tourists, and every second thing on wheels- tuk tuk or Songthaew (red passenger truck) had 'Tiger Kingdom' or 'Elephant Camp' on the side. Who want a ticket to hug a sedated tiger? How about a sedated tiger cub? Any takers? Clearly there are enough to make a very profitable industry out of it. I felt like we weren't doing so well at getting to know the real Chiang Mai, and even though we walked for hours on foot I felt that it was a lot harder to get a sense of how the locals lived than it was in Bangkok.  Phil booked a Thai cooking class on the next morning that we spent in Chiang Mai, and I was thrilled with how brilliant it turned out to be.

Travel Diary: Zabb E Lee Thai cooking school, Chiang Mai Dragon Fruit

Taking a Thai cooking class was my favourite part of visiting Chiang Mai, and one of the highlights of my trip to Thailand. I did a half day course (9:00am-1:30pm), with Zabb-E-Lee cooking school run by Anne- a Chiang Mai local.

We started the morning off with a trip to the local market. Anne showed us some quintessential ingredients in Thai cooking, which we were going to use in some form during our cooking class later in the day. We all had an opportunity to see, touch, and smell some of these exotic ingredients- some of these I haven't seen before, or have seen but never used.

We got to choose which dishes we wanted to make- I made a papaya salad, stir-fried hot and sour seafood (pad po tak), Khoy Soi noodles (a Chiang Mai specialty), Tom Yum soup, and our curry pastes from scratch. The flavours that we got puts many thai restaurants in Australia to shame. I think part of that is the freshness and availability of all ingredients (kaffir lime rind makes such a big difference to a green curry- I'm not sure whether that is sold here, even though kaffir lime leaves are readily available in Australia). I think that there's also a lot of simplification/westernization/out of a can-ization of thai cuisine in many restaurants here.

Thai red curryTravel Diary: Zabb E Lee Thai cooking school, Chiang Mai Thai curry paste ingredients

Thai curry paste ingredients



Keep reading after the jump!

Thai green curry made from scratchThai green curry made from scratch

Green Curry paste

  • 10 fresh green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tbspn galangal, finely chopped
  • 1 tbspn lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1 tspn kaffir lime rind, finely sliced
  • 1 tspn coriander roots, chopped
  • 1 tspn fresh turmeric or powder
  • 1tspn shrimp paste
  • 1 tspn black pepper
  • t tspn roasted coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tspn roasted cumin
  • 1 tspn lesser ginger

Green Curry (Kaeng Khiaw Wann Gai)

  • 1 tbspn green curry paste
  • 100g chicken
  •  1/2 cup coconut cream
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 50g eggplant, quartered
  • 2 tbspn sweet thai basil
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
  • 2 red spur chillies, sliced diagonally
  • 2 tspn palm sugar
  • 1-2 tbspn fish sauce.

Thai Khao Soi noodles made from scratch

(Khow Soi noodles)

Travel Diary: Zabb E Lee Thai cooking school, Chiang Mai

(pad po tak)

Pad po tak ( stir fried hot and sour seafood)

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3-7 chillies
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced diagonally
  • 3-5 pieces of galangal, thinly sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 50g straw mushrooms, quartered
  • 100g seafood, boiled
  • 2 red spur chillies, thinly sliced
  • 1tspn sugar
  • 1 tspn thai chilli jam
  • 1 tbspn fish sauce
  • 1tbspn lime juice