Last night we had booked ourselves onto learning a bit of Thai cuisine by joining a day’s cookery course run by Chang Mai’s, Ma Ma Noii, which we thought we would not only enjoy but it would also be very interesting to see how this class compared to the Vietnamese cookery class we had taken earlier on in our trip.
We were picked up from our hotel reasonably early and after a bit of a drive all around the city to collect our classmates we headed off to a Thai market. Now I must admit that this part was not quite as good as the Vietnamese visit to the market as it was not as interactive, we were very much left to our own devices but it was still a good place to have a look around. As ever, in these places there were a number of unusual ingredients such as ‘turtles’ and some very strange looking veggies too and it would have been much nicer to have had them explained to us as we wondered round but when we regrouped we did ask the guide our questions. Market visited, we all jumped back aboard the minivan and set off on to Ma Ma Noii’s farm and kitchens.
Ma Ma Noii’s kitchens, gardens and farm was a really nice and professional looking little set up. Ma Ma Noii though turned out to be someone who looked quite a bit like a ladyboy though (so Liz said!), ‘she’ was really nice though, a lady called Aim. My burning question though was, could they cook though or even better help us to cook Thai food? Before we got started cooking though Aim wanted to show us around the place and explain more about the organic philosophy they had, how a major portion of the ingredients they use are grown here on the site itself. Just before the walk round though the heavens opened up so we all had to get togged up in wellies and hats and carry umbrellas too it was so bad. Aim then showed us the fish pond and the field where the many different types of vegetables were grown, then too the enclosure for the pigs and the chickens before finally taking us round the chilli and herb patches where we picked some ingredients that we would be needing for our dishes. The place was really tidy and well organised and everything looked in its prime. I must admit that back home I do like to grow bits and bobs in our back garden but nothing like on this scale so I found myself quite envious of the whole set-up. Best of all as we wandered back to the kitchens the Sun started to put in an appearance.
Back we went to the main building and this time into the kitchen classroom and, once again the place was spotless and really well equipped so we were already starting to get a good vibe about the place. Aim explained that today we were going to be cooking and eating five dishes – a soup, an appetiser, a stir fry, a curry for which we would have to make the paste for and finally a desert too. If we did not end up full by the end of the day then we never would be!
First off we were to be cooking our stir fries and the soup. We each had to choose from a number of dishes so I chose Pad Thai, a dish that Aim described as being one of the most complicated things to cook in Thai cookery … crumbs! Liz had chosen Chicken and Hot Basil (Pad Kra Prao) and then we both chose Hot and Sour Prawn Soup (Tom Yum Kung). Then we got to work, we all had to chop up our ingredients and then cook it all up in order and the end result was delicious, in fact it was all a bit too delicious as I ended up eating all of mine – perhaps I should have paced myself!
Next up on the menu were the appetisers and the curries – I had chosen a hot Laab Salad and a Massaman Curry both of which I put quite a few chillies in, making them nice and hot as well as very tasty. Aim equates the amount of chillies to the amount of sexiness of a person so I made sure to add a few extra to my dish to ‘keep the British end up’ as it were. Liz made the Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen) and the Penang Curry. The curry pastes were a hard enough task in themselves as you had to grind up the ingredients in the huge stone pestle and mortars they had before then cooking the pastes off with the other ingredients of the curry. Again the resulting dishes were really tasty but as we were all still full from the earlier scoffing it meant we all left a bit of our latest efforts.
The group in our class was a good one too and we all got swapping stories about where we had been on our travels and what we had been up to, generally having a right good laugh whilst we were cooking. Our group consisted of a couple of Americans, a lady from Belgium and one from Canada as well, so together with us Brits it was quite a good mix. The American guy liked his food really hot so he kept adding huge amounts of the hottest chillies to his dishes. The Belgium lady knocked up some really great looking tasty spring rolls. We could all taste each other’s food as well as our own but by this time we were all getting quite full and there was still one last course to go – the desserts!
By this time all I could really manage was a sleep but we were once again Aim was asking us to choose something else to cook. I wanted something quite light and not too taxing so I chose ‘Rubies’ (Water Chestnuts soaked in fruit juice) in Coconut syrup (Tub Tim Krob) and for Liz’s last dish she made the Mango and Sticky Rice (Khao Neow Ma Muang). When we had finished Liz asked me if I wanted to try her dishes but to be honest I was seriously having enough trouble just tasting my own! Last course completed and Aim thanked, it was time to go and they needed a wheelbarrow simply to get me back to the mini bus but it was not before we had all been given a recipe book containing all the day’s recipes and a bag to keep it in. It will be nice chance to try the dishes when we got back home as a taste of Chiang Mai. The cookery class at Ma Ma Noiis had been a great success and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
The day was far from being over though so after a bit of a lie down back at the hotel, it was back out for quite a different form of entertainment – Muay Thai Boxing! If fighting is not your thing then this would definitely not be for you but we really enjoyed it. The seats we had gave us a great view of the ring and the fights were quite gripping. For some reason we thought there would be a Brit on the fight card but we must have got our events mixed up as he was definitely not on the bill. Before each of the fights, many of the fighters would have their own rituals to give them luck but as you can imagine, not every prayer was answered.
There was a Syrian fighter on one of the bouts but he was up against a very handy Thai guy who though a lot smaller still beat him as his technique was so much better and gave him the edge. There was also a ladies bout as well and although it was a bit slower and consisted of less rounds, the two girls were still knocking ten bells out of each other. I had my photo taken with the victorious Thai boxer at the end of the event but he never invited me back to spar with him though! During the night there was a lot of betting going on and money changing hands back and forth and although we did not have a go we had a bit of a laugh with a couple of Mediterranean lads who were betting, one of whom was having quite mixed results, his mate laughing at him whenever he lost money. They were a good laugh and it was all a very good end to a very great and extremely entertaining day.