My solo backpacking trip to Chiang Mai is probably one of the most wonderful experience I have ever had. ❤️But if I were to single out a favorite memory from this trip, then it would be the time I attended a Thai cooking workshop at this local organic farm. 👩🍳 For a foodie like me, this was just SO INCREDIBLE! Imagine picking fresh ingredients from the farm, whipping up some warm, aromatic Pad Thai, and devouring your own-cooked meal while bonding with fellow travelers - sounds like THE perfect afternoon to me 😉
Chiang Mai has dozens of cooking schools, but based on the recommendations of a hostel mate I chose the Smile Organic Farm Cooking School. I was intrigued by the idea of cooking in a farm on the outskirts as opposed to a regular school within the city.
With our adorable instructor - Chef Lay - and her students! ❤️
Course and Costs :
The school offers three courses - Half Day, Full Day, and an Evening Course. All the details are listed on their website. They also accommodate options for vegans, which is great! I did the Half Day course that lasted 5 hours (from 9 am to about 2 pm) and cost around 800 Thai Baht (approx. 25 US$). It includes everything from pick-up and drop-off services, to cooking ingredients and drinking water. You also get a free recipe book at the end of the course as a souvenir! 🙂
The farm is about an hour ride from Chiang Mai Old Square (city center) where most tourists stay. I was greeted by our adorable instructor, Chef Lay, in a pick-up van along with a few other travelers who were as excited as me about the experience. Driving through the outskirts of town was an experience itself. We got some gorgeous views of the mountains and Chiang Mai jungles! It also gave us good time to bond with the other travelers, something that I always look forward to while traveling ❤️
Our first stop was the local farmers’ market which gave us an insight into the local Thai lifestyle in terms of the groceries they shop for and the food they eat. Here they sell everything from fresh produce, meat, poultry to authentic ingredients like spices, sauces, pastes etc. used in Thai cooking. We also stocked up on some noodles and sauces that were required for the dishes we were going to make. The excitement at this point was at its peak. 😃
And, finally we reached the farm!
At this point we were all pumped up! 💪 Each of us were handed our own cooking station with a gas stove and the necessary tools. We were handed these little menu booklets to choose the dishes we wanted to make. Here's what I chose -
Appetizer - Spring Roll
Appetizer - Pad Thai (one of Arjun's and my all-time favorites!)
Soup - Tom Yum Goong
Mains - Thai Green Curry with Rice
(Students on the Full Day course also got to make their own desserts!)
We then went on to pick our ingredients from the farm with Chef Lay. It was an informative session where we were introduced to traditional herbs, shrubs and leaves unique to Thailand. From ‘Galangal Ginger' to 'Morning Glory', and ‘Kafir Lime’ to ‘Lemon Grass’ - the aroma and colors are so invigorating! 🤤
After gathering everything we need, we were ready to get our hands dirty! The cooking session was perfectly timed and structured by Chef Lay, who gave clear, easy-to-follow instructions with her own sense of humor and energy. She also helped tweak the ingredients to accommodate any dietary restrictions or spice tolerances for some students.
Here are some up close images of the food :
We ground those fresh curry pastes (Red Curry, Green Curry, Massaman, and Panaeng) from scratch using the traditional mortar and pestle!
Pad Thai and crunchy Vegetable Spring Roll, garnished with Butterfly Pea Flower, cashew powder and chives
Thai Green Curry with Steamed Rice and Tom Yum Goong soup (Guess I went a bit overboard with my spices in the soup) 😋
And that's a wrap! Not only did I gain new culinary skills, but also created some beautiful memories with some amazing people from around the world. If you ever visit Thailand, I highly recommend you give this one a try - Trust me, you will love it! ❤️