Up “early” on our trip for the first time without a flight or train to catch, and the reason was (of course) food-related. We’d booked the morning session for the Nimman Thai Cooking School and had a full day ahead. Here’s why every visitor to Chiang Mai should do the same.
1. You actually get a Thai language lesson built in
In the morning session, you’ll get a visit to the markets to select the fresh produce you’ll need for your culinary creations. Your hostess and teacher Rinda isn’t going to let you just hang back and watch – you’re given a sheet of key phrases and ingredient names in Thai and will place orders yourself. This is awesome for having a go: The vendors will take pity on your poor attempt at pronunciation and will smile and help you through it. It’s a great way to get out of the pointing and nodding habit so easily fallen into as a farang.
2. You’ll be taught about fruits and vegetables you didn’t know existed
- Mangosteen: A sweet and juicy tropical fruit. It looks like a plum with a thick green stalk on the outside but inside has segments of white tangy flesh.
- Rambutan: Even those weird people who are freaked out by lychees (aka Melissa) will enjoy trying these South East Asian favourites under ‘controlled’ conditions. You can hardly say no when you selected them fresh from the markets yourself.
- Pea eggplant. Just a little bigger than your average green pea, but a much harder texture and not as sweet. We’d eaten them in a few curries in the week leading up to our cooking class with absolutely no idea what they were.
3. You’ll feel like a total pro by cooking with mega flames
Rinda talks you through the perfect technique to entice the tallest of flames and then – BAM – Marco Pierre White, eat your heart out! This is a signature move, as you’ll see heaps of photos around the walls of the school with the flame-throwing students who have come before you.
4. You won’t need to eat dinner that night… or anything the next day either.
Once you’ve prepared the ingredients for each dish, so begins the process of cooking – eating – cooking – eating (repeat). The food is of course delicious (all those amazing fresh ingredients and those classic Thai flavours of garlic, lemongrass, ginger, coriander and chilli all come together like magic and you won’t want to stop). As we are staying so close to the school, we opted out of the free ride home in order to walk some of the tasty food off. Definitely don’t make dinner plans.
5. You’ll get a recipe book to take home with you.
Not only will you not have an excuse to try your new culinary skills at home, but you’ll have an awesome souvenir to remember your amazing experience at Nimman Thai Cooking School. Even better, if you find it hard to choose which course to do, the recipes for each are included, so you’ll be able to try them all out when you get home anyway.
6. You’ll be very well looked after while you cook
You’ll be treated to fresh fruit juices and teas like watermelon and coconut juice. Be sure not to blink or you’ll miss the magical Butterfly Pea Flower Tea change colour from blue to purple with the addition of lime.
Every detail has been considered to make your session a great one. There’s a photo-taking booth so you can capture your scrumptious triumphs in perfect light. If you take too many photos and drain your battery, there’s a recharge station with a lead for every phone type.
Naturally our competitive streak came into play and so comparisons were made. Melissa made the better Paneng Curry, while Adam made the better Pad Kaprao Gai. The real winner though was the dish of the day, which was Tom Kha Kai.
We had an absolute blast and learnt a whole heap. We’re going to attempt a solo market visit soon to recreate some of the dishes (in our woefully under-resourced Airbnb kitchen 😐 ) while we’re still here in Chiang Mai. We’ll probably keep the flames to a minimum though.
If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, it would be remiss of you to go past a session at with Rinda and her team at Nimman Thai Cooking School. We’re not affiliated in any way – just mega fans of delicious Thai food.