Cooking Thai food is challenging and exciting for Westerners. The exotic tastes and flavours are some of the best memories we can take back home with us. Thanks to a growth spurt in Thai cooking schools, many who visit the Kingdom now have the chance to spend a day learning their favorite recipes. You can expect the class to leave you with some good hands–on experience, a set of recipes, and usually a full belly, since classes always end in a group meal.
Do a little homework and you will find a cooking school that fits your style. A simple day’s class, or maybe even a half–day if pushed for time, will suffice. When looking for the right school, consider reputation and how many years they have been around. At the same time, consider that many great smaller operations have sprung up recently and do a fine job, though less established. What you are left with is deciding who has the right approach for you, and who offers the right price. Packages for several day’s lessons are often discounted.
Major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket all have established larger cooking schools, usually as part of their hotel services. For instance, Four Seasons Chiang Mai offers top-notch cooking classes with a well known chef who speaks great English and uses the finest ingredients around. You can expect to pay for this reputation and the surrounding luxury. This pricey course assures you of small class size, your own cooking stall, and individual help during preparation and cooking. The menu rotates daily so that a whole week’s worth of lessons will give a rounded knowledge of Thai cookery.
If you are not looking for the upmarket experience there is always the group experience that most backpackers and 20-something’s take. Cheaper schools mostly teach the same dishes as expensive ones, just maybe some ingredients are dressed down, i.e. less duck, more chicken. Another factor here is that many moderate and cheap schools work to get as many students participating as possible. This is great for cooking with your friends, or if you are really in a social mood. Some large schools pair up students and can have 20 people or more in them.
Again, this is great for younger people excited to meet more travellers and swap stories. Looking for the personal touch on a budget, it is best to find a small independent who runs a small school from their home such as Chiang Mai’s Alot of Thai Cooking School. Here classes are limited to about eight people and each cook gets their own work station and individual attention. Both large and small schools will often have one day per week dedicated solely to vegetarian food to accommodate those wishing to learn a special menu.
All said, cooking students can expect to learn a lot about Thai food. The classes range in price and venue but have common elements. You will learn to cook some of your favourite dishes, and then by simply following up on the internet with Thai food sites like www.enjoythaifood.com and www.thaitable.com you can continue learning on your own. Your well spent time studying Thai food in the Land of Smiles will be rewarding as you return to your native land.