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After taking many cooking classes in Thailand I was ready to take my final one in Chiang Mai. I chose Grandma’s Thai Recipes for its stellar TripAdvisor reviews and the fact that the cooking class would be private, and you get to pick which dishes to prepare. While group cooking classes are fun I do enjoy the personal interaction and conversations with the instructor that comes with a private class.
Jib and her driver promptly picked me up in the morning of the class and we sped off to the market. During our short ride over Jib instantly opened up to me, revealing information about her life and family. She just exudes warm and openness. Upon meeting I already felt like we were friends. She has a way of connecting with people that you feel comfortable right away and want to open up yourself.
She is married to an American and they have three children, and hopes of relocating to the US within a few years. Jib has big plans and I have no doubt that she will accomplish anything she sets her heart on. She has the entrepreneurial spirit and while she also has a family restaurant which she runs with her cousins and grandmother it was her idea alone to start the cooking school and she runs all the classes herself.
She is looking to expand and learn about various businesses. A traveling chef or cooking instructor perhaps? Or a Thai restaurant in the US. Who knows, but just seeing Jib’s eyes light up when she started talking about the future was simply delightful.
The cooking class started with a trip to the local market where Jib carefully explained and pointed out many different types of produce, seafood, sauces, cooking utensils, etc.
As always the market trip was incredibly enjoyable and I always find it interesting to walk through a bustling marketplace and observe the locals in their shopping habits. We even purchased some fresh squeezed coconut milk and watched the woman shred the coconut and then make the milk itself!
From there we took a quick ride over to the family restaurant. The cooking classes are either run out of Jib’s home or the restaurant itself, whichever you prefer.
I had never taken a cooking class at a fully functioning restaurant and I actually quite enjoyed the busy atmosphere. As we got in, while Jib was setting up her uncle invited me to pull up a chair and have some soup with him.
Not sure how to react, I asked if I should get a bowl to ladle the soup in, and which everyone laughed, motioning for me to just scoop my spoon into the soup pot. Thai style. The fish soup was delicious.
Jib continued to introduce me to the staff, most of them cousins or relatives and I was able to observe them in their working stations. Responsibilities in the restaurant are split up. There are those prepping veggies, manning the woks, serving the food, etc.
The menu for the cooking class was lemongrass salad (Yaam Takai), fish cakes (Tod Man Bla), coconut based soup (Tom Ka), and a noodle stir fry (Pad See Ew). All personally selected by me. Many times cooking classes have set menus but with Jib you get to choose from a wide array of dishes which ones you want to prepare and if one you like isn’t on the list you can request it anyway (as I did with the pad see ew).
While I was busy chopping up the ingredients, an uncle or cousin would occasionally come over to show me how it should be done, the Thai chopping technique. This was a welcome and refreshing aspect of the class and I highly enjoyed the interactions with some of Jib’s family members.
The first dish we prepared was the Lemongrass Salad – a mixture of strong Thai herbs and flavors with a salty sweet dressed, all wrapped up in a betel leaf and popped right into your mouth. An explosion of flavors, if you will. The salty, sweet, spicy, sour all come together and just bring your taste buds to life. A perfect summer side dish.
Then we made the fish cakes, which are a combination of minced fish, red curry paste and some other herbs. These are then formed into patties and deep fried. With the addition of a lightly vinegary crisp cucumber salad this dish is simply irresistible.
For the soup course I picked Tom Kha a coconut milk based broth with shrimp. This soup is insanely easy and quick to make and yet full of so much flavor, you will not be able to stop at just one bowl. I absolutely love the Thai soups but the coconut milk based ones are easily my favorite. It’s not too heavy but creamy enough to keep the soup interesting and with the fresh thai ingredients is full of depth of flavors.
For the last dish I picked Pad See Ew – my all time favorite Thai noodle dish. While I had taken many cooking classes in Thailand none of them included pad see ew on the menu and I could not possibly leave Thailand without this recipe in hand. Luckily Jib was able to show me her way of making pad see ew and it did not disappoint. The noodles are fresh and soft and the sauce is ever so slightly sweet and thick. A light toss here and there in the wok and the dish is ready. Yum.
When the dishes were prepared Jib sat down with me so that we could eat together and continue our conversation. I highly value this because in many cooking school the instructor leaves you to your meal with the other students, instead of joining in as well. We had such a nice chat over our lunch meal.
I loved all the dishes I prepared with Jib and had an incredible time getting to know more about her and her future aspirations. I would highly recommend this cooking class without hesitation.
While we had spent well over a month traveling through Thailand I found it difficult to connect with the local people so I was very happy to take this cooking class at the end of our time in Thailand and be able to really connect with Jib and get to learn more about the Thai culture.
Grandma’s Thai Cooking Class is run by Jib and she offers private classes for 1000 thb ($33) per person
A cooking class includes pickup/drop off from your guesthouse, a market tour, cooking demonstration, and recipe book. You get to choose which dishes to prepare and have your own cooking station.
*DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary cooking class in exchange for this review, but as always all opinions expressed here are my own*