We both had another rough night of sleep thanks to horns, dogs barking, and roosters crowing. Lynn’s was slightly better thanks to the ear plugs and an eye mask. She had suggested these to Doug the night before, but he had declined only to state this morning that he would definitely partake tonight.
We quickly showered and ran to the 7/11 for a yogurt breakfast drink before our cooking class ride was due to arrive. When 8:30 rolled around we were greeted by our instructor for the day, Fon, in the company’s songthaew and whisked off to gather a few more classmates before heading to the market.
We watched Fon expertly park amongst various concrete hazards, then got down to the first order of business: solidifying the menu. As a class we chose to skip the desserts since the directions are easy, at least according to Fon. From there we each chose an appetizer, stir fry, soup, and curry to prepare over the course of 4 hours. The choosing process didn’t go as smoothly as it probably should have. As an example, Fon would say “OK, so for stir fry, who wants to make pad Thai?” Doug would raise his hand. “Who wants to make chicken and cashews?” No one would raise their hands. “Who wants to make hot and sour fish?” Lynn and the couple from Hong Kong would raise their hands. Then our instructor would look at the family of four from Taiwan, and say “OK what did you want to make?” It seems the mid-twenties children were still in the process of translating the menu for their parents and/or attempting to determine which items would be the least spicy and it was taking some additional time. We managed to get through it just fine in the end with some variety in the selections which would allow us to see others make dishes we had not selected. Next Fon introduced us to the various spices and vegetables we’d be using. Some were old hat such as lemongrass and limes, but some were brand new such as galangal (Thai ginger) and kefir limes. They also had a very interesting range of green eggplants all if which were crunchy but some are solely used for decoration. When she was done walking us through the ingredients, she gave us 5-10 minutes to look around while she gathered what we needed for the class. We took a walk around recognizing a few items but were startled by 2 ft long greens beans and yellow tofu. We walked away with some unsweetened dried mango for snacking on at a later date.
Then Fon requested our assistance. We agreed enthusiastically thinking she’d ask us to hold a basket of vegetables or something like that but instead she asked us to repeat after her “Gai soon kilo, kap” and “Kung une kilo, kap.” This is at least what we were hearing to repeat and roughly translated to “Two kilos of chicken please” and “One kilo of shrimp, please.” She then pointed across the market and said “Doug, go say the first one to chicken lady” and “Lynn, you say second one to lady across from chicken lady.” The pressure was on. We made our way to our respective ladies and struggled through the process while Fon looked over our shoulders and laughed (looking at the translations later, we were very wrong in our understood pronunciations). But, we managed to get the meat and seafood, gather the rest of the class, and head on our way.
Back in the songthaew again, we shook our heads in approval at Fon’s car maneuvering ability and headed off for the Zabb-e-lee Cooking Class headquarters. Upon arriving we were greeted with a very lovely outdoor kitchen setup. Sinks with bamboo faucets were off to the left accompanied by a table of individual bamboo cutting boards and cleavers. In the center were 10 wok stations holding the four main liquids in Thai cooking: vegetable oil, soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce. Off to the right contained a covered bamboo table where we were promptly seated. We were provided with tea and homemade honey and Milo roasted peanuts while given an overview of how the course would progress. We started by prepping and cooking our stir fry dishes. Doug had chosen Pad Thai and Lynn had hot and sour fish. At this point we began to realize what a hoot our instructor, Fon, would be. So much enthusiasm went behind her squealed “Nooo (::very high pitched::)! Too big! Cut smaller!” and “So much sexy!” when you would choose to add more peppers to your dish. We would turn to each other and giggle at every word coming out of her mouth, and particularly enjoyed her informing us that the Taiwanese family had just said vagina in Mandarin which apparently is close to saying chicken twice in Thai. Everything we cooked was fabulous particularly because we could adjust the sweetness levels to our liking. In the end Doug had his Pad Thai, Thai Fresh Spring roll, Coconut Milk Soup (Tom Kha Kai), and Massamun Curry. Lynn ate Hot and Sour Fish, Papaya Salad, Hot and Sour Prawn Soup (Tom Yum Kung), and Green Curry. We walked away extremely satisfied and with incredible memories of what we both agree was the best cooking class we ever attended. So if you are ever in Chiang Mai, do not miss Zabb-E-Lee!
It was now time to visit the Arts and Cultural Museum in the center of the city which we had read was very interactive and a great way to learn about the history of Chiang Mai. Well, we beg to differ. After 1 hr in the museum our only take aways were 1) Thailand was able to unify their many regions, including Chiang Mai, against the threat of imperialism by centralizing their government and 2) there was a period of “pickled vegetables” that many kings were a part of. Doug and I would officially like to offer our services to Asia to assist with the translations in their museums, because, my goodness, they are boring.
Glad to be done with that we found a nearby coffee shop where we would use their WiFi to get to work updating our blog. We were many many days behind! So 2 hours later we were back on the city streets heading away from monitors of any kind.
We walked to the guesthouse, updated the blog, and debated what to do about dinner. After some TripAdvisor searching, Doug suggested Italian food because he was getting tired of Thai and this was music to Lynn’s ears because she is always over the sweetness of Thai food. We walked back to the night market area of town where we certainly overdid it with a carafe of Chilean wine, a meat plate, caprese, bolognese, and a some asparagus and lemon cream pasta. Then some more wine was had while we waited out a monsoon that rolled through. Needless to say we were happy on wine on our wet walk back to the guesthouse where we promptly retired.
Daily walking Mileage: 6.6
- You can easily make your own curry paste with some good muscles and a mortar and pestle. We particularly enjoyed the massive ones we used in class.
- Depending on the ingredients you may want to use a wooden mortar and pestle instead of a stone one since acids can react with the stone and add an unpleasant taste.
- Lynn’s dad should open a cooking school in the style of Zabb-E-Lee. Outdoor, individual cooking stations, maybe a walk to the beach between bread baking and pasta rolling?