May Kaidee Cooking School Chiang Mai
Phrases that strike fear in the heart of introverts:
Team building sessions
Let’s break into groups we don’t usually work in
How about a role playing game?
Phrases like these make my heart sink.
Most people think I’m an extrovert.
That’s because they see me when I’m feeling upbeat and ON. Not when I’m at home refusing to put on proper clothes and deciding I’m not leaving the house for the entire weekend.
I genuinely enjoy company when I’m out with people, but I do prefer spending the bulk of my time in solitude. As much as I have fun at parties and in crowds, I need to go home and hibernate for about 3 or 4 days to recover energy from a social gathering.
So doing a cooking class alone for me was a big step!
So off I trotted in the ridiculous heat and humidity of Chiang Mai hot season, down to Tha Pae Gate. I don’t know what it is about Old City, but it feels about 10 degrees hotter in there and about 50% more humid than where we live closer to the foothills of Doi Suthep.
Thankfully, May Kaidee’s Cooking School and restaurant is nestled in the shade of a road behind the big hotels near Tha Pae Gate, which made for a cooler walk once I got out of my songthaew. The restaurant is narrow, but two storys tall. It has an airy, sunlight-filled feel to it.
On arrival, I was greeted by Nim, who runs May’s Chiang Mai classes and restaurant. Four young women from Beijing were already there, and introduce themselves as Felis, Mong, and Danika (I suspect this is horrific spelling of their names. I should have checked with them, but it is the closest phonetic spelling I could manage — if you’re reading this ladies, apologies!).
Nim sets us up with a cook book with some recipes and some pens for us to make notes with, some cold bottles of water, and aprons.
Once settled, we start on the appetisers: a traditional Thai spring roll with peanut sauce, Pappaya salad, and a more modern pumpkin hummus.
The thai spring rolls we make are made with spring roll wrappers that appear to be steamed (Nim’s burning her fingers a little pulling them off to the steamer as they’re piping hot). Very different to how we make them at home, softening the hard spring roll wrappers in water. These look like very thin crepes.
The best part of this section is teaching me how to properly wrap these things. If you’ve ever seen the mess I make of wrapping Christmas presents, you’d know I need some instructions in this regard. We start layering at the most left edge of the wrapper, filling it with lettuce, bean shoots, cashew nuts, Thai sweet basil, and carrots. We roll for a bit, then tuck the edges in and roll it up.
In theory this should be very neat, and NIm’s look masterful. Mine are functional, but not very pretty, I tell her. She shows us how to cut them, and layer them with Thai basil in a pretty arrangement. We top these with the peanut sauce we’ve made, and then a scattering of sesame seeds.
The pumpkin hummus was the most simple dish we created on the day, yet my favourite dish. I was not expecting anything, but this was delicious! We made a spicy one and served it on cucumber slices with a dash of soy.
At this stage, we’re joined by Brett and Terry, a nice couple from Utah who are on holiday for two weeks and off to Vietnam the next day.
Next we learnt the basis of our main dishes: Tom Yam Paste. The recipe wasn’t in our book, so Nim went through the ingredients and their measurements so we could copy them down.
I’m fascinated to learn that the basis of this paste includes carrots and tomatoes. It’s funny what you don’t realise that goes into the curries you buy already or even make from home using curry powder.
The Tom Yam paste goes into our Tom Ka, and our Tom Khao soups, and then again into our later massamn curry, and into our pad thai. We also learn pad see ew, but this one we just add the dark soy to, not the spicy tom ka paste. And we finish up the mains with learning how to make a massaman curry. Even though I prefer the lightness of the dishes without coconut milk, the sweetness of this one is just divine.
We break to learn some Thai dancing. My introverted side manages to be subdued by my complete lack of coordination. I’m too fixated on trying to get the right hand movements to be embarrassed!
Nim tells we have to make a movement like we’re making papaya salad, but sexy like, which has me in fits of giggles. I also can’t manage the little hip shakes close to the ground after squats and kettle bell swings the day before the cooking class!
We finish up our day with the dessert: mango and banana in coconut milk with sticky rice. Now, this is a Thai dessert that I am not fussed on, but it is also the most common Thai dessert. Most people love it, I am the odd one out! I debate stopping at the markets near Tha Pae Gate on the way home to get some Khanom Krok for dessert, but I am well stuffed after all the taste testing in our class.
By the time we leave, a storm is brewing and I enjoy walking home in the strong wind gusts. It was a fun day, even if my introverted inner self had to sing and dance with strangers! ?
Location: 29/4 Chang Moi Kao Road, behind the Amora Hotel (near the Tha Phae Gate)
Getting there: https://www.maykaidee.com/directions
Cost: Half Day Class – 1,500 Baht (AUD $55, CDN $53, USD $44)