Cooking in Chiang Mai
Yesterday and today I did a couple of typical “tourist” activities in Chiang Mai – yesterday it was a day-long tour to Chiang Rai, the Golden Triangle, and to visit a Karen hill tribe. What it meant was a lot of time in the vehicle, and not as much time as I would have liked seeing things I wanted to see. But because it is one of many tours set up specifically for tourists, it is touristy.
There is also some controversy surrounding the women of the Kayan Lahwi – people say that they still wear the next-extending rings only because it brings in tourist money. Many people discourage others from visiting these villages. The villages, such as they are, are set up so that you walk through and are surrounded by stalls, where all of the women and girls are making scarves, and they all sell pretty much the same things. A person does not get to see how they actually live – that is where my interest lies, not in seeing them shown like animals in a zoo. The PC Thailand Volunteers are fortunate in that they likely have more opportunity to meet the actual hill tribes, and see how they live.
I would have liked to have seen how people in villages, the Hmong, the Karen, and others, actually live, but with little time and no transportation of my own, I had to take what I could get. Fortunately for me, there were some friendly people in the vehicle with me. During our lunch break, I was sitting next to a family and heard them speaking. I thought “they are speaking Danish” but waited to hear a couple of specific sounds to make sure. Sure enough, they were speaking Danish.
What has been interesting about being here for the past six weeks is that I have been hearing a lot of French, English, and now Danish (as well as other languages) but little Russian, and oh my, how the languages are swirling around in my head!
Today I had signed up for a day-long Thai cooking class (and ironically, it turns out there were two Danish men in the class with me!). It was great fun – first we went to a “typical Thai” market (which today had a lot of white people at it because all of the cooking schools apparently take us to the same market), then out to the farm that the owners of this cooking school own.
We learned how to make perfect rice (both sticky and Jasmine) and went on a mini-tour of the farm – they grow the ingredients that they use at the school and for the family who owns the school. Then it was time to make curry paste!
One of the great things about this school is that we each had choices, every step of the way – we got to choose from green, red, or yellow curry, and made the paste ourselves. We used our paste to make curried chicken (or vegetables, but we had no vegetarians today). We also had a choice of soups – Tom Yam with Shrimp, Tom Koa with (or without) chicken, and Thai Vegetables Soup; another main dish – Chicken with Cashews or Chicken with Basil; an appetizer – Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, or Stir-Friend Big Noodles; and a dessert – Bananas in Coconut Milk, Mango with Sticky Rice, or Pumpkin in Coconut Milk. She also showed us all how to make Papaya salad.
Sound like a lot of food? It WAS! We were cooking and eating for a number of hours, and most of us took our last dish (the appetizer) home with us. If I do say so myself, my red curry was FABULOUS.