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"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." -- Thomas A. Edison

259--Thailand: Cooking School Gone Wrong
@ Where`s Cherie?     Dec 04 2004 - 09:25 PST
cherie writes: After I came to the realization that I am not going to lose weight in Thailand, I decided to sign up for a Thai cooking course and finally learn how to cook!

Diane, Hilda and I (and our new travel buddies: Hannah, Leighton, Kirsty, Amanda, Lee, Yorham and Edna) joined us for the cooking class. There are over 30 cooking schools in Chiang Mai, Thailand and we chose to learn at: The Master, a Thai Chef Cookery Course taught by the renowned chefs Permpoon and Suriyan Nabnian.

Suriyan, or “Yan” as we called him, considers himself a “culinary evangelist.” First Yan took us to a local Thai market where he taught us how to select the right ingredients for the 5 Thai dishes (and one dessert!) we were about to learn how to prepare.

For example it is very important to use the right amount of chili, since there were only going to be 2 toilets at the cooking school. Yan Fact: green chili is always hotter than the red chili, since red peppers are older and their seeds are dead and less spicy. In cooking school, a surefire way to make sure your neighbor stops sampling your superior dishes is to always sprinkle a little more chili powder on your fried noodles.

Yan taught us other Thai wisdom such as always choose the darkest fish oil and which basil we should use in which dish. Did you know Thais use 3 different types of basil? Also, according to Yan, we should always use lots of celery which is good for the memory and explains why the Thai people are so smart.

Yan wandered around the market banging roots on his head to test for freshness and shaking eggs to see if they were bad. Then we learned the most important lesson of the day—don’t buy the gross pink 1000-year-old eggs. They aren’t really that old, but they sure taste like it. We also avoided the lady selling bugs as snacks and the guy selling frogs on a stick.

When we arrived at the cooking school, we were given aprons and instructions on how to tie our napkins right.

Then Yan walked us through how to cook each dish from chopping the vegetables, to which order we should add the ingredients, to using just the right amount of flame. Then Yan would leave us to on our own and command us to: “Go make you curry look like my curry.” Then he’d walk around the class and give advice such as: “What you doing with flame still on? Your curry finished 5 minutes ago!”

Cooking inspired Hilda to call our new travel buddy Leighton such affectionate names as sweet pea and sugar plum. Leighton had his own pet name for Hilda, too—Pumpkin tits.

The stir-fry was the most exciting (and dangerous) dish—we learned why the Thais don’t need to pluck their eyebrows. Flames burst out of our stir-fry woks and trimmed our bushy brows in one quick flash. This burst of fire may also explain why Leighton has such a baby face.

I mastered the Pad Thai omelet while my cooking neighbor Leighton (from South Africa) mastered the scrambled egg. Sometimes, if we chopped too fast, we’d get a bit of extra protein in our dish from an un-trimmed fingernail.

I chose to make the chicken soup, instead of the optional shrimp soup. Those prawns had big bulgy eyes and I don’t like my food staring at me. “If the shrimp legs fall off in the soup don’t pick them out,” said Chef Yan. “The legs make a nice soup decoration.” In Thai soups, you only actually eat about 1/3 of the ingredients: 1/3 is to eat, 1/3 is for flavor, and 1/3 is for decoration. Sometimes Yan got a little fancy and would carve carrots into lotus flowers. After the completion of my class, my carrots never looked like anything but carrots.

To find out more about The Master Thai Cookery Course contact Yan at masterthaicooking@hotmail.com.

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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Thai Cooking School Gone Wrong.  Cherie learns the flambe technique on Day 1.

Thai Cooking School Gone Wrong. Cherie learns the flambe technique on Day 1.

First we go shopping at a local market to learn about 1000-year old eggs. Yuck!!

First we go shopping at a local market to learn about 1000-year old eggs. Yuck!!

Moral of the story--don't buy pink eggs (unless you're a lady boy.)

Moral of the story--don't buy pink eggs (unless you're a lady boy.)

Chef Yan shows us where to find the best noodles.

Chef Yan shows us where to find the best noodles.

So many options at the local Thai market.

So many options at the local Thai market.

Snacks--Thai style.

Snacks--Thai style.

The twins wonder...should we take some snacks for later?

The twins wonder...should we take some snacks for later?

Lady selling fish.

Lady selling fish.

So many ways to get around in Thailand.

So many ways to get around in Thailand.

Lady selling bug snacks.

Lady selling bug snacks.

I'm not hungry anymore.

I'm not hungry anymore.

Frog on a stick Leighton?

Frog on a stick Leighton?

Something to munch on later.

Something to munch on later.

OK!  Everyone ready to get cooking?

OK! Everyone ready to get cooking?

The goofballs go to cooking school.

The goofballs go to cooking school.

It's all about fresh ingredients.

It's all about fresh ingredients.

Meet Chef Yan--the man who taught Cherie, Hilda and Diane how to cook.

Meet Chef Yan--the man who taught Cherie, Hilda and Diane how to cook.

The twins, the newest Thai chefs.

The twins, the newest Thai chefs.

Amanda & Kirsty.

Amanda & Kirsty.

Edna, Yorham and Diane.

Edna, Yorham and Diane.

Hilda with Leighton's biggest fans.

Hilda with Leighton's biggest fans.

First, we gather to watch the master chef.

First, we gather to watch the master chef.

Does anyone have a fire exinguisher?

Does anyone have a fire exinguisher?

Ooops!  Cooking students on the first day of class!

Ooops! Cooking students on the first day of class!

Lee and Amanda.

Lee and Amanda.

Cooking with fire. *Photo by Lee.

Cooking with fire. *Photo by Lee.

Edna with a flame. *Photo by Yorham.

Edna with a flame. *Photo by Yorham.

Ready to start cooking Hannah and Leighton?

Ready to start cooking Hannah and Leighton?

Lee multi-tasking.

Lee multi-tasking.

Girl, you are smoking!

Girl, you are smoking!

Edna and Yorham.

Edna and Yorham.

Have some of Hilda's soup!

Have some of Hilda's soup!

Amanda adds a special ingredient to her curry.

Amanda adds a special ingredient to her curry.

Cooking school.

Cooking school.

I made that delicious curry!

I made that delicious curry!

Master Chef Yan gives us the Thai noodle lecture.

Master Chef Yan gives us the Thai noodle lecture.

Leighton and Cherie try to make Pad Thai.

Leighton and Cherie try to make Pad Thai.

Diane and her omlette.

Diane and her omlette.

Diane and her omelet.

Diane and her omelet.

Edna goes for the omelet; Yorham goes for the scrambled eggs.

Edna goes for the omelet; Yorham goes for the scrambled eggs.

Mom and Dad!  I finally learned how to cook!

Mom and Dad! I finally learned how to cook!

King Ciao, that looks good enough to eat!

King Ciao, that looks good enough to eat!

Now, let's enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Now, let's enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Bad girl!  Too much curry and you get a spanking!

Bad girl! Too much curry and you get a spanking!

Thai chefs Cherie and Leighton.

Thai chefs Cherie and Leighton.

Never disturb a man and his soup. *Photo by Edna.

Never disturb a man and his soup. *Photo by Edna.

Kirsty!

Kirsty!

Yummy!  It looks good enough to eat!

Yummy! It looks good enough to eat!