I’m savouring what must be the best pad Thais I have ever had: bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, sourness and spiciness are perfectly balanced. My taste buds are in awe as I dig into the nicely presented green curry. I look at Oay with a big smile of satisfaction as I slowly raise my head. Having fantastic food in Thailand is the norm, but what is all the more surprising is that I cooked these myself. My pride enhances my senses!
Thai cuisine is the delicate art of balancing these key elements, and clearly Oay has been an excellent teacher and she looks as proud as I am.
Our cooking adventure started in the morning by strolling the local market South of Chiang Mai, the capital of Northern Thailand. “What do you want to cook?” Oay asks. I decide to go for the Thai signature dishes that consistently make it to the top 50 of the world’s best food: the green curry and the Pad Thai, and I opt for the bananas in coconut milk to finish on a sweet note.
Fresh vegetables I have never seen but from floating in my curry the night before are randomly displayed on the market stalls, next to piles of rice and hot chili peppers, grilled fishes and cooked toads, dry shrimps and all kinds of pastas, coconut-based desserts and tropical fruits. Oay enthusiastically buys the ingredients from local farmers for the food we are going to cook. She shows us some green veggies the size of ping-pong balls: “Crispy eggplants! They are from the same family of eggplants you have at home outside Asia.” We point at a surprisingly pink egg. Oay buys it and opens it: a smell of horse pee enters my nose as I look puzzled at the dark brown inside. The famous century eggs which in fact are chicken eggs kept for several weeks to ferment are a true delicacy in many Asian countries. Slightly relieved that the egg is not on the menu today, we continue buying all the needed ingredients. The last few ones come straight from Oay’s small garden.
Soon, we find ourselves with a pink apron tight around our waists in Oay’s professionally equipped outdoor kitchen. Under her instructions, we are cutting, mixing, carving, frying, stirring, boiling… and best of all, tasting!
Ingredients are neatly brought to the cutting boards in the desired quantities by friendly Thai women, who are also taking care of cleaning the dishes, allowing us to focus on the nice parts only!
It is a real pleasure to learn the secrets of the complex Thai cuisine, cooking every recipe from start to finish. Even the green curry is prepared from spices, vegetables, shrimp paste and herbs, that are mashed into the famous curry paste, before using it as a base for the green chicken curry.
Cooking is all about caring and sharing and Oay has been the ideal guide to explore Thai cuisine, one of the best in the world, passing on the secrets she learnt from her own mother.
Proud of our delicious dishes, we are eager to cook the best of Thai food once we will be back home thanks to Oay’s advice and cooking book, and looking forward to tasting more of this subtle gastronomy while traveling through Thailand.
Claire & Marcella
- If you are in the Chiang Mai area and if you wish to live the same experience, we are happy to recommend Oay’s cooking classes that can be booked through her website: Bhum’s Thai Cookery School. Quick reminder: we do not accept payment for our articles, and they are purely objective and based on our own experiences, which was just merely fantastic!
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!