We were picked up at our hotel by an elderly man driving one of the many forms of transportation in Chiang Mei–a smallish truck with a covered back, without windows or doors, and lined with benched and both sides. We’d seen many around the city but this was the first time we were in one. From the sidewalks they look hot but are surprisingly cool, as the breeze comes in the windows and out the door. We were the first in and three other stops made, to bring us all to the market we were going to explore prior to our cooking class. There were 20 of us in all, a good number arriving in other trucks or on their own, many of them late. These young people…
At the market, our host, Pot of the Siam Rice Thai Cooking School, showed us all the many flavourful ingredients that would be found in the recipes of the evening. We were introduced to Thai ginger and eggplant, three different kinds of basil, tumeric, Kaffir lime leaves, different peppercorns, long green beans, lemongrass, green and red curry paste, coconut cream versus coconut milk and palm sugar. I would have liked to have spent more time there and learned about uses for safflower and a myriad of unidentifiable items, but our time was short and soon we were back in the truck on the way to Pot’s home.
Pot explained later in the evening that he sacrificed his herb garden to install another kitchen in his back-yard once his business took off and he needed to expand. Our crowd was divided into two groups of 10, with each having a “kitchen” and a dining area. One was completely outside; our group ate our meal at an indoor dining room once our cooking was done. Pot has a staff of half a dozen people who prepped the vegetables and protein for us, once we read the offerings and made our picks of 4 different categories plus one curry paste. By the end of the evening, each of us had prepared and cooked a soup, a noodle dish, curry paste and a curry dish, and a stir-fry vegetable dish. Way too much food to eat all of it but we did our best. I made a green curry paste and dish which were extraordinary! Green curry has a very unique flavour. It starts with green curry paste, made up of green hot peppers, basil, garlic and a few other ingredients that do not include tumeric or other spices. Fry it up and blend it with Thai eggplant, onions, tomatoes and coconut cream–not milk–and you end up with a most marvelous dish. Yum Yum!!! Geoff made a Panang curry but instead of reducing the ingredients on high heat, he turned it down, thus loosing the smokey richness that is the signature of this dish. So sad–Geoff did not pass the course and has to return to try again. Maybe slow down on the red wine next time, Geoffy!
The following day we had a great day on a new golf course, Alpine, so named because it snugs up against the mountains/hills outside Chiang Mei. What a beautiful course, with narrow fairways and plenty of water but very playable. The best part of the round? Clearly, once again, the caddies, if only for their names. Ram and Porn. Yes, you read it right – P o r n. We joined an ex-pat from Boston and one from Korea who are both living and working in Chiang Mei. Lots of good conversation and fun. I had my best game in Thailand but Geoff’s back stopped turning on 15, so he walked the last 3 holes. No problem–time for Thai massage!
The Chinese could learn something from this kinder, gentler technique. First, we changed into comfy tunic tops and loose pants then lay on fairly wide, flat beds, big enough for the girls to climb on board. They use their bodies and not just hands and arms to manipulate, stretch and massage. Thai people are mostly pretty tiny so you can take it when they press on your hips and thighs with the force of their upper bodies or bend your leg, put their foot just above the back of your knee and pull, leaning away from you. My arms were twisted in ways I hadn’t done before but all of it felt great! This was Geoff’s first experience with massage and he seemed to like it, especially the foot massage. Normally, he can’t stand anyone touching his feet so this was quite amazing. Maybe tomorrow we go for a pedicure? Maybe he be a ladyboy after all?