Before we moved to Thailand, the extent of Thai dishes in my repertoire was a makeshift curry using store-bought green chili paste and coconut milk. Although I knew that I wasn’t preparing anything authentic, I hadn’t realized just how far from a true Thai dish it really was! After taking part in a full day cooking class at Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant, our favorite place to eat in Chiang Mai, I can now claim I know how to cook real, homemade Thai food.
With the class size kept intentionally small, I was one of only three students learning from Aye, the owner and talented chef of Anchan Restaurant. Our day started with a trip to a local market to learn about and purchase the fresh ingredients we’d be using in the kitchen. I finally realized that culantro was, in fact, a completely different plant and not a misspelling of cilantro. I learned to avoid picking straw mushrooms that had already opened. I discovered what fresh turmeric root looks like, as I had previously only known it to be the bright yellow, powdered spice.
After our shopping bags were full of fresh produce, and my head full of newfound knowledge, we headed back to the restaurant to begin cooking. The recipes for the day included: Massaman Curry; Tom Yum Soup; Fried Rice; and Green Mango Salad.
And these weren’t just your run of the mill recipes. They’re the ones Aye uses day in and day out, creating the most flavorful and delicious Thai dishes. After two years in Thailand, I still contend that his Massaman curry is the best in the country, and it’s definitely the best I’ve ever had.
Thankfully, that was the curry he taught us how to make…from scratch! The aromas that filled the room while dry cooking all the herbs and spices were mouthwatering. It was an amazing feeling to see all the individual ingredients come together and become the curry paste that I know and love. The best part about it, is that I now know how to make this at home!
The class reignited my cravings for tom yum soup, and I learned how to taste for its flavor profile, ensuring that sour is the first taste to hit my tongue. Aye taught us the secret behind his fried rice recipe, and I’ll definitely keep that in my pocket.
To end our day, we made a delicious green mango salad, although I’ve got the recipe down, I’m still learning how to wield that funky vegetable peeler.
Since the cooking class at Anchan, I’ve already taken Aye’s advice and modified the tom yum recipe to make our favorite Thai soup, tom kha. I’ve also prepared my own green mango salad. I’m happy to report that both dishes turned out great, and are a testament to how wonderful a teacher Aye is. Bon Appetit!