Before coming to Thailand I had an ever growing list of must-do activities and right at the top was "Take a Cooking Class", more specifically a May Kaidee cooking class, which had been recommended to me by two experts in the cuisine, Kip from Messy Vegetarian Cook and Jess of Get Sconed / Vida Vegan Con fame. There was only one small hiccup in my plan to take the class, last autumn I was diagnosed with an allergy to peppers. After almost two years of struggling with worsening joint pain issues that doctors were finally associating with my stomach / digestive concerns, a combination of tests and an elimination diet that saw me quitting potatoes for a month, resulted in me feeling a million times better. Almost as soon as I quit peppers, including chilli peppers and paprika as well as the classic bell pepper, I was able to exercise again, I could sit cross legged, I could type for more than five minutes at a time and I could walk up and down the stairs of my own house without being in excruciating pain. It was a pretty amazing transformation and after months and months of worry I was honestly pretty okay with the diagnosis - when words like Lupus are being thrown around an allergy doesn't seem so bad. But then I remembered Thailand. Thailand without chilli was surely going to be impossible / boring but there was no way I was cancelling or changing plans. This trip, and the beginning of a whole new life on the road, had been in the works for so damn long that nothing was going to hold me back. There have definitely been a few chilli mishaps resulting in some less than fun pain issues but on the whole I've been managing... I've been a little sad to have more of a limited eating scope because when you want to order the Thai green curry you can't just ask them to hold the chilli because it's the base of the dish, it would be impossible. I was basically totally over the moon when a quick e-mail exchange with May Kaidee confirmed that they'd be able to modify a class for me using peppercorns instead of chilli. Amazing. I could finally get stuck into Thai cuisine.
Nick and I showed up at the class not quite knowing what to expect and were greeted by Duan, May Kaidee's sister, at the meeting point just across from her restaurant Morning Glory. She's super friendly and a joy to be taught by and we dived straight into an introduction to the flavours needed to make some classic Thai dishes, minus the chilli of course! Kafir lime leaves. Galangal. Lemongrass. Garlic. Thai basil. Coriander. Lime. All flavours that I love but that have always been overpowered by chilli before. We used fresh green and red peppercorns to create something a little left of mainstream that was perfectly suited to me.
Next we met the veggies and I learnt some valuable chopping skills, I cook but I've never paid attention to the knife skills and now I can cut a squash with confidence. Pro tip: you need a crazy sharp knife, it does't even need to be that big, just sharp. Also am I the only vegan on earth that didn't know you could steam both pumpkin and potato?! I've always seen these as things that needed roasting, or boiling in the case of the potato. I am very excited to have learnt that there'll be a way for me to enjoy pumpkin whilst I'm living the van dwelling vegan hippy life this summer.
Apologies for this horrific picture, but how cool is that steamer?!
After a swift lesson in fresh peppercorn filled red and green curry pastes, the base of so many of the foods we created in class, we whipped up a quick batch of pumpkin hummus in the pestle and mortar.
I was blown away by the fact that we could create something so delicious so quickly and this feeling quickly became a constant during the class!
Pumpkin soup two ways came next followed by peanut sauce and fresh spring rolls. The spring rolls were filled with crunchy veggies and the freshest herbs and we ate them dipped in the peanut sauce. I've never worked with fresh spring roll wrappers before, they're definitely slightly superior texture wise, but Duan insisted that the dried kind we can find at home are a-ok.
Next up a fast Pad Thai and some fried veggies with cashew nuts. Again I was blown away by how fast these came together!
Soups were next and we created two variations of Tom Yam soup to illustrate how one small change of herb can greatly impact the flavours, as well as Tom Kha soup from one base recipe. The creamy Tom Kha was my favourite and I pretty much devoured the whole bowl right there and then.
Now I have pretty much never eaten curry, I've always been super sensitive to chilli (now I know why) so it's not something I've ever really enjoyed and when making curry at home I always just left out the chilli paste entirely and added a tiny splash of über mild chilli garlic sauce which, of course, resulted in super bland uninspiring dishes. We made both Masaman Curry and Green Thai Curry and whilst I enjoyed both dishes the Green Thai Curry blew me away with it's depth of flavour. I've always been a pumpkin fan so I guess it's no surprise that this was my favourite but it was so good that I've been craving it almost constantly ever since.
We went on to make a beautiful fresh crunchy Green Papaya Salad, something else I've always wanted to try, and not one but two desserts. Mango Sticky Rice and Pumpkin in Sweet Coconut Milk. My pictures of these are best left in my iPhoto library rather than out there in the world but rest assured that they were delicious.
The class was an absolute joy and I'm adding myself to the chorus of endorsers. At the time of booking I wasn't aware that we'd be in a class on our own or that we'd be cooking in a real restaurant kitchen rather than a test kitchen set up for students and I'm not sure if these things are the norm or the luck of the draw.
As we decided to hang around Chiang Mai for just a little longer we were lucky not to have to miss the amazing food we cooked for too long because a day later we paid another visit to Morning Glory for dinner where Duan thankfully still had fresh peppercorns knocking around. She was able to make us another perfect Green Thai Curry and she even insisted I come back into the kitchen again to help pound the green peppercorn paste!
It's perfection in a bowl and I finally understand what people have been raving about all this time. I can't wait until I have a kitchen again so that I can make Green Thai Curry over and over.
We also ate fried and fresh Spring Rolls with the latter being served with Peanut Sauce.
I looooved the tomato based peanut sauce we whipped up in class and this one was no different, I could eat it by the spoonful but I think a fresh spring roll is probably a more polite instrument! The fried rolls were great too but I'm totally on team fresh if you're going to make me choose.
Morning Glory is definitely on my must-visit list for Chiang Mai and the class, as well as being a whole lot of fun, was a totally transformative experience for me. Ten out of ten!