Saturday, April 11, 2009

Market shopping, Thai Cooking class and Shimmering Sunset Runs.

When planning for our trip through Southeast Asia we set out to spend between two and four days in each city, town or beach outpost. Undoubtedly during this type of trip there will be certain places that you connect with more than others along the way.  After breezing through Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi we arrived at the quaint mid-sized city of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. As it turned out, Chiang Mai was my type of city.

Chiang Mai has two definable portions of the city, the Old City and the New City. A moat and a fading brick wall with four entryways, on the South, West, East, and North walls, surround the Old City. The vibe of the Old City can be most easily compared to the Alphabet city portion of the East Village – streets and alleyways lined by quirky shops, local markets selling fresh produce, small parks, low-level apartment buildings and guesthouses for travelers like ourselves.

Soon after settling in at our hotel, The Raming Lodge, I signed up 

for a Thai cooking class that would begin that very morning. Asia Scenic designed a workshop that would not only teach us a selection of varied Thai dishes but would guide us through local market shopping to pick the produce we would use that very day. After spending more than a week in Thailand I needed to learn the secrets to some of its classic dishes in the hopes of recreating them once I return back home.

Upon arrival at Asia Scenic in the Old City I met the other two members of my cooking class, Cynthia and Julia, good friends from Taipei, Taiwan who were spending a week in Chiang Mai on vacation. We were introduced to our quirky, hyper, self-conscious and over-zealous

cooking instructor, Lanee. Lanee greeted us with a zany enthusiasm that was at first a bit disturbing. She was certainly not the wise, kind and gentle Thai cooking instructor that I had in mind who would impart bits of wisdom on us as we sprinkled chives into our fried rice, but such is life. Luckily as time passed I found her disposition to be more entertaining than irritating so I went along with it!!

After ingesting cups of the Thai coffee equivalent of rocket fuel and selecting our dishes - Papaya Salad, Glass Noodles Salad and Chicken Pad Thai - we headed out to the local market. As soon as we arrived Julia, Cynthia and I got a glimpse of how much of a celebrity chef Lanee actually is in Chiang Mai!

We went around the market learning about various Thai ingredients, such as dried lemongrass and hot chili pepper, varieties of fresh rice and noodles, and exotic produce.

Some vendors greeted Lanee with nods of happiness and appreciation (no doubt they enjoyed her business) as others shook their heads in disapproval, undoubtedly fed up with her boisterous ways.  Once we loaded up on produce we headed back to begin cooking.

The beauty of Thai dishes is that the shopping and preparation take much longer than the actual 

cooking process.  Once everything is purchased and chopped up, all that 

is really left to do is fire up the wok, throw the ingredients in and sear them for 3-5 minutes.  Lanee guided us through all of the dishes mentioned above and we took breaks to sit and sample each dish. The flavors were heavenly and I was relieved to realize how easy they would be to recreate at home. Julia, Cynthia and I gladly sat down and enjoyed our freshly self-prepared Thai dishes.

After a few hours of cooking and eating I returned to the hotel, satisfied 

with the knowledge I gained in just one day.  I grabbed my iPod and decided to top off the evening with a sunset run around the moat and wall of the Old City. The city lit up in beautiful shades of hazy pinks and greys as the sun set behind the mountains of northern Thailand.  Lanterns swinging from rooftop bar posts began lighting up all around town, welcoming the evening crowd in. Having spent the day in Chiang Mai getting to know some locals, learning all about their food and topping it off with one of my favorite activities, a good run, I felt right in tune with the quaint mid-sized city.

***Recipe for Papaya Salad


1 tsp palm sugar, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp lime juice


1-3 small chilies, Long beans - cut in 1 inch length, 4-5 pieces of fresh garlic, 1/4 tomato sliced, 1 papaya thinly sliced, 1 tsp roasted peanuts


1. Pound chili, long beans and garlic together until they start to break down. 2. Add tomato, palm sugar fish sauce and lim juice and mix thoroughly. 3. Add shredded papaya then mix. 4. Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve.


  1. Try this Thai cooking website.
    www.thaifoodtonight.comIt's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along.

  2. Ha! Oh Meg, papaya wasn't meant for everyone I guess!!