How to cook Thai food when you can’t cook!

For me, there is something nice and relaxing about baking.  However cooking is a whole different ball game.  I can cook, I just don’t enjoy it and I always seem to miss something off the shopping list.  I’m a bit slap dash!  However,  I’m lucky really because my husband is a great cook and he loves it.  I just like the end result.  Win win!

Anyway, on our recent holiday to Thailand, in an attempt to inject a bit of fun into cooking, when my husband and I visited Chiang Mai, Thailands Northern City, we decided to book into a local cooking school.

Chopsticks in Chiang Mai

Normally the thought of cooking or going back to school on holiday wouldn’t appeal to me but as there was food involved and 2 separate friends had recommended the experience, we thought we’d give it a go.

Chaing Mai seems to have a huge amount of cooking schools to choose from but following online research and a quick check on Trip Advisor whilst still in the UK, we booked with Zabb-E-Lee Thai Cooking School.  When booking excursions and hotels I always make sure to check Trip Advisor, but I do take the reviews with a pinch of salt as you’ll never please everyone all of the time, however, Zabb-E-Lee certainly lives up to its 5* reputation.

Zabb-E-Lee means ‘Very Delicious’ in Thai – Perfect!

Top Tip: Many hotels in Chiang Mai (and all over Thailand) offer traditional Thai cooking courses.  My advice would be not to get seduced by these.  They almost always cost more than the independent ones and won’t give you such an authentic experience or offer as much of a choice of dishes to make.

We opted for the half day experience and, not being ones to waste time, we were picked up in the back of a truck from our hotel at 4pm which was just an hour after arrived at our hotel having just travelled from Bangkok.  We joined 6 other people to learn how to cook traditional Thai food, but first, we were taken to the wooden built Ming Muang Sompet Market which is located right in the middle of the Old City.  Once at the market, we were given a list of recipes and we each chose 5 dishes to make.  The team then bought the ingredients fresh while our teacher, Bow, showed us some of the unusual vegetables and spices and explained how they are used in traditional Thai dishes.  It was particularly helpful that she told us about some more common alternatives that we can use when we return home.

We had a short while spare to freely browse the market and make any purchases before we were taken to our ‘classroom’.

Once in our classroom, we enjoyed welcome drinks, washed our hands and put our aprons on before preparing our ingredients and then cooking our meals together at our own work stations – complete with beer to drink whilst we cooked up a storm.  The preparation and kitchen areas were really clean and there were people helping to clear up and clean so we didn’t have to do it which was great.

Delicious Thai Food

The food my husband and I chose was,

Spring Rolls, Thai Fresh Spring Rolls, Pad Thai, Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Stuffed Cabbage Soup, Tom Yum Kung (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup), Panang Curry with Chicken and Prawns and a deliciously sweet Mango Sticky Rice.


After cooking, we all enjoyed our food together and it’s safe to say we didn’t leave hungry.  It was a great way for me to demonstrate to my husband that I can actually cook.  Perhaps now he will have me do it more (damn it!).

One of the great parts about the experience was that we could choose how spicy we wanted our food to be.  In our group, there were people who really went to town and made their food super hot, whilst others were much more modest with the heat.  Either way, it was nice to be able to tailor our food to our individual liking.

The icing on the cake (there actually wasn’t any cake but the mango sticky rice was delish), was coming away with a cookbook so we can recreate our creations back home.

The whole experience lasted around 5 hours and if you’re into food like me, I would highly recommend it if you visit Chiang Mai.



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