How to choose a Chiang Mai cooking class

 

How to choose a Chiang Mai cooking class

 

Hanging out in Chiang Mai with my parents, we thought a Thai cooking class would be a fun thing to do together. Kris and I did one in Pai back in 2007 and it was awesome. We love Thai food anyway, and my parents had been enjoying lots of great food we’d recommended during their trip with us. Why not learn how to cook it so we can attempt to replicate it back home?

Chiang Mai is famous for its cooking classes. And there are loads. The hotel was full of leaflets for them. Tripadvisor has a long list. A Google search brings up over 600,000 hits. So which do you choose? Which are the good ones? Which are value for money? Where can you cook the dishes you want?

I gave it some thought, and came up with several things to consider when choosing a Chiang Mai cooking class.

Thai hot and sour soup - Tom Yum

Thai hot and sour soup – Tom Yum (from www.Foodiesfeed.com)

Reviews of Chiang Mai cooking classes

My ‘go to’ when choosing travel related things is Tripadvisor. There is even a post ‘The Top Ten Chiang Mai cooking classes’. Each recommended course has a long list of reviews from happy guests. And that’s the problem. They all have a five-star rating. They all have positive reviews. While the list gave me an idea of what courses were available, I couldn’t choose between them based on reviews or ratings.

So what else do you consider?

Time

How much time do you want to spend on your cooking course? If you are really into cooking and have a lot of time, then there are full day courses. You start at 8.30 or 9, and cook and eat until somewhere between 3 and 5.30, depending on the course. They usually include some other activities such as a market visit or a talk on farming.

If you are only in Chiang Mai for a few days, you might want to do a half day course. There are morning only classes like the one at Asia Scenic from 9am-1pm where you cook and eat lunch. Most others offer an evening class like the one at Mama Noi between 4.30 and 8.30 where you cook and eat dinner. There are fewer afternoon courses, but Siam Rice run a course from 12-3.30.

All courses vary in length slightly. Check out the table at the end of this blog or the course websites for the exact timings.

 

If you have even longer, you can do a three-day vegetarian or vegan cooking course in the mountains with YouSubai cooking school. Running from Monday to Thursday, it includes cooking and optional yoga sessions. The price for the three days including accommodation is 3,200 baht.

 

Food

I bet if you’re thinking of doing a Thai cooking class, you know what dishes you want to learn how to cook. Maybe you’re one of the many who loves pad Thai (not us, we really don’t like it that much). Perhaps you want to be able to make a decent red or green curry to impress your friends.

There is a range of food you can cook on Thai cooking classes, and the choice is vast. If you do a full day course, you usually cook about 7 dishes. On a half day course you will cook less, usually about 4-5. You eat everything you cook, so choose wisely!

On many courses, like the one we took at Galangal Cooking Studio (you can read about our experiences here), you choose a dish from each category, usually salad, stir fry, soup, curry paste, curry, dessert. Each person on the course can usually pick a different dish, so if there are several of you, you can learn and eat a range of dishes.

pad thai chiang mai cooking course

Pad Thai – stir fry noodles with bean sprouts

 

Some courses offer different dishes on different days of the week. For example, at A Lot of Thai, the menu changes each day.

At Pantawan Cooking, there is a different theme each day: Monday –  Northern cuisine, Tuesday – Issan (northeastern cuisine), Wednesday- healthy Thai food, Thursday – Thai Home style, Friday – Royal Thai cuisine. Sat- All time Thai favourites, Sunday – Chef’s choice.

Similar to Pantawan, Small House Cooking school offers six different menus: Northern Thai, healthy, vegetarian, seafood, street food, Royal Thai. You choose which one you want to do that day. It seems to be closed at the time of writing, but maybe it will open again soon.

In a couple there is a fixed menu for all. For instance, at Red Chilli, the menu each day is:

Soup              :        Tom Yum Soup and Tom Kha SoupCurry

Curry paste  :         Red Curry Paste and Green Curry Paste
Curry             :        Gang Ped Pon Lamai Ruem and Green Kiew Wan
Stir fried noodle : Pad Thai with Prawns
Dessert          :        Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango

This is a total of nine dishes, so you are getting a lot here if that’s what you want to cook.

Schools sometimes offer a more specialist menu. Red Chilli also has a Northern Thai cooking course. Thai Akha offers normal dishes plus three dishes from the Akha hill tribe.

If you are into vegetarian, healthy or organic food, there are specialist courses for you, like the one at Sammy’s Organic Thai cooking school (only Facebook) and Basil healthy Thai. My friend Emma took the course at Mai Kaidee and really recommends it. They not only have vegetarian and vegan cooking classes in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, but restaurants in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and even New York!

Thai cooking course

from www.foodiesfeed.com

 

Since we had done a Thai cooking class before, we had already learned how to cook pad thai, red curry and fried rice. I also don’t eat nuts, so chicken with cashew nuts didn’t appeal. We wanted to learn some of our favourite Thai foods – laap (spicy pork salad), yam talay (spicy seafood salad) som tam (spicy mango salad), pad siew (fried big rice noodles) and khao soi (a northern Thai yellow curry with noodles. The choice of dishes at Galangal Cooking Studio offered all of these. We could choose from each category, there were four dishes in each category, so between the four of us, we cooked the whole menu!

Travel Blogger Travel Dave did a course through the website With Locals, which pairs up tourists and travellings and local people offering tours. He did a course with Vannee where you can choose what you want to learn from 50 dishes!

Location

Most schools are in or close to Chiang Mai city. Others like Thai farm cooking school are outside the city on their own farms. If you go to a farm, you’ll be able to hang out there, and learn how various fruits and vegetables are grown. Farms are also sometimes organic, so you can see how organic food is grown.

Travelling out to a farm will take a bit longer, so if you are short on time, you might want to stay nearer the city.

What’s included in your Chiang Mai cooking class

Almost all courses include a market visit. They take you to a local fresh market and show you what the various ingredients for Thai cooking look like. Do you know what galangal is?

 

Vegetables at the market Chiang Mai cooking class

Photo from Foodiesfeed.com

You’ll also get a cookbook so you can attempt to replicate the dishes when you get home.

Most courses organise a pick up from your hotel and a drop off at the end, unless you are staying far out of the city.

Price

Half day courses range in price from 800 to about 1200 baht per person. Full day courses are obviously more expensive, costing from 900 to 2000 baht. Considering this includes a huge meal as well as the tuition and other activities, it’s quite a bargain.

Blogs

Another way to choose a course is, of course, to take recommendations from travel bloggers. See who bloggers you follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram did courses with. Google it and see what blogs there are on it.

Like I said, we took a cooking class with Galangal Cooking Studio. You can read about our experience in our blog on it.

If you are wondering whether to take a cooking course in Chiang Mai, Travel Bloggers Hannah and Adam at Getting Stamped and  Travel Dave can hopefully convince you.

Papaya salad Som Tam

Papaya Salad – known as Som Tam in Thai

Comparison of Chiang Mai Cooking Classes

Here is a table I compiled of the top 20 Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai (based on Trip Advisor) which might help you choose your cooking course. All prices and information are correct at the time of writing. They are not in any specific order.

 

Times Food Price Location Other
Thai farm cooking school Full day 8.30-5 Choose from catagories 1500 organic farm learn how to make sticky rice
Asia Scenic Full day 9-3.0 in city or 9-4.30 at farm  Morning 9-1 evening 5-9 Choose from catagories Full ady 1,000 in city, 1200 at farm  Half day 800 offers course at farm or in city
Zaab E Lee morning 9-2  evening 4.30-9 Choose from catagories 900 Next to old town
Galangal Full Day 9-3  Morning 9-1.30  evening 4.00-8.00 Choose from catagories Full day 1000  Half day 800 in town No course on Sundays
Sammy’s Organic cooking school Full day 8.30-5 Choose from catagories 1000 in countryside
Red Chilli morning 8.30-2 Evening 3.30-8.30 Fixed Thai menu (see above) or northern Thai menu (only in mornings) 1350
Mama Noi Full Day 9-3  Morning 9-1  evening 4.30-8.30 Choose from catagories Full day 1000  Half day 800 house with organic garden in town
Thai Akha Full day 9-3,   evening 5-9 Choose from catagories of typical Thai foods, and then cook three typical Akha dishes Full day 1,100 half day 1000 includes samples of locally grown hilltribe coffee
Basil healthy Thai Full day 9-3 Evening 4-8.30 Choose from catagories 1000
 Siam Rice Full day 9.30  Morning 9-1.30  Afternoon 12-3.30 (no market tour)  evening 4.30-8.30 Choose from catagories Full day 900, Morning 800   Afternoon 700, Evening 800
Pantawan Morning 9-2 Evening4-8 Different menu each day
Benny’s Home cooking Full day 9-4 Choose from catagories 1200 organic garden
A lot of Thai Full day 10-5 Morning 10-2.30 Different menu each day Full day 1500, Half day 1200 Run byYui (Siripen Sriyabhaya) – a Thai TV chef. Gordon Ramsey learned Thai cooking here.
The best thai cooking school morning: 8.30-2  afternoon: 3.30-8.30 choose from catagories organic farm
Cooking at home Full day 9-3  Evening 4-8 Different menu on different days 1,400 countryside outside Chiang Mai
Aroy Aroy Thai cooking school Morning 9-30-1.30 Choice of three menus: Siam delights, chiang Mai specialities and chef’s favourite dishes about 2,100 riverboat trip to market complimentary Thai beer
Baan Thai Full day 9.40-4.00  Evening 4.30-8.30 Choose from catagories Full day 1000  Half day 800
Green Mango Full day 9.0-3.30 Morning 9.00-12.30  Evening 4-7 Choose from catagories Full day 1,200 Half day 900 Market trip only for full day courses
Thai Orchid Full day – 9-3 Morning 10-1.30 Choose from catagories Full day 1,200 Half day 900
Tom Yum Thai Morning – 9-1.30 Evening 4-8.30 Choose from catagories 800 city
Thai cookery school choice of five menus. You can do several days cooking here 1400 The first Thai cooking school in Chiang Mai. Run by Sompon Nabnian – a Thai celebrity chef
Mai Kaidee Morning 9-1   Evening 2-6 Fixed Vegetarian and vegan menu, including raw foods 1500 Also available in Bangkok

If I have forgotten a great course, let me know so I can add it to the table.

 

Have you taken a cooking class in Chiang Mai? Which did you take and would you recommend it? Leave a comment to share your experiences with others.

 

Why not save this for later? Pin it now.

 

How to choose a Chiang Mai cooking course

 

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18 Responses

  1. Ellis says:

    I never knew there were so much cooking classes in CHiang Mai. Thanks for giving an overview of all the possibilities. I was in Chiang Mai two years ago and didn’t get the chance to have a cooking class, but it sounds like a nice idea.

  2. Corinne says:

    I have done one cooking class in Chiang Mai and absolutely loved it. This is a comprehensive list. I highly recommend cooking classes!

  3. Una-Minh says:

    This post deserves so much love because you’ve put so much work into the comparison of Chiang Mai Cooking Classes – it’s so in-depth especially with the table at the bottom of the post (something that so many bloggers don’t do). Incidentally, I had serious Pad thai cravings after reading.

    • KateandKris says:

      Thank you. It was what I wanted to find when we were booking, and I since I couldn’t find one, I wrote one!

  4. This sounds awesome! I’ve never thought of taking a cooking class in a location that I’m vacationing in, especially an exotic location. What a great idea to really immerse yourself into the culture by learning to make a local dish! Love, love, love it!

  5. Sounds like interesting thing to do. Even more so if you have in mind that they do organic and health cooking, and market visits! Love the idea. And I can see that you did have some great time while doing it. 🙂 So, how was your first dish? 🙂

    • KateandKris says:

      Delicious! They were all yummy. They are still pretty good when we try them at home without the beady eye of our teacher on us!

  6. Milena says:

    Such a useful post. I was in Chiang Mai last year, but didn’t have enough time to take any cooking class. I will save the post for a reference – I am going back to Chiang Mai this year with one way ticket…. so plenty of time to start learning how to cook all those tasty dishes!

  7. Inspiring. Unfortunately I couldn’t/didn’t take cooking class despite being in Chaing Mai multiple times but next time I’m there, I would like to make sure I do this! Also, want to make sure how recent is your comparison info? Thanks

    • KateandKris says:

      The table was written early 2017, after we had done the course. It’s up to date from there, but you never can tell when schools will change the information, so you might have to check.

  8. Hayley says:

    Chiang Mai certainly looks like the perfect place to try a cooking course, so many great choices. Love all your pictures, you captured it beautifully 🙂

  9. stephanie says:

    Galangal studio sounds nice. I went to Sammy’s in 2015 and had a great time cooking the standard recipes like geen curry, pad thai and mango sticky rice.
    Iwould love to do another one, and learn other recipes. so thanks for sharing these tips.

  10. My whole family took a class at Basil Healthy Thai cooking school. They were really good at working with our kids, and I still make both the Sticky Mango Rice dessert and the Som Tam that they taught us.

  11. Sylvia says:

    Anyone looking to attend a cooking wouldn’t need to go pass your post. Well done!

  12. Laura W says:

    VERY helpful! Thank you- taking a class in March and this saved me SO much time.

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