How to choose a Chiang Mai cooking class
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 for Chiang Mai cooking class. So which do you choose? Which are the good ones? Which are value for money? Where can you cook the dishes you want?
Hanging out in Chiang Mai with my parents, we thought a Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai 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?
I gave it some thought and came up with several things to consider when choosing a Chiang Mai cooking class.
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 when choosing a Thai cooking class?
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.
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 in Chiang Mai, 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.
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 vegetarian Thai cooking 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!
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 travellers and local people offering tours. He did a course with Vannee where you can choose what you want to learn from 50 dishes!
Most Thai cooking 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?
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.
Half day courses range in price from 800 to about 1200 baht per person. Full day Thai cooking 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.
Another way to choose a Chiang Mai cooking class 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.
Here’s a great post on the dishes you can cook at Mama Noi’s.
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.
|Thai farm cooking school||Full day 8.30-5||Choose from categories||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 categories||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 categories||900||Next to old town|
|Galangal||Full Day 9-3 Morning 9-1.30 evening 4.00-8.00||Choose from categories||Full day 1000 Half day 800||in town||No course on Sundays|
|Sammy’s Organic cooking school||Full day 8.30-5||Choose from categories||1000||in the 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 categories||Full day 1000 Half day 800||house with organic garden in town|
|Thai Akha||Full day 9-3, evening 5-9||Choose from categories 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 categories||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 categories||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 categories||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 categories||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 specialties 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 categories||Full day 1000 Half day 800|
|Green Mango||Full day 9.0-3.30 Morning 9.00-12.30 Evening 4-7||Choose from categories||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 categories||Full day 1,200 Half day 900|
|Tom Yum Thai||Morning – 9-1.30 Evening 4-8.30||Choose from categories||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.
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