People today seek uncommon experiences when they travel, and what better way to explore a foreign culture by learning their food. Thai cuisine has become internationally recognised as one of the best cuisines, and what better way than to immerse yourself in the Thai culinary world. 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai is one such boutique hotels that offer this experience as part of their offerings, simply named The Kitchen. This however, is not just a cooking class where you are simply taught a dish, but actually take you to a local market where you explore yourself.
As your culinary experience begin, you are taken by a limousine, with chauffer, and two chefs to the market for your first agenda. The ride is not long, but completely worth it in the comfort of a limousine, which is also equipped with Wi-Fi. The journey can be quite enjoyable, especially in the heat of the day. As you are on your way, you are slowly introduced to the small of the city, with the chefs talking about Thai culture and Lanna cuisine, a speciality of the Northern Thai region.
Siri Wattana Market Tour (ตลาดศิริวัฒนา)
As part of the tour, you are taken to Siri Wattana Market, one of Chiang Mai’s oldest market. This market is also famous for being Chiang Mai’s cleanest market, where the meat and seafood sections are located within air-conditioned walls. This market is also known locally as Kad Thanin, and carries a variety of local produce. An interesting segment at this market is the cooked food section, including Lanna dishes, street snacks and desserts.
The selection of street food you can find here is in the myriads, and some iconic food of Lanna descent including Khao Soi (fried curry noodles), Nam Ngiao (spicy noodle soup), the Sai Oua (Lanna sausage), Khao Mao Tod (banana fritters), Khanom Nag Led (rice crackers), as well as other Thai delicacies such as the Sai Krok Isan (Isan sausage), Mu Ping (grilled pork skewers) and Khanom Tago (coconut pudding).
The chef that took us on this culinary experience was Junior Sous Chef Lakana Suakeaw, affectionately known as Chef Mam. Her career in the culinary arts started when she was 20 years old as an apprentice chef at Club Aldiana, Hua Hin. Since then, she has been working at several 5 star establishments including serving 8 years in the Maldives. She has then returned to Thailand to explore her career with 137 Pillars House. When asked what is an important philosophy when it comes to food, and what are the challenges people may find with this cooking class, Chef Mam replied: –
“Food is endless. My philosophy is to never stop learning. There is so much I can learn about food, new ingredients, new technique and that’s what I love about food. The dishes taught in the cooking class are suitable for beginners. They are popular Thai dishes such as Tom Kha Gai and Pad Thai which are not too difficult to cook when guest return to their home. The most challenging part is to make sure that the student understands the cooking method and technique so that the can cook when they return home.They should have fun and in the same time learn about Thai cuisine and its elements. The market tour is a very good way to familiarize with the ingredients.” — Lakana Suakeaw, Junior Sous Chef of 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai
The Cooking Class
With this cooking class, you are able to select 1 of 3 Set Menus, each with appetiser, main and dessert. The selections range from Set 1 which has Tom Yum Goong, Set 2 which has Green Curry, and Set 3, which has Pad Thai. Each set had an iconic dish which will make it extremely hard to choose. The set below are options from Set 3, which includes Tom Kha, a galangal coconut soup, Pad Thai, Thai seafood fried noodles, and Khanom Tago, a coconut and lychee dessert.
Tom Kha Gai (ต้มข่าไก่) / Chicken In Coconut Broth
This dish is a common soup found in most Thai households and is similar to its cousin, the more popular Tom Yum Goong. Tom Kha’s main ingredients are galangal, which is sometimes known as Asian ginger, which is derives its name from, where Kha is the Thai word the root. This dish is very easy to prepare, and is decently healthy as it uses many vegetables.
½ cup of chicken meat, bite size pieces
3 pieces of galangal, thinly sliced
¼ cup mushroom, trimmed and parboiled
4 pieces of lemongrass, lightly pounded and cut into 2 inch-length pieces
1 tomato, cut into four pieces
3 pieces of lime leaves
1 to 1½ tablespoon of fish sauce
1 to 1½ tablespoon of lime juice
3 to 4 birds eye chilli, bruised
1 cup water or chicken stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon of coriander leaves, roughly cut
2 to 4 pieces of dried chilli
1 tablespoon of spring onions, cut into ½ inch-length
1.) Heat the chicken stock and coconut milk until boiling, add the galangal, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and mushrooms, continue cooking until the liquid released its fragrance.
2.) Add the chicken and simmer until the chicken is done, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes. Stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Taste and add more lime juice and fish sauce as needed.
3.) Before serving, garnish with the coriander leaves, and sliced deep fried dried chillies, and spring onions.
The finished dish turned out better than you would expect. As the chef gave very simple instructions to follow, this dish was easy to replicate. The only part that would be difficult is to ensure that the chicken is not overcooked. You can also add chilli to this dish for a little added kick.
Pad Thai (ดไทย) / Seafood Wok Fried Rice Noodles
This dish is probably the most iconic of Thai dishes internationally, and although seemingly simple, it is really a little more complex than presented. It is because the ingredients use, especially the sauces, are not typical items you can find in any grocers. However, most of the ingredients can be acquired from your local Asian supermarket.
2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
1 small bunch of beansprouts
2 stalks of Chinese chives, cut long
½ cup dried small rice noodle
1 tablespoon of tofu, diced
1 tablespoon of fried shallots
1 teaspoon of minced pickle raddish (choi pou / cai pao, 菜脯)
1 teaspoon of roasted peanut, ground
1 tablespoon of prawn coral in oil (sometimes sold as Thai prawn chilli oil)
chicken stock, as needed
fish sauce, to taste
chilli powder to taste
1.) Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, add tofu, fry the tofu until golden brown.
2.) Add pickles and shallots, continue cooking for further 2 minutes, then add eggs.
3.) When egg starts to set, add noodles and tamarind paste.
4.) Keep stirring, and add chicken stock when necessary.
5.) Continue cooking until noodle is soft, then add peanuts.
6.) Add fish sauce and chilli to taste.
7.) Before removing from heat, add beansprouts and Chinese chives.
8.) Transfer to serving dish with raw beansprouts and Chinese chives, a lime wedge and peanuts.
One thing of note that most people don’t realise about Pad Thai is that it uses dry noodles, and are not rehydrated before. As the chef explained, while the noodles are fried, chicken stock is added in the frying process. This leaves the noodles slightly al-dente after cooking, and flavoured with chicken stock. The most eye catching element of this dish were the giant fresh water prawns used, and do note, that this is not the common Pad Thai, but a luxurious one.
Khanom Tago (ขนมตะโก้) / Coconut Rice Pudding
Khanom Tago, also called Tago or Tako, is a coconut rice pudding. This dessert is commonly found in markets, and usually comes with young coconut filling. However, you can also opt for using lychee, which has a different type of sweetness. This dessert is traditionally filled into banana leaves before being topped with coconut cream.
1 tablespoon of tapioca flour
½ cup of rice flour
1 canned water chestnut (optional)
1 canned lychee (optional)
4 slices of young coconut flesh (optional)
½ cup of pandan leaf extract
fine sugar, add to taste
½ cup water
Coconut Cream Ingredients:
½ cup rice flour
½ cup coconut milk
¼ tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1.) Cut water chestnut / lychee flesh / coconut flesh into small dices.
2.) Put rice flour, tapioca flour, pandan leaf extract, sugar and water into a small saucepan, mix well.
3.) Heat saucepan over medium heat. Continue stirring until the mixture is thick.
4.) Add diced filling and keep stirring until it is very thick.
5.) Spoon the mixture into cups.
6.) Top with coconut cream.
Coconut Cream Preparation:
1.) Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan.
2.) Heat over medium heat, continue stirring until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
3.) Spoon over each cup.
This dessert is quite easy to make, with ingredients quite easily cooked, even for truly amateur cooks. While it makes a nice snack, this dish can actually be had warm or cool, which both gives a different experience.
The 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai Cooking Class Experience
This is quite a nice experience for those who love to cook, simple dishes, yet very traditional Thai. It may sound daunting, but it really is a very enjoyable experience. This experience is highly recommended for those who want to learn more about Thai cooking, or is just interested in something different. A bonus is you leave with a certificate with your name an a beautiful apron.
This cooking class is definitely an experience that we highly recommend, whether it be your first time, or just from wanting to learn to cook with your loved one.
For a complete travel experience, see our Travel Guide: Things To Do In Chiang Mai.
For a complete food experience, see our Food Guide: Chiang Mai Street Food.
For a choice of a heritage hotel, see our review of 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai.
For menu options, please see 137 Pillar House Cooking Class Menu.
For easy use on your mobile while cooking, download 137 Pillars House Cooking Class Recipes.
2 Soi 1, Nawatgate Road,
Muang Chiang Mai,
+66 53 247788
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY: NICHOLAS NG | WEBSITE: 137 PILLAR HOUSE CHIANG MAI |