Wednesday, November 12, 2008

You Sabai Thai Cookery Course

At the end of my vacation (yes, I'm a little behind on my posting), I took a 3-day vegetarian cooking course and stayed at an organic farm about an hour north of Chiang Mai in Mae Taeng.
You Sabai is a homestay/cooking school just up the hill from Pun Pun, an organic farm, seed-saving operation, and sustainable living and learning center.

While I was there, I stayed in a beautiful earthen 2-room hut. Every morning we did yoga at sunrise, had local organic hilltribe coffee with our breakfast, and picked veggies and herbs from the garden. 

Throughout the day, we cooked several dishes in the outdoor kitchen, ate constantly, and relaxed around the farm. There were only four of us in the course which allowed for a lot of practice and asking questions. My companions were a writer from Singapore and two chefs from France on their honeymoon.

We learned to make soymilk and tofu from scratch. 

My Pad Thai: the quintessential Thai dish,

In addition to Pad Thai, we made Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad), Spring Rolls, Tom Kha (coconut milk soup), fried rice with herbs, stir-fried cashews, bananas with sweet sticky rice and coconut milk, and several curries. My favorite of the curries is Masaman, with peanut, pineapple and indian spices. 

Our teacher Yao taught us that each dish must have the four tastes of Thai cooking: sweet, salty, sour and spicy. I also learned that each flavor can be acquired through different ingredients, depending on how much you are cooking (one portion, or a big pot), whether you are boiling (like soups and curries) or stir-frying, and whether you want a sharp or soft taste. So you can add palm sugar, coconut sugar or regular brown sugar for the sweet, you can use soy sauce, fish sauce or salt for the salty, lime or tamarind paste for the sour, and of course, any of the many different types of chilis for spicy. 

This rule of Thai flavor extends beyond cooking; when you buy many types of fresh fruit from the market (especially sour like pomelo), they will give you a small bag of salt, sugar and dried chilis to dip the fruit into. One woman I am tutoring is going to the US soon and I asked her if she liked American food. She said yes but she though it was boring because each dish only had one type of flavor! 

I learned a lot, met some great people and fell in love with the area. The sunsets were gorgeous and stars and full moon spectacular in the countryside far from city lights. I loved it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you like Thai cooking try this site
It's got about 30 recipes each one with a cooking video to go along.