One thing you shouldn’t miss out on while you’re in Chiang Mai is taking a cooking class. It was one of the most fun and memorable experiences I had while I was in Thailand, and super cheap!
What you’ll soon find out though, is there are way too many cooking classes to choose from, and many of them are overpriced.
Everyone and their mom offers a cooking class in Chiang Mai, and each class is either ‘all organic,’ ‘located on a local farm,’ or ‘taught by a world-class chef.’ For someone without a recommendation to go off of, it can feel like more stress than it’s worth to pick out the right cooking class to go to.
The good news?
I found the best, cheap cooking class while I was in Chiang Mai, and listed out all the details for you in this post. I’ve included information on the price of the cooking class, the different packages available, and why I can’t stop talking about this experience.
How cheap was this cooking class?
I paid 650 baht (about $20 USD), for a half-day cooking class at Smile Organic Farm Cooking School. The experience included a visit to a local market, a tour of the school’s garden, learning about and cooking four different dishes, and making curry paste from scratch. Including transportation time to and from the farm, the entire half-day cooking class took about 5-6 hours.
In comparison, most of the other half-day classes I found online started at 1000 baht (about $30 USD) and did not include a trip to the market or the chance to cook on a farm.
Before we left the city and headed out to the farm, we stopped at a small market in Chiang Mai. Tabzii, our instructor, showed us some of the different ingredients we’d be cooking with and then set us loose to explore the rest of the market stalls on our own.
Choosing our dishes to prepare
Once at the cooking school, we sat around a table while Tabzii told us about the different types of dishes we could choose to prepare. The dishes were separated into five categories: curries, stir-fried, soups, appetizers, and desserts.
People who had signed up for the half-day course got to choose a dish from every category except ‘appetizers’ and ‘desserts.’ Those two categories were reserved for people who had signed up for the full day course.
Within each category of dishes, there were four different options you could choose from:
Green Curry, Red Curry, Panaeng Curry, Massaman Curry
Pad Thai, Fried Rice, Stir Fried Cashew Nut w/ Chicken, Fried Chicken w/ Holy Basil
Hot and Creamy Soup, Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup, Hot and Sour Soup, Spicy Chicken Soup w/ Sweet Basil
Papaya Salad, Spicy Chicken Salad, Spicy Glass Noodle Salad, Spring rolls (bonus dish for everyone)
Mango w/ Sticky Rice, Banana in Coconut Milk, Coconut w/ Sticky Rice, Pumpkin in Coconut Milk
* I ended up going with the Panaeng Curry, Pad Thai, and Hot and Sour Soup.
Exploring the garden
While the staff prepared the ingredients for our selected dishes, Tabzii showed us around the school’s garden. The garden wasn’t incredibly big, but what it lacked in size it made up for in diversity. Tabzii pointed out tons of different herbs and vegetables to us, and described what each their purpose was in Thai cooking.
Making curry paste from scratch
When I learned we would be making our curry pastes from scratch I was impressed. I knew this cooking school took their ingredients seriously, but I totally would’ve understood if they’d handed us ready-made curry paste in a tube. Making curry paste from scratch is tough work, and takes a considerable amount of time.
As shown in the picture below, curry paste is made by mashing a bunch of ingredients together with what looks like a tool cavemen used. I found out later that tool is called a mortar and pestle.
After about 30 or so minutes of pounding the ingredients together, you get a spicy curry paste which you later use to flavor your curry dish.
Cooking and eating (my favorite part)
When it finally came time to start cooking, I couldn’t wait to begin! Each of us had our very own station, complete with a wok, burner, chopping block, and counter space. The whole set up made me feel like a contestant on a cooking show, and I secretly loved it hehe.
Since many of us had chosen to cook different dishes, the staff placed the exact amount and kinds of ingredients we would need on our individual counter spaces (besides sauces which we measured out and poured ourselves). Then, step-by-step, Tabzii told us what to chop, fry, and mix into our woks.
Each time we all completed a dish, we’d then carefully plate our food as elegantly as possible before sitting down to eat. This added to the whole, ‘being a contestant on a cooking show feeling,’ and prompted me to admire my food way too long before eating it.
This pattern of cooking, plating, and eating continued until us half-day people had no more dishes left to make.
Why I loved this class so much
For starters, our instructor Tabzii was so cool! She was super friendly and kept jokes flying our way the entire class. I also really liked how small the class size was. Our group had only six students in it throughout the entire experience, allowing us to have 1-on-1 time with the Tabzii if we needed it.
From a food standpoint, I was really impressed with the quality of ingredients we used and how yummy all of our dishes turned out. Most importantly though, there was plenty of food to eat! Considering we’d only paid about $20 for the whole experience, I feel like it we got a crazy deal.
Information on booking a class
The cooking school I booked through is called Smile Organic Farm Cooking School. On their website, they advertise the half day cooking class as costing 800 baht, however, reach out to them via WhatsApp, Facebook, or email and try and negotiate the price down to 650 baht.
If you’re having trouble bargaining, look for a group of people to attend the class with you. More potential customers for the cooking school gives you added bargaining power.
How long was the entire half-day cooking class?
The half-day class ran from 9 am to 2 pm, so a total of 5 hours give or take a little.
Is the half-day class enough or would you recommend taking a full day class?
I personally thought the half-day class was more than enough time at the school. By the end of cooking and eating four dishes I was exhausted and at a happy stopping point.
Where and when does the cooking school pick you up?
The cooking school will pick you up between 8 and 8:30 am right outside your hotel/hostel.
like it? pin it!
Planning on taking a cooking class?
Let me know in the comments below!