One of our most memorable days in Chiang Mai had to be the day we attended our Thai cooking class, at the Thai Farm Cooking School. There were many Thai cooking class locations in Chiang Mai, but we chose Thai Farm thanks to a recommendation from Lonely Planet and its rural location and the beautiful outdoor setting.
We boarded the back of a pickup truck and headed out of town. On the way, we had the pleasure of stopping at a wonderful Thai food market. You don’t see many grocery stores in Thailand, so this was a nice treat. The market was huge and had anything you could want. Vegetables, herbs and spices, fresh meat and more varieties of rice then I knew existed. The even had freshly made pre-made curry pastes! A pretty cool experience.
We continued on our way to the Thai farm. We arrived and were greeted with refreshments –lemongrass tea, made from fresh lemongrass. The setting was lovely. Set with a table for us to eat at, the inviting open patio was connected to the cooking studio. The entire building was surrounded by a wide variety of plants in the organic farm.
We started by taking a tour around the farm. Here, we had the chance to learn about many of the exotic Thai ingredients, while we got to smell and sample many of them. Kaffir limes, sweet and sour varieties of tamarind, bitter eggplant, baby pineapples, and the spicy bird’s eye Thai chili peppers were just some of the interesting ingredients we encountered.
After cooking and eating a delicious tom yam soup, we made our Thai curry pastes. I chose green and John chose red so we had the chance to try both. We started by dry-roasting the cumin and coriander seeds, and then finely chopped all of the fresh ingredients. Putting everything in the mortar and pestle, we worked hard as we smashed everything into a paste.
Green vs. Red Thai Curry
The difference between the two curries is the types of peppers used. For the green curry, you use fresh peppers; small green bird’s eye chili peppers for heat and a long Thai green pepper for colour. For the red curry, dried peppers are used: small dried red bird’s eye chili peppers for heat, and a dried long Thai red pepper for colour. Our instructor told us the red version is supposed to be hotter, but it my opinion, the heat will depend more on how many chili peppers are used.
It was recommended by our instructor that we use between 1 and 10 bird’s eye chili peppers, 10 being “Thai hot.” John and I opted for about 5 each (keep in mind this was for a single portion recipe. The recipe featured in this post serves 2 or 3.)
We took our pastes to our cooking stations and heated the saucepan. We started by frying the pastes until they were fragrant, then adding the coconut milk. We added the Thai eggplants, cooking for a few minutes. In went the chicken. Once the chicken was done, we added the sweet Thai basil and our curries were ready to eat.
We set our curries aside and began work on the next dish, our Thai stir fries which our instructor claimed were “Thai fast food, faster than McDonald’s.” Her description was pretty close. My cashew chicken was done in minutes, frying the chicken and then adding the sauce and vegetables. This will be a keeper recipe for quick home meals!
We took a seat and enjoyed our meals. Everything was delicious, but the dish that stood out for me was the Thai green curry. This had to have been the best green curry we had eaten in Thailand, and is this week’s recipe!
John and I have made green curry many times since we have returned home from Thailand. Ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves have become staples in our fridge, and it is common for us to whip up a green curry for dinner.
John and I are not huge fans of the Thai eggplants, and find that the ones that we get in town don’t hold a candle to the fresher eggplants we sampled in Thailand. As a result, we prefer to substitute other vegetables, which you will see in the recipe below.
- The pepper for colour is very important, or your curry will end up more of a yellow instead of a green. Thai long chili peppers are the best, but we sometimes substitute Anaheim peppers or Serrano chili peppers depending on what is available. If you use Serrano peppers, be careful as you will end up with a much hotter curry!
- If you have a mortar and pestle, use this to make your paste – more work for a better product. If not, a Magic Bullet or mixer grinder blender will have to do!
- We suggest some of our favourite vegetables in the recipe, but use whatever you like!
- Substitute tofu for the chicken to make a vegetarian dish
Officially named Cymbopogon, you can’t have Thai food without lemongrass. Commonly used in curries, soups and teas, lemongrass is a staple herb across many different types of Asian cuisine.
The final leg of our cooking class was a delicious mango sticky rice. After a whole day of eating, we were pretty stuffed. But the meals that we made in our cooking class ended up being some of the best food we had the privilege of eating during our trip to Thailand. So if you are a food lover and happen to be in Thailand, do yourself a favour and take a cooking class!
Click here to view the printable Word version of the recipe:
Thai Green Curry
Thai Green Curry
(pictured below are the paste ingredients for a single serving. This recipe will feed 2 or 3 people)
½ tsp cumin seeds (alternatively ½ tsp ground cumin)
½ tsp coriander seeds (alternatively ½ tsp coriander seeds)
2-15 green bird’s eye chili peppers (Thai chili pepper) Select quantity depending on desired heat.
*2 long green Thai pepper, 2 serrano peppers or ½ Anaheim pepper
2 tbsp chopped shallots
2 tsp chopped galangal
6 kaffir lime leaves, de-stemmed and finely chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped lemongrass
½ tsp salt
*These peppers are used for colour. Thai green peppers are the best pepper to use for colour. If you can’t find them, Anaheim and serrano peppers are a good alternative. However, be aware, the serrano peppers are very hot, you might want to dial down the bird’s eye chilies if you use the serrano peppers.
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped, or tofu
2-3 cups vegetables – try:
– Orange fleshed sweet potatoes
– Cut baby corn
– Snow peas
Alternatively, you can omit the tofu and chicken and bolster the vegetables!
2 tsp sugar – palm sugar preferred
1 tbsp fish sauce (or soya sauce for vegetarian)
1-14 oz can coconut milk
½ of the 14 oz can water
4 kaffir lime leaves
Thai basil leaves (approx. 10)
Red Thai chili pepper
You will need a large mortar and pestle to make the paste. If you don’t own one, alternatively you can use a spice mixer or Magic Bullet.
- Begin by dry roasting the coriander and cumin seeds. Heat a pan on high, add the coriander seeds and roast until fragrant (less than a minutes) Do the same with the cumin. If you are using ground cumin and coriander, skip this step.
- Add both cumin and coriander to your mortar and pestle, grind until a powder. Set cumin and coriander aside
(if you are using a spice mixer or Magic Bullet, skip step 2)
- Chop all paste ingredients into small pieces. This will make it easier to blend/mortar and pestle.
- Add all paste ingredients (except for cumin and coriander) to mortar and pestle, smash until a fine paste is formed, about the consistency of peanut butter. Incorporate coriander and cumin. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, place all items in spice mixer of Magic Bullet and blend)
- Heat a pot on medium high. Add oil and ½ cup coconut milk. Add paste and fry until paste is fragrant.
- Add chicken or tofu. Add rest of coconut milk and water. Add sugar, and fish sauce. Stir. Cook for a few minutes.
- Add vegetables that take longer to cook – sweet potato, mushrooms etc. Cook for a few minutes.
- Add all other vegetables. Cook until vegetables and chicken are done.
- Add lime leaves, Thai basil.
Serve with Thai jasmine rice. Add red chili peppers to garnish if desired.