After saying goodbye to Ignacio and the two girls still unsure of my future plans, I got picked up and taken to the market where we would be getting the ingredients used for our Thai dishes. They explained the various vegetables, chilis, herbs, rice, etc. and had us smell and feel each one. The lemon basil was quite unique, true to its name, while their eggplant is much smaller than the American variety I am familiar with. Simply walking through the market was a joy, being around produce so fresh as well as different from what I am used to. For the full day class, we could choose six dishes from six categories, including soup, curry paste, curry, stir fry, appetizer/small plate, dessert. I had a lot of fun learning different cooking techniques and using a proper Asian wok. Everyone was so friendly, staff and students alike. We used a stone muddler to pound out the curry paste, grinding up the chilis, garlic, spices, etc. into a fine, unified mixture. Obviously a lot of the process was taken care of for us, such as washing and portioning the ingredients, so the cooking itself was quick, easy, and painless. Everything I made (pad Thai, Thai herb soup, Panang curry, spring rolls, and black rice pudding) ended up being delicious. As a group, regardless of what we chose to make, we shared our food and shared in this culinary experience. Thai food plays to every way in which we taste food: salty, spicy, sour, sweet, and savory. In the best dishes I have tried, the balance between all five is unmatched. Sometimes I would taste my food in the wok and thought it was good and ready to be eaten but then one of the teachers said it needed some more salt or sugar. After adding a sprinkle more, the flavors exploded so much you would hard pressed to recognize the original dish but the subtle differences made it happen. I have cooked pad Thai once before but now knowing the proper way of creating this popular dish, I want to get back into the kitchen and cook it again by myself. My main table had three Australians and an American in his fifties, so I finally got to be around some good, quality English for a change. The American used to work at a university before deciding he needed a change and stumbled into working in his own business in which he works with companies on altering their social dynamics and teaching the managers how to be better leaders. He is a very interesting, relaxed person much more interested in the harmony of life. We talked about how I am trying to find my fit and about the question of why, as in why do we do the things we do, what is their purpose. Everyone at the table agreed Pai is a worthwhile stop in Thailand and so after all these recommendations I will veer off my path slightly to go there but time is my luxury on this long journey in Asia. To go to Pai I needed to buy a bus ticket and to do so I needed to walk at least thirty minutes out of town to the bus station. I probably could have bought a ticket through a travel agency but I am too stubborn for that. First I needed to drop off some laundry before starting the trek. My plan for Chiang Mai involved going to some of the temples to participate in monk chats, in which monks talk to anyone interested so that they can practice their English. For the amount of time I spent in and around Chiang Mai, I did not go to any of the temples recommended by the guide books. You might say I am missing out something special but after awhile the temples have blended together more or less; I need breaks from that to be in and amongst nature and other cultural experiences. During my walk to the bus station I got lost trying to find a shop to buy a mosquito net, but my lack of a natural compass ended up working out for the best. After buying the ticket to Pai, I went back to the mini football pitches that I ran across on my diverted path. For a while I stood there watching as all these Thais ran around playing the sport I love. I wanted to play but I couldn’t tell whether these were organized league matches. Eventually after much patience, I got invited to join a game. I was beyond rusty but at the end of the day I was playing football with a bunch of Thai guys. Some spoke English, so I tried to figure out how to say certain football phrases in Thai to make things easier for everyone I was playing with. Feeling the ball at my feet and being around the game once much in such a random environment as this was quite a treat. On the way back to my hostel I realized how many 7/11 stores are in Thailand. Thailand doesn’t have an E chart to determine your eye sight; if you can stand on any major road and see a 7/11 then you have 20/20 vision. Back at Soi 6 Rd. I ate some Massaman curry nearby while chatting with a Frenchman, who shared some whisky and coke, and an Englishman. I don’t understand how I have the energy to write this blog, especially with my ever-present cold. Oi vay, I need sleep or be in a hibernating coma for a couple days.
Thailand Day 60: Thai Kitchen Cooking