Thai food is one of the world’s great cuisines. Sweet and spicy, diverse in flavor and texture, and extremely variable — no matter what you’re craving, you can find it on a Thai menu. But did you know that Thai food is also very easy to cook at home? It is — and if you’re traveling in Thailand, Chiang Mai is the place to learn. One day at a Chiang Mai cooking class is all you need to prepare you to create perfect pad thai or homemade curries.
The number of Thai cooking class options in Chiang Mai on offer is head-spinning. Daytime courses, evening courses, half-day, morning-only, courses taught in gardens, courses with a market visit … the list goes on. So to help you decide which class is worth your time and money, I’m sharing this review of my experience with Siam Rice Thai Cookery School.
I paid 100% of the cost of my Chiang Mai cooking class with Siam Rice and have no relationship with the school. In fact, this blog was barely even live when I was there. Your trust matters more to me than a free cooking class — and you can trust that this review contains my unfiltered opinions.
Choosing the best Chiang Mai cooking class
Choosing the best Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai can be difficult. Your guesthouse will have pamphlets from all the different schools, tour agencies have ads for others, and TripAdviser has an overwhelming number of reviews.
The first factor to consider is cost versus time. A full-day class will run around 900-2,000 baht, while you can find a half-day class for 500+. If you can possibly spend the extra baht, I highly recommend the full-day option. It’s better value for money and you’ll learn a lot more about Thai cooking.
The second factor is do you care about the atmosphere of your Chiang Mai cooking class? Many of the top schools are on farms or at least in organic gardens. But this will add cost and travel time. The cheaper classes are in town, but you learn all the same skills.
Third, do you want to learn how to make food from a specific region or have specific dishes you want to learn to make? Or do you have dietary restrictions? If so, you’ll need to find a more specialized class. This will also add cost.
Overall, I found that Siam Rice Thai Cookery had the right balance of cost (1,000 baht for the full-day class), location (just outside of town in a pretty garden), and variety (choosing one of four options for each course, including vegetarian and seafood options). For a full breakdown of the different Thai cooking schools in Chiang Mai and their offerings, check out this (slightly-outdated) post.
Booking, pick-up, and market tour with Siam Rice Thai Cookery
I’d done my research before arriving in Chiang Mai and decided to book a Thai cooking class with Siam Rice Thai Cookery. So the first step was booking. All I had to do was look for a travel agency that advertised the class I wanted — it didn’t take long. The travel agencies charge the same price as if you book directly.
I signed up for a class the next day and was told to be ready for pick-up from my Chiang Mai hotel by 8:30 am. All went smoothly — the songthaew arrived right on time — and we were off for our market visit!
My group was about 15 people, and we all walked through one of Chiang Mai’s vegetable markets together. We learned about herbs and spices like galangal (Thai ginger), Thai basil, and the importance of choosing kaffir limes correctly. We were able to smell and even taste some of the ingredients we’d be cooking with later.
Additionally, our guide taught us a bit about Thai market culture and how to get the best deals. I learned what I should pay for a mango, a bag of rambutans, or a kilo of various veggies. This was super helpful for the rest of my time traveling in Thailand, to ensure I wouldn’t overpay for fruit anymore.
The whole market tour took about 45 minutes. Afterwards, we piled back into the songthaew and were on our way to the outskirts of the town, where the Chiang Mai cooking class would begin.
Choosing your dishes
One of the unique things about a Chiang Mai Thai cookery school is that instead of your whole class working together to prepare a few dishes that you share, you actually eat everything you cook. This gives you the opportunity to choose your favorite Thai foods and not waste time cooking things you don’t like or would never make at home.
Better yet, you can coordinate with your fellow classmates to all choose different dishes — you watch the teacher instruct on each dish, so the more variety the class chooses, the more you learn.
Siam Rice Thai Cookery School’s full-day course allows you to learn how to cook seven courses. In each course, you can choose from 4 or more dishes. Check out the full menu here.
My two biggest recommendations are: Choose the mango salad and the drunken noodles. The vast majority of our class chose the papaya salad for the salad course, but the mango version was tastier, and you’ll get to learn how to make both anyway. And the drunken noodles are just way more fun than pad thai to make.
If you don’t like spicy food or have other concerns about flavor, you can work with your teacher to select the best dishes for your preferences. Whatever you do, don’t choose the jungle curry at your Thai cooking school unless you really like chili peppers.
Making the food at my Thai cooking school
The first course we learned how to cook was soup. I chose chicken coconut soup, which I had never tried before the class. Most of the ingredients were prepped in advance and waiting at my station. My chosen dish was second — first, I watched the teacher instruct everyone making hot and sour soup. Then, she covered the chicken coconut soup. We were each left to our own devices to follow the teacher’s instructions, with some help from a couple assistants.
Once our soups were bubbling, we got started on our curry pastes. We were going to learn to make them by hand with a mortar and pestle. Each of us added our ingredients, with varying levels of chili. Then we started pounding away.
By then, our soups were finished. So we took a break from cooking to enjoy them while they were hot. Everyone gathered around the communal table to sample our work — and of course we all traded with friends to make sure everyone got to try everything.
Next, we returned to start on our noodle dishes. Here, my dish came last — it turns out drunken noodles require a little extra attention. They actually have to be lit on fire to cook them properly! The instructor didn’t let me back out, she just patiently showed me how it’s done and then monitored while I did it myself. We ate the noodles immediately after finishing.
This same pattern continued for the remainder of the class — cook using pre-chopped veggies and prepped ingredients, watch other students cook their dishes, gather together and eat.
The teacher for my Chiang Mai cooking class was clearly an expert in Thai cooking. She had experience both as a wok master at hawker stalls, and at high-end restaurants. (The class was much more geared toward market stall-style cooking.)
She was extremely patient with us when we weren’t super comfortable with Thai cooking techniques. For example, the high heat of the woks was intimidating at first — but she taught us how to make sure nothing burned. The only thing she had to take over for me was pounding my chili peppers into oblivion by hand when making my curry paste.
Additionally, my instructor talked through the use of each ingredient in Thai cooking and how it can be used elsewhere. So not only did I learn how to make all the dishes on the menu, but I also learned how to adapt them to create different dishes I’d ordered at street stalls and curry shacks.
Overall, I was really happy with my instructor and impressed at how much personal attention she gave each student in a fairly large class. This is a big part of what makes me recommend Siam Rice as the best Thai cookery school in Chiang Mai.
Overall rating of my Chiang Mai cooking class: 10/10
Taking a Thai cooking class was one of my favorite activities in Chiang Mai — and in all of Thailand, for that matter. It was the perfect way to learn more about Thai food and culture. And I could not be happier with my choice of Siam Rice Thai Cookery as my Thai cooking school.
For one, it was a great day trip from Chiang Mai — a nice change of pace from temple-spotting and jungle adventuring. The food was tasty. I learned a lot and gained new skills. It was good value for money. And it was a great way to meet other travelers.
But in my mind, the true marker of whether a cooking class was any good is if you cook the dishes again at home. I can honestly say that my little paper recipe book that I got from this class is the most-used recipe book I own. I’ve made nearly every one of the 40+ dishes several times.
Today, I don’t even go out for Thai food anymore — once you know how easy it is to cook, there’s no point. What more could you ask from a Chiang Mai cooking class?
What’s your favorite Thai dish? Have you learned how to cook it? Leave a comment — and include a recipe if you have one :)!
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