Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan; Chiang Mai cooking class
This might be too many questions/locations for one thread, but here goes:
In August, we are going to Bangkok for 4 nights, Chiang Mai for 4 nights, and Koh Phangan for one week. We will not have car, though we may have a motorbike on the island. We're interested in authentic Thai food, from street eats to restaurants. I've read previous threads but it looks like not much has been posted recently (2012). So, any tips? Even just particularly good areas or markets to check out would be great.
Second question: We'd like to do a cooking class in Chiang Mai. We're very experienced home cooks and something a little more advanced, with a good range of dishes, would be good. There are so many options I just don't know how to decide. A full day course with a market visit would be ideal.
I always recommend Krua Apsorn. I have never had anything but wonderful food there. The one and only "negative" I have ever read was during an "upscale" Bangkok debate. Krua Apsorn is down to earth.
There are two easily reached branches, one near Samsen soi 9 and another just south of Democracy Monument. Democracy Monument is nearer downtown. Both are closed Sundays and close around 7~8PM weekdays
Another good place to try might be Baan Puengchom (google it). It offers an interest menu with some less common dishes. Everything we've tried has been great.
After woosen with 3 smelly vegetables, you might head to La Villa for dessert. The second floor has "After You", featuring Shibuya Honey Toast.
A new shopping/dining/entertainment venue has just opened, "Asiatique;the Riverfront". It appears to be trying to replace the much missed Suan Lum Night Bazaar. It has tons of shops, and many eateries. Soon, it will be home to the Joe Louis Puppet Theater and The Calypso Cabaret.
Asiatique can be best accessed by BTS skytrain to SAPHAN TAKSIN. Head beneath the train and catch the venue's shuttle boat.
Asiatique operates from 5PM to Midnight.
Re: Cooking classes in Chiang Mai
Sorry I can't help with Chiang Mai nor with a great option in Bangkok, but here's a back-up plan if you're stuck.
Many years ago I was gifted a half-day class at Blue Elephant in Bangkok. I figured it was quite touristy and was hoping for something more advanced but, all in all, it was pretty good for what it was. They've done this every day for years so have it down pat. Need to do the morning class as that involves a trip to the market to collect the produce and you have the chance to ask plenty of questions.
The food wasn't insultingly basic -- we were cooking with fresh green peppercorns, etc. It was completely hands-on and I actually enjoyed it.
Here's the menu, which changes each day:
And the general run-down on each session:
It's far from an imaginative recommendation for you, but it's a reasonable option to keep in your back pocket.
There are some current (2012) threads about Chiang Mai:
I live there. While most of the restaurants the OP asked about were western, the Thai restaurants recommended here are all excellent. I've posted in several other threads about Thai restaurants in CM and I can't think of any that have changed substantially.
All of the restaurants in the linked thread are in the Nimmanhaemin area on the northwest side of the city. There is another new northern Thai restaurant nearby that I would add to the list based on my 3 visits, but I'm not in Thailand right now and can't give you the name, let alone directions. I'll try to remember to update this in about 3 weeks.
I did a cooking course in Chiang Mai 9 years ago (my first), it was great -- but the place is MUCH bigger now with "big names" -- so I don't know if it is the same. Most day courses will have a menu of well known Thai dishes, and varying daily menus. Many things can change in 9 years and the number of schools has exploded. There are probably options at a few schools to do customized courses for 2 people (at a higher cost), so even after figuring out the schools of interest - you might inquire about that possibility (otherwise the standard menu will be more restrictive for mass appeal).
For night markets, I would orient your arrival to Chiang Mai to be on a Saturday and Sunday since they have a night market bazaar that is reasonably good. Also if you are into massages (my sister is) Chiang Mai is the place to look for one. I looked after my sister's baby late last year and sent off my younger sister with a friend (and her friend) to have a massage and they came back fully refreshed (me not so much :p). There is a highly respected school of massage in that area (though I don't know the details).
What are you looking for in a market tour (in conjunction with a cooking school), are you looking for a tour or just perusing fresh markets?
Forgot to specify the name of the school. it was "Chiang Mai Cookery". My favourite cooking school is still SITCA on Koh Samui (on the way to "Koh Phangan"). Toke there 6 day course and a supplementary 6 day course that would work out to there 12 day Professional course. For those that love cooking - it is an option I would recommend - but of course you don't have time for it right now. I know they do the standard tourist day courses -- not sure if they offer a custom day course - which is what I think would be better. There are 5 regional cuisines in Thailand that I know of. Issan (North East Thailand - similar to Lao but spicier), central plains (which would be Bangkok area but of course migration to the big city is going to make it hard to distinguish), Northern (Chiang Mai area) , Southern (spicier), the fifth I am not familiar with.
Reading it after a few glasses of wine and realized how what I thought and typed were completely different. So let me correct the last paragraph:
... My favourite cooking school is still SITCA on Koh Samui (on the way to "Koh Phangan"). Took their 6 day course and a supplementary 6 day course which would be equivalent to their 12 day Professional course. For people who love cooking it would something I would recommend, but of course you don't have time for it right now. I know SITCA does offer standard tourist "day courses". I don't know if SITCA offers a custom "day course" which I believe would be better for an experienced cook who wants a better selection of dishes. There are 5 regional cuisines in Thailand that I know of. Issan (North East Thailand - similar to Lao but spicier), central plains (which would be Bangkok area but of course migration to the big city is going to make it hard to distinguish), Northern (Chiang Mai area) , Southern (spicier), the fifth I am not familiar with. Take time to explore the local regional cuisines starting with Khao Soy in the north.
Thanks cacruden! Chiang Mai Cookery looks a little commercialized, and although they do offer "master classes" they seem to be a whole lot more expensive than other schools. I think we're going to try Siam Rice Thai Cookery School (just judging by tripadvisor reviews), with Thai Cottage Home Cookery as a back-up.
I love cooking so any advice on markets to visit would be welcome - we are very independent travelers but I could see a tour being helpful for this. Hopefully we'll get a lot out of the market tour in the cooking class.
We're going to the Sunday "Walking Market" in Chiang Mai - is this the same as the night market?
Yes, it looks like a very different school than I went to 9 years ago. Lots of options are available these days.
Beware about relying too much on tripadvisor for your choices. They are under investigation because of the honesty and trustworthiness of their reviews - even when given evidence of purely fraudulent postings - they often are not pruned.
I believe the walking street market is the one I was referring to.
I have been to three markets primarily.
Or Tor Kor (very near Chatuchak weekend market - Bangkok weekend market) - which is a very clean (amazingly clean - sanitized) market. This place has a very good set of vendors that will sell prepared for for eating there.
Klong Toei market is the one I go to more often (closest large one to me) - definitely not sanitized - a typical huge wet market where a lot of street vendors buy their produce in the morning. Don't remember seeing much in the way to eat (prepared) but I do find stuff there I could not find at Or Tor Kor.... it is about 700metres length and 300 or so in width.
If I am cooking seafood I will make my way out to Ngoen Market near Wongwian Yai station (closer to train station than Skytrain station). I like this market, but it is a fair distance from me.
I have seen some markets at a few stops along the main river, but cannot remember where they are or what their names are. There are markets everywhere. There is even markets that occupy the same space as trains. I stopped there on my way to Ampawa Floating Market and waited for the 2:30 train to go through. When the train comes through it takes a matter of a minute to pack up all the market along the rail line and close for about 5 minutes while the train comes through - then everything goes back to the way it was before and things continue like normal..... Forget the town name - but probably not hard to find if googled :p
I recommend Thai Cottage Home Cookery school. It's in the old town and there is a market (talad som phet) near the school. It's a one-day school and there are activities such as visiting a market and picking organic vegetables in their garden.
They also offer after class support by email, which can be useful once you are back home :)
Here is the map: http://goo.gl/QH3as
A visit to Chiang Mai can be a good opportunity to learn Northern food style. It is very famous here and can be quite different from usual Thai food (laap moo, Chiang Mai sausage, …)
Larb, like papaya salad, is ubiquitous throughout Thailand but the origins of both are Isaan/Laos. There are an infinite number of variations based on regional and seasonal ingredients, and individual preference.
Khao Soi shouldn't be oily. I'm not a fan of either of the "famous" ones written up in every guidebook. My favorite two are the one across from the original Hillcoff location and the one in the basement level of Kad Suan Kaew in the far back behind the food court.
Since this is about food, I'm not at all impressed by any of the offerings at either the Saturday Walking Street or the Sunday one. If I was going shopping, I'd much prefer the Saturday one on Wulai Road. There are a few vendors there selling things you don't see at every walking street. it also gets a more local crowd since it's a little further from the tourist ghetto. The Sunday Walking Street is just packed and keeps spreading out. I'm sure there's something good to eat there but I haven't found it. Across the street from the north end of the Saturday walking Street (just inside Chiang Mai Gate) is a nightly food market. I can't give specific recommendations but that's probably the best place to eat in the area.
The new-ish northern Thai restaurant i referred to earlier is Huen Muan Jia. It's about 300 meters north of the Shell Station on Huay Kaew Road. I can give better/specific directions and maybe a phone number if you want. Tong (i was there last night for my first meal back inThailand after being away for 2 months) and Wera's Laab Ped, as described in the other thread, are both excellent.
MikeinCM, it's great to have another chowhound in CM. we should get together sometime and compare notes.