Edible Activities: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai
A true highlight of Thailand and a big reason for selecting it for my travels has always been: the food. Even at glance, Thai food is spectacular but get a little closer and you will see the care that goes into even the “simplest” ingredients, like rice and coconut milk. For example, did you know that to naturally acquire coconut milk there is a tool to scrape out coconut flesh by hand, and then the shaving are squeezed? That is real coconut milk. It is a super laborious process, but to taste this traditional style of Thai food is a honour. In modern Thailand, many people purchase their curry pastes at their local markets but thanks to our cooking classes, we got down to the roots and pounded out many curry pastes by mortar and pesel. To eat is one of the best ways to educate yourself but take things a step further with these edible experiences that will enhance both your minds and your stomachs. Here are my highlights for culinary activities within Sukhothai, Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
Organic Agriculture Project - Farm Experience
Truly one of my favourite days of all of my Thailand travels and to cap it off, one of the best lunches of the trip, too. Spend the day at Organic Agriculture Project – an initiative by Bangkok Airways to support the small town of Sukhothai and maintain the culture of farming. In our provided Thai outfits, we were walked through the entire processing of rice- from getting muddy while planting rice in rice paddy field, to watching the rice shucking machine, to meeting the good people who sort grains of rice by hand. We saw orchids and we saw an albino water buffalo. Truly an endless wealth of food information. Hot tip: in their gift shop you can get the most amazing vacuum-sealed bags of brown, red, black rice and so much more for a small fraction of the prices back home. And once you’ve see the hard work that goes into every grain, you will appreciate it.
Chiang Mai Home Host - Cooking Class and Day with Lanna Family – Another once-in-a-lifetime experience slightly outside of the city- Bandoo in Hangdong district. First off, I loved meeting this Lanna family and they were incredibly detailed, gracious and generous throughout our day with them. From welcoming rituals to a colour-commentary tour of the property grounds (about 2 acres! With their own farms and orchards!) to a cooking class, this experience was nonstop in every way I love. At one moment we were having a snack of banana leaf fritters and coconut milk pancakes with tiny cubes of squash and then the next minute, I was offered a hand rolled banana leaf cigarette from Madam Chanfong, the 90 year old grandma of the household. This experience falls top of the list for me, not only for memorable times but also simply as one of the tastiest meals that I had in Thailand. Here’s where I saw coconut milk made by hand and where tea comes from their own sun-dried supply. My favourite bite had to be the spiced bolognese-esque tomato and pork dish called Nam prik Ong that was served with sticky rice – I still want to try recreating this at home!
Patara Elephant Farm - In this case, the eating is for the elephants, not for you! But in all honestly, a trip to a conservation is just on the things to make your Thailand trip a unique one. It’s a must-do experience, spending quality time with elephants. At Patara, the focus is on nurturing and rehabilitating elephants back to health. You are matched up with an elephant and you take care of them for the day. Learning how about their diet and then feeding them was magical. We also cleaned them, walked beside them and had a great time getting to know each other.
Pantawan Cooking - Cooking Class and Market Visit - For a quintessential, one-with-Thai-nature cooking class experience, look no further. At Pantawan, you learn multiple recipes and they change it up every day of the week. We went on a Saturday, so we were treated to the “All Time Favourite” class that hits all the classics (Pad Thai, Cashew Chicken, Spring Rolls, Massaman Curry) and the staff are so lovely with very clear instructions. My class was quite intimate with just a few other couples and we started off in a local market, sampling away on spicy Chiang Mai sausage and spices while we learnt about all kinds of Thai ingredients. The market visit gives you a new lens and approach to your cooking (since now you have the ingredient’s backstory!) and each recipe turned out great! Plus, it is an open air facility, which you just cannot get in Canada.
Blue Elephant - Cooking Class with Market Visit – By now you know that I love my farms and my market visits! A Blue Elephant, the space in Bangkok’s city centre is STUNNING. Truly a culinary tower of delights. There is a Michelin Star restaurant and wonderful gift shop on the main floor so you can take come many some of the magic (for example, curry paste, if you do not trust yourself to bang it out at home). The Bang Rak market visit was very fun and it was my first time trying proper Thai iced tea out of a bag. Made with condensed milk, this on-the-go drink packs a sweet punch. I liked how the dishes that they had us cook were a little more inventive with a little more flair in technique, for example as we were making fish cakes with longbeans, there is a distinct molding-then-slapping-mixture-back-into-bowl method that was super interesting to learn! So many options under one roof.
Perception – Blind Massage – Ok, I had to sneak in one non-edible experience, though this one is equally good for the body and mind. At Perception, visually impaired people are given the training and opportunity to make a living as masseuses. It was not my first Thai massage and I found it to be on par or above anything that I have had in the past!
Mezzaluna - Michelin Star Meal - While in Thailand, why not experience a Michelin star meal? Nay, a two Michelin star meal at Mezzaluna. At the famous (seriously, Bradley Cooper-Hangover 2-levels of fame) Lebua Tower Hotel, the top floor restaurant has a tasting menu only with the finest dishes inspired by France and Japan with room to show off Thai ingredients, too. The bread options alone stop you in your tracks, and service is unparalleled as you’re serenaded by a string quartet. The menu is seasonal so the Fall Menu might be finishing up by the time of print, but my favourite dish was easily the inventive pairing of fois gras and celery. Check it below to see the full menu!
In partnership with the Tourism Authority of Thailand.