It is said that "the best place to learn about culture is at the dinner table!"
So starting your Thailand vacation with a Thai cuisine class or a course from a Thailand Cooking School offers you the cultural experience and other benefits. Some of these benefits are:
1. the trip to the market will teach you how to select fresh ingredients and which fruits make your body hot and which counter them by making your body cold and which not to combine together.
2. You will learn what makes the difference for a great Thai dish and you will know when you are being served lesser quality foods and why it tastes that way.
3. You could learn how to tell your meal providers to not add MSG as it it Thai's favorite food flavouring ingredient and you should stay away from MSG.
4. You will learn of Thai culture related to the class.
5. Again depending on the class, you choose, you may even receive a complimentary food presentation or fruit carving demonstration.
6. This also allows you an option to end your trip with a cookery class and refresh what you learned in the first classes plus learn a few additional dishes.
Whether you take cookery class at the start of your vacation or an intensive course or at the end of your trip here are 8 questions to help you in selecting from the many Thailand cooking school options.
1. Does the school website answer all your questions or does it leave you with unanswered questions ... There's a reason for nondisclosure ... and I'm positive it's not that they don't know what they charge or what they teach ...
2. Location: is important even if you are not coming through Bangkok you can still apply this check list to your Thai cooking school selection research. There are reputable cooking schools in every major center. Some schools have small storefront schools to leave you with the impression of small classes but these store fronts are used as student pick-up centers from where you will be delivered to a large class comprised of many store front pick-ups.
3. Teacher experience: A true answer to this question may be impossible to obtain. But again if not on the website ask yourself why not? Where did the teacher train or are they simply able to cook and speak basic English?
4. Teacher qualification: As in question 2 a true answer to this question would likely be an exception. Most of the teachers will not have degrees or certificates of culinary study nor will they have a Thai Dept. of Skills level 1 or higher diploma.
5. Teacher Style: Ask if they teach "the craft", the technique to Thai cuisine as many schools instruct their teacher not to take the time to impart this to you as it is a separate revenue source as in: curry class or Tom yum chili paste.
6. The School Class room. Remember ... Thailand's’ temperatures are often over 40 degrees Celsius with 99% humidity and if you are in some alley school in the open air and you fire up the gas burners you can bet you're gonna sweat! A climate controlled (air conditioned) school costs more to operate and as a result will cost more for a class but provides for clean cool air during your class. One outdoor school was simply a private residence porch barbecue used as a school! Do you really want to sit on the floor, Thai style, to prepare your ingredients? Why not attend a stainless steel classroom? Do they overbook? If so, will you actually cook or be like in the audience and watch while others cook?
7. Price: Costs are important and no one likes to be taken!. My research found rates as high as 1,000 baht per dish with the lowest being 600 per set of 3 dishes in an outdoor setting with the average price being near 300 baht per dish and air con schools averaging 400 per dish or 2,000 baht for 5 dishes.
8. Notoriety: Some very prominent schools are all about their dog and pony shows, dressed in ancient Thai dance clothing they dance and sing and rhyme to you and you may find yourself reading their recipe book to your cooking partner as their lesson.
May Your Thailand experience be a safe and wondrous one!