They say Thais do not cook because they rarely have their own kitchen at home. If this is true, we have assimilated perfectly here. No kitchen, no cooking, and “compulsory” eating out for us here in Thailand.
After having been overwhelmed by Thai cooking classes adverts, we wished to experience something different, so we chose a macrobiotic cooking course in Chiang Mai organised by RSM International School.
The course costs 950 THB per person, includes 5 dishes and one dessert and is held in the morning. Pick-up in the city is complimentary.
The six-dish menu consisted of:
1. Winged Bean Salad
2. Firm Tofu Salad with three different dressings (chickpea, tofu, ginger)
3. Mountain Rice Paella
5. Shitake Broth Miso Soup
6. Soy Milk Pudding
Our English-speaking chef Fah (whose name means ‘sky’ in Thai) welcomed us warmly at her cooking class and we started preparing firm tofu, which was exciting and challenging at the same time.
The soybeans were already soaked for us and during the cooking process, Fah gave us some cooking tips:
⁃ always use the beans with skin as they contain more nutrients
⁃ put a bit of sesame oil in when you start to cook the beans, so the pot will not boil over
⁃ add a bit of lemon juice and salt for better flavour
⁃ boil the beans for about 10-15 minutes on low heat
⁃ once the soy milk cools down to 60-75 C, put raw rice vinegar to separate the water from the soy milk.
Preparation took us 1 hour and 15 minutes in total. To form one block of tofu, which was a fairly large portion for one person, it takes 15 minutes. In case you prefer firm tofu, you will need 30 minutes to form it, and you must compress the block down by putting weight on top, so any remaining water can drain away.
The next meal we prepared was Winged Bean Salad, a dish very easy to prepare, light and refreshing. We learned how to chop the ingredients the right way into small pieces, which affects the final taste radically. We learned that black sesame seeds contain more fibre and calcium compared to the white ones.
After we finished eating and refreshed ourselves, we followed the menu with 3 dressings and with the Firm Tofu Salad. All the ingredients and tools were ready for us at our cooking spot, and the tables had already been cleaned after the previous cooking. All of this was done by our teacher and her assistant. It definitely saved time, but we felt a bit weird that somebody had cleaned up the mess after us.
Although the next dish was based on fresh vegetables and fried tofu, it made us quite full. For one portion, we cut 100 g. of cucumber into thin slices, chopped 100 g. of tomatoes, 50 g. of onion, and 10 g. of coriander (which gave a fabulous flavour to the salad). We then added 1/2 of teaspoon of soy sauce, a pinch of salt and naturally, we fried our own tofu on a 1/2 of teaspoon of sesame oil. So delicious!
Here we could see the difference in our experimenting when we weighted down one block of tofu for 30 minutes and it became firmer and better for cutting and frying comparing to the other block that we just simply formed in the fridge without putting any weight on it.
The chickpeas and tofu dressings were absolutely amazing and we were encouraged by our teacher to customise them by adding more of any ingredient we preferred. Lessons learned while preparing this dish: 1. tofu and sesame go very well together. 2. you rarely peel off the skin of veggies and fruits according to the rules of macrobiotic cooking.
We continued with our menu, preparing Mountain Rice Paella made of brown rice, lotus root, carrot, onion, Shitake mushrooms, spring onion, soy sauce and sesame oil. So nutritious, filling and tasty!
While the paella was on the fire, we started to prepare veggie dumplings. The dough was made of rice flower, blended spinach and water. We filled them with silken tofu, chopped garlic chives, water chestnuts and soy sauce. Honestly, we were not crazy about the result. The dumplings were a bit tough, but the filling tasted very good.
The next meal of our feast was a bowl of Shitake Broth Miso Soup, which was heavenly. We had tried to prepare our homemade miso a few times before, but just at the cooking class we realised it was far from the correct, original taste: very light and not as salty as miso soups often are.
The last dish – a dessert! To follow the macrobiotic diet, we prepared Soy Milk Pudding, where we learned to use the agar powder as a gelatin substitute. Although the whole procedure demanded a bit of skill to stir the mixture properly to make it solid, in the end our sweets turned out very well with the perfect, compact texture and pleasantly sweet taste.
After we emptied all the plates and glasses, we were ready to roll down the streets back to our guesthouse. It was a lovely and hopefully useful experience. Now we just need a kitchen of our own!
Have you ever tried any macrobiotic dish? What do you think about the concept of macrobiotics?
We would like to hear from you.