Cooking class – Take Two (Luang Prabang)

After the not so fun cooking class in Luang Namtha, I decided it was worth a second splurge to try a fancier, better rated cooking class in Luang Prabang.  I signed up for the highly rated Tamarind restaurant cooking class. They started with a much better guided tour of the Phousi market with some snack foods and explanation of common ingredients.  Apparently juniper trees are put into stews here.  Our amusing guide seemed equally surprised when I told him we make alcohol with it.  After the market they whisked us off to a beautiful riverside garden and pond outside of town.

Already looking like a good class. Look at those tasty ingredients and animated instructor. Sticky rice steamers can be seen in the back.

This class was more focused on fancier restaurant or holiday style fare than every day cooking. Unlike the last class where there was one burner in the back of their office that we learned on, every student had their own prep station complete with full set of tools like knives and a mortar and pestle.  There was a separate cabana with charcoal stoves for everyone.

I love cooking things directly over a fire.

I really enjoyed the stoves we used.  They appear to be open ended small grilled that looked like a flower pot cemented into a bucket.  I may have to make one of these when I get home, this would fix my grilling for one problem.  I also gained even more appreciation for all the things we made with the mortar and pestle in this class.  I think I’m in love with the cooking tools of Laos.

Ground chicken spiced and pounded with herbs before being stuffed in a sliced lemongrass basket, covered in egg, and deep fried.

We learned about making sticky rice and purple sticky rice, the latter which is only used for special occasions or to give to monks due to its rarity.  Next we tried making jeow, a tasty chunky dip that can be made of many things and eaten with anything.  We used tomatoes or eggplants in class.  I’ll be making jeow again at home.  Next came tilapia cut into chunks, marinated in herbs and wrapped in a banana leaf packet.  I’m glad we learned how to make these packets as I’ve seen so much food sold in them.  The hardest thing we made all day was the lemongrass chicken.  The ground chicken was supposed to be stuffed into a single stalk of lemongrass.  We were supposed to make very straight tiny cuts.  I don’t know if anyone managed to do this and the instructor and his aide wandered around slowly helping us with this.  It does look beautiful and might’ve been my favorite dish. We made a Luang Prabang specialty known as Or Lam stew, which was a rather watery stew with the juniper wood, pea eggplants, and in my case buffalo.  Charcoal grilled sticky rice (which looks like a marshmallow on a stick) is smashed to thicken the still watery stew.  While really interesting, this was my least favorite dish.  At the end we finished with a purple sticky rice cooked in coconut milk that we made and adorned the whole thing with multiple types of fresh fruit.

This class was wonderful.  The garden setting was serene and I wish they had rooms there, although I know I could not afford to stay there even if they had them.  It was great to cook next to the two ponds and many growing vegetables.  We were never rushed and always given lots of help.  I’m glad I got to experience a cooking class like it should be.  We were given little recipe books on our way out and I look forward to redoing some recipes I learned and trying some new ones.  I don’t understand how there were cooking classes in Luang Namtha more expensive than this one, this was amazing!

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