Nearly every traveler to Thailand comments on the food. Thai food has become so popular around the world that it is accessible while still maintaining an exotic edge. In Bangkok alone, travelers can be overwhelmed by the abundance of dining options, including hundreds of dishes that can be easily found made and sold out of carts on the street.
In response to the international popularity of Thai cuisine, entrepreneurial locals have begun opening Thai cooking schools to suit every skill level and budget. In recent years, many of these schools have increased their marketing and developed comprehensive websites that allow travelers to select dishes and make a reservation online even before they arrive.
In Bangkok, a number of the Thai cooking courses available begin with a basic introduction to local ingredients or a visit to a local open air market. Travel in and around Thailand can be enhanced when armed with knowledge of the ingredients and names of a few dishes.
In fact, most of the English-language cooking courses available in Bangkok are not only informative, but will leave visitors with some of the best memories and meals of the trip. While many hotels offer cooking courses to guests onsite, independent schools frequently offer better value and the opportunity to experience a traditional Thai home or kitchen.
Bai Pai Cooking School – best all around
$65 per person/half day class
Half-day classes are taught in a bright, airy outdoor kitchen. Classes are a combination of observation and hands-on cooking, giving students ample opportunity to ask questions. The teachers are friendly and knowledgeable. The website is comprehensive and allows for online registration, with an updated list of the dishes that will be prepared with each class. Transportation from hotels in the center of Bangkok is included in the price. This course is of great value and will offer a fun and relaxing opportunity to learn from informed Thai cooks.
Blue Elephant Cooking School – best for serious cooks
$110 per person/half day class
Blue Elephant has long been regarded as the best of the cooking schools in Bangkok. Professional chefs enroll in multiple day or week-long courses that are structured in the same way as the half day courses that are more commonly attended by home cooks. In all cases, the classes are professional and informative from start to finish. The morning course includes a trip to the local open air market, but the pace is relaxing and informative. Students observe a chef in a bright, spacious classroom, taste each dish and move to the neighboring kitchen to prepare the dish themselves. At the end of the course, students can eat the dishes they’ve prepared in the restaurant to enjoy onsite or they will pack up the dishes for you to take home. Included in the cost of the course is a certificate of completion, a book with the recipes prepared that day, and Blue Elephant goodies such as a tote bag and apron. Transportation is not provided, but the school is convenient to reach by public transportation
Silom Cooking School – best value
$33 per person/half day class
Silom Cooking School is by far the best value around, but the school lacks some of the finesse that the pricier options offer. In a half day course at Silom, students recieve instruction in upwards of 5 dishes as well as a visit to the local market and an introduction to Thai ingredients. All classes are taught by the school’s owner who has a lively sense of humor that occasionally borders on inappropriate. The progression of the course is haphazard, with students bouncing between different rooms to prepare vegetables and proteins, make curries and cook dishes at individual wok stations, but the environment is casual and fun. Despite the sometimes chaotic vibe, the courses are fun and informative and the resulting dishes are certainly delicious. If you are up for a bit of adventure and comedy, and don’t want to spend too much, this might be the choice for you. (One note of warning – most of the food is prepared in a traditional Thai manner – seated on the floor, so this is not for those who will not be comfortable moving up and down from a seated position.)