Spice Up your Life with Cooking Courses In Southeast Asia - Travel - Travel Tips

Spice Up your Life with Cooking Courses In Southeast Asia   by Megan Eaves on behalf of ZiZ Asia Co Ltd

in Travel / Travel Tips    (submitted 2010-07-07)

Coconut milk soup. Spicy prawns. Scallion fried noodles and ginger roasted fresh fish. Oh, to eat in Asia! Streets filled with the aromas of onions sizzling in oil and vegetables cooking over hot coals. No matter where you go in Southeast Asia, it seems that, around every bend, there is a new set of enticing smells and delicious tastes. One could literally spend a lifetime just soaking up the food cultures across Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, not to even mention the amazing cuisines of East Asia.

But what about actually cooking some of these things yourself? With so many exotic flavours and unique spices, it might seem totally daunting to learn to cook Asian food, but actually, many Southeast Asian dishes are incredibly simple to make, not to mention healthy. Of course, it's not all about stir-frying. For instance, in Laos, most dishes are grilled or steamed, and in Thailand, roasting fish over open flame is a common method of cooking, especially in the island communities.

If you have been considering taking an Asian cooking course, why not skip your local culinary school at home and make a total holiday out of it? Asian culinary holidays have become increasingly popular over the past decade, with a number of wonderful restaurants and chefs opening up cooking schools to educate visitors and food-lovers from around the world in the indelible art of Asian cooking. And it's no wonder, considering how popular Asian cuisines are the world over. Chinese food is the most highly exported cuisine in the world, but Thai Food, Vietnamese and even Cambodian and Laotian food have made huge strides in countries around the world.

Perhaps you are thinking that you're not a good enough cook to enrol in one of these fancy food schools, or maybe you're worried that you'll make a mockery of yourself. In fact, each of these cuisine-based holidays is designed for beginner and casual cooks, rather than experienced chefs. You'll come away with basic recipes for all sorts of authentic Southeast Asian dishes, as well as proper preparation skills taught by local chefs. After all, what is the point in learning to make Pad Thai if you aren't chopping the scallions correctly?

Most of the Southeast Asian cooking classes on offer on ZiZ Inpsire, including Thai Cooking Classes, are half or one-day affairs. You'll start your day learning the basics of the local spices, herbs and ingredients and how these combine together to form the familiar and exotic flavours you've lingered over in restaurants at home.

Next, you'll venture out into the steamy streets to a local market, where you'll purchase all of your ingredients fresh directly from the farmers. Forget about store-bought and packaged vegetables; you'll pick up deep purple aubergines, crispy lettuce still warm from the dirt, chicken cutlets chosen directly from the bird and herbs and spices that you'll chop and prepare yourself. The lively surroundings of the market will entice and inspire your meal, and maybe you'll come across some in-season ingredients to make your flavours completely unique.

With an armload of fresh vegetables, herbs and meats, you'll head back to the scenic school and spend the day preparing a feast under the caring and watchful eyes of trained local chefs who really know what they are doing. Not only are these guys professionals, but they spent their childhoods watching their mothers prepare these dishes at home everyday, so they impart to you an authenticity to the cooking that you literally can't find elsewhere.

The best part about enrolling in an Asian cooking class? Getting to eat the meal, of course! The classes range from learning how to make one or two simple dishes in an afternoon to cooking an entire 5-course dinner, on which you will feast after spending your entire day in preparation. There is really nothing like tasting a meal that you yourself have created from raw ingredients that were, just a day or two before, still in the soil. And after spending the entire day sniffing the wonderful aromas of ginger, green onions, fish sauce, coconut and exotic spices cooking around you, your stomach will be ready to indulge in all of the delicious treats you've made from scratch.

You might be thinking that an Asian cooking course sounds fantastic but totally out of your price range, but you'll be pleasantly surprised at the prices. For instance, a half-day cooking course in Vientiane, Laos teaches you how to make spicy green papaya salad and other herb-marinated meat dishes for just $40, including transportation to and from your hotel and a visit to the city's bustling Thong Khan Kham farmer's market. Private classes for two are also available, which makes for a really romantic couple's activity or a great chance to learn a new skill with a friend.

Meanwhile, a 4-hour class at Baipei Thai Cooking School in Bangkok runs $60, including transportation to and from your hotel. You'll of course get to eat what you cook here, too, and the classes, which are held in a specialised kitchen inside a traditional Thai house, are small at a maximum of only 11 students.

No matter which Asian cooking class you decide to enrol in, you will come away with an unforgettable experience learning to cook in an authentic Asian environment in some of the most unique surroundings in Asia. You'll also come away with some fantastic skills and recipes that are sure to wow your guests and friends at future dinner parties or potlucks, and that is completely priceless.