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During my recent trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I met up with my friend Hanuman Aspler, who is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to Thai food history and science.
I’ve known Khun Hanuman for many years, originally in Bangkok. But a few years ago, he bought a plot of land in the mountains of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and started developing it. I had been following his progress and he had even explained to me about what he had to do – turning a swampland into liveable conditions, and building a traditional, yet clean with a few modern amenities, Thai home on the site.
Introducing – Three Trees Doi Saket! A project, their home, and now, a Thai immersive cooking class – easily the most in depth and authentic Thai cooking class, likely in the world. Hanuman is not only a cook, but he’s a walking encyclopedia of Thai history, the stories behind each Thai dish, and a scientist who known how to break down each dish and ingredients and tell you why it’s included and what it does for the dish. It’s always an honor to hang out with Hanuman, and cook and eat, because I come away with so much more knowledge.
Today we cooked Khanom jeen nam ngiaw (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว), what is one of the most popular Northern Thai food. It’s one of the dishes that if you ask someone from Northern Thailand what is a dish they crave or miss (if they are living in Bangkok), they would likely mention khanom jeen nam ngiaw (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว).
Khanom jeen nam ngiaw (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว) is a Northern Thai, yet Shan style, curry eaten with soft rice noodles. We gathered all the ingredients for the Thai curry paste, and pounded them all.
One of the most interesting lessons in this Thai cooking class today in Chiang Mai was about umami. Tomatoes are one of the few naturally filled fruits with umami. So he used a variety of different shapes, sizes, colors, and even fired some tomatoes to give the dish a dimension of umami. Other unique ingredients in khanom jeen nam ngiaw (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว) are cotton tree flowers (ดอกงิ้ว) and fermented soybeans (ถั่วเน่า tua now).
I’ve had plenty of bowls of northern Thai food khanom jeen nam ngiaw (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว) in Chiang Mai, but this was the most complex, richest, and most in depth flavorful bowl of the dish I’ve ever had. And the umami was maxxed out, the tomatoes blew my taste buds in all directions.
Huge thank you to Khun Hanuman and Khun Ton for their kindness and hospitality.
Thai Cooking Class at Three Trees Doi Saket – When you’re in Chiang Mai, get in touch with Hanuman for the most authentic and immersive Thai cooking class in Thailand.
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