I enrolled for the Tamnak Lao Cooking School about 5 days before the time I wanted to attend, and was the only one enrolled. However by the day I had 4 other companions from the UK and France. (I am Australian)
The class began at 10am with a trip to the Pho Sy Markets, the largest in Luang Prabang and about 3 km out of the centre of town. I had visited many markets (including many larger ones) in lots of cities and towns throughout Laos but this was particularly interesting as one of our chefs provided a narrative on the foods we were seeing as we walked through the fresh food section, while the other chef negotiated and purchased the ingredients for our cooking.
While apparently the classes can take up to 12 people, I think that over about 8 would be too much, but our group had plenty of space. Once back from the markets, one of the chefs demonstrates two dishes and then divides the group into pairs to work together. As one of the English couple was a Vegetarian, they arranged for her to work on her own while her husband and I worked on a cooking station together. We then did our best to reproduce the two meals demonstrated, which then became our lunch. We worked well together and finished fairly promptly but learnt a lesson about temperature for cook various ingredients. (All done in a wok)
After lunch the two chefs demonstrated 6 more dishes and then it was up to us to choose two to reproduce in the afternoon. At the end of the school we took some dishes away (that we had cooked) to share or eat later.
While the Chefs each had fairly heavy Lao English accents, the training was good and I think everyone in the class felt they learnt a lot. Being a smaller group we finished earlier than the advertised 4pm.
Personally, I felt Tamnak Lao Cooking School was a very valuable experience, with worthwhile lessons on both preparing and cooking Lao food but also in where to get ingredients “back home” and what might be substituted for difficult to acquire items.
It was a day well spent - but make sure you go on the full day course - not the short 2 hour lesson in the evening - as the longer course gave time to cook and eat multiple dishes – and then have a second attempt to rectify errors. And the chance of being involved in selecting the ingredients in the market put Lao cooking in context.
I heartily recommend it to others seeking to learn a little of Lao Cuisine and to reproduce it when you get home.
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