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“A fascinating and educational Cooking Treat in Luang Prabang”

Tamnak Lao Cooking School
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Attraction details
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed December 23, 2016

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.

1  Thank Bill E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed December 2, 2016 via mobile

This was a good introduction to Lao cuisine.

We did the day course and enjoyed the market visit.

The day is very structured and each dish is demonstrated and then you cook it at your bench station. On this they delivered. And the recipe book you take home is well put together and informative.

Some other courses I have done have been a bit more personal and interactive. We would like to have learned a bit more about Laos culture as well as just how to make the dishes.

Thank Pip B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed November 27, 2016

We really enjoyed this. A Lao chef prepared four different dishes in front of us, and then we got to pick two to cook for ourselves for dinner. We came back home prepared to make some of these dishes for ourselves, and found that some of the ingredients are simply not available at our local markets, so we wish that we had been given ideas about how to substitute ingredients that weren't available. It was a little warm in the kitchen.

Thank BradHurley
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed November 4, 2016 via mobile

I'm not really sure what I thought of this cooking school. What made it for me was the people who were also participating. Such a friendly bunch. We've done a fair few cooking classes in Asia and I can't say it was the best. We went to the Phousi Market by truck. Got shown around and got a very brief description of what some of the things were. We then got back and had tea/ coffee whilst the teachers prepped the food. I didn't think that there was much interaction from the teachers although they were friendly enough. No real intro, no explanation. Could have been more.
You share a station with your cooking buddy. I think normally you'd have your own work station? Certainly in other classes I've done there has been. The teachers demonstrate the dishes and then you basically crack on whilst they wash up. The dishes were tasty and we got given the cook books to take away. It was ok but didn't set my world on fire.

1  Thank SarahSchad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed October 29, 2016 via mobile

The day started off with a visit to the morning market. I enjoy this part if the day since it brings me to a place locals shop at, a place filled with smells, sights, and items I'm not familiar with. We, the student chefs, don't buy anything while there, we are accompanied by one Chef who takes us on a tour and describes to us what we are seeing in the market. As we do this, the other Chef looks after the purchasing.

From the market we headed back school, where I spent the rest of the afternoon and where I learned how to cook not only traditional Laos food, but I was also able to learn, taste, and cook traditional Luang Prabang cuisine.

PROS
- both chef's showed you how to prepare the dish. This was cool as it allowed us to see two very different ways of preparing, chopping, even tasting of the food
- you were able to "shop" in their kitchen. Which really meant that you had to get your ingredients on your own from the tables and workstations they had set up; this was great since it meant that we actually had to know what we were looking for (which will help us when we are home shopping in our local grocery stores or Asian supermarkets)
- they told us what we could substitute a product for knowing that asian grocery stores may stock different items abroad
- you are given a cookbook to take home with you. This had all the recipes from the day, and more
- you get to cook a couple dishes and then stop to eat and enjoy your meal. Unlike another class where you cook everything then eat it all at once, this allowed you to space out the calorie intake throughout the day. We got to eat outside which was nice since we got to learn more about one another, and I think this was the highlight for me
- I met really fun and amazing Chef wannabes like me (actually one was an actual Chef) and had a lovely day cooking with them

CONS
- a Friends reference is about to me made. You know that episode where Joey goes to dinner at a few restaurants where his date taste tests and then takes his food? His response is, "Joey doesn't like to share". This came to mind a couple times. I am a very hands on learner, and I like being able to do everything (to me, the more I do, the better I learn), and not being able to have the work station to myself, or chop one thing, or stir the other, etc, I felt antsy and didn't know how to "just watch". I'm sure Arne saw it...(if you're reading this, sorry Arne lol), but I couldn't help myself. Don't get me wrong, I tried hard to play nice and I succeeded and I made sure to share and split our duties and dishes as evenly as possible! I would have liked a workstation to myself though. They have enough room for each of us to have had our own, but alas we shared
- speaking of sharing dishes. It's no secret I like to eat. At this cooking class we made dishes with ingredients fit for one person, which meant that when it came time to eat, each person was given only half of the actual dish... Orrrr maybe it was suppose to be for two and I just thought they were really small portions?!? I'm not sure, but, to me, it wasn't enough

What I come out with after this cooking class:
- outside of a bigger waistline, I learned that Laos food is different from other Southeast Asian fare since less oil and chili are used. It is a combo of sweet sour and salty. Nothing was overpowering, but everything was flavourful. It seemed like all dishes were healthier, which or me, seemed to satisfy my conscience knowing I was eating a whole lot the day

TAMNAK LAO
- the cooking classes are offered daily. The morning class is from 10:00-4:30 (we finished before 4:00). You visit the morning market, taste test 7 dishes but cook 5. Costs 250K KIP ($30 USD, which is $41 CDN. This was by far that most expensive cooking class I have ever taken)
- for those with less time or not keen on visiting the market, there is also an evening class from 5:00-7:00 P.M. Here you taste test 4 dishes and cook 2. Costs 165K KIP ($20 USD, approx $27 CDN)
- both classes will teach you how to make jeowbong (the famous Luang Prabang chili paste - not spicy at all!) and sticky rice
- Tamnak Lao is a restaurant in the city and considered to be one of the best, so learning dishes being served up in the restaurant was cool to know

Thank ABIvsWORLD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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