The Tamarind cooking class is offered by the Tamarind restaurant, located along Nam Khan River in the Old Town of Luang Parabang. They offer a morning and ad afternoon class. The morning one includes a trip to the market and therefore is more a full day, while the afternoon is a half day course.
Meeting point is at the restaurant. From there a songthaew took us to a large market 15 minues away from the Old Town. Our chef showed us around and explained the use of the various fruits, vegetable and spices. At some of the stalls we were able to try some of their food, which was nice way to try some new things. You also have some free time there to wander around for a bit.
The cooking class itself is outside of Luang Prabang in a village next to LP, which took another 30 to 45 minutes from the market. The location of the kitchen was just wonderful, in the middle of a garden with a few ponds. Not sure how good this would be with heavy rain, but during the dry season is surely beautiful.
For the class itself everyone had a little station to prepare and cook the various dishes. During my classes we did 5 dishes:
1) Aubergine Dip; 2) Waterbuffalo Laap; 3) Fish wrapped in Banana Leaf; 4) Chicken stuffed in lemongrass; 5) Sticky rice with fruit.
Our chef of the day, Name, patently showed us the various steps for each step, and for each dish some of the group “voluntereed” to help him. During the process of preapring the dishes he also walked aorund to answer any questions or giving advise how to do the various steps.
For cooking the dishes we used boiling hot oil in a pan, or little stone hubs. It was definetely something different to use such items.
After all the hard work it was time to sit together in a sheltered part in the garden to enjoy our dishes, while sharing our thoughts and stories with the other participants. Surprisingly, my dishes actually tasted very well.
At the end of the classes everyone got a little cooking book with the recipes of the dishes we prepared plus a few more. So it is a very useful little gift – I used it a few times to cook some of my favourite Lao dishes.
Overall I can highly recommend the Tamarind Cooking classes. The location of the school outside of Luang Prabang allows for a relaxed atmosphere. It is very well run, with good introduction into Lao cuisine (the market visit definitely helped). It is good they let us do the actual work, and in the process giving advise how to improve some of the more basic processes. So if you like cooking or food and interested to learn some new skills, this is the right class for you. I would recommend though to join the full day course so a visit to the market is included. Also try to pre-book the class a few days ahead, as the classes are popular.