As you’ve probably realised by now, I’m trying to take a cooking class in each country I visit. With only an eight-hour window in which to visit Myanmar though, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to manage it.
But then I discovered an organisation in Mae Sot that is run by Burmese people and offers Burmese cooking classes (amongst other things). I decided to bend the ‘in each country’ part of the goal slightly in this instance and signed up, along with one of the other orphanage volunteers, Carmen.
By the time the class rolled around two days later, Carmen and I had talked Florence and Ian into joining us as well, and the four of us set off on our bicycles for Borderline, where the class was being held.
When we arrived, we were each given a recipe book and, as a group, we chose one drink (Burmese Lime Iced Tea), one main (Vegetable Dhal), one salad (Ginger Salad), and one snack (Banana Fritters) to make during the class. Then we set off for the market, where BoBo (who translated the recipe book and has his name on the cover) purchased the ingredients for our chosen meal.
Next, he took us to a Burmese tea house in town, where we sampled different types of tea (well, I love the smell of tea but generally don’t like the taste, so I had a yoghurt lassi and just had a sip of the teas) and learned about the history of the tea house in Burmese culture.
According to BoBo, the tea house was originally a place for both men and women to visit, but over time the men discouraged the women from going there, so that they would have a place to drink, smoke, gamble and generally get up to mischief. It turned out this didn’t bother the women too much, because they just got together at each others’ houses and did the same without the menfolk! Eventually that separatism died away though, and now the tea houses are enjoyed by both men and women again.
After we had sampled our teas and some treats like tea cakes and Indian donuts, we headed back to Borderline to start the actual class. Unlike other classes I’ve taken, where everyone worked on their own version of the dishes, in this class we all worked together as a group and then shared the spoils at the end. Because we were all already friends, it worked really well; I’m not sure if it would be the same with a group of complete strangers though.
The actual cooking part of the class went by quite quickly (always good for providing motivation to repeat the recipes at home!) and then it was time for the eating. No problems there – except that there was so much food we had to take the rest home to share with the other volunteers! Not that anyone really minded, of course.