When the husband learned about cooking class in Luang Prabang, he was determined to take one. There are a few restaurants offer cooking classes here (see Tripadvisor’s list here), but my heart went for the one by Sofitel Luang Prabang. Not only Sofitel is a renowned hotelier, but with our short stays, Sofitel offers cooking class with the shortest hour. Most cooking classes in Luang Prabang (practicing similar dishes) takes up about a whole day (from 9am to 3 or 4pm), our class starts early at 8 am and finishes at 12 pm – including a morning market tour.
Sofitel Luang Prabang only has two classes every week, and the schedule did not meet our time, so I arranged a private class for both of us. Sofitel’s executive chef, Chef John picked us up on a rainy Saturday morning in a fancy tuk-tuk and took us straight to the fresh market. It had been drizzling all morning… and being out and about in a market with my little umbrella is a bit annoying but still manageable.
Morning market tour
Chef John carried his basket around and showed us a few authentic Laotian ingredients like Lao black pepper, Lao coriander, Lao spice wood, and bird’s eye chilies.
For me, as an Indonesian, where similar ingredients can be easily found in Indonesia – the market tour is still interesting to do because I can see and learn the differences and similarities of ingredients in the two countries. I even got to try these sweet coconut cakes which tasted exactly like Indonesian traditional snack ‘serabi’.
Arriving at Sofitel
Upon arrival, we were taken to Sofitel’s all day dining restaurant, the Governor’s Grill and was served our breakfast. I was told to not eat too much for breakfast because we’d be savouring what we’re cooking later for lunch. So I only ordered pancakes, ate some pineapples and mangos, and drank (way too much) tea.
The cooking class was held at the outside kitchen of Governor’s Grill. All the basic ingredients were prepped and ready on the table with two red aprons (that we got to take home) and a pestle and mortar.
Lao food often uses lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and Lao coriander – which resulted in the fragrant and fresh taste to it. During our cooking course, we managed to cook four different traditional Lao dishes:
During the process of cooking each dishes, Chef John not only taught us how to cook but also shared some of his insights on Lao traditional dishes, and tips for different ingredient. For example, my favourite dish was the red chicken curry. In most cases when cooking curry, you would stir fry the chicken first, and followed with the curry paste and other flavouring after. In this one though, we cooked up the raw ingredients (shallots, onions, etc. ) and pour the first half of coconut milk before putting in the chicken. This way, you (almost) burn down the coconut milk first to create a stronger taste so when the chicken was being cooked, it will be coated with this strong flavour very nice very quickly.
Doing the class in private is definitely worth the money. Not only it was quite a romantic-cutesy activity for the two of us, but you are able to be one-to-one with the chef, so he will put more attention in your work and you can always learn a lot more this way. I also managed to dig into Chef John’s background a little bit to understand and learn where he got his great skills from, or the fact that his daughter’s favourite dish sounds like my very-kind-of-meal.
Cooking class at Sofitel Luang Prabang is available every Tuesday and Friday at USD35++ per person. The private session costed us almost thrice the price but it was definitely worth every cents.