Ya maja nah ray oh tah, say ah? (Pakinyaw language) translates to can I help you cook? Here in Hauy Pakoot nestled in to the mountains, a five hour drive North of Chiang Mai, the GVI Chiang Mai project is based. Volunteers are placed into local homestays. The local homestay option provides villagers with an alternative mode of income. In co-ordination with this every two weeks volunteers get to experience cooking class at a local villagers house (a true Northern experience). Outside of this cooking class we can also help our own homestays to cook if we chose.
Cooking class gives volunteers a taste (no pun intended) of the locals choice in cuisine. Dishes often consist of vegetables that are in season accompanied by the biggest bowl of rice you’ve ever seen (no joke)! Mussah toh is a common dish served with almost every meal. It’s made up of crushed garlic, chillies and the third ingredient depends on the consumer’s choice but typically fish, crab, tadpole, herbs, lime or egg etc. We also get the chance to see, feel and taste the ingredients that’s are locally grown and sourced sometimes in their own back yard.
My first cooking class was at a lovely homestay based right in the middle of the village. She clearly knew her way around the kitchen and encouraged us to get started on our arrival. We chopped vegetables to make mussah toh, specifically peppers. We then used the stove under her close eye to cook some omelette with tomatoes and some grassy herb I couldn’t pronounce. We fried some eggplant and some more of the grassy stems in soy sauce and chilli powder to give them that extra kick. Her young daughter also came out to see what all these ‘golas’ (westerners) were getting up to in the kitchen. She enjoyed the interaction as we pointed to things in the kitchen to find out how we say them in Pakinyaw (she giggled a lot when I said them wrong) while she learned their English names. After all our efforts we sat on a mat on the floor in a circle to enjoy the tasty meal we had prepared-gwee minoh or very delicious.