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How to Cook Great Thai Food if You Aren’t Thai


The Secret to Cooking Great Thai Food if You Aren’t Thai | Thai-foodie.com

I was at the small, cozy Asian Supermarket that we drive an hour and half to (the closest one to us!) and waiting in a long line stretching down the curry paste and coconut milk aisle. We had a shopping cart filled to the brim of supplies like bottles of fish sauce, packets of tamarind paste, stacks of coconut milk cans, giant bags of fresh rice noodles, and more, all for my Thai cooking classes, and our every day Thai meals.

I was trying figure out if the music on the loudspeaker was Vietnamese when a guy behind me in line startled me from my thoughts to ask what I was going to use my 10 lb bag of fresh rice noodles for.

I smiled and said, “Oh! for my Thai cooking classes!”

He stared at me, trying to see if he had missed some Asian part of me before he said, “But you aren’t Thai!”

I nonchalantly replied, “Well, I have a Thai last name.”

“You do??” Totally shocked and confused.

“Yup!!” I grinned.

I let him be befuddled for a bit before pointing out my handsome Thai Hubby standing in front of me who was looking through our cart to make sure we’d gotten enough of Tae Kae Noi, our kids favorite Thai seaweed snack.

The Secret to Cooking Great Thai Food if You Aren’t Thai | Thai-foodie.com

It’s crazy how, like this guy did, we assume so much based on how someone looks.

If you looked at my Thai mother-n-law and I at first glance, you’d of course assume she is a better Thai cook than I am because she looks Thai.

But I’ve never seen her lift a spatula or stand behind a wok once.

The Secret to Being a Great Thai Cook if You Aren't Thai | Thai-foodie.com

She’s always been a hustling, amazing business woman who has zero time for cooking.

So many people assume if you aren’t from that country, you can’t be good at cooking that country’s food.

You can probably guess, I don’t agree!

What You Need to Cook Great Thai Food if You Aren’t Thai

Even if you aren’t from Thailand, you can still become a great Thai cook, but you do need something that not everyone has.

You need a deep passion for Thai food, and perseverance to keep cooking Thai, even after making really lame Thai food multiple times.

Thai Cooking Classes in Boone, NC | Thai-foodie.com

When I’m making a meal for Passport Night (a night we do every other week where we eat a meal from another culture, and we learn about that country), often I don’t have any clue how many of the international dishes are supposed to authentically taste.

I want it to taste yummy, but it’s not that big a deal to me if my pita bread doesn’t puff up the way it should. I might ask Google why and learn a bit, but I don’t lose sleep over it. I enjoy pita bread, but I’m not obsessed with it.

Thai Cooking Classes in Boone, NC | Thai-foodie.com

But it’s not the same for Thai food.

If a Thai dish doesn’t come out like I’d hoped, I feel angst. I ask my Thai Hubby what I should have done differently. I overanalyze the rest of the night how I could do it better next time. I watch Thai YouTube videos from Thai chefs. I read different Thai recipes online poorly translated by Google into English. I try again and again, often wondering if I will ever make this Thai dish taste like I remember from my favorite Thai vendor, and I don’t give up until after my first bite I sigh and say, “This is soooo good!”

They say it takes 1000 hours to become an expert in something, which means you have to spend a lot of hours not being good at whatever you are doing, and that’s hard, but it also means it’s possible to get better!

Thai Cooking Classes in Boone, NC | Thai-foodie.com

So every time I made mushy Pad Thai because I added too much sauce, forgot to put the fish sauce and sugar at the end in Khao Soi, and it wasn’t that good, added the herbs too soon in Larb, and they were all wilty, tried making Tom Yum in the crock pot all day and then because of the lemongrass sitting in it for 8 hours it tastes like cleaning supplies, and many more mess ups, all those mistakes were hours spent in becoming a great Thai cook.

But even though I may cook Thai food much better than when I started out years ago, I feel like I’ll never stop learning, and every day want to grow in my Thai cooking skills, even when I’m a grandma teaching my grand kids!

Thai Cooking Classes in Boone, NC

If you too have passion for Thai food, and perseverance to keep going after failing a bunch like me, you can cook awesome Thai food that your Thai friends would line up for.  And I can even help get you started through my Thai cooking classes!

Come on over to Boone, NC and take one at my place, or at wherever you are staying! My private Thai cooking classes are one of the top fun things to do at night in the Boone area, and teaching an awesome person like you and your peeps is my fav!

Thai Cooking Classes in Boone, NC | Thai-foodie.com

I’ll teach you and your friends how to make Pad Thai with Shrimp (one of your favs right? It’s also one of my Thai Hubby’s!), Tom Kha Gai (Thai Chicken Coconut soup that’s so heart-warming you’ll want to make it again tomorrow), and Mango Sticky Rice (the stuff that my students tell me later they have dreams about!). Message me for more info and check out my Airbnb Experience page to see my reviews!

And with your new Thai cooking secrets I’ve passed onto you, your passion and perseverance, you, Thai or not, can how to make Thai food that your friends will line up for!


  • Martin

    I spent around months in Thailand almost 2 years ago and have been cooking it since I returned almost every day. Ice basically got nam pla for blood. I’m hugely passionate about Thai cuisine.

    I agree with your post. I will add another thing that I think you need. I think you have to experienced Thai food in Thailand. I don’t mean just a quick hols either and trying the pad Thai and green curry.

    I’ve loaded with Thais, been taught cooking by Thais and eaten my way across the country from South to North.

    • Sherri Pengjad

      Lol! I love that you have nam pla for blood! That sounds like us! And that’s a great point to add! Yes! I think eating it in Thailand all over the country is one of the best ways to learn Thai cuisine!