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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

"Happy Hearts" - Cooking in Thailand

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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Steamed vegetable display in Thailand

Steamed vegetable display in Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand, a quick one hour flight north of Bangkok, offers many regional Thai cooking classes. And thanks to its abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs, this city is rapidly becoming a culinary training center. People from all walks of life are mesmerized by Thailandís extensive exotic and mysterious flavors.

While on a visit to Chiang Mai, my girlfriend and I carefully examined the choices of classes, which also included vegetable and fruit carving, and chose one especially focused on making curries.

Literally from around the world, twenty students of all ages showed up promptly at ten a.m. the morning of the lesson.


After introductions, one of the three instructors began explaining the ingredients that go into making a curry paste. Before this moment, I held the mistaken notion that "a curry" was a single spice like turmeric or cumin. Being shown physically by sight, smell, touch and flavor all the ingredients that go into making a curry paste opened my mind for the first time to this new world of curries. Panaeng curry, a special Thai paste that we were making on this day, included fifteen ingredients some of which were coriander, cumin, ginza, mace, kaffir lime peel, lemon grass and shrimp paste.

I had no idea it was this complex!

Curry pastes and shrimp paste are available already made in the Thai markets

Curry pastes and shrimp paste are available already made in the Thai markets

I looked around, blushing to myself, wondering how many of those attending were as naive about Asian food as I was. When time came to prepare our paste, a gentleman raised his hand, and politely asked "Would you mind showing me the difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon?"

Well then.

I breathed a sigh of relief and settled down into the instruction.

Cooking stations were everywhere, complete with a gas burner, cutting board, cleaver, wet cloth, bowls of water, spoons, cooking utensils and woks. Finding a station to work at was a little like musical chairs. Every time I reached to claim one, it was already taken.

Finally, I spotted a station on the far side of the room and I tossed my notebook over a burner and onto a chair from the middle of the floor where I was standing. Then I confidently and quickly maneuvered my way around bodies, woks, utensils, backpacks, water bottles and supplies, to set myself up and prepared to work.

At our posts, all the ingredients that we had been previously shown, both fresh and dried, were waiting. As I began slicing the fresh herbs, leaves and ginza to add to my pounded dry ones, my "station mate" began talking to me. Being no slouch with a knife myself, I immediately recognized that her skills were far superior to mine. I realized that this class was not about competing but rather learning, so I finished slicing and dicing and commenced to pounding.

These little chilies are hot hot hot!

These little chilies are hot hot hot!

Much like the native Thais who spend time on the floor of their homes, we each found ourselves a comfortable spot on the floor with a wet towel under our mortar and pestle. We began to pound, and drum, and hammer.

Earlier we had been shown how to do so with much vigor. A short story had also been told about how Thai men in the village would often stand outside homes in the morning listening to the pounding of the curry pastes. It is said that if a Thai woman pounds her paste with enthusiasm she will make quite a sexy partner, no matter if she is beautiful, rich or well known. The only thing that matters is how she goes about making that paste.

The other main ingredient, is to SMILE (emphatically); to have a noticeable "Happy Heart". We were assured "Happy hearts make the best flavors. We do not want any bitter curries here..."

So hammer we do, vigorously, for the next ten full minutes. I get really into mine, smiling, sweating, trying to get those blasted chunks to pulverize into a smearing paste. My station mate had sliced her ingredients so finely that she finished smashing minutes before I did. I continue to beat and grind, until I find that I'm the last and only one still pounding. Ooops. I will have to live with the chunks.

Course after course, we are first shown what to do then we proceed to make these dishes for ourselves; two different curries, chicken, pork, fish, sauce after sauce, vegetables, coconut milk, salad and dessert. At lunch break, we sit down, each of us, savoring our creations and visiting with each other. I sit next to my girlfriend who had been on the other side of the room all morning during instruction.

As the cooking school is used to having vegetarians attend their courses, they provided her with unique and tasty alternatives to our meat and fish dishes. She was most pleased.

I have appreciation for these pastes now. Maybe I'll just buy them!

I have appreciation for these pastes now. Maybe I'll just buy them!

Conversations were as diverse as our ingredients. There was a Restaurant broker, a young and energetic English chef with his wife, a cooking teacher who taught ten year olds in southern France, a lawyer beginning his new life in Sydney Australia, a young girl from India, a marine biologist living and working in Puerto Rico, and all had successfully made their smiling, sexy curries.


My belly was full, my heart was happy. The program had been professional and well organized. Smiling humor had been the theme of the day. On top of it all, I believe I learned several useful things to take home with me to add to my style of cuisine. And you can bet from now on I will be smiling when I'm cooking.

For more stories and photos on Thailand, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person Ė the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesnít want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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