The school and cooking classes are run by an energetic and friendly lady nicknamed Khun Poo, hence the name “Cooking With Poo”.
More about the class via the official website:
The Helping Hands Thai Cooking School is an initiative designed to assist in the support of men, women, children and families from within the Klong Toey Slum Community in Bangkok, Thailand.
Khun Poo is one long-time resident of Klong Toey who represents a remarkable model of success and positivity in an often stark and complex landscape of poverty and hardship. For the past two years she has been running her own cooking school for the tourist market as well as local Thais under a community self-help program that she built with four other slum residents. The Helping Hands initiative supports Klong Toey residents to develop micro-businesses based on their skills and talents by linking them with markets and credit support. Other projects that have been supported by the initiative include catering services, a mini-van service, a sushi delivery business, a small bakery and handicraft production.
Our cooking classes are an experience of a lifetime, as you witness the hardship and hope experienced by the people living in Bangkok’s largest slum. After picking you up from our central pick-up point we take you to the market to learn how to select and purchase fresh vegetables and ingredients for the selected dishes of the day.
You will then make your way into Khun Poo’s community where she will teach you how to blend the different herbs and spices and you will learn how to create authentic Thai food for yourself.
Exciting isn’t it?
Rachel and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly as we learned to whip a few quick, simple Thai dishes wih Poo and five other classmates.
The visit to the Klong Toey Market was an eye-opener for us. This is a market for locals, not usually visited by tourists. Unless the rest of our Caucasian classmates, we were familiar with wet markets and “exotic” food stuff like pig’s innards, durians and fish maws. Nonetheless, we were still intrigued by the Isan (northeastern region of Thailand) food section which offers “fear factor” stuff like baby frogs salad, crickets and many kinds of insects and critters. Thankfully, Isan cuisine was not on our cooking menu!
After getting all the ingredients we need at Klong Toey Market, we boarded the van and headed to the Helping Hands Cooking School. The school is located within the residential area of the Klong Toey community and resides in a cosy little double-storey home. It can comfortably host a class of around 6 to 10 pax.
Clean and well-equipped, Poo is assisted by another three apprentice girls while conducting her class.
We learned to cook a total of 4 traditional Thai dishes – Tom Yum Gai (Hot & Spicy Soup with Chicken), Phad Thai (Thai Noodles with Vegetables), Larb Pet (Minced Duck with lemongrass) and Khao Niow Ma-muang (Mango and Sticky Rice).
Interestingly, we found out the red colouring on the noodles in Phad Thai came from the natural colouring inside the head of the prawns used in the dish and not from chili paste or artificial food colouring.
The delicious Thai dishes were also much easier to cook than we had thought. Our confidence was so boasted after the lesson that we immediately whipped up a Thai dinner for our family when we were back in Singapore, to positive reviews.
By coincidence, Nirmal Ghosh, the Thailand correspondent for The Straits Time popped by in the middle of our cooking lesson to conduct an interview with Poo. As a fellow journalist in the same media company, Rachel is a big fan of Ghosh’s news stories and she was really delighted to meet him in person.
At the end of the day, Rachel and I bought a copy of Poo’s cookbook to support The Helping Hands initiative. We had a really good time. It was a day well spent and we would highly recommend it to other Bangkok tourists who want to try something different beyond the usual sight-seeing and shopping.
If you are interested in attending this cooking class, please visit the Cooking With Poo official website to find out more on the cooking menus, lesson prices, dates and schedules available. 🙂