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Bangkok Babymoon: Cooking with Poo (The Helping Hands Thai Cooking School)

Bangkok Babymoon: Cooking with Poo (The Helping Hands Thai Cooking School)
Rachel and I at The Helping Hands Cooking School in Bangkok

Rachel and I at The Helping Hands Cooking School in Bangkok

During our Bangkok Babymoon earlier this year, Rachel and I decided to attend a one day Thai cooking class with The Helping Hands Thai Cooking School.

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?

Related Post:  Brunch at Charly T's @ NOMU

Rachel and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly as we learned to whip a few quick, simple Thai dishes wih Poo and five other classmates.

Boarding a Helping Hands van which will be taking us to the Klong Toey Market and the cooking school

Boarding a Helping Hands van which will be taking us to the Klong Toey Market and the cooking school

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!

The Isan food section in Klong Toey Market

The Isan food section in Klong Toey Market

Poo guiding us around the market

Poo guiding us around the market

Insect feast

Insect feast

Insect mountain

Insect mountain

Delicious beetles

Delicious beetles

Assorted insect

Assorted insect

Cricket galore

Cricket galore

Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers

Plump, juicy worms

Plump, juicy worms

Water boatmen

Water boatmen

Assorted gluey cooking pastes

Assorted gluey cooking pastes

Live eels

Live eels

Catfish

Catfish stall

Freshwater gourami fish and shrimps

Freshwater gourami fish and shrimps

Frogs - you can purchase them live or skinned

Frogs – you can purchase them live or skinned

Close-up of the bloodied, skinned frogs

Close-up of the bloodied, skinned frogs

More yummy green frogs

More yummy green frogs

These baby frogs are eaten raw with salad

These baby frogs are eaten raw with salad

Grilled catfish

Grilled catfish

Ant cocoons - these do not come cheap and is considered a exquisite delicacy in Isan cuisine

Ant cocoons – these do not come cheap and is considered a exquisite delicacy in Isan cuisine

Freshwater fish, not a favouite among Singaporeans due to the stronger "fishy" taste

Freshwater fish, not a favouite among Singaporeans due to the stronger “fishy” taste

Fresh poultry

Fresh poultry

Whole chicken

Whole chicken

Chili paste

Chili paste

Isan veggies

Isan veggies

More Isan veggies

More Isan veggies

Young boy vendor

Young boy vendor

Lotus and other stuff

Lotus and other stuff

A happy little girl in the market

A happy little girl in the market

Another vegetable stall

Another vegetable stall

All the stuff you need to make Tom Yam soup

All the stuff you need to make Tom Yam soup

Tin biscuits, these were very common in Singapore in the 80s but are a rare sight now

Tin biscuits, these were very common in Singapore in the 80s but are a rare sight now

Rice of varying grades

Rice of varying grades

A black cat we spotted at the market

A black cat we spotted at the market

Fresh flowers

Fresh flowers

Fresh seafood stall

Fresh seafood stall

Mud crabs

Mud crabs

Blue prawns

Blue prawns

Prawns of varying grades (and prices)

Prawns of varying grades (and prices)

Fishmonger

Fishmonger

Pig's heads for Ah Long

Pig’s heads for Ah Long

Buying some ready-made Thai sticky rice

Buying some ready-made Thai sticky rice

A child resting at a vegetable stall

A child resting at a vegetable stall

Chilli vendor

Chilli vendor

Chopped coconuts

Chopped coconuts

Fruits stall

Fruits stall

Green limes

Green limes

Mangosteens! Rachel and I bought lots of these

Mangosteens! Rachel and I bought lots of these

Poo buying some mushrooms for our cooking lesson

Poo buying some mushrooms for our cooking lesson

Thai popiah skins, freshly made

Thai popiah skins, freshly made

Thai sticky rice, smoked in bamboo

Thai sticky rice, smoked in bamboo

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.

Interesting contrast on the wall

Interesting contrast on the wall

Children playing

Children playing

Rachel in the alley

Rachel in the alley

Sleepy black cat

Sleepy black cat

The black cat has a kitten

The black cat has a kitten

School entrance

School entrance

Clean and well-equipped, Poo is assisted by another three apprentice girls while conducting her class.

Many photos of past cooking classes adorned the walls

Many photos of past cooking classes adorned the walls

More pictures

More pictures

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).

Rachel is really excited about the cooking class

Rachel is really excited about the cooking class

Getting down to business

Getting down to business

Rachel was very serious and took notes throughout

Rachel was very serious and took notes throughout

Poo's cook book

Poo’s cook book

The first dish we learn to cook was Tom Yam soup

The first dish we learn to cook was Tom Yam soup

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 ingredient for Phad Thai

The ingredient for Phad Thai

Dumping all the Phad Thai ingredient into the pan

Dumping all the Phad Thai ingredient into the pan

The frying process

The frying process

The prawns are cooked

The prawns are cooked

Mixing in an egg

Mixing in an egg

Stir and fry like a pro

Stir and fry like a proStir and fry like a pro

The red colour from the prawns seeping in

The red colour from the prawns seeping in

Rachel's Phad Thai is ready

Rachel’s Phad Thai is ready

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.

Ingredient for the duck dish

Ingredient for the duck dish (Larb Pet)

Dicing everything into small bits

Dicing everything into small bits

Me showing off my nifty knife skill

Me showing off my nifty knife skill

Poo's demo

Poo’s demo

Minced duck in the pan

Minced duck in the pan

Rachel with her completed plate of Larb Pet

Rachel with her completed plate of Larb Pet

Poo preparing the last dish, Mango with Sticky Rice

Poo preparing the last dish, Mango with Sticky Rice

This is always one of Rachel's all time favourite Thai dish

This is always one of Rachel’s all time favourite Thai dish

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.

Nirmal Ghosh and his assistant, sharing a plate of Poo's Phad Thai

Nirmal Ghosh and his assistant, sharing a plate of Poo’s Phad Thai

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.

We were each given copies of the recipes at the end of the day

We were each given copies of the recipes at the end of the day

We can now cook Thai food!

We can now cook Thai food!

A picture of Rachel with Poo

A picture of Rachel with Poo

Group photo with Poo and our five classmates

Group photo with Poo and our five classmates

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. 🙂

About The Author

alvinology

Alvin is a marketer by day and blogger by night. He is a 100% geek who spends too much time surfing the web.

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