Cooking with Poo: A Bangkok Cooking Class
Who knew cooking with poo could be so fun? No, not that kind of poo — get your mind out of the gutter. Learning to make Thai food with the lovely women named Poo — short for Champoo, meaning “rose apple” — was a fun and humbling experience. This Bangkok cooking class takes place in the Klong Toey slum and we got to see a side of the city many tourists probably don’t. From tasting fruits I’ll never remember the name of to discovering Poo’s philanthropic work, it’s my top choice of things to do in Bangkok!
I won’t elaborate much about how finding a Bangkok cooking class (I wrote a whole post about that here), but Cooking with Poo was well-rated on TripAdvisor and it was the closest to our hotel. While there are many high-end cooking classes in and around Bangkok held in gorgeous villas, we weren’t impressed with the price tag or the two-hour commute via public transport.
Klong Toey Market
At 9am we met at the designated location and took a small bus with six other wannabe-chefs to the wet market. We got a tour of the market and picked up the ingredients for the day’s cooking class. We learned how all kinds of ingredients are used in Thai cuisine, from soaked chicken feet to crispy water bugs.
Klong Toey Market was nothing like the ornate Spanish food stalls, or the breathtaking lakeside market in Turkey I’ve visited before. Picture shirtless men sitting knee-deep in pork legs with cigarettes hanging from their mouths, women hunched over buckets of sweet sticky rice and about a million fruits you’ve never seen before. It dirty, it was noisy and so much fun!
If you’re staunch vegetarian or squeamish about livestock/blood then you might want to scroll past the next photos. I wanted to keep this post true to the experience. Walking past cages of lives ducks and frogs skinned alive is part of daily life.
Cooking with Poo in Klong Toey
This Bangkok cooking class is located in the heart of Klong Toey where Khun Poo grew up. She used to sell food from her home, but when couldn’t make ends meet, started the cooking school for both locals and tourists (Thai people don’t cook at home often). After setbacks (including two fires) over the past five years, the new facility has been up and running for over a year now. The school is modern by Thai standards, and there’s enough room for up to 12 people in each class. Every day features a different menu, so if there’s something you want to cook check when booking online.
Khun Poo’s altruistic nature is a force to be reckoned with. She helped local women open a jewelry shop where they sell their hand-made goods, and regularly delivers meals to the less fortunate. Her kind nature and sense of humour radiate from the school — just look at that smile! She loves to make fun of Westerners and their intolerance of heat; the poor German man in our class is probably still recovering from the chili-induced coughing fit.
What we cooked with Poo
The day Adam and I cooked with Poo we made Tom Yum Gai (hot and spicy soup with chicken), Larb Bet (minced duck salad) and Gai Ga Teum (stir-fried garlic chicken with rice). I was shocked at how easy Tom Yum soup was to make considering the layers of flavour like lemongrass and kefir lime leaves. YUM!
Thai cooking encompasses sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and spicy flavours. Most dishes contain ingredients with at least three of these elements. The chicken stir-fry wasn’t anything to write home about, but I loved the Larb. It doesn’t look like much in photos, but that minced meat salad was jam-packed with flavour! We also learned how to juice limes like a pro with just a spoon (I’ll show you sometime).
For dessert, we were introduced to eight different fruits native to Thailand and sampled each one, many times. I was disappointed to learn we weren’t going to make mango sticky rice until I found out it takes nine hours to make. Instead we got Poo’s personal recipe to take home and a bowl to chow down on which made it all better.