cooking with poo
Now don’t let the title scare you, it’s NOT what you think. Although, I’m sure with what else Bangkok has to offer, I’m sure it’s out there available to cook somewhere. But, no, not this time. We’d be strictly sticking to some of our most favorite and delicious Thai dishes!
We decided we wanted to do a cooking class while in Asia, but where? We looooooove Thai food, so Thailand seemed like the best bet. After a little looking around, Cooking with Poo killed it with the ratings. Not only do you take turns cooking traditional Thai dishes, you visit a market in the slums, and a percentage of the earnings goes to the less-fortunate!
We signed up for a Tuesday, which meant we would learn how to cook: Pad See Ew (Devin’s favorite), Nuea Pad Met Ma-Muang (Beef with Cashew Nuts), and Gaeng Khiaw Waan (Green Curry-Ryann’s favorite). We’re salivating now just thinking about it.
The Wet Market
We were picked up at Emporium Suites on Sukhumvit at 8:30 and headed over to Klong Toey wet market, located in the slums. We were not prepared for what we were about to see. Our group split in two, each with a cook from the company acting as a guide through the market.
The wet market is actually how it sounds, wet. If you’ve ever been to Asia, you’ll know what we are talking about. No such thing as “clean up on aisle 4,” here. But, once you got past that aspect, and kept in mind that it was cultural and amazing regarding all the different things they eat, you’ll have a great time. The people working in the market had welcoming smiles spread across their face. Apparently, they weren’t too used to seeing farangs walk through their stalls because of the location- mostly it’s local customers. But, as the Thai reputation upholds, the vendors were more than happy to see us there viewing their produce and goods.
We saw a lot of things looked delicious (pancakes, so much fruit, cooked pork) and some things that would take some getting used to. Some of these included: toads in a bag, dried cockroaches and crickets, live eels, skinned snakes, full pig heads, and the list goes on. But we will say, our group did not look in disgust! Mostly, curiosity. We would try everything once, we think.
Also, we even saw a crocodile swim by in the nearby river!
After our tour of the wet market was complete and we gathered all the ingredients needed for the class, we made our way to the cooking school, which was located in the nearby slums. Although the word “slum” has a negative connotation as impoverished, disadvantaged and dirty- it truly didn’t seem like we were in a place like that.
We saw children playing, old men sitting together and laughing and a genuine community working together. Of course, they struggled and desired more than some of the shacks they lived in, but seeing the genuine happiness on their faces made us reflect on our ‘prosperous, civilized abundant’ backgrounds. In an average American city, people live separate, private lives- give or take a handful of friends and colleagues. It is rare to see a real sense of community on a daily basis, except for the small-town get-togethers at a fairground or fundraiser.
Here in the slums, we learned that the success of each other was celebrated, and thrived when working together. Their workspace wasn’t spent in compartmentalized cubicles, but rather, open and inviting markets or shops. People sat on the streets eating huddled together, not at isolated tables.
Visiting the slums firsthand, you can’t help but reflect on your own community. They didn’t have it all. They didn’t have much, really. But they had each other.
The Cooking School
So, why exactly was the company called Cooking with Poo. Simple answer, it’s the head chef’s name! Khun Saiyuud Diwong grew up with the nickname, Chompoo (rose apple), which later shortened to “Poo.” Although she may have endured some teasing over the years, she’s the one with the last laugh. Her company had grew so successful, she had to relocate two different times due to popularity. She states that now she is settled and happy with her new house and classroom (she lives above the kitchen/classroom). Poo was doing so well that she decided to write a book full of personal recipes, which was awarded an Amazon award for “the Strangest Title.” At the beginning of the presentation, she proudly showed her cookbook, along with a few other souvenirs we could purchase after the class.
The classroom was set up with one long table in the front, a humble kitchen and a seating area. The long table provided the individual cooking stations for the visiting cooks. There were four electric stoves, cutting boards, knives and all the ingredients prepared necessary each time we learned a new dish.
We were given our aprons and watched as Poo instructed us how to prepare the first dish, Pad See Ew. Poo showed us all the ingredients we would each be given, which were already measured out- just still needing to be chopped, minced or cut. She showed us exactly what to do, explaining each step. Once she was finished, it was time for the first group. Devin and I waited for the next round, that way we could cook at the same time. Once they finished, they ate while it was our turn.
Poo and the other cooks directed us if we needed help and would tell us exactly when to throw in each ingredient, making sure there weren’t any mistakes. Ryann wanted to take a cook home with her! If only it was that easy and guided every night. It was all over very fast. Who knew cooking Thai food was so easy? We ate our first dish while Poo got prepared to show us the next dish.
We repeated the same routine for each dish, until it was time for an introduction to Thai fruit and of course, dessert. Our cooking lessons were over and it was time to simply sit back, relax and enjoy.
We don’t know how we did it, but when there’s a will, there’s a way. We were SO full from all the food we had cooked and eaten, but Poo and her co-chefs set up a buffet of all the different kinds of fruit grown in Thailand. We wish we took better notes because mmm, mmm, mmm. Rose apple, star fruit, durian, mango… to name a few.
Once we finished trying and picking at the fruit, we were presented with mango sticky rice. Before now, we never once tried the delicious, mouthwatering dessert that is mango sticky rice. We would order this several more times during our stay in Asia. Now if that’s a good thing, we don’t know, but it was absolutely necessary and hard to pass up.
Ka Poon Ka
After hours of cooking and eating, it was time to go. Depressingly enough, we couldn’t stay for dinner too. Poo gave us each a locally hand-made bag with recipes found inside. Poo and the cooks bowed in gratitude, thanking us “ka poon ka” for choosing their cooking class. As mentioned before, a percentage of the profits goes towards an organization helping others in the slums: Helping Hands. Poo told us that soon, there would be a café located nearby, where many school-aged teenagers would work.