Cooking with Poo
A magnificent Bangkok Thai cooking class, in every respect
Cooking with Poo. As an Englishman and therefore lifelong devotee of toilet humour, this Thai cooking class in Bangkok was worth it for the name alone.
We had heard great things about the Cooking with Poo Thai cooking class from many different people, and as big Thai food fans we were excited as to finally go.
For the avoidance of doubt, Cooking with Poo was also more than worth it for the experience and the cooking. This Thai cooking class opens up a different side of Bangkok while leaving you stuffed full of great food and recipes.
A bit more about Poo
For the avoidance of more doubt, the Poo in question here is the indomitable lady who runs the school. She’s been running her class in the Khlong Toei slum area of Bangkok for nearly a decade after previously selling food to the neighbouring community.
After encouragement from a missionary who was a fan of her cooking, Khun Poo started running Cooking with Poo from her home. These have been so popular that she’s upgraded to a bigger (although still rather tiny) place a few doors down, even rebuilding from scratch after a fire 5 years ago.
These days Khun Poo is something of a superstar, having taken herself and her team to London and LA to teach. So it’s nice that she still attends the classes and teaches you how to cook great Thai dishes!
The Thai cooking class also helps support the neighbourhood. Money from the bookings goes to the community projects, and the demo dishes get served piping hot to the neighbours. Apparently Saturday is a popular day because the massaman curry served up is a particularly premium dish in these parts. A load of neighbours stopped by during the class to chat with Poo and have a bite to eat.
The day starts early, meeting at 8.30am near Phra Khanong. Khun Poo and her team were waiting to pile 14 of us into a minivan for a tour of Khlong Toei Market, one of Bangkok’s busiest and most bustling food markets.
We hadn’t been to Khlong Toei market before and it’s certainly a sensory assault on almost all levels. It’s a maze of tiny alleys stuffed with food vendors of every variety. The first thing we walked into was a gauntlet of current and former chickens, bags of live frogs waiting for the block, and piles of bugs in all shapes and sizes. All the while motorbikes, passers by and porters rushed past on all sides.
Tesco it ain’t, basically.
Poo led us round the various sections and explained the origins and uses of some of the foods. To your left, snake fruit and ants eggs. To your right, an entire pig’s face with the rest of the pig frighteningly absent. We like local but this is super local!
We like this stuff as ultimately all of your food comes from this sort of environment at some point. I’m less sure about the small, jet-lagged children in front of us, but they handled it admirably.
After stopping to buy various delicacies and goodies – Poo also brings food back for neighbourhood projects – it was back to the van and off the the cooking class!
More from Thai Spicy
The Thai cooking class
“Be careful of chopping” said Khun Poo as she effortlessly sliced ingredients whilst delivering a running commentary. The lady can handle a kitchen knife.
The class is a fairly simple set up. Each day of the week has a different menu and Khun Poo and team demo each dish before you step up and cook it yourself.
Our Saturday menu comprised:
- Tom Ka Krail – lemongrass and chicken salad
- Pad Thai with Prawns
- Massaman Chicken Curry
- Mango Sticky Rice
After a demo of the recipe and the ingredients and the origin of the dish, it’s time for you to get cooking. The cooking class is very well run with helpers on hand to guide you, but to be honest the recipes are simple enough that it’s tough to go too far wrong. We’ve been to classes before where an obvious amount of prep work has gone on before and you’re more or less assembling plates.
At Cooking with Poo, most of it was from scratch but still fast. Like a lot of Thai food, these are just quick recipes. Some of the massaman ingredients came pre-boiled but rather that than watch peanuts boil for 40 minutes.
Simple is a good thing in this case though, as the dishes that come out are spectacular! The chicken and lemongrass salad was a revelation. Lemongrass is one of those things we tend to throw out from a finished dish owing to its tree-like properties. Here, the white end is finely sliced and mixed with chicken, chilli, coriander and a few more friends to create a beautiful fresh salad.
Up next was a prawn pad thai with some seriously meaty sea dwellers. Again, the recipe was very straightforward and well thought out, and the dish was lovely. Poo also showed us the right technique with the egg which I always manage to mess up in any fried rice or noodle dish!
Curries and coconuts
With stomachs already straining, the final main course was a massaman curry, and another prime specimen was produced. The curry was so tasty that we actually forgot to take a picture before we’d scoffed the whole lot.
We felt like all of the recipes were very achievable to do at home which is a nice aspect of this cooking class. A lot of that is down to the teaching which is very easy to follow, and the watchful eye of the staff probably helps a lot too. We’ll report back when we try to recreate these recipes without a professional cook on hand!
As if that weren’t enough, Poo and the gang then laid on a spread of Thai fruit to taste. One of Frankie’s favourite sayings is ‘never refuse the toilet or champagne’. Having been here a few months, I’d add ‘or Thai fruit’ to that sentence. The possible exception is snake fruit, which has echoes of home-made alcohol about it.
We finished up with a bowl of mango sticky rice – this is Thailand after all – and some crepes from the market filled with what can only be described as candy floss.
We were happy and sad the Thai cooking class was over. On the one hand, the food was fantastic, we leanrt some lovely recipes, and Poo and the team very extremely friendly and helpful. On the other, there’s only so much great food you can take before noon.
There are probably hundreds of Thai cooking class options in Bangkok. For quality, value and something a little different it’d be hard to beat Cooking with Poo.
The whole event including the market tour, all the food and transport was just 1500THB per person, which feels like a steal. Poo and her team were excellent teachers, all the food we made was tasty, and the cooking class helps support the local community.
If you have a chance to attend this Thai cooking class in Bangkok, you’ll have a great day, eat some great food and support some great causes, all before lunchtime!
Cooking with Poo Thai cooking class: www.cookingwithpoo.com
1500 THB per person.