I cooked with Poo… and I liked it

I promise this isn’t clickbait!

This is Poo, and we cooked with her.

Yes, Poo is a Thai lady. Poo is a nickname given to her as a child, short for Chompoo or Rose Apple. Her real name is Saiyuud Diwong and she lives in the slums of Khlong Toey, the largest in Bangkok. Poo was struggling to make ends meet by selling food to other slum residents (many of whom were unable to cook for themselves due to lack of facilities) when members of the charity Urban Neighbours of Hope helped her to set up a cooking school.

At first, Poo ran the school from this small bench in front of her house. Soon, as word spread, her classes grew too big for the bench.

She moved premises twice more, and is now installed just a few doors down in a room with space for up to 12 students – and air conditioning, a feature she is very proud of.

We first heard about Poo back in our church in Birmingham, where one of the members had connections with Urban Neighbours of Hope. Going to one of her classes was top of the list for us in Bangkok.

The day of class dawned rather early, as a market tour was first on the agenda. The vendors had been set up since about 4am, so by the time we turned up at 8.30 things were well underway.

The sights of the market were not for the faint hearted – we even had a note passed around beforehand warning us of this, in case anyone wanted to skip it. We were all game, although at that time in the morning I saw some things that turned my stomach.

There were bags of live frogs, trying to escape their mesh prison. Next to them were bags of dead frogs. There were also frogs that had been skinned, their bodies still twitching. There were live animals, chickens, ducks, fish, crabs. There were even insects.

Behind this appetising looking pile of fresh greenery is a pile of ants. And next to it, ant eggs.

Don’t believe me? Let Noi, our market guide, give you a close up. Thanks, Noi.

And whilst these might look like giant cockroaches, apparently they’re water beetles. I still think I’ll pass, thanks.

Thankfully we soon moved on to the vegetable section. Noi educated us on all different types of fruits and veggies we’d never seen before – these are aubergines, believe it or not.

My favourites were these plums. They looked so appetising – and later I found out they tasted just as good as they looked.

She also holds up a bundle of galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime – the essentials of a green curry. This bundle costs 10 Baht, she says. That’s about 20p/30c.

She relates how, on a trip to the UK, she was amazed that one stick of lemongrass was over £1. We sympathise. We daren’t tell her that in the UK almost everyone buys their curry paste ready made…

After a quick walk through the meat market, which was something of an ordeal and made the live crabs look positively tame, we got back in the minibus and headed over to Poo’s place to do some cooking.

The course itself was excellent – with space for 6 people to cook at once, we were split into two groups. We all watched Poo cook the dish in question once, then one group cooked it themselves (with one handler to every three people, giving reminders of instructions and adding meat or sauces at the right time), then the other group cooked while they ate.

All the ingredients were laid out for us every time, so we barely had to lift a finger. If only all cooking were this easy!

Overall we cooked three dishes; the menu changes daily, so ours was Pad See Ew (rice noodles with black bean sauce), Nuea Pad Met Ma-muang (beef with cashew nuts), and Gaeng Khiaw Waan (green curry). When I told them I was coeliac, they made all the necessary changes for me, which was basically just omitting soy sauce and replacing it with fish sauce. Everything else I could eat… and I did.

Aftewards, there was a tasting board set up with all the interesting fruits we had seen in the market. I had never had any of them before, and it was a journey of discovery let me tell you. I discovered I really like snakefruit (right hand side, bottom row) and I really don’t like whatever was in the left on the bottom row. The amazing plums are second from the top, on the left.

Then we had mango and sticky rice to finish off, which I barely managed to fit in.

At the end of the lesson, Poo thanks us for coming. She tells us that thanks to the success of the cooking school, Urban Neighbours of Hope has helped over 20 businesses in the local area. And Poo now gets Sundays off.

Have you ever been to a cooking class? Would you like to cook with Poo?

-Rachel

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11 Comments

  1. 17th April 2017 / 16:49

    I love this post Rachel. I would have had my eye pressed to the viewfinder on my camera while in the market – as a kind of barrier. I bet the food was delicious. Next time you are in this part of the world, perhaps you can cook dinner 🙂 Also, very nice to learn of such a successful effort by a charity. It must be very good for Poo, but also for her family, community and the vendors at the market.

  2. 17th April 2017 / 17:27

    This seriously sounds like such an amazing experience, and even better that she’s been able to grow her cooking school so much over the past few years! I’m not sure how I would have been able to stomach the market with the alive and dead animals, but I know that it would have been an amazing experience!

  3. 17th April 2017 / 23:44

    This is amazing! A true local experience, and that’s great that it’s doing so much good. That fruit platter looks so delicious, I’d love to try them all.
    And, what’s not to love about the tagline, ha!!

  4. Jen
    18th April 2017 / 03:15

    What an awesome experience this must have been!! I think what she does is incredible, good for her!! 🙂

  5. 18th April 2017 / 06:19

    Rachel, the title made me giggle, but it is such a sweet story. Good for you for finding Poo and taking one of her classes, I’d love to try it when I get to Bangkok. I have done food tours, but never a cooking class. Looks like a great experience!

  6. 18th April 2017 / 14:13

    Oh that is fun that she uses her name like that! 🙂

    You’re brave for doing the markets at the beginning,especially first thing in the morning! Some of the photos made me a bit squeamish and it’s evening here and I haven’t just eaten, haha!

    Hope you are having a great week and had a nice Easter.

    Away From The Blue Blog

  7. 19th April 2017 / 06:25

    Great post! And how fun you liked cooking with Poo 😉 I’m not sure I could handle the skinned frogs or the beetles…. Yuck!

  8. 19th April 2017 / 09:58

    I have a saying for myself: “I’ll try anything twice.” Not once, but twice. I figure if I only try something once, I may not be giving it a full chance. That being said…….I’m not so sure about some of the delicacies you mention at the market.
    Thank you for sharing Poo’s background story. What a story it is!

  9. 19th April 2017 / 13:55

    Such a great experience to have!

  10. 19th April 2017 / 14:54

    what a wonderful story! and you def clearly hooked me with that title haha. i love how she had something so small and now it’s just a well-oiled business. what a fun experience for you both!

    xoxo cheshire kat

  11. 20th April 2017 / 00:33

    Hahahaha, I love your title! I saw it and thought “well they have poo coffee in Bali so maybe she used that?”.

    What a fun experience!

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