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One of the joys of visiting (or living in) Thailand is the food. Some people come for the weather or the scenery or the exoticism; We came for the food. And stayed for the food. And continue staying for the food. Did we mention the food? The food. Food is so central to Thai culture that to miss out on it is to skip possibly the easiest access point to a deeper understanding of what makes the kingdom kick. It's hard to extrapolate an understanding of a place from just eating some fried chicken, but to see where that chicken comes from, and who butchered it, and how it’s handled, and what it’s fried in, and how it’s eaten afterward — those are where the clues are, Nancy Drew.
Renting your own kitchen and learning enough Thai to bargain at the market (not insurmountable tasks, we assure you) seem like a little bit much for a two-week holiday. Enter Khun Poo and her sidekick, Khun Noi. Khun Poo is the operator of Helping Hands Cooking School, operated out of her home in Bangkok.
A day with the pair starts with a trip to the famous Khlong Toei wet market — a destination in its own right — to purchase the food you’ll be using that day. Khun Poo and Noi lead a tour of the market, with plenty of time to take pictures and ask questions (and a lot of bargaining with the vendors). Then, back to Khun Poo’s house for a cooking lesson. Khun Poo is an amazing cook, and a competent teacher as well. Every student prepares their own dishes and receives written recipes of what you make that day. You’ll walk away stuffed.
Best of all, this cooking school was started by Khun Poo with the assistance of an aid group that aims to empower slum dwellers (did I mention her home is in a slum? I didn’t. It is.) to start sustainable businesses that will give their children chances at education that their parents never had. It’s as admirable as it is delicious.
By Brock Kuhlman
Last updated on 13th February, 2014.