May Kaidee – Veggie PowerKirsty Turner
It’s early in the morning and May of May Kaidee looks fabulous, as always. I’ve had two cups of coffee and am still sluggish from the weight of the bags under my eyes, but May sweeps into the room with skin glowing and eyes shining. Looking at May, you would hardly guess that she is one of the hardest working women in Bangkok. She greets me warmly and then we are off.
First, we’re off to meet and greet the students signed up for today’s cookery class. Each day, six lucky travelers learn how to create delicious Thai dishes under the supervision of May and her sister. Today’s students come from Israel, the USA, England and Korea. This is their first Thai cookery lesson and all are excited about the experience. The first stop is the local supermarket, where May introduces the ingredients and explains how they are used. May tells me that she chooses the supermarket rather than the outdoor market because; “that way I can show the students how to find the ingredients in their own country.” When the shopping is complete, May leads the students to the kitchen, which is located at the back of her restaurant on Samsen Road. The students cook in pairs using a special instruction sheet prepared by May.
May demonstrates how to use the equipment and blend the ingredients, then gives the students space to get creative in the kitchen. When they have finished, May tastes each dish and offers comments and tips.
The cookery class lasts four hours – from 9 am-1 pm – during which time the students cook 10 specially selected dishes which they then can devour. The chefs look happy as they sample their creations. “This is great,” a beaming English woman tells me. “The perfect souvenir.”
May came from Bangkok from her Isaan village of Si Sa Saket in 1988 to help her Aunt and Uncle in their vegetarian restaurant. May, who was just 16, was working on the farm when the fateful letter arrived. “They had to write a letter to ask for my help; there was no phone in the village.”
Like the other villagers, May was not originally vegetarian. “I used to eat everything,” she confesses. “Rats, dogs, crickets, worms; we ate whatever we found.”
But in Bangkok May soon found her waistband expanding and decided to change her diet. May converted to vegan and lot a lot of weight. Her diet, combined with teetotalism, is obviously the reason for May’s clear complexion and abundant energy. “In 16 years I haven’t needed to go to the hospital about my health,” she beams.
May decided she wanted to share her healthy philosophy and opened her own restaurant. It was difficult at first as there were problems with the police and Thai traditions. “Many Thai people don’t want to change their habits,” May sighs. “They think brown rice is animal food, they won’t try it.”
Luckily, May’s warmth and open spirit drew her friends to her, and they would often bring her extra plates, spoons and provisions. It wasn’t long before westerners had caught onto the wonders of May’s cuisine and she had a healthy ‘farang’ (western) following.
In the last 20 years, May’s vision has expended conciderably. She now has three restaurants, a website, a cookery book, classes, rooms for rent and soon her own TV show. May Kaidee TV, starting in about a month, will take the form of daily 1-2 minute episodes on the internet. “I have four new things coming soon,” May tells me with a grin. “New cookery book, new restaurant, New Year and new government.”
But May’s vision doesn’t stop there. Having already traveled all over the world to spread her message, May is jetting off to India next month to learn about Indian health techniques such as Ayurvedic medicine.
May’s idea is to create a complete detox centre where people can eat food organically grown at May’s farm, meditate, sing and dance. “I want to create week long home stay facilities so people can fix their body before they go home.”
Song and dance are very close to May’s heart. When the students have finished cooking, she teaches them traditional Thai dancing, which they perform before singing the sontam song.
May Kaidee provides the perfect eating experience, combined with her flare and love of Thai culture.
May Kaidee is located at 33 Samsen Road (next to Soi 1) and 1117/1 Tanao Road, behind Burger King at the end of Khaosan Road.