Today’s recipe share is a tribute to my grandparents for Black History Month. In memoriam we’ll be getting into the kitchen to make a dish called creamed corn. This staple side in southern cuisine is something you might find on the dining room table at family gatherings, or as a side at a favorite bbq joint. Today’s version though, brings Thai flavors to this dish and has been written to make it easily repeatable at home.
There’s so much Black History to share this month and always. And yes it’s important to know the most famous events and people, but learning the history of people you know can help make the month more meaningful. So I’m honored to share a little about my grandparents, whose shoulders I stand on today.
In particular, my maternal grandfather, whose cast iron pan never moved far from the stovetop. His name was Harold Dunson, but people knew him as ‘The Vegetable Man’. After working for US Steel in Birmingham, Alabama for 35 years, he retired but never quit working. Instead, he started a small business delivering vegetables on the west side of Birmingham for decades.
Some of my most vivid memories of my grandfather were of him waking early, likely 4 or 5am, to get a jump on the bunches of collard and turnip greens he would slice and prep for his customers. He powered through with hot coffee and the help of his favorite prep knife, that had been repeatedly wrapped in worn masking tape to make it easier to handle.
When daybreak came, he’d already have breakfast on the stove by the time my sister and I woke up. The long day’s work required hearty morning staples like biscuits, grits, bacon, and fried fish. After all, he was delivering to Black neighborhoods long underserved by grocery stores. He provided senior citizens with limited mobility to have access to fresh vegetables and fruit by bringing them to their doorstep and allowing those with limited finances to buy ‘a dolla‘ of this and that from the back of his truck. All of this happened long before we invented the term food desert, in swaths of Birmingham with more liquor stores and fast food than anything else.
Now Mr. Dunson may not appear in your history books, but I can’t help but summon him in my work today. Even though I live half a world away from where he spent most of his life, his compassion for people and his quiet perseverance to serve them into his early eighties still inspires me.
In remembrance of this hero, I’d like to share a dish from his cast iron pan called creamed corn. This isn’t the dairy and bacon grease laden recipe you will find on websites dedicated to southern and soul food. That’s no discredit to soul food, but having the traditional version too often can be unhealthy. Instead, I’m making a Thai style creamed corn with fresh aromatics, grilled or roasted corn, creamy coconut milk, and a bit of spice. The resulting dish should be smoky and creamy, sweet from your corn and coconut milk, and pack a mild spice kick.
I hope you’ll join me in sharing this recipe, and reflecting on where Black History has brought us today as a society, and in our individual lives.
The recipe is below, happy cooking and special thanks to the US Embassy in Bangkok for helping highlight this story and recipe with a video and Thai language recipe cards.
Thai Style Creamed Corn
This recipe serves 1 person or can be shared as a side dish. The recipe can be made oil free, gluten free, and vegan if desired.
Optional utensils include mortar and pestle, and non stick frying pan or wok.
- 200g Corn (about 1 cup, optionally grill and cut off the cob for extra flavor)
- 100ml Coconut milk
- Oil for cooking (optional, since the coconut milk is rich in healthy fats/oil)
- 1/2 Bell pepper, diced
- 1 Quarter of an onion, diced
- 5-6 Garlic cloves, smashed or minced
- 1 Tsp Palm sugar
- 1 Tsp Black pepper, toasted and crushed
- 1 Tsp Nam prik pow chili jam (optional)
- Salt to taste
- 1 Tbsp Sticky rice flour slurry (1 tbsp dissolved into 3 tbsp water)
- 1 Spring onion stalk tip, sliced thin to garnish
- Sprinkle of Paprika to garnish
- Cut your corn off the cobb if needed, and dice your bell pepper. Then prep any other vegetable you plan to include in your recipe.
- Over low to medium heat add your onion, bell pepper, and garlic to a small amount of coconut milk or oil.
- Sweat these aromatic ingredients until fragrant or lightly browned. Now add corn and stir fry briefly for 2-3 mins.
- If needed, add coconut milk, a tablespoon at a time to keep your pan from burning.
- When everything smells fragrant, add remaining coconut milk and allow to simmer, gently boiling.
- Season with a teaspoon of palm sugar, black pepper, chili jam (nam prik pow), and salt to taste.
- Finish by adding a tbsp of your flour slurry at a time and stirring in well. When your coconut milk is no longer runny, or the desired texture is achieved, turn off the heat.
- Plate and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and spring onion before serving.