Last month we challenged our Instagram friends to a Thai food themed Quarantine Cook-Off. We were blown away by all of the creativity!
Our instructions were simple: create a Thai inspired dish, post on social media, and tell us what courage means to you. Here are a couple of the standout meals submitted from around the globe:
“Courage to me is the willingness to face fear, embrace uncertainty and to stand up for one’s beliefs!”
Amen, Mony. We couldn’t agree more!
Longtime CK supporter and volunteer, Daniel Saguin, said these powerful words:
“Courage means learning more about yourself, your culture, and your traditions while being open to things you don’t know- histories that are both good and bad.”
And last but not least the winners of the challenge: Henry and Barbara from California who said:
“Courage is stepping out of your comfort zone, entering the unknown, seeking to improve your life and the lives of those around you.”
At Courageous Kitchen this is exactly what we strive to do every single day: improve the lives of others. With the uncertainty in our current climate, it’s important for us to remember that something as simple as growing your own food or sharing a meal can make a tremendous impact in reducing food mileage, healing your body, and the environment. By providing fresh produce and a hot meal for our students it can mean the difference of whether or not to they are going hungry that night.
We were so impressed with everyone’s dishes, but especially by your words of wisdom. Thank you to Henry and Barb for the beautifully presented meal. As our winners they will be receiving a Thai Cooking Kit full of our favorite ingredients like palm sugar and coconut milk, so they can keep perfecting their favorite dishes!
For those of you who didn’t have the chance to enter, don’t fret! Our friends from Taste of Thailand have curated an “I love Thailand” care box for those residing in the country. Each box contains items from small businesses and local purveyors, including homemade sauces from our students in the Courageous Kitchen.
Care boxes will be delivered straight to your doorstep and with every sale, you’re ensuring the purchase of two meals for those in need. To our US and Canadian friends, don’t you worry because we’re crafting up something equally as exciting for you all. Be on the lookout for details. The trio of sauces included feature homemade sriracha, pad thai sauce, and Thai chili jam (aka nam prik pao).
We are grateful for the continued support from friends like you which allows us to feed and educate families throughout Bangkok. We hope you had fun participating in our Quarantine Cooking Challenge and we can’t wait to see what you’re all crafting up for the next one!
For anyone who missed the chance to participate, be sure to follow @courageouskitchen on instagram!
One of our favorite recipes, is the super savory and crispy Vietnamese Banh Xeo. A popular street food snack in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, the yellow tinted crepe has gained popularity throughout many Southeast Asian countries because it can be a cost effective way to feed a big family. This makes it a great recipe for use to teach, as we reach out to families in need in Bangkok.
“I grew up in Vietnam, but we lived in a remote village in the countryside. I never had a chance to have banh xeo until learning to cook with Christy. I can’t wait to try making it for my family.” – Alina, CK Trainee
Just like Alina, there are lots of people who may not have had the joy of enjoying these deliciously crispy crepes. They are more fragile and more deeply savory when compared to western crepes. To master the perfect crunch, you need to steam a thin layer of batter until golden brown and it naturally releases from your pan.
However, the real fun part begins when you see what’s inside. Typically bahn xeo can be stuffed with a choice of chicken, shrimp, ground pork, and bean sprouts. But there’s not reason they can’t be vegan, gluten free, or cooked with whatever ingredients you have in the fridge.
Enjoy Christy and Alina’s rendition of the renowned sizzling crepe below. Remember you can request this dish in our charitable cooking classes, and the proceeds from your cooking class and donations will help us to teach and train more young people to be leaders in the kitchen, and their community like Alina.
Banh Xeo Recipe
Recipe by Christy Innouvong & Alina Xiong
Yields: 10-12 crepes
2 cups soda water
1 bunch of green onion, chopped into centimeter pieces (aka scallion, roughly about 200g)
125 ml of coconut milk (a tap more than half a cup)
140 grams rice flour
1-2 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
200g shredded chicken breast or protein of your choice
Tip: Some versions call for you to stir fry your protein with a tbsp of garlic and onion. This is optional.
Just be sure you cook your filler protein in advance, so you don’t need to overcook your crepe while waiting on the meat to finish cooking.
1 carrot, shredded thinly
300g bean sprouts
Veggies for Wrapping (optional)
You’ll want to wash all your leafy greens well because you will eat them raw. Be sure to leave some extra time for removing them from the stem if needed.
1 bunch of Vietnamese mustard greens
Tip: This can be hard to find. Substitute Vietnamese coriander, perilla leaf, or heart leaf if possible.
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of cilantro
1 head of romaine or similarly leafy lettuce for wrapping
Vietnamese Dipping sauce
Nuoc cham (pronounced NEW-uk jham) aka Vietnamese dipping sauce is traditionally poured over each crepe, or alternatively used for dipping bites of your banh xeo or fried egg rolls.
Here’s a simple recipe for nuoc cham:
1/2 cup of soda water
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1/4 cup of vinegar
3 tbsp of white sugar
2 tbsp of lime juice
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 spicy red chili chopped
Prepare Your Batter
Combine all batter ingredients except scallions in a large mixing bowl for at least 30 minutes before cooking. You can leave refrigerated up to one night before cooking. Add scallions only right before making the crêpes.
Prepare Your Filling
Cook your protein and slice or shred small, so it can easily be eaten when biting into the crepe.
Wash bean sprouts and leafy greens. Keep your leafy greens large and intact, they will be used to wrap bites of your stuffed crepes.
Making the Banh Xeo Crepe (Each takes approx. 5-7 mins)
In a skillet, heat to medium and then turn the heat to low. This is important because if the skillet is too hot, it will burn your crepe before it is fully cooked. Brush some cooking oil (a teaspoon will do) on your skillet and add your batter (approximate ½ a cup). You can pick up the pan and tilt so that the batter covers the entire skillet.
Tip: If you add too much batter, simply pour the excess back into your batter bowl.
Add a little bit more batter if it wasn’t enough to cover the pan, but to achieve a thin, crisp omelette the less batter the better. Add your filling ingredients and cover for 4-5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, the bean sprouts should appear slightly cooked and the batter should also be transparent and crispy around the edges. You can brush a touch of oil around the edges to help lift your crepe.
Remove the lid and fold in half (omelette style), transfer to a plate and serve immediately with greens and dipping sauce on the side.
How to Eat Banh Xeo
Roughly tear your fresh herbs and place on top or inside of crepe. Generally people will chop the crepe in several pieces and eat inside of the large leaves as a wrap. Decide whether you prefer the leaf wrap version, or just want to eat it like a taco. Whatever you choose, be sure to drizzle your nuoc cham sauce over the entire banh xeo crepe. Enjoy!
I remember watching my mother make sticky rice every morning. She’d be up long before the sun. The roosters crowing along to the sound of lukewarm water running through every hand full of starchy grain.
Washing, rinsing, and repeating as the cloudy water floated away.
Soaking, sitting, steaming.
She’d do this day in, day out. Never skipping a beat, never missing a meal.
Piping hot pillowy balls of goodness. Perfectly salted, perfectly sweet. I never realized how much I craved for something so simple. As I grew older, the annoyance of my mother’s 5am cooking call was a missed memory. I longed for the aroma of freshly steamed rice. Searched the blankets for the warm bamboo baskets she kept it in. Hiding it from my siblings and I, until it was cool enough for consumption.
The history of this dish originates from my mothers homeland, Laos. Although you can find it in nearly every Thai market, it is one of those Issan dishes that most Lao people eat daily. Oftentimes, multiple times a day. Sticky rice is a long, white fragrant grain almost only discernible by it’s thickness, compared to traditional jasmine rice. You may find it in San Diego’s asian markets labeled ‘sweet rice’ or ‘glutinous rice’. We use it as the vessel to carry other dishes like stews, dipping sauces known as jeow, or to accompany your favorite meat. Unlike Thailand, Laotians eat almost solely with their hands. Sticky rice balls are our utensils, and you scoop your food with the rice, sharing each meal family style.
Historically Lao people ate sticky rice because it sustained them for long days on the farm. Many of them harvesting their own fields of rice as the wet lowlands provided the perfect burial ground for the coveted glutinous rice seeds. My family still harvests rice in their fields in Northern Thailand. As the days begin and end, they always include a warm Thip Khao (a traditional woven bamboo basket) full of the sticky goodness that is affectionately known as khao niew. These are the moments I now long for as an adult; family meals and shared laughter. Learning the history of how we came to be, honoring the land and our ancestors.
“A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.”
– The Emperor in Disney’s Mulan
Christy’s Top 5 Tips on How to Make Sticky Rice at Home
Buy the correct rice. Many people don’t know that sticky rice is a species of rice, often referred to as glutinous rice.
If you plan to make it often, consider investing in the bamboo basket to make it the traditional way. Other clever ways include making it in a pressure cooker with options for different types of rice grains.
Don’t wait until you’re hungry to make sticky rice. The process is long. Prepare ahead, washing and soaking your rice the night before you plan to cook it.
A little plastic wrap on the spoon or bowl used for scooping and molding the rice keeps the rice from sticking to it!
Sticky rice is both a dinner staple and a dinner utensil. When the food is ready, this isn’t the time to be posh! Instead use your hands to ball up the sticky rice and dip it into the food you’re eating.
Most of you know Alina as your favorite Thai cooking teacher who’s greeted you, and taken you to the market in our Bangkok cooking class. In the nearly 3 years she’s worked with us, we’ve seen her transition from shy rice farmer, to a fiery force in the kitchen.
Here are 10 quick questions to help you get to know this ambitious young woman, who we believe is a natural born leader.
What’s your favorite dish to eat?
Cheeseburgers and tom yum goong, but it depends on the cheese. I like the fake kind!
What’s your favorite dish to make?
Thai curries I think. Because I like making the curry paste from scratch.
What’s the best part of working at Courageous Kitchen?
Teaching tourists how to cook Thai food. It helps me improve my English, meet new people, and gain cool opportunities.
What has been the highlight of your time here?
I met my idol, Chef Ian Kittichai, and cooked Massaman curry with him. I learned new techniques that I use to make my curry now.
What are you most proud of?
I like discovering new recipes and creating cooking videos to teach kids. I can’t believe I can make my own videos, it’s really hard!
When you’re not cooking, what do you like to do?
I like to garden, go out to eat, and love going to the movies!
If you could travel anywhere where would it be?
New York City. I’ve always heard about it, and it looks beautiful.
What do you like to teach?
I like to teach cooking. My passion is cooking so it makes me happy every time I share my recipes.
What is your superpower?
What does courage mean to you?
To be beautiful, to have confidence, and to fight for your life.
A special invite has our US based team hanging out in the Bay area recently, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share how we brought Courageous Kitchen vibes to employees at Airbnb headquarters!
One of the most important ways we raise funds is by hosting tourists for food related experiences in Bangkok and San Diego. Much of this entrepreneurial arm of our charity is possible because of programs like Airbnb Experiences, where Courageous Kitchen is featured as a Social Impact activity. The designation refers to recognized charities who host on the platform to bolster their causes, and has all commission fees waived by Airbnb. Not only is Courageous Kitchen one of only 400 such experiences worldwide, we are the first and only social impact experience in Bangkok.
We’re proud to be working with Airbnb, and most recently Christy was invited to teach a Thai food workshop at their renowned headquarters in San Francisco’s hip SoMa district. Along with longtime volunteer, Beatriz, they taught members of the Airbnb Experiences team how to make traditional Thai iced tea, papaya salad (aka somtam), and a Lao style minced meat salad full of herbs and chilies (aka larb). If you’re unfamiliar with these dishes, lovers of Thai food can tell you that along with some sticky rice, they quickly become one of the most sought after meals you can get in Thailand.
To start off their class, Beatriz showed the group of nearly 30 guests how to make their own Thai tea. She then shared her story of how she became involved with Courageous Kitchen, stemming mostly from her own familial ties to refugees. Her grandparents were spies for the United States Army, and fled Indonesia sometime in the 1950s to avoid being caught by the local government. Next, Christy demonstrated two of her favorite Thai and Lao salads which are staples in her Laotian household. Christy’s background not only provides the cultural context to work with our students, but her own story resonates with theirs deeply. Her parents, who escaped Laos in the early 1980’s lived and worked in a refugee camp in Thailand before resettling to the US where she was born.
The narratives of the people behind the food, are just as important as the food we serve, in helping others understand our mission and vision. By sharing our personal stories with our guests, we realize just how much our own paths are connected with those of our Courageous Kitchen families as well. As Social Impact hosts on Airbnb, we want the customers in our cooking classes and street food tours to understand where their dollars are being spent, and be able to walk away with both satisfied bellies and hearts, knowing they helped a noble cause.
In our short time taking over the jumbo kitchen in Airbnb Headquarters, we attempted to give employees who visited, a mini taste of what we offer each and every guest. That’s a quick serving of friendship paired with cold drinks, spicy bites, and a bold brand of courage that leads us to fight for the most marginalized.
Our team is grateful for the continued support from Airbnb and the entire Experiences community. We’ve met and partnered with some amazing entrepreneurs in California and hope to forge more friendships with likeminded organizations in the future.
We look forward to sharing our story in a kitchen near you!
Special Thanks and hugs to Stephanie H. of Airbnb, for the invite and support every step of the way!