High Chai Afternoon Tea in Bangkok to Benefit Refugees

High Chai Afternoon Tea in Bangkok to Benefit Refugees

We’re excited to share with you an upcoming promotion we’re having with an Indian brunch restaurant in Bangkok called Cuppachai. The colorful, newly opened spot is catching the attention of Bangkokians with their unique spin on Indian favorites. This Valentine’s Day the restaurant is kicking off a special afternoon tea called “High Chai” which will benefit Courageous Kitchen.

Afternoon tea special called “High Chai” at Bangkok’s Cuppachai restaurant.

Cuppachai is interesting if you’re a foodie. The restaurant is located in central Bangkok at the base of El Patio Condominium (Sukhumvit 31) which is a part of town with an abundance of food choices. Cuppachai’s menu is funky and features Chef Vishvesh Nadkarni’s versions of favorites from around India. For example, Calcutta favorite Indori poha made with flattened rice, a vegetarian beetroot sandwich from Mumbai’s Iranian shops, and Goan pulao fused with local tastes by subbing in Chiang Mai sausage.

Cuppachai’s latest special, however, brings Indian flavors to the British high tea tradition. During High Chai you can enjoy a special tea set for two, from 12pm-5pm with all of the following:

  • Earl grey and date scones with clotted cream and Courageous Kitchen roselle jam
  • Kachumber and raita sandwich, akuri tofu sandwich, and two classic Mumbai samosas
  • Halwa macaroons, fruit puff pastries, coconut-chocolate ladoos, and gulab jamun cheesecake
  • Housemade masala chai, or the tea of your choice
Try Courageous Kitchen’s jam on your scones!

That’s right, we’ve contributed to the sweet and savory set platter with our own homemade cinnamon and roselle jam. We make a variety of jams, especially in the low season when there are fewer customers for our Thai cooking class, but one of our favorites is made from the gelatinous petals of the rosella hibiscus. We sweeten and slightly spice the petals to make a jam that is reminiscent of a cranberry jam, but lighter and never bitter. In the future we’ll contribute other flavors depending on what fruit is in season.

However, the food is not the full story in this case. The owners of the restaurant have also volunteered with Courageous Kitchen in the past to teach English, take children to the hospital, and to have fun in the kitchen with our students too. On one memorable occasion, they taught a group of students popular Indian street food snacks like vada pav and pani puris. The students had a blast getting their hands messy making the puris and always appreciate a chance to taste something new. Needless to say, there weren’t any leftovers!

A portion of the proceeds from your high tea each month will be donated to Courageous Kitchen.

We’re honored to participate in this collaboration. A portion of the proceeds from people ordering the tea sets will be donated back toward our charity work, and we hope to collaborate more with Cuppachai in the future as well. Of course, you don’t have to have afternoon tea to support Courageous Kitchen. Join us in an upcoming cooking class or make a donation in support of our work with marginalized children.

Happy eating and don’t forget to share this article with a friend visiting Bangkok!

How to Order Food for Kids Visiting Thailand [Free Menu]

How to Order Food for Kids Visiting Thailand [Free Menu]

Hey parents, we’ve got good news!

Traveling with kids is difficult enough, don’t let meal times be any more stressful than necessary. To help you, we’ve taken the feedback from guests visiting our kids cooking class in Bangkok, to create a free menu to make ordering food for your kids easier on your next trip to Thailand.

When your children enjoy the food in the country you’re visiting, it can change the entire dynamic of your trip. This is especially true for Thailand, where many of the travelers come specifically to enjoy all of the spicy and full-flavored Thai dishes. However, for those new to Thai cuisine or traveling with small children, figuring out what to order can be daunting.

Don’t miss our recent recipe for kid’s pad thai, give it a try at home to start getting your kids acclimated for the big trip to Thailand.

How to Order Thai Food Kids Enjoy

If you’re planning your trip to Bangkok, you may already be thinking about what to order your kids. One of the common issues is ordering food that isn’t going to set flame to the tastebuds of your little ones. There is plenty of delicious Thai food that isn’t spicy, but you may come up with only a short list reading travel blogs and tips from writers who don’t stay in the country long.

You also need to understand spice in Thailand isn’t a novelty like in other countries. There are seldom chili eating competitions nor much bravado associated with your ability to eat spicy food. That’s because spicy food is the norm in Thailand, and not the exception.

Remember the crisis in Thailand when members of a youth football team were trapped deep in a cave? When they asked the trapped students (many of them from marginalized people groups like the ones Courageous Kitchen serves) what they most wanted to eat, they responded, ‘pad krapao’. This well-loved Thai dish can appear on the menu simply as ‘stir fried basil with pork’. However, some English menus may neglect to mention this dish is usually made with a healthy heaping of chili, where even the mildest versions can be a shock to those unaccustomed to spicy food!

A guest in our kids cooking class is focused on helping make ‘pad see ew’ for her family.

Now that may sound delicious to you, but unless your kids are Thai, they may not be craving a face full of chili as soon as they get off the plane. This means knowing a few milder dishes to order can be extremely helpful. Instead of ordering the aforementioned spicy pad krapao, you can simply order a plate of ‘pad see ew‘ (wok-fried rice nooodles with egg and chicken) instead. Since the dish isn’t spicy by nature, it makes it a much better choice and delicious for both parents and adults.

Knowing some Thai dishes is helpful, and any knowledge of Thai language comes in handy too. For instance, no guidebook or travel guide is complete without teaching you the phrase ‘mai ped‘, meaning ‘not spicy’ in Thai. Flip those words around and change the tones slightly, and you can ask ‘ped mai‘ or ‘is this spicy?‘ to people in restaurants or at street food stalls.

Already confused? Don’t worry, this isn’t a Thai lesson. However, we do hope parents understand before arriving, that communicating the needs of your children in local restaurants can be a monumental task. Although Thailand is a major destination for vacationers around the world, limited English ability by Thais can add miscommunication to the growing list of obstacles keeping you from feeding hangry kids.

Free English to Thai Menu for Parents

To help ease communication issues parents are having, we’ve created a special one page kids menu that you can download. The menu is created using dishes common in restaurants around Thailand, that are also friendly for kids because they’re not overly spicy. Some dishes may even be similar to food options you have in your home country.

Of course, not every restaurant will have all of the dishes we’ve listed. However, our hope is that with a little assistance communicating you’ll find that even restaurants who don’t, will often willingly do their best to make something tasty for your kids.

In addition, with each food item we’ve included a brief English description and the corresponding Thai characters, as well as an abbreviated phonetic spelling for assistance pronouncing the words on your own.

Food Allergies in Thailand

Here’s a preview of the free menu, we hope it makes communicating food allergies easier for parents.

Ordering in Thai restaurants takes another leap in difficulty if you’re also working around your child’s allergy. This may mean, for example, trying to prevent peanuts from being added to a dish like pad thai where they are commonly used to garnish the popular noodle dish. For this reason we’ve added a section to the menu download, specifically for making special requests including common food allergies translated into Thai.

Thailand is becoming friendlier for vegan and vegetarian travelers too. Much of this is due to the growth of local businesses offering solely meat free options, or existing restaurants hoping to attract new customers with more accommodating menu items. This is great news if you’re visiting the big cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. However, when exploring out of the city centers, you should be ready to communicate your dietary restrictions to street food vendors and restaurants you visit.

This is because often Thai food includes what we refer to as ‘sneaky meat’. To get the umami flavors that make the food stand out, cooks are often using meat based sauces and stocks to season food. For example, dishes you may already love such as pad thai and pad see ew are both commonly made with fish sauce. A noodle dish may appear to be meat free, but you can’t assume it is, just because there isn’t any meat cooked in the dish that you can identify easily. Instead, using the right terminology when you order can prevent these problems!

Stir fry sauces in Thailand are often meat based. If vegans and vegetarians are clear in communicating, chefs can use meat free sauces, as in the tofu pad see ew pictured above.

Finally, we know this won’t solve every problem with ordering. You still don’t want to leave home without a smartphone with translation apps and internet access. You can also never underestimate the value of having a local friend. While this simple menu won’t replace your Thai friends, it may make you a little more adventurous on days when you’re not with a guide or friend to give you a hand.

Happy travels to all the parents reading, we hope the entire family enjoys your time in Thailand. If you found this information helpful, please consider making a donation to help us feed and educate those in need.

Try Thailand’s Mango and Sticky Rice 3 Different Ways!

Try Thailand’s Mango and Sticky Rice 3 Different Ways!

You’re here because you’re addicted to sticky rice, sweet tropical mango, and everything that comes along with it!

We don’t blame you.

Welcome friend, you’re in a safe place because today the Courageous Kitchen has got a few versions of Thailand’s most renown dessert, mango and sticky rice, to share with everyone.

Guests enjoy making mango and sticky rice in our Bangkok cooking class.

If you’re new here, we’re a nonprofit with a cooking class that raises money to help improve the lives of youth in Bangkok. We do this simply by hosting tourists visiting Bangkok for fun cooking classes. And you guessed it, one of our most requested desserts is the notorious mango and sticky rice. As we’ve cooked it for you over the years, we’ve had fun learning about all the components of the dessert that make it special, and trying different variations of the dessert.

Don’t let the name fool you, making sticky rice is a lot more work than many people know.

A Delicious, but Tedious Dessert

Although the name sounds like you can just slap wet rice on a plate with mango, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ‘sticky rice’ used by Thais, isn’t just your regular rice gone soggy, but a separate species of rice entirely. Southeast asian glutinous rice is a beast entirely of its own, and if you don’t give the rice the respect it deserves, it may ruin your day (and your kitchen), when it fails to cook up as nicely as you remember from your trip to Thailand.

For starters the rice has to be washed and then soaked for hours. Many people will soak the rice overnight and steam it in the morning. Next, while your steamed rice is hot, you want to add your sweet coconut sauce so that it can be absorbed by the rice for at least thirty minutes. This isn’t to mention getting your mung beans all toasted and ready, and creating a salty version of the coconut sauce to use as a topping.

Not sure what all the fuss is about? Have a gawk at the classic version of mango and sticky rice.

While making the dish overall isn’t hard, you will have to put in some time and attention to the process if you want it to yield great results. Don’t fret though, we’ve included the instructions for classic mango and sticky rice in the pdf download of our recipe book.

Thais are True Mango Connoisseurs

The sticky rice isn’t the only difficult component of this dessert. The mangoes, depending where you live, can be more than troublesome to find. When you do find them, they may be overripe, or just breeds that don’t lend well to slicing nicely to the pairing. This may because the particular fruit is too fibrous (you know those stringy bits you get on the inside that take over). If they’re large like Mexico’s ‘Tommy Atkins’ mangoes they may be too soft, mushy, and overripe before becoming sweet enough.

While many western countries outside of the tropical zone count themselves fortunate to import a few breeds of mango from places like Mexico and India, Thailand is home to over 200 varieties. The biodiversity found in the country for this one particular fruit is astounding, and the way Thais consume them is a reflection of that variety. They’re eaten unripe and crunchy, soft and velvety, and about every combination in between. At times they’re paired with pungent, fishy dipping sauces, and in other instances dipped in a mix of sugar, salt, and lime.

Mango and sticky rice can hold it’s own against your favorite western desserts like chocolate mousse and banana pudding, or have them all together!

You may not be surprised to learn then that mangoes, during harvest season especially, are shockingly cheap in Thailand. One of the fanciest of Thai ‘nam dok mai’ (a thai cultivar whose name means flower nectar) mangoes may fetch a price of 120 baht or more per kilo. But just think, that’s still only about $4 for a whole heap of luxurious mango to stuff in your face.

The cheaper varietals abound, and people in the countryside might have a mango tree or 20 in their orchards. The ubiquity and variety of mangoes available in Thailand, and their pairing with the humble sticky rice is telling. While jasmine rice was tapped for export, and touted by elites, sticky rice on the other hand remained what average people ate from day to day. You can be confident that the mango and sticky rice combination then, wasn’t a five star chef invention, but made it’s way from the lowly countryside, to the notoriety it enjoys today.

Mango and sticky rice, presented sushi style, rolled in a thin crepe and covered in coconut creme.

Sticky Variations of the Dessert to Try

Now that mango and sticky rice has gone around the world, cooks are challenged to put a new spin on the dish. Serving the dish with a unique presentation can be just what’s needed to catch the eye of locals ready to get excited again about the old favorite, and newcomers to Thailand who may be trying the dessert for the first time. This may mean naturally dying the sticky rice until you have a rainbow of rice to serve with your mango, or even giving it a Japanese makeover, by serving it sushi style.

Another abnormally eye-catching version calls for you to do some kitchen voodoo on the mango. You’ll need to slice the top off and carefully etch away at the flesh against the seed of the mango, being careful not to let your knife cut through the thin skin. If you’re skillful enough, you can create enough space in the in mango to begin twisting the seed until it pops out. Now you’ve got a natural bowl, ready to be filled with mango, sticky rice, and any other fruit your heart desires. When we spotted Chef Seng’s stuffed mango and sticky rice on instagram, our faces lit up and we knew we had to give it try.

A new favorite in our Bangkok cooking class, stuffed mango and sticky rice!

So how do you like your mango and sticky rice? Rolled sushi style? Or shoved back into the fruit so the mango becomes a natural bowl? Maybe you’re like us and will always love the classic version.

Whichever one suits you, we hope you’ve learned more about what it takes to put this deliciousness together, and that the best version is one you can enjoy with friends.

Alright sweet tooth friends either get cooking, or get over here to help us eat them all!

The Best Pad Thai Recipe for Kids

The Best Pad Thai Recipe for Kids

Hey parents! Welcome to the Courageous Kitchen, we’ve got a fun recipe to share with you today. If you haven’t been on our site before, we’re a charity helping marginalized youth in Bangkok, and funded by guests taking our cooking classes and tours. Today we’re taking Thailand’s iconic pad thai recipe from our classes, keeping the dish’s Thainess intact, while making it fun for kids (and easy for parents).

When you book our cooking class, it funds fun, educational learning and food supplies for those in need.

One of the classes we offer is a cooking class for kids and families, and pad thai is often a favorite of our visitors. However if we want everyone to enjoy their own plate of pad thai, we’ll usually have the parents making a traditional pad thai recipe, but do a simplified version for the kids using instant noodles. So today’s recipe has been battle tested both with the refugee kids we serve as a charity, and with many of you who stop by during your travels in Bangkok to support us.

Why is Cooking Pad Thai so Difficult?

We make a lot of pad thai with our guests, so you can be sure we’ve tested and retested this recipe!

For those unfamiliar, pad thai is the iconic Thai dish most famous as the ambassador of Thai food to countries in the west. For example in the US, newcomers to the cuisine often make this steamy hot plate of noodles their first stop. The sticky noodles are delicious when hot, eye pleasing, especially when decorated with shrimp, and unlike some Thai dishes, not going to burn you with spice.

Pad Thai recently made our list of Thailand’s best noodle dishes, but we must admit recreating a delicious version at home is a challenge. This is largely because of ingredients that are hard to find, or misunderstood. When you search the internet you also have a barrage of recipes, many of which look and taste nothing like the delicious plates you may have tried in Thailand.

pad thai cooking class bangkok
For newcomers to Thai food, pad thai can be a friendly landing spot, because the dish combines well with seafood, and isn’t too spicy.

Today we want to offer you an easy pad thai recipe, that’s appropriate for kids and really tasty. To make it we’ve omitted much of the long list of ingredients, including components like the toasted peanut garnish, which many children may have an allergy to anyway.

Your focus, instead of giant shopping list of exotic ingredients, is instead on making a delicious sauce. If you can master the sauce below, that’s half the victory already claimed! Later we’ll stir fry it with instant noodles, but if you keep some of your soon-to-be-famous pad thai sauce stocked, it can be an easy dish to whip up in a pinch.

Kid’s Pad Thai Sauce Recipe

Enjoy this easy pad thai recipe, suitable for kids and adults alike. We recommend cooking it as a family!


This sauce recipe is enough for 4-5 portions of noodles. If you’re happy with the first round, make it in a larger batch and keep refrigerated for whenever pad thai cravings may strike.

  • 1 cup tomato ketchup
    • Tip: Unlike sour tamarind juice, this is likely already available in your fridge!
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
    • Tip: If you’re using another type of sugar such as palm, agave, or natural sugar, simply add to taste.
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
    • Tip: Go meatless and substitute in high quality salt or soy sauce to taste.
  • 1/3 cup vinegar
  • 1 tsp paprika


  1. Grab a non-stick pan and put it on low heat.
  2. Add all of your ingredients, mix, and reduce on low for 30 minutes.
  3. Remember to stir as it reduces, and when ready, it should be thick enough to easily coat any type of noodles you use.
  4. Allow to cool and store in the fridge. If refrigerated, this easy pad thai sauce should last a few weeks.

Tip: Use the sauce for other things! If you’re happy with the sauce and the kids like it, use it for whatever suits you. Dip chicken nuggets, use to flavor your kid’s fried rice, or instead of plain ketchup on french fries.

Kid’s Pad Thai Recipe

This kid’s pad thai recipe was built for a tested with kids. Typical pad thai can be heavy on seafood, peanuts, and other ingredients children may have allergies to eating.


  • 1 pack of instant noodles
    • Tip: The size of the noodle packs may vary by brand, but typically they are 60-80g per pack. That’s filling portion for kids 9 and up, so adjust as necessary.
  • 100g chicken
  • 50g tofu, chopped into small squares
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful of blanched Chinese kale, broccoli, or the veg of your choice
  • Small handful of bean sprouts
  • 2 tbsp of pad thai sauce
  • 1 tbsp of oil for stir frying
  • 1 lime
    • Tip: Our kids don’t like lime. Do yours? If so, make this an optional garnish, along with a few more bean sprouts on your child’s plate!
Using instant noodles instead of rice noodles isn’t a mistake! The instant noodles cook fast, are less sticky, and are easier for children to gather on their forks. Remember to cut or chop them even smaller for young kids.


  1. Blanch any vegetables you want to add by dipping into boiling water for a few minutes (for Chinese kale this usually takes about one minute in boiling water).
  2. Remove from the boiling water and add to ice water to stop the vegetables from cooking, and preserve the fresh color.
  3. Use the same boiling water now to quickly boil your noodles. Most instant noodles will only take 1-2 minutes to become soft. Set aside.
  4. Add oil to your wok or non stick pan. Follow with your chicken and cook until the color changes.
  5. Add your vegetables to your cooked chicken, along with tofu. Stir quickly to heat the vegetables up.
  6. Now add your cooked instant noodles and mix well.
  7. Add bean sprouts and your pad thai sauce.
  8. Mix everything and push to the side of the pan, away from the heat. In the hot portion of the pan crack and scramble your egg, stirring vigorously until cooked.
  9. Once the egg is cooked, mix with all of the other ingredients and turn off the heat.
The same way we simplified the recipe for kids, you can easily upgrade with a squeeze of lime, sauteed shrimp, chili flakes, or another protein of your choice.

Now that you’ve mastered the sauce, you’re ready to get to the stir frying. Once your ingredients are prepared, this should go rather quickly. Follow the instructions below, and remember not to feel as though you can’t improvise the recipe to slip in more veggies, or even to omit meat in the dish entirely.

Thanks for trying out the Courageous Kitchen recipe for kid’s pad thai. We hope you have an opportunity to cook it together as a family, and enjoy a taste of Thailand wherever you are around the world. Please take a moment to get to know us better, by following our food and charitable adventures on facebook and instagram. As always, happy cooking!

Thailand’s 7 Best Noodle Dishes

Thailand’s 7 Best Noodle Dishes

We’re lining up our favorite plates of Thai noodles to discuss their origin, ingredients, and sometimes complicated names. This list includes the best noodles that you’ll find stir fried, or served in curry or gravy broth at restaurants in Bangkok or around the country. If you’re a fan of Thai food, read on to learn all about the noodle dishes you should be ordering!

1. Pad Thai ผัดไทย

Undeniably, pad thai is the most popular Thai dish outside of Thailand.

First, let’s talk vocabulary. The Thai word pad, pronounced ‘phat’, means to vigorously mix over heat. You’ll see this word often in the rest of this article, and when you see it on the menu at your favorite Thai place, you’ll know instantly which dishes are the stir fries. At the top of the list of Thailand’s most popular noodle stir fries is pad thai. Pad thai is easily the most well known Thai dish outside of Asia, but like the flavors of the dish, the history behind these tamarind tinted noodles is complicated.

The second word, thai, referring to the Thainess of the dish is equally is telling. For all the hoopla about authenticity, it turns out pad thai is a fairly recent addition to the Thai food canon. The dish came to fame thanks to a nationalism push, and is seasoned with anti-Chinese sentiment. Long story short, the invented dish may have served to get more Thais cooking their own street food, but isn’t as popular today, as you might imagine.

A homemade plate of pad thai with jumbo shrimp.

Not the traditional Thai dish you thought? There’s no shame in finding out you’ve been loving a propaganda plate, most of us have! To make matters worse, finding a delicious plate of pad thai in Bangkok is indeed a challenge. The number of ingredients makes it prohibitive to cook with rising food costs, and there are few deterrents to using recipe shortcuts, like ketchup, to improve the taste, color, and shelf life of the renown dish. Add on top disappearing street food culture, and you’ll begin to understand why the quality of the dish varies so widely in Thailand.

There’s certainly more to say about pad thai! We have our own pad thai recipe and would be happy to dive deeper into the nuanced dish in a future cooking class in Bangkok or San Diego.

2. Kanom Jin ขนมจีน

Fermented rice noodles, called kanom jin, piled with spicy ‘nam kati’ fish curry.

Thais don’t eat pad thai on a regular basis. For their regular lunch and dinner choice, the nation-state turns to a curry noodle dish called ‘kanom jin’ (often written as khanom chin). These noodles lack the international glory many of the others on this list enjoy, but they are by far the most popular domestically.

To enjoy the noodles, simply pour your choice of curry over the top. The most common options include green curry, and the less well known, extremely spicy yellow curry called ‘nam ya kati’. After picking a curry, you top the noodles with the fresh condiments you prefer, often situated on a communal table. The condiments are a mix of ingredients intended either to enhance the flavor, such as lemon basil, or more commonly to aid in the digestion of the oft spicy dish, such as bean sprouts or bitter melon.

Traditional Thai fermented noodles (kanom jin), with many of the most common condiments, served with them (clockwise): bean sprouts, cucumber, lime, lemon basil, long bean, and pickled mustard greens.

KJ noodles aren’t devoid of geopolitical implications either. The dish is often mistakenly translated directly as ‘Chinese snack’. The irony of this lazy translation is that it implies these ethnic noodles originate elsewhere. Only the opposite is true, the noodle made of fermented rice, may be the oldest of those eaten widely by people in South East Asia.

3. Mama Noodles มาม่า

Instant noodles have made a formidable impact on the Thai diet! Try them when you’re exploring Bangkok’s street food scene.

We would be remiss not to mention, that a close runner up for the most popular domestic noodle is one that you may not expect— instant noodles! Much of the popularity of these ubiquitous noodles is due to their price and availability. With the second highest number of 7-11 convenience stores in the world, Thailand’s convenience addiction makes finding a wide variety of instant noodle brands, types, and flavors easy all over the country. The most popular of those choices being the brand named ‘Mama’ noodles.

The brand is so popular that in the context of food, ‘mama’ is almost always a reference to those iconic crinkly noodles, paired with a seasoning pack. There are restaurants in Bangkok popular for serving suped up versions of the noodles with every topping you can imagine— including jumbo seafood. But the noodles also appear in popular Thai dishes made in a hurry at street food stalls.

Tom yum soup with ‘mama’ brand instand noodles is a hit with kids and adults alike! We recently made it for our hungry student musicians.

Since they’re so easy to cook, some Thai street food stalls’ entire existence is customizing instant noodle dishes for customers with bonus protein items like hot dogs, poached eggs, minced pork, or the seafood of your choice! You won’t find them often on the menu in fancier restaurants, but you can be assured of their popularity among the Thai populace, whether they be school children, working class, or hungry party goers.

4. Pad See Ew ผัดซีอิ๊ว

A hot plate of pad see ew, made with handmade noodles in our Bangkok cooking class.

Next up is a stir fry dish, iconic for the color of the wide rice noodles used. Pad see ew gets it’s brown tinted noodles from ‘see ew’, which is Thai for soy sauce. But to get your noodles the correct distinctive color, you can’t use just any run of the mill soy sauce. You’ll need to find what Thais refer to as ‘see ew dam’, or dark soy sauce. This particular sauce stands out because of its bitter taste and deep black color. In fact, the sauce is mostly molasses and only a small percentage soy, so be careful when throwing it into your wok, as it’s potent enough to really alter the flavor of a dish.

Pad see ew is the stir fry on this list with the strongest link to Chinese influence. The dark soy sauce, the use of Chinese kale, and the stir fry (aka Chinese wok hei style cooking) cooking method are a sure thumbprint of the migration of centuries of Chinese cooks to Thailand. This means you can find the dish being served in Bangkok street food stalls, which almost pre-date the existence of pad thai. Around the region, you can even find similar dishes in other countries, like Malaysia’s char gway teeo noodles (often spelled char kway teow).

Join us in a Bangkok cooking class to learn to make your own ‘sen yai’ noodles.

Our favorite part of this popular Thai dish are the noodles themselves. Thais typically make the dish by flash stir frying fresh rice noodles, which begin to meld together from the intense heat, as well as absorbing the stir fry sauces and smoke from the wok. After emerging from the hot wok the plate of noodles is dusted with chili flakes and black pepper, but it may surprise you that this isn’t a spicy dish. The relative mild amount of spice heat makes it an approachable dish for newcomers to Thai cuisine, and a common runner up to pad thai for popularity outside of Thailand.

5. Pad Kee Mow ผัดขี้เมา

Take away pad see ew’s egg, and add ingredients to intensify the spice, and behold, you have the famous Thai dish known as pad kee mow, or drunken noodles.

You can’t really talk about pad see ew without bringing up the spicier Thai cousin, pad kee mow. In English these noodles can often be referred to as ‘drunken noodles’, a direct translation from the Thai term ‘kee mow’, meaning someone who is regularly drunk. Alternatively, this could be a reference to dousing the noodles in dark soy sauce, but that isn’t nearly as fun an explanation.

This hangover busting dish is a favorite of mine, because it is a Thai spice lover’s departure from the humble, mildly flavored grand-cestor pad see ew. While you can find similar dishes to pad see ew around the region, this chili fueled plate of noodles is uniquely Thai. So while many will overlook ‘kee mow’ for a calm and delicious pad thai or pad see ew plates, hot headed spice lovers will come to Thailand, and make the version found at Bangkok’s street food vendors their new favorite Thai noodle dish.

thai cooking class bkk-1
Young green peppercorn, kaffir lime leaf, and fingerroot make this dish uniquely Thai!

What makes pad kee mow so spicy? This heat level doesn’t come from fresh chili alone, but layers of different types of spice. In addition to Thai birds’ eye chili, you have the larger Thai chilis added for color and their mild flavor. But what stands out most is the addition of fingerroot, a gangly root that is more intense than the galangal that flavors your favorite tom yum soup. The fingerroot is paired with intensely peppery, mildly bitter young peppercorn, and together they give the dish a mouth and face numbing type of spice that makes it perfect for the ailing drunk!

Find more details on all the ingredients in our recipe for pad kee mow.

6. Khao Soi ข้าวซอย

With Chiang Mai becoming an increasingly popular destination, the popularity of khao soi is growing rapidly.

Visitors to Chiang Mai need no introduction to khao soi noodles. Enjoying the creamy curry noodles has become synonymous with visiting the city itself, because a delicious bowl can be troublesome to find or make elsewhere. This is because the noodles are often misunderstood, and have been reinvented several times based on the influx of people in the highlands of south east asia.

Whether you credit the Burmese, Chinese muslims, or some other group with khao soi, a quick taste or glance at the ingredient list is enough to tell you the origin isn’t Thai. The name comes from the Burmese word for noodles, but the current version most popular with tourists looks little like the dishes of the past. Many of the oldest recipes call for the richly spiced curry, reminiscent of Indian or middle eastern curries, and pair the flavor with red meat.

There may be great debate about the origin of khao soi, but the popularity of the dish is undeniably. The mild amount of hot chilies and meaty broth make it appealing to foreigners who fall in love with the dish in their stints in Thailand’s largest northern city. Today you’ll find the most celebrated versions served with chicken, and garnished with fried noodles, pickled shallots, lime, and mustard greens.

7. Khao Piak ข้าวเปียก

This thickened rice noodle called ‘khao piak’ makes for an extremely satisfying bowl of noodles.

The least well known of our favorite noodle dishes is surely ‘khao piak‘ (pronounced KOW bie-ek). Even the wikipedia page on this hearty bowl of rice noodles looks skinny on info! But that doesn’t mean you should be in the dark about these tasty, usually handmade noodles. If you translate the name literally, khao means rice and piak (BIE-ek) means wet. Now wet rice doesn’t sound too appetizing unless you know it’s a reference to the noodles being made of rice flour and tapioca starch, and served in a gravy like broth.

Lately, the little known noodles are having a resurgence, thanks to the increasing popularity of Laotian food, where the dish is often referred to as ‘khao piak sen‘. The country of Laos shares a border with Thailand, and a long history of trade, war, and blending of language, culture, and cuisine. As Thailand has become one of the wealthiest and most developed nations in the region, often the influence of Laotian cuisine get left out of the explanation of dishes that people may assume are authentic Thai recipes, such as papaya salad.

In our outreach program, youth at risk have an opportunity to learn how to make their own rice noodles for dishes like ‘khao piak.

Whether you’ve had them on the Thai or Lao side of the border no matter, this is a special, extra satisfying meal. They’ll make you nostalgic for a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, except they’re better. When the rice noodles are added to a richly seasoned pork or chicken broth, the starch in them thickens the soup into a flavorful gravy. Since they’re so filling, even families with few resources can stretch this dish into a meal!

Thai Noodle Vocabulary Review

  • pad – ‘phat’ – stir fry
  • kee mow – a drunkard
  • pad kee mow – drunken noodles
  • kanom jin (pronounced ‘ka-nom jeen’) – fermented rice noodles
  • see ew – soy sauce
  • see ew dam – dark soy sauce
  • sen yai – wide rice noodles
  • khao piak – literally wet rice, a reference to making the noodles by adding boiling water to rice flour