It’s that time of year in Bangkok, when the weather drops only 5 degrees and we have our official winter angst! While we await a cooler breeze to arrive, each day we’re inching toward the year end holidays, with lots of happenings around town for both tourists and expats alike. We hope to meet a few of you who’ve escaped winter in our cooking class this month, but here’s a few more places to spot us!
NIST International School’s Festive Coffee Morning
Lush Thailand’s Charity Party (Dec. 16th, Mega Bangna Location)
December 2018’s Edition of Bambi News
If you find us at one of the popular winter markets, be sure to look for our new 120ml bottles of vegan chili jam and pad thai sauce. The new compact packaging will be easier to grab as a gift, or throw in your suitcase for the long journey home. The pad thai sauce jars are enough to cook 3-4 portions of noodles, and the chili jam is a great addition to Asian style soups, salads, and stir frys.
Just be sure to remember all the products are made with no funky additives, so to be sure to refrigerate them after opening. Of course, we have these Thai recipes available if you want to try your hand at making them at home.
We’ll be celebrating at a few ‘winter markets’ around town, and hope you’ll come and find us, grab a bottle of sauce, a Courageous Kitchen apron, and an end of the year photo with us!
All cooking classes and product sales help families in need and fund fun cooking activities for our students!
“This was a really fun experience for our whole family. Also wonderful to know our tourism dollars we’re helping local people. Highly recommended."
Guest, October 2018
"Amazing cooking class. Lily, Nisha and Dwight were wonderful. I enjoyed the class immensely, and what a great organization!"
Guest, November 2019
"If you are in Bangkok you MUST visit Courageous Kitchen! Dwight and everyone gave us a top notch cooking experience. The food is SO good and you feel like you’re at home with family and friends while you’re there. I will return every chance that I get."
Guest, October 2018
Micro-Giving This Holiday with Amazon Smile
Don’t forget if you’re shopping with Amazon, this holiday you can select Courageous Kitchen as your charity of choice with Amazon Smile.
As your designated charity Amazon donates a small fraction of the proceeds of each sale back to our charity!
Love Coffee? Us too! Give a gift that gives back this holiday! We recently partnered with our friends from Solid Roasters to bring you quality coffee delivered right to your doorstep. This is big news just in time for the holidays for our fans living in the US. Now...
Giving season is upon us, and just a day after Thanksgiving we were happy to host our first class in partnership with Holland America.
This past Friday, we hosted our first guests from Holland America Cruise Lines. The company offers trips all over the world, and on their Asian itineraries often visit Thailand, docking at the nearby Laem Chabang port. Once here, guests have all sorts of options for day trips to explore Bangkok and the surrounding provinces. Recently, Holland America has connected with Courageous Kitchen to offer guests a chance to experience a Thai cooking class, while simultaneously giving back to people in need.
The first group to visit was made of Americans and Canadians, all friendly and eager to hear more about the work of the charity. While we got to know each other, they learned to make four Thai dishes, including our famous pad Thai recipe and the delicious, but lesser known wing bean salad.
Since Courageous Kitchen began offering Thai cooking classes and street food tours in 2017, we have hosted more than 600 guests. While we still have more growing to do, we’re pausing this week to express our gratitude to our past guests in helping us improve the lives of those in need. Of course a special thanks goes to Holland America for seeking to connect with more sustainable tour operators, and for kicking off the giving season by sending us a great group of guests!
Dwight is the director of Courageous Kitchen, and loves sharing his passion for food with new people.
Last month we featured the powerfully spicy, but often misunderstood drunken noodle recipe to assist you with letting the heat linger on beyond the end of summer. This month the vibrant red chili residue on our fingers may be reminiscent of a scene from Halloween, but we promise it won’t burn you nearly as bad as last month’s devilishly tasty noodles. In Thailand October’s biggest holiday isn’t Halloween. Instead of spooky decorations, the country is anxiously preparing to cover food stalls in little yellow flags for the celebration of the Vegetarian Festival.
For the occasion we’re making Thai nam prik pow jay (น้ำพริกเผาเจ), often referred to in recipes as Thai chili jam. For example, you can find it used in classic renditions of tom yum soup recipes, but most methods of making this chunky roasted paste include meat byproducts such as fish sauce, fermented shrimp paste, and dried shrimp.
Here’s a vegan version you can follow to make the paste by soaking, blending, roasting, seasoning, and finally reducing fresh Thai chilies. We hope knowledge of how to make this mainstay ingredient will inspire you to make your own at home, for use in vegetarian, vegan, and non-veg soups, salads, or various Thai concoctions.
This recipe yields 480 – 500 grams of roasted sweet chili jam.
2 cups Vegetable oil
120g Sun-dried chilies
2 tbsp Palm sugar
3 tbsp Tamarind juice
1 tbsp Salt
1 tbsp Black soy sauce
1 tbsp Roasted ground peanuts (unsalted)
Thai Chili Paste Instructions
Soak the sun-dried chilies for 30 mins in water until they turn soft. Cut them open to remove seeds, then cut them into small pieces and rest them aside.
Peel garlic and shallots, rinse well, and slice them small.
Toast the sliced garlic and shallots until they turn golden brown
Pound the chili skins into a fine texture. This will take about 30 mins with a traditional mortar and pestle. Alternatively, you can use a blender or food processor to speed up blending the ingredients.
Add the toasted garlic and shallots, pounding or blending them together until all the ingredients turn into a fine paste texture.
Heat your wok or nonstick pan, adding 2 cups of oil. Next, add the paste into the wok then stir and mix well, allowing the oil to blend, and shallots to cook down.
Now you’re ready to season your paste. Add palm sugar, salt, black soy sauce, tamarind juice, and ground peanut. Stir for 20 mins until the color of the paste turns darker and you can smell a smoky aroma. The oil should now appear a deep red color.
Turn off the heat, and put the paste into the jar or airtight container. To avoid risk of illness and increase shelf life, we recommend sterilizing your container by boiling it in advance. You can also leave some space near the top of your container empty, filling the empty space with the extra oil from your pan.
When I finish making my own Thai chili paste, what recipes should I use it in?
Thais love their roasted chili jam. In Thai it’s called nam prik pow. When you have mastered a recipe for this paste you can use it in a variety of recipes such as:
Tom Yum Soup (as well as some versions of Tom Kha)
When does Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival take place?
The Thai Vegetarian Festival happens each year in October for 10 days. The dates vary depending on the lunar calendar, but you can usually expect it to happen within the first two weeks of the month. In 2018, we will celebrate the Vegetarian Festival from Monday, October 8th, until Wednesday, October 17th.
During this period, many people will give up eating meat, visiting temples to make alms. To support them, many of the street food and restaurants around town go completely vegan, or jay. Following this tradition goes beyond just vegetarianism, and includes refraining from eating eggs, dairy, garlic, onion, honey, and other ingredients.
Is vegan Thai chili paste used in street food in Bangkok?
Heck no. Ahem— let us rephrase— absolutely notEVAH.
Although Bangkok has seen a resurgence of vegetarian (and to a lesser degree vegan) cuisine, don’t expect to experience this on the street. You can trust we’d know, because we’re always scanning Bangkok street food options in our weekly street food tours. Even during the Vegetarian Festival, many of the recipes where you would find the paste are forsaken, for less indulgent choices like soup noodles.
What are your favorite vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Bangkok?
Since there aren’t too many to choose from, this isn’t too difficult to answer. When our team is craving vegan Thai food that we can’t make at home, we visit May’s Veggie Home. The name sounds like a Thai vegetarian spot, but the restaurant is actually vegan. There’s lot to choose from on their menu, it’s not too pricey, and it’s located a short walk from the Asoke skytrain station.
When we’re craving non-Thai vegetarian food, it’s usually hands down North and South Indian eats from Dhana Bhavan. Much harder to find, but always worth the hunt. Not far from this backside of Silom, is also Bonita Social Club, a place which has one of Bangkok’s best veggie burgers.
Would it be hard to be vegetarian or vegan in Bangkok?
Yes, it can be depending on how restrictive your daily diet has become.
Do you love to eat fruit? Are you ok with mushrooms or tofu in everything? Not eating meat is one problem to adjust to, but tacking on a soy allergy, or disdain for fruit and mushrooms, could make your time in Thailand disastrous.
Here are a few tips to help you survive vegetarian or vegan life in Bangkok:
Be prepared to cook for yourself.
Be able to explain your dietary restrictions in Thai.
Explore the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, which has a stronger green-eating food scene.
Beware of sneaky meats (aka meat sauces and broths) that may be a small component of Thai dish you love.
Tip your veg hawking street food vendors and restaurant staff, tell friends, and help them promote their restaurants on social media.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider supporting Courageous Kitchen with a donation of a plate or cooking class below.
Sponsor Lessons for Courageous Kitchen Students!
Each week Courageous Kitchen provides fun, education instruction to at risk students. This instruction includes English language learning, cooking classes, and special outings. You can donate any amount, but if you’re unsure here are some suggestions:
$1 = sponsor one plate $30 = sponsor a meal for an entire class $100 = sponsor a full day of instruction $400+ = sponsor a month or more of Courageous learning
Each gift given on the form below will help us reach our goal to fund classes for an entire year!
Bangkok is the world’s hot spot for delicious street food. While street food in other cities around the world may be constrained to a few areas of a given city, Bangkok’s food scene stretches across the limits of the city itself. Vendors range from people setting up blankets along the roadside, to funky and very cluttered shop houses, where generations of a family may have been hawking the same dish for decades.
If you’ve never been here before it’s easy to underestimate how much there really is to try. Each week we help visitors navigate the streets, introducing them to everything from exotic tropical fruit, to deciphering the different types of meat in a specialty bowl of street-side noodles.
We are approaching the one year anniversary of our Street Food 101 Tour and wanted to offer some tips on identifying the qualities of outstanding street food tours in Bangkok. Whether you roam the streets snacking with us, on your own, or decide to take another tour, we hope the following tips will help you have an adventurous, fun, and delicious street food adventure!
1) Off the Beaten Path, Dense Street Food
Let’s face it, Bangkok often tops the list of most visited cities in the world. With hotels and luxury condos occupying prime real estate, how can we also expect to find the best food in the city’s central business district? In fact, many of these areas (Sukhumvit, Silom, Chinatown, Khaosan Rd., and similar areas) were the topic of controversy when Bangkok’s city authorities began to crack down on illegal street food vendors in the past few years.
So there’s no coincidence that the further you are from your hotel, the better the street food is likely to become. Outside of the main downtown areas, street food still thrives, and large communities of the city’s working class people are dependent upon it. This is why it’s important to choose a tour that takes you to places you wouldn’t consider visiting on your own.
Great guides are never afraid to get lost, or wander with you into the labyrinth like shophouse alleys of old town, or graffiti’d streets in parts of the city you’ve never heard of before. Often the payoff for such misadventures is finding neighborhoods where the street food is not only delicious, but dense— meaning you have a great selection of dishes to try in a small area. Bring your camera, an adventurous appetite so you’re prepared to try something new, and be extra friendly incase people are curious to know how you found their local hotspot.
2) Interaction with Street Food Vendors
The ugly truth about street food is that it’s difficult, unstable work. The expectation that food is cheap, is at odds with constantly rising food prices, unpredictable monsoon weather, and inflation. Unfortunately in our enthusiasm for $1 goodies, we tend to glaze over the struggles of people who provide this awesome cuisine for us to enjoy.
For example, there is a woman in our nearby market who sells a flavor gushing betel leaf wrap (a Thai snack called miang kham). Often when we meet her on our tour she’s still wearing her maid uniform, meaning she’s worked all day before coming to the market to sell her delectables for another 4 hours, before she can rest. We love stopping by to support her, but want to go beyond just snacking and taking pictures alone. Each time we bring guests we include a tip, reminding her we aren’t only paying for the few bites of food, but for the opportunity to interact with her and experience one of Thai cuisine’s most unique dishes.
We should note that tipping is not normal in Thai culture and can lead to tension. A vendor may initially refuse your money, or think you’ve left it at the stall accidentally. This is where tour guides who have an ongoing relationship with the vendors is important, so they understand you love their food, and that you value them as well. We would all be wise to remember that lack of support for street food vendors locally, can also exacerbate the forces depreciating the quality of food on offer in Bangkok as well.
3) Wandering Bangkok’s Dizzying Local Markets
Bangkok has her eyes fixed on cosmopolitan grandeur, but her feet remain firmly rooted in the rich merchant heritage of the past. This is a contradiction found in the types of restaurants on offer, but also embodied by Thais raised in the city themselves. You could argue that the aforementioned ‘off the beaten path’ parts of Bangkok, are merely a network of wet markets, each the epicenter of local communities sprawling in every direction around them.
People depend on the wet markets to supply them with a constant supply of affordable fruit and vegetables grown in the neighboring provinces (often called Thailand’s bread basket). Other goods, such as fresh meat and seafood, coconut milk pressed before your eyes, and even factory fresh rice noodles that are mass produced and cut to order, are indispensable in each community. Without a doubt, the wealth of ingredients available in the local markets are the backbone of the incredible street food available in Bangkok, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore a market with this in mind.
Proximity to the market makes it easier for vendors who push their carts up and down busy streets, but is also important for larger operations of restauranteurs, and street food vendors who’ve evolved from push carts to open air shophouses. On our tour you may spot the uncle who owns the Southern Thai curry cart praying in front of the market for good sales, just as the evening rush begins. Nearby in another corner of the market, an auntie is single handedly frying, steaming, mixing up 3-5 dishes to sale at her small rice and curry stall. We stop by to get advance access to a few sample nibbles before she loads everything on her cart to sell. On our next stop we may plop down on flimsy plastic stools in a shop house
These experiences give you a wider cultural perspective on street food, tell why it’s invaluable to people of Bangkok, and will aid you in discovering and enjoying Bangkok’s best street food on a tour, or on your own.