We’re excited to share that our new veggie burger patties are now available for sale in Bangkok. The patties are the result of a lot of hard work and testing, as well as feedback from our healthy eating supporters. Consider them as a healthy and filling meal, that is also part of our efforts to encourage everyone to eat better and reduce food waste.
The patties we’ve created aren’t like the ones you’re seeing swapped for beef at fast food restaurants. Instead of an imitation meat, they’re homemade patties created using a special blend of vegetables and herbs. The main ingredient for the burgers is okara, the leftover soy pulp from making tofu. We blend the pulp with mushroom, spring onion, and dried spices before hand making each patty.
Before the pandemic hit, our tofu making class had been generating a buzz with healthy eating expats and visiting tourists in Bangkok. When the lockdown happened, although our classes had to stop, we continued making tofu at home and supplying a few local restaurants. To make tofu you need to squeeze the moisture out of the soybeans, leaving the fibrous part of the bean behind. While it may seem like a worthless byproduct bound for the trashcan, okara still has plenty of nutritional value.
To avoid food waste, we’ve been experimenting with using the leftover okara in different recipes. We’ve made a variety of spreads, pastes, and even cookies. However, the most popular of our creations have been the veggie burger patties. The soy pulp allows them to be dense and pliable, while still being soft on the palate and enjoyable to eat. That’s not bad for a leftover food product that might seem worthless at first glance.
Tom Yum lovers will be excited to learn you can enjoy the popular soup in a variety of ways. One of our favorite renditions is in the form of fried rice. This is similar to what you would order at a street food stall with a wok station. If you can find fragrant herbs to add, this recipe will be a great way to spice up your usual homemade fried rice!
Aromatics & Cooking Method
If you’re new to tom yum, the flavors come from a combination of aromatic herbs popular in Thai cooking. Those herbs are lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaf. If you’ve ever had them in a Thai restaurant you may remember them because they’re the bits in the soup you can’t eat comfortably. Although all of them are edible, each is so coarse they would be really tough to chew.
To make the fried rice version, you’ll need to find your local asian grocer and prep the ingredients. Unlike the soup where the herbs will boil together, this recipe requires the elbow grease to pound them in a mortar and pestle. This is a big job, and is best done in a traditional stone mortar and pestle, so that each of the ingredients is properly smashed.
Can you put the items in a food processor or blender? Sure you can. However, often when we’re using the mortar and pestle, blending is not the most important function for using this traditional kitchen equipment. What we really desire are the essential oils from the ingredients that will make a paste that will remind your eyes, nose, and mouth of your favorite tom yum soup!
Finally, we should add some details about the moisture content of the fried rice. If you’re not cooking over high heat, or using leftover rice that is drier than rice freshly steamed, you may find the final product too soggy. If you know you prefer the drier, more crusty fried rice— be prepared with a heavy duty wok or pan to use. That way you can stir fry you rice longer, and scrape the stuck rice at the center of the wok to free the toastiest bits before they burn (not the best use of your non stick pan). Don’t be surprised to find cooks who love their fried rice this style, even throwing the wok or skillet of fried rice into the oven for a crispy finish.
Tom Yum Fried Rice
Equipment: mortar and pestle (preferably stone), wok
1 cup of rice
70-100g of protein (we used tofu)
1 tbsp of oil
30g tomato (plum or less watery tomatoes work better)
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of sweet chili jam (nam prik pow)
Optional: Lime to squeeze on top and spring onion for garnish
Tom Yum Paste Ingredients:
1 tbsp of minced galangal
1 tbsp of thin sliced lemongrass
2 chili (optional)
Prep all your ingredients. In mortar and pestle, pound lemongrass, galangal and chili together. Set aside.
Chop your proteins bite sized or smaller.
In a wok over medium heat, add a tbsp of cooking oil.
Add your proteins (If using tender meats like shrimp, you can set aside after cooking) and stir until mostly cooked.
Then add your paste and allow to become aromatic. Followed closely by your onions.
When your proteins are cooked and other ingredients smell nice, add your mushrooms and tomato.
Now you’re ready to add your rice. Mix with everything and add soy sauce and chili paste.
Stir fry until ingredients are well incorporated, or you have achieved the desired texture (give it an extra few minutes if you prefer a dry fried rice).
Plate and garnish, reminding your guests to squeeze their lime wedge over the top before enjoying.
We’re excited to share our participation in Bangkok’s first plant based food and sustainability market. The upcoming market takes places this month on July 19th in the Ekkamai area. The event will host a collection of vendors promoting their plant based food items, and a variety of lifestyle products encouraging sustainability.
The market is hosted from 12pm to 4pm by the team behind the Root the Future blog and healthy eating campaign. The website promotes plant based eating and sustainability in Thailand. The term ‘plant based’ refers to diets similar to veganism that promote eating fruits, vegetables, and whole foods for the majority of nutritional needs.
The health benefits of a plant based diet are a major reason we’re excited to be participating in the event. However, the focus on the reducing waste and protecting ecosystems through more sustainable living is equally important. The event will also be our first opportunity to publicly promote our tempeh, a healthy source of plant based protein.
Our tempeh is made by fermenting organic soybeans into patty that can be sliced and added to food as a meat substitute. The healthy product is a great addition to Thai dishes which can too often over emphasize the meat products. In addition to fundraising through the sell of these products, we will also be excited to share about the work we’re doing to serve vulnerable communities in Bangkok.
Participants are reminded to bring their masks, water bottles, food containers, and reusable bags for this event. No single use plastic will be available, and social distancing will be encouraged whenever possible. Including Courageous Kitchen, there should be around 20 vendors with a variety of products for sale, ranging from plant based burgers, to natural soaps, and even a mini cafe for cats needing to be adopted through the Paws Bangkok Foundation.
Root The Future Sustainability & Plant-Based Market
We announced recently that we have begun making our own tempeh for those who want to try and support us in Bangkok. Since tempeh is so new here and many places around the world, we wanted to make sure some of the common questions you may ask about the soy product are answered. One of those is, “Is there a way to tell if my tempeh is still good?”
There are a few factors you should know about to be able to evaluate good tempeh — no matter whether you’re evaluating the freshness before you buy in the store, or after the tempeh has been sitting on your refrigerator shelf.
Look at the list below and keep each of these components in mind so that you can help have the best chances of getting great quality products from good sources.
When you buy your tempeh you should be able to look at it and have an idea of the freshness. The beans in the tempeh should be packed around a firm layer of white mold (called mycelium). As this layer reaches peak, some discoloration may occur where you see some black or gray spots. If the tempeh continues to mature, the mold will become a more yellow color. This is normal and still edible unless the tempeh is wet or consumed by mold of another color.
2) Aroma (Smell)
“Why does my tempeh smell bad?”
How do you judge a fermented product which can already be strong smelling by using your nose? Your tempeh should smell nutty, fermented and earthy, but not overly pungent. If the tempeh can be smelled from a distance, odds are it has likely gone bad. A smell of rot or noticeably strong notes of acetone, alcohol, or ammonium mean you need to dispose of your tempeh. These smells arise as other type of bacteria begin to rapidly grow on your tempeh. Preventing this means keeping your tempeh refrigerated or frozen, and dry, until ready to use.
Your tempeh is made of soybeans enshrined by white mycelium. If properly fermented, this layer of edible mold should grow evenly between the beans. When choosing your tempeh be sure the mold has grown completely without any cracks or areas among the beans where the mold has not grown.
Low Moisture Content (Dryness)
Your block of tempeh should be dry, never slimy or damp. Storing the tempeh with too much moisture can encourage other types of bacteria to grow, making your tempeh go bad more quickly. Tempeh can be frozen safely, but be aware that if not properly defrosted (this can be safely done in the refrigerator), moisture and condensation can start to form on the outside of your tempeh.
When possible buy organic tempeh. The soybeans are easier to soak when making the tempeh, and result in softer and more porous tempeh overall. Since the majority of soybeans are mass produced GMO crops, these can be harder to find, but worth the search. Farmers who do grow soybeans without damaging food and environments with dangerous chemicals also need our support.
Also, look for vendors using natural packaging to ferment their tempeh instead of plastic. The most common material used is banana leaf, which unlike plastic, naturally allows air to circulate, promoting the growth of the mycelium. The result is beautiful tempeh, naturally fermented that doesn’t contribute to environmental degradation.
Tempeh is a great source of plant based protein for everyone. Let’s spread awareness about the need to create diets that are more inclusive or plant centric and environmentally responsible. Courageous Kitchen is doing our part to educate and feed people in need in Bangkok, and your support makes a difference.
During the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have been exploring new ways to engage our supporters, and fundraise for our work. Previously, our in-person classes where our sole method of generating interest in our work. However, like many other businesses, we have been scrambling to do more online and reduce the face to face nature of our interactions. Now we host online classes to help you master Thai food, but have also been making efforts to sell food products locally. The most important of these projects has been the production of plant based protein foods, tofu and tempeh.
Lately when you see the term plant based protein mentioned, the reference is usually to efforts by food scientists to make fake meat. Many of these imitation meats have even become popular globally, attempting to lure both vegans and vegetarians, as well as their healthy eating friends. However, while the popular wisdom is go high tech, we’re going the opposite direction. Instead of helping to create highly processed imitation meat, we’re leaning into the lightly processed Asian traditions of tofu and tempeh. We’re confident these products made with organic soybeans, can encourage people to reduce their meat consumption, which is better for our bodies and the environment.
The gamble we’re taking is hoping our customers will recognize the value and craft necessary to make homemade tofu and tempeh. Often these are products that can be easily misunderstood. Both are soy products, and while tofu is very well known, tempeh is still a new item in many markets. Tofu is the cooked, squeezed, and coagulated soybeans that we press into blocks. Those blocks can be sold and sliced down to be pan fried or used in stir fries and other dishes in place of meat.
While tempeh is made from the same beans and used similarly, the Indonesian creation has many of its own characteristics. For starters, the product requires you to ferment the soybeans before cooking them. Then the beans are dried and packed for a second, but more controlled fermentation. During this process, the bacteria added to the beans grow, attaching and connecting each of the beans. The result is firm patty of edible mold and beans. Despite how that sounds, you might be pleasantly surprised how tasty tempeh can be when properly cooked!
Since tempeh doesn’t enjoy the popularity of tofu, there is a learning curve to cooking it the first time. Tempeh can then be sliced and roasted, chopped, stir fried or stewed. The unique structure of tempeh, helps it to hold its shape when cooking, and gives it a toothsome bite (more similar to a meat product than tofu) when eating. Furthermore, the process of making tempeh, makes the nutrients in the beans more bioavailable, resulting in a healthy, probiotic, and protein rich source of nutrition.
We suggest new customers to slice their tempeh thin, and to start out by substituting it for meat in a few of your most flavor-packed dishes. For example, given the right amount of time to soak up flavor, tempeh makes and excellent substitution in Thailand’s coconut milk curries. Alternatively, you can take sliced tempeh, season it, and oven roast until crispy. The resulting tempeh bites can be eaten as a snack, or added as a crispy ingredient in other dishes (salads, stir fries, and sandwiches for example).
Besides saving you time in the kitchen, our tofu and tempeh products are also made from organic soy beans. Like many places around the world, soy in Thailand is a cash crop, making it difficult to source organic beans. We work with small Thai farms, especially in Northern Thailand, to source the beans, giving us an opportunity to support organic farmers. This is important because these farmers can often be priced out of local markets by the glut of GMO soybeans and mass produced soy products prevalent in most stores.
We hope everyone is striving to eat better during this stressful time. One way is to add tofu or tempeh to your diet, and make an effort to consume less meat. We should also do what we can to support our farmers, and strengthen the food ecosystems feeding our communities during crises.
We’re so proud to be providing these products, so look out for them as options in your CSA boxes from Bolan Restaurant and Farmtastic. Soon you will be able to add them as a vegetarian option to your orders with Sloane’s as well. So please be on the lookout for them!
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!