The hottest time of the year has arrived in Thailand! What better way to celebrate the sweatiest time of the year, than with Thailand’s hottest foods?
This was exactly the thinking the US Embassy had when enlisting diplomats to taste test six of the spiciest Thai dishes they could find. The fun video starts with the least spicy and slowly builds up the heat with each progressive dish. The result is a quick video that helps introduce a few new Thai dishes to people around the world and wishes everyone a Happy Thai Year, which the Songkran Festival celebrates each year around this time.
Watch the video below and read on to learn more about the dishes that appear in the video. Have you tried them all? Join one of our cooking classes when you’re ready to spice things up!
6) Nam Prik Noom น้ำพริกหนุ่ม
Roasted and Pounded Thai Pepper Dip
Warm up the palate with a dish that is often served as an appetizer in Northern Thailand, nam prik noom. The chili dip is made up of medium-sized and juicy light green peppers that most closely resemble banana peppers. Keep in mind though, the flavor and spice level can vary depending on the vendor. The best versions are charcoal roasted before being pound in a mortar and pestle to make a soft, stringy dip.
Spicy Bonus Facts:
Nam prik noom is most often enjoyed with a variety of ingredients to dip into the paste. While most of them are raw and blanched vegetables, the most infamous is pork crackling. The curly pork rind is tough and crunchy making it easy to scoop up the dip, and the combination of textures makes it super addictive!
5) Pad Grapow ผัดกะเพราหมู
Garlic and Chili Stir Fried with Minced Pork and Holy Basil
The most famous of the dishes on this list is pad krapow. For Thais this is the repeat go to dish when you’re unsure what exactly you’re craving. If the spicy, umami combination is right it hits all those hard to reach cravings while giving you plenty of fresh chili — and fish sauce soaked chili as a condiment to increase the heat.
If you noticed one diplomat asking about an egg, the spiciest versions are usually served with a crispy fried egg, or kai dao. Crispy on the outside and slightly runny inside, the yolk helps to tame the spice and add texture.
4) Mama Pad Kee Mow มาม่าผัดขี้เมา
DrunkenInstant Noodles Stir Fried Chili and Green Peppercorn
Among Thailand’s spiciest noodle dishes you’ll always find pad kee mow ranked near the top. The dish combines your favorite noodles, in this case instant noodles, with fiery fresh chili and green peppercorn. When flash stir fried in the wok, the smoky noodles and overpoweringly heaty flavors can really separate who can and who can’t handle the heat!
The term kee mow is an adjective to refer to someone who is regularly drunk. Since this spicy dish is a favorite hangover cure, it’s not incorrect to translate it literally as, “A Drunk’s Noodles” as the fresh chili and numbing peppercorn forcefully shock you back to life.
3) Gaeng Hed แกงเห็ด
Northeastern Mushroom and Pumpkin Soup
This list is suspiciously missing papaya salad from Northeastern Thailand. However, there’s another dish more people should know about from this region called gaeng hed. This soup uses local ingredients making it hard to find outside of Thailand, but often has plenty of spice from fresh chili and funk from fermented fish paste.
The soupy curry contains lots of mushrooms, pumpkin, bamboo, and lemon basil to tame the heat, it also means chefs making it can add even more fresh chili. This is definitely a dish that you taste and think you’re eating something mild, only to have the gradual, lingering spice build up to a long lasting burn inside and outside of your mouth!
The dark color of the broth can be attributed to the yanang leaf (tiliacora triandra) which is blended to make the base of the soup. If you can survive all the heat and the funk, you may also benefit from the healthy properties of this leaf which is known to help regulate body temperature, a much-needed benefit this time of year!
2) Gaeng Tai Bla แกงไตปลา
Spicy and Pungent Fish Intestines Curry
If the name hasn’t already scared you away, the fragrant and appearance just might. This murky curry often tops most spicy lists with its spicy and powerfully pungent nature. One sip is enough to give you a dizzying dose of seaside fish market vibes, just before the visions of hell takeover. If fish intestines aren’t funky enough, the most popular way to enjoy this painful curry is over fermented rice noodles. Don’t even bother troubling the restaurant staff because true to the nature of southern Thai food, there is no mild version of this soup!
Not familiar with why anyone would want to eat fish intestines? The process for sun drying the stomach and intestines of the fish with salt is ancient and similar to the centuries-old process of making fish sauce. While these funky and fishy flavors have been mostly omitted from western diets, they’re still a rich source of umami goodness cherished by coastal communities in Thailand.
1) Gaeng Leung or Gaeng Som แกงเหลืองมะละกอปลา
Sour Yellow Curry with Fish and Pickled Papaya
Thailand’s hottest dish, according to US Embassy staff, is another famous curry from southern Thailand called gaeng leung or gaeng som. While not as funky as the previous curry, this means the chili in the curry has the full attention of your taste buds. Meaty chunks of fish and pickled papaya can provide a brief reprieve from the heat. However, let’s be honest there’s no real escape from this heat.
Unlike the more common versions of Thai curries, this dish has no coconut milk as a creamy backdrop to soothe your tongue. Instead, the curry paste is added directly to water or seafood stock. This gives the curry a more soupy consistency but also makes it more dangerous. With a close look, you may even be able to spot some of the speckles of the ridiculous amount of pulverized chili, turmeric, and other herbs used to make the intense paste.
If you’ve never had the opportunity to try this dish, the closest combination of flavors would be from tom yum soup. The sour tartness of the curry comes from the addition of tamarind, pineapple, or lime, and can make the dish a pleasantly addictive way to burst into flames. While tom yum may be more well known outside of Thailand, there are few meals in Southern Thailand that aren’t accompanied by this spicy cornerstone of regional cuisine.
Here’s a few scenes from a big weekend in Bangkok for the Courageous Kitchen team. For the first time, we’re popping up to serve a menu all of our own creation in a local restaurant. The menu is a testament to healthy eating, sustainability, and rustic Thai food. We couldn’t be more proud to have our student leaders participating and to share this event with you.
The Courageous Kitchen leadership program gives students opportunities to grow as cooks and as well balanced young people. Although the coronavirus has limited our activities this year, this month has been busy. With the Thai vegetarian festival happening, we took our young leaders into the combonation restaurant of Bolan and Err, to serve our own plant based menu.
During the pandemic we have been taking our healthy cooking to the next level, even launching a delivery service for plant based vegan food. So were please to be able to collaborate with the rustic cooking of the team behind Bolan and Err. The invitation from Chef Bo and Dylan gives our students a unique opportunity to see behinds the scenes, in not one, but two restaurants. In addition to having a hand in making dishes from Err, which specializes in elevated Thai drinking food, our students all get their first peek at fine dining dishes from Bolan.
The collab features two plant based set menus, one from Central Thailand and the other from Southern Thailand. Both sets feature our homemade soybean products, tempeh and tofu.
“The guests really loved your fried tempeh dish, now I want to taste!” remarked one of the waiters from Err. The dish they’re referring to is a special Phuket style fried curry paste and crispies piled on top of battered tempeh. The dish is called ‘tempeh tod kreung’ and the crunchy tempeh is a good match for the spicy and sweet paste.
The most popular dish from the Central Thailand set is the red curry or ‘gaeng daeng tempeh’. While you can experience a Thai red curry at any Thai restaurant, this dish is special because of the curry paste is handmade, and the ingredients in the curry are representative of Thai biodiversity.
“When we talk about plant based food, many enthusiasts do make a point to eat locally and in season. This is similar to many of the teachings we hear from Chef Bo, whether in the restaurant or on her television show, she always uses her food to highlight the diversity of ingredients in Thai cuisine.”
In addition to the tempeh in the curry, there’s a trio of pea aubergines, winter melon and snake gourd. The latter two especially are often overlooked by restaurants, even though people at home in the provinces still grow and use these ingredients commonly in their cooking. Each of these ingredients are abundant during the rainy season, and because they all have a different texture, keep your tongue guessing with each bite of the curry.
We’re relishing the experience to serve our supporters in Bangkok this weekend and learn from great chefs. We hope to take what we’ve learned into future endeavors, whether in our cooking classes or other training aspects of our leadership program. Never before has the overlap between food and health been so important, and we hope to shepherd our communities here and online towards better wellness as we grow.
Special thanks to the the Bolan and Err chefs and staff, and we look forward to collaborating on special events with them again in the future.
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.
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!
Hey friends around the world, we hope you are healthy and getting back to ‘normal’ where-ever you are. The new normal, however, is being honest about the challenges we’re facing during the covid-19 epidemic and sharing high quality advice whenever possible. Whatever stage of lock down or quarantine your country is in, here are some tips to help you stay safe.
1) Don’t neglect the basics.
Wear a mask
Avoid touching your face
Avoid activities causing unnecessary exposure
Limit interaction with people at risk
Remember you can spread the virus without being sick
Exercise and eat healthy
We’ve got songs for washing our hands now. Masks are becoming more readily available, and you’ve learned to keep hand sanitizer with you wherever you go. During this time we have even seen people going to extremes by wearing hazmats suits in grocery stores. This is evidence that we are learning to be better together, but we shouldn’t let our guard down as we return to work, school, and other activities. Please keep your hygiene practices up to maintain the basic level of protection for everyone.
Many of us have to interact with others during this period for crisis response, work, and other necessities. When possible avoid confined spaces, especially where air can be trapped or is unfiltered. Although many places have restricted gathering in public parks, take advantage of any outdoor or open air areas which can allow people to meet while facilitating social distancing.
For example, instead of distributing aid to people in need in groups, we bring the items door to door. Of course this is more work, but we have to adapt to the challenges of doing aid under such conditions. Aid organizations, governments, and volunteers have a responsibility to provide aid safely, while ensuring efforts to help are not unintentionally spreading the disease to vulnerable groups.
3) Briefly Journal Interactions
One quick tip you can employ right at this moment is to begin journaling your interactions. In the face of disease that can be transmitted without symptoms we have to take new precautions and this is a simple, free task most anyone can perform.
“Until a vaccine is available, the more we return to normal, the greater our responsibility to society becomes.”
Did you meet anyone unexpectedly today?
Were you in close proximity to that person?
Did you cough more than normal today or experience any other symptoms?
Did you go somewhere high risk? Or interact with someone who may become sick easily?
Make a note on your phone or in a notebook of symptoms, interactions, and abnormal risk. Hopefully, you will never need to use this information, but in an emergency, this tiny task can quickly become invaluable to you and your family.
Finally, as soon as I begin showing symptoms of any infection, remember you are responsible for notifying people you may have exposed. This is a big, scary task. Having a journal of interactions, including brief occurrences will help us notify people more quickly of their exposure, and may even help us to identify how we became infected.
4) Have A ‘Coming Home’ Routine
Typically doctors, nurses, and medical staff are the ones who shoulder the responsibility of creating daily routines to prevent disease spread. For healthy people who are still working or in the community providing aid, this is now becoming part of our daily life. Thinking ahead to create a routine for arriving home can keep you from bringing infectious germs into your home.
Keep in mind your routine may be unique to you and your circumstances. For some this may be as simple as washing hands and cleaning personal items before coming in the house (keys, mobile phones, and things in your pockets). The proactive activity could happen in your front yard, garage, or some condos and apartment building may provide soap or hand sanitizer in the lobby.
Making these practices a habit can help everyone prevent the spread of the disease to our loved ones.
5) Be Considerate of the Most Vulnerable
Healthy people who have the ability to return to work and leisure activities must also spare concern and consideration for those who may never have any semblance of normal in the coming years. The most vulnerable people are groups such as the elderly, pregnant mothers and newborns, and immunocompromised. However, in this group we need to also consider people who are vulnerable due to their socioeconomic status. This may because of lack of resources, information, or living in crowded conditions where social distancing is made impossible. For example we have seen countries where the disease had been somewhat contained, only to ravage through crowded dorms and detention centers holding migrant workers and refugees.
Social distancing has changed our lives. We’ve begun doing more via video calls and online communication than we ever thought possible. However, as we return to gathering socially with family and friends, we should maintain a certain level of caution. This includes distancing or limiting interaction with people who don’t maintain the same level of concern about the virus. We have no way of knowing where someone has been, or their level of exposure to possible infection, our best protection is to be cautious or avoid meeting people in the early days of quarantine ending altogether.
“I was at the pharmacy today and someone was having a coughing fit. I know we were supposed to meet tomorrow, but let’s talk online instead to be safe.” – A Responsible Friend
This does not mean we need to publicly shame people who aren’t following guidelines to our liking. However, we do want to limit interaction with people being casual about virus prevention, irresponsible with their hygiene, or spreading misinformation about the disease. To prevent this from causing friction in the workplace, school, and in social groups, don’t wait until face to face meetings to bring up topics about safety.
7) Enjoy Lunch Alone
One of the things we consider being the most social, may put us in danger — our coveted time eating together at our table. Whenever the time to eat comes around, people should be ready to carve out their own personal space. This is important because when eating you may let your guard down by removing masks and gloves, and relaxing social distancing.
When working or in public, try to maintain your distance from others while eating. For those who can, arrange meetings or work tasks in way that you can eat at home or the car. Other suggestions may be packing snacks or quick meals for work, while saving more substantial meals for home.
Until a vaccine is available, the more we return to normal, the greater our responsibility to society becomes. If we understand this, stay compassionate, and plan accordingly we can help save lives together.
Thank you for reading and if you have other great suggestions during these unprecedented times, please share. We hope you are healthy, stay safe, and appreciate your support of Courageous Kitchen.
The world has been engulfed by the current health crisis surrounding the coronavirus, Covid 19. We have seen global travel come to a halt and local businesses closed indefinitely. As a charity fundraising by offering cooking classes in Bangkok, we have also been impacted by the abrupt end to tourism.
The quiet days however, have given us plenty of time to brainstorm how we as an organization can make a difference in the communities we serve in Bangkok. Like a lot of communities around the world there are areas of the city that have all the perfect conditions for rapid spread of the virus, including: poor sanitation, compact and crowded housing, varied language and cultural contexts
This has forced us to ask difficult questions about the likelihood of an outbreak in those areas, and hypothesize about our response. Today we want to share a few ideas with you, and invite everyone, whether organizations or individuals, to start thinking strategically about assisting the most vulnerable during this time.
Feel free to adapt and expand these ideas for your locality, and to share them with others. We encourage everyone to give to organizations helping this fight, and don’t forget you can make calls and advocate online from the safety of your home.
1) Free Testing and Treatment
The easiest way to help vulnerable people is to make sure they have access to testing and treatment freely. This should happen regardless of people’s ability to pay, or nationality.
“We can’t treat what we can’t track…”
While different governments have had different policies, those most successful in combating the spread understand made testing widely available. We can’t treat what we can’t track, and this virus is unique in its ability to be spread by people with few or no symptoms. If there is no policy for testing and treatment for those at risk, please continue to advocate a vocal advocate for this crucial need on and off line.
2) Quarantine or Isolation Beds
Space is a luxury many communities do not have. While social distancing has become a common term for many, the tactic to prevent the spread is unrealistic, especially in crowded cities. One idea would be to look at repurposing space in communities to provide quarantine or isolation areas. This may mean different things in different places. For some communities the priority may be on housing the homeless temporarily, while other highly dense areas could provide food and shelter to elderly or immunocompromised people most at risk. This may mean rethinking how best community spaces like schools, community centers, and others can best serve. Communities can even repurpose unused space or buildings.
3) Soap & Sanitation Stations
Provide free access to sanitation and supplies that help prevent the spread of the disease. This may mean complex projects like portable sinks or showers, or be as simple as makeshift community refilling stations where people can bring their containers and refill on soap. Masks could be provided freely, or people can learn in small groups how to repurpose household items as makeshift masks and face guards. Weather permitting, this could be done in open air areas in small groups, but it may be best to make these solutions portable to prevent crowding, and reach people with limited mobility.
4) Food Sponsorship Programs
One of the essential businesses allowed to continue operating are restaurants. We can support these local businesses and lean on their relationships with the community to serve the most vulnerable. A simple program would allow me to purchase a meal, while providing a meal to someone else. In turn, restaurants could provide food, cash, or products to local organizations — or even give it our directly to people. Partnerships with schools, churches/ temples, and community centers would speed this response.
5) Donate to Existing Organizations
Find an organization in your area and donate. Choose large and small organizations to support, and especially those who already have programs in place for assisting the sick, elderly, or vulnerable communities.
Keep in mind organizations are under a lot of pressure. They have to provide aid while protecting their staff, and insuring while helping people they are not spreading the virus from one place to another. Remember as the economic impact worsens, small charities who really depend on small $10-$100 individual donations, will see many of these resources dry up.
6) Jail & Detention Moratorium
Included in the communities most at risk to the spread of disease are the incarcerated. We should remember them during this time and be sure they have the supplies and care needed. In most cases you can assume they do not.
Governments should also not use this time to enforce petty laws or warrants. Compassionate responses would include a moratorium on immigration raids and arrests as well. However, it is unlikely government will come to these conclusions on their own and we can be busy advocating for such solutions online or sharing petitions for such calls.
Knowing this can be controversial, we would like to reiterate that this isn’t forgiveness of immigration status, or an end to law enforcement. Instead, it should allow enforcement to focus on the most serious issues, and provides some consideration for exposure and spread of the virus by law enforcement agencies.
7) Bolster Neighborhood Clinics & Pharmacies
We have to do what we can to make sure people can get the medicine they need nearby. This is essential for non covid related issues, and for people whose symptoms are mild enough to recover from the virus at home. This also relieves some pressure from our hospital systems, who are already being overwhelmed in so many places around the world.
8) Sponsorship for the Pregnant and Elderly
Sign up with an org today to sponsor a pregnant woman, or someone who has recently given birth. Make sure these women have the protection and transportation they need to get to hospitals safely. Remember this should include a long term vision for check ups, immunizations, and emergencies. Support for food and housing also helps ensure women and their children are safe and supported during this crisis.
There are so many neglected elderly people everywhere in the world. In addition to checking up on people in your own family, make sure people who don’t have family or resources are well cared for, whether that’s providing cash, groceries, or a friendly weekly checkup call for people who are even more isolated than usual right now.
9) Free Mental Health and Mourning Resources
Are we prepared for the conversation we need to have about mourning people we’ve lost? How do we do this from a distance? Do impoverished communities have the resources they need to deal with the death and burial of someone who dies at home?
There are so many questions to answer about mental health and mourning during this period. While they may seem peripheral to so many other pressing concerns, we should be careful not to be blindsided by the compounding ramifications of the loss of a loved one, isolation, and financial instability.
10) Free Wifi
Sounds simple, but lets not underestimate how much this could make a different in at risk communities.
Having good information and the ability to connect with people from afar has never been so important. Let’s remember people who may not have regular access to the internet, or whose services may be impacted because of loss of work by someone in their family.
Online communication also eases the burden of organizations who may be deciding which situations are most urgent, especially in changing rapidly cases. If people are connected they can be provided information, have that information translated, be entertained, and even talk face to face with volunteer doctors and nurses who can save time and reduce risk with such activities.
We hope these ideas have been helpful for you! Please help us to share and kindly consider visiting our donation page to support our work in Thailand.