Happy 2019 everyone! We finished 2018 on a high, hosting a record number of families in our kids cooking class. So we want to continue to encourage people to get into the kitchen as a family throughout 2019, starting with the first holiday on the calendar, Thai Children’s Day!
For the occasion we’re sharing a special recipe that’s easy for kids, tasty for adults, and doesn’t create too much of a mess in the kitchen. The tasty recipe we chose is Thai Coconut Pancakes!
We have been making this simple recipes in our cooking classes, and recently took St. Andrews school, to teach 8-11 year old students in the Eco-Beasts program, while discussing eco-friendly food and packaging.
Now it’s your turn to make this simple Thai recipe! There are only 5 ingredients. Share these tasty treats by cooking and eating them with your family. If you love them, remember to support Courageous Kitchen with a donation to help us provide food and education to marginalized youth in Bangkok!
This recipes makes 12-15 silver dollar sized pancakes.
2 cups of sticky rice flour
2 cups of shredded coconut
1 cup of coconut milk
1/3 cup of rice flour
1/3 cup of white sugar
Thai Coconut Pancake Instructions
Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add a tap of extra coconut milk if it doesn’t whisk smoothly.
Put a non-stick pan on medium heat, pouring the batter carefully.
When you begin to see bubbles in your pancakes, flip them until they’ve been suitably browned on each side. If your pan is warm enough, this should take only 2-3 minutes on each side.
Allow to cool and serve the hot Thai pancakes on banana leaf instead of plastic or styrofoam!
Can I use other fruit in the pancake instead of coconut?
This isn’t a great recipe if you’re not a fan of coconut, because it includes both shredded coconut and coconut milk. However, you can substitute the 2 cups of shredded coconut with 2 bananas, and make the very banana flavored version. The students we met at St. Andrews recently couldn’t decide which version they liked best!
Why does it seem like so much sugar?
When mixing the batter it can seem that you’re using a lot of sugar. However remember that you’re also getting sweetness from your shredded coconut. The pancakes should ideally be sweet enough that you do not need to add any syrup or butter, making them a significantly healthier snack or breakfast choice than traditional western pancakes.
Do street food vendors sell these coconut pancakes?
You can find these coconut pancakes at the street food vendors in Bangkok, however, they will be a different style. The type featured in this Children’s Day recipe is called paengji (แป้งจี่), but the type you see more commonly on the street is kanom babin (บ้าบิ่น). You can differentiate them easily because kanom babin is usually smaller and a variety of colors from including taro or pandan. If you spot them have a try, they are equally delicious!
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 you can support Courageous Kitchen, with a cup of coffee, and when gifting coffee to a loved one. By purchasing a monthly subscription, you’ll receive two fair trade bags of high quality, whole or ground beans AND help us continue to provide food aid and education to marginalized youth.
Our roasters believe that coffee’s cultural pervasiveness has a unique advantage to shine light in dark places. They’ve sourced direct-trade beans from under-funded farmers, addressing the power imbalances typically found in organic growing methods. These ethical sourcing methods incentivize the quality of the beans. Whether bold, blonde, sweet, or rich, the distinct blends focus on the nuance and personality of each bean and region.
Were currently offering three single origin choices:
Light | Ethiopian Coffee
Medium | Colombian Coffee
Dark | Guatemalan Coffee
By purchasing a monthly coffee subscription you’re helping us supply a family with rice, and other supplies that will help combat the ills of malnutrition. Let’s share the beauty of speciality coffee, provide a fair wage to farmers, and spread love to the families in need this holiday!
Christy is the San Diego based Deputy Director of Courageous Kitchen. She strongly believes kitchens are the best classrooms.
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!
The creators of the Netflix show Chef's Table will soon debut a series dedicated to Asia's heroes of street food to the network. When guests on our own street food tour first mentioned this show's upcoming launch, it was hard not to feel excitement followed swiftly...
In addition to the services we provide to marginalized families in Bangkok, co-founder Christy Innouvong has been helping a special new family learn to thrive in San Diego, California. After helping launch our cooking classes in Bangkok in 2017, Christy returned to...
February is an exciting month for Courageous Kitchen! Not only have our weekend classes for at risk youth began again, but there are lots of other food and travel happenings this time of year. Most notably, one of our founders, Dwight Turner, will be speaking at The...
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.
We first met Chef Josh Venne a few years ago when he was touring the world. He made a stopover in Bangkok (one of his favorite cities) and reached out to us. His passion for service, culture, and food deeply aligned with our mission, and naturally he dove right in the kitchen and instantly became part of our Courageous Kitchen family.
We wanted you to get to know him, and asked him to share his story with us. In the interview below he gets candid, reminding us why it’s so important for us to share stories of overcoming struggle with our young leaders. Journeys from tragedy into triumph like Josh’s, inspire us, and give much needed hope to our students.
Read below to learn more about Chef Josh and see why he exemplifies courage in every way!
Q: I love how you’re making a name for yourself in an unconventional way. How long did it take you to get to this point?
So glad to hear it! I started cooking around the age of five for my siblings, and used it as a great stress reliever. I was interested in food very early and essentially wanted to be able to cook and eat every thing possible. When I was 15 I realized I wanted to pursue a career in food which was actually quite lucky. Some people take a lot longer so I was able to focus early and get lots of experience. Since then I have worked in some 25+ kitchens in five states in the USA. I have also traveled to 40+ countries for food research, and that’s really given me a huge base of experience and probably given me a good deal of an edge on my competition in the USA.
Many people are becoming more and more familiar with obscure cuisines. Take Thai food for example, there is so much more to it than just curries and papaya salad. Although I love the mainstays such as those, the more people learn about different cuisines and culture, the more I can cook things out of their normal comfort zone.
Q: What got you interested in food and sharing it with others, and when did you realize you had a knack for it?
I am heavily self-taught but I also graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, highly regarded as the best culinary school in the USA and one of the best in the world. However class learning is no replacement for experience, so I believe I have a good collection of both.
“It gave me a sense of purpose and satisfaction that not much else did.”
When I was younger, often times I would be forced to cook for myself and sometimes my siblings out of necessity. I would let friends try my items and got a great sense of pleasure from that. I also starting working at a pizza place in my young teenage years so that was a great source of pleasure as well. We wouldn’t cook much from scratch, but sometimes when we would run out of things made not in house, for example alfredo sauce, I remember making it from scratch, and completely baffling co-workers. After an especially stressful day at home, I would make large batches of things like Shepard’s pie and Bolognese. It was always way too much so I would gift it to friends. I realized I had a special gift to be able to not only taste items and make them my own, but that I also needed to share my gift with as many people as I could. It gave me a sense of purpose and satisfaction that not much else did.
Q: As a first-gen Lao American, I never wanted to embrace my Asian identity until I was much older. Have you always been a proud Asian American, or has it been a slow realization?
My mother was born in Korea, and had a pretty horrific childhood that plagued her entire life, and ultimately led to her death when I was 17, of a heroin overdose. She just couldn’t escape the darkness that followed her. She was adopted around age 8 I believe, to a single Irish woman who taught English in Massachusetts. My father was born in the USA to a German immigrant. Some of his siblings were born in the USA, and some in Germany.
I wouldn’t say I proudly identify as either German or Korean, but as an amalgamation of the both. Culturally I grew up in German influenced Massachusetts, with a little Irish culture peppered in. Korean culture wasn’t present because as my mom left when she was so young. We would occasionally go to the Korean market and get lots of panchan kimchee, and spicy marinated shiso leaves (my favorite), but that’s about it. Traveling around the world, and especially Asia, was certainly influenced by that.
But mostly I grew up eating American food with Massachusetts and German influence. Pasta, potatoes with kielbasa, schnitzel, German potato salad, sauerbraten, etc. The biggest influence is probably coastal Massachusetts. So I often cook seafood, lobster boils, and Portuguese influenced stews. Korean and German food make their way into my cuisine but not super often.
Q: Courageous Kitchen works with several refugee youth providing food education and teaching basic nutrition skills. What advice can you give to some of our students who may be in a situation similar to what your family experienced?
“Positivity breeds opportunity.”
Just keep pushing forward. Focus on the positive and try to ignore the negative. Positivity breeds opportunity. No one wants to take a chance on someone being negative and sad. Try to do things that advance your life, career, and display the positive parts of your day and feelings. It will help if you surround yourself with other positive people and never look back.
Q: Can you tell me what being courageous means to you?
Being courageous means to be brave in the face of danger and opposition. Life will only get harder, so I like to face the hardships head on to conquer them. Being courageous means getting out of your comfort zone and doing things that can be frightening. It also means going against the grain even if people don’t like it or approve. It also means being somewhat selfish at times.
For example, some people may not appreciate being served fish or other meat with the head still on. I will do whatever is needed to keep a dish enjoyable and authentic. It may not be well received by the majority, but if it is true to what makes the dish memorable for me, I do it. This keeps me innovating and pushing to educate and help people explore culture through cuisine.
Q: What have been the highlight moments of your culinary career? Alternatively, what have been the most challenging?
Catering my first solo wedding when I was 21, I was faced with every possible obstacle. The presents got stolen, the power went out, we were missing tons of ingredients, guests stole someone else’s plate while they were in the restroom, etc. but I still made it happen.
Taking my first solo trip to Taiwan was eye-opening. I realized I didn’t need a friend to travel with, and since then I’ve been to over 40 countries. So my highlight would be the opportunity to taste awesome food I would have never been able to try in the USA. And, of course, the weird stuff, like dog, eggs fermented in horse urine, bats, tarantulas, etc.
Q: I know you’ve got a lot going on — i.e. private events, catering, traveling and cooking classes in the mix. What’s next for you?
Right now I am trying to secure a job in the private chef sector. Restaurant work in amazing and fun but not financially rewarding. I’m ready to stay somewhat permanent for a bit and chip away at my student loan debt. In five years I’d love to be debt free, and starting to save to open my own restaurant. I’d like to focus on fast casual so more people can enjoy my food rather than fine dining. I’d also liked to be married or almost married with kids in the near future.
Q: Can you share your favorite recipe with our readers?
This is tricky, but I will share my scallion pancake recipe that really carried The Beacon Bite, the food trailer I previously co-owned in Beacon, NY. It is a yeast risen pancake that acted as a vehicle for our Korean marinated pork wrap.
All purpose flour, one part
Bread flour, three parts
Water, warm 1 part (by weight)
Salt, 1 pinch
Yeast, 1 tsp per cup of flour
Thinly sliced scallions
Sauce made of soy, sesame oil, mirin, rice wine
Mix the yeast in the warm water. Mix the flour with salt in a mixer or by hand. Pour in the water and mix gradually. If it needs a little water or flour to adjust consistency, add it. The dough should be homogenous and slightly sticky. Work the dough until the gluten is well developed and the dough bounces back almost fully when you stick your finger in.
Portion the dough into dough balls 3-6 ounces as desired. Roll nicely and rest on sheet tray while you cut the scallions and make the sauce.
Roll the dough ball into a kind-of flat circle, using a rolling pin and as little flour as possible. Brush the sauce on the entire surface facing you, and sprinkle lightly with scallions. Roll the dough up tight, into a long snake. Then coil the dough onto itself and squish it together. The last tip may need a pinky finger full of sauce to stick. Flatten the dough out with your hand and roll again into a perfect circle again using as little flour as possible. They may need to rest a bit before to let the gluten relax.
Cook the pancake on a flattop or pan with a little cooking oil. Enjoy with the sauce you made for dipping, or stuff as a wrap with meat, vegetables, mayo, etc. At the Beacon Bite we did a spicy gochujang marinated pork shoulder with sesame carrot slaw and toasted chili mayo.
We are grateful to call Chef Josh Venne a good friend, and thankful to him for sharing, and serving our community with his whole heart. His love of adventure shines through in his cooking, his infectious smile, and his zest for life.
To connect with Chef Josh, find him on instagram as @jawshey.