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.
CSA Box: 400-700 baht (on a monthly subscription basis, delivery not included)
6 Tips for CSA Newbies:
Be flexible. At the heart of CSA is being open to what farmers have on offer. Take that spirit into the kitchen when preparing and making use of your produce.
When in doubt, stir fry. Don’t have time to look for a recipe for those alien looking leaves and veggies? Don’t stress. Throw them in the wok with noodles and your favorite seasoning.
Covid-19 isn’t a foodborne illness. While you should be cautious with everything at the moment, food is an arena with fewer worries. Don’t get lax though, continue to wash your hands, surfaces, and produce religiously.
Prevent spoiling. When your veggies arrive, have a plan for how to store them. Keep in mind some fruits do better outside of the fridge. Do your best not to forget about them because organic veg doesn’t have the same shelf life we’ve become accustomed to with things from the grocery store.
Share. Got ideas on a great smoothie for digestion? Created a recipe apt for seasonal veg? Love to pickle, candy, and jam your produce? Be sure to spread those ideas, especially among our youth!
Ask. Don’t know a vegetable? Ask your producers or online community. Need a quick answer? Try one of the many free apps like ‘PictureThis’ for a quick and fairly accurate answer.
Hey Bangkokians, we hope this list is helpful for you, especially during times when people are doing their best to avoid venturing too far from home.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, and we know there may be more new companies in the future. With all of the options, be sure to share with friends and in your favorite online communities. Be safe and support a farmer!
Whether stir frying or making curry paste, sauces matter when cooking your favorite asian recipes! But what can you substitute for fish sauce and shrimp paste if you’re cooking for someone who can’t have them?
If it’s your first time here, welcome to Courageous Kitchen. In our cooking classes in Bangkok, we specialize in helping guests cook their favorite Thai dishes. One of our biggest duties is helping everyone to work around any dietary restrictions they may have. Here are a few of the questions we hear most often, but if you have more, please let us know.
Does vegan fish sauce exist?
Yes, it’s called soy sauce! Soy sauce is amazing and comes in several brands and varieties. You may need to experiment some to find the ones you enjoy best, and expect brands from different countries to vary widely.
What’s the difference between light and dark soy sauce?
Light soy sauce usually refers to the most common type of soy sauce which has a thin consistency. Dark soy sauce is darker, thicker and pretty much its own beast.
Typically dark soy sauce is cloying and has a bitter after taste. Although we refer to it as ‘soy sauce’ it is mostly made of molasses. Typically to make it thick some sort of wheat flour is added which makes finding a gluten free version tough.
Is there a soy free alternative to soy sauce?
Your best soy free alternative would be using a high quality salt.
We also see coconut aminos recommended, but haven’t found them to be widely available.
Are there gluten free soy sauce options?
We are also starting to see more gluten free version of soy sauce become available. We have spotted Megachef with gluten free packaging in the US, and even in Thailand brands like the Healthy Boy Brand. With all of these purchases, be sure to check the labels. The Megachef brand is gluten free and made from non GMO soy beans. However, the gluten free Healthy Boy Brand sauce does not include wheat flour of course, but MSG (mono sodium glutamate) is included among the ingredients.
Is there a vegan alternative to shrimp paste?
If you’re buying curry paste or making your own, you may often find shrimp paste included as an ingredient. One way to replace that salty and umami taste that shrimp paste adds is to substitute in fermented soy paste or miso.
Also we are starting to see some vegetarian shrimp paste alternatives come to the market, but have not seen them widely available.
What are the best curry pastes for people with dietary restrictions?
There are so many curry pastes available on the market, so this is difficult to make a recommendation. If you can find it, we do recommend the WorldFoods Brand of curry pastes because they’re available around the world and have more than just green and red curry options. They typically meet most dietary restrictions as well, including being MSG-free, gluten free, and certified halal. However, our best suggestion is to always check the ingredients listed on the packet you find.
Of course, making your own curry paste is always the best option if you have time. Not only can you dictate which ingredients to use, we believe you’ll find a noticeable difference in the taste from the fresh spices.
What other vegan seasoning do you recommend?
We love using liquid aminos, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast to create the meat free variations of our favorite asian and western dishes. If you stir fry often, remember you can create a premade vegan stir fry sauce to cut down on your prep time in the kitchen.
If you cook vegan food often you also always want to have great spices on hand. This means keeping your favorite fragrant dry spices like different types of pepper, star anise, and cinnamon. You’re well served to have fresh herbs like lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and shallots as well.
Thanks for your visit to Courageous Kitchen, show your support for articles like this one by supporting our nonprofit on our donation page.
We’re hosting our very first plant based cooking class in Bangkok. The event will be a Thai language class taking place on Monday, March 23rd at 3pm. Guests who book will have the opportunity to learn how to make 5 plant based dishes. The workshop style dinner experience should be a fun time of learning and celebrating healthy eating together.
Instruction for the class will be in Thai, led by Panisha Chanwilai, a manager at Courageous Kitchen. Panisha grew up helping her mom in the kitchen, who let her assist, as she made spicy Southern Thai dishes. Panisha converted from the hectic office lifestyle and diet, to become a food and nutrition enthusiast. Today she is a plant based eating devotee and trainer, endlessly experimenting with new ingredients. She will share about her journey, and why she believes plant based eating may be more simple than you believe.
The workshop and dinner is aimed at busy Thais who may not have time to do recipe research or spend hours cooking. Panisha has done her best to simplify a few of her favorite dishes, and is excited to share them with an open minded group. She hopes all of the participants walk away more confident in their ability to create healthy, nutritious meals at home.
The dishes include:
1. Spicy Smoked Eggplant Dip, Nam Prik Ma Kua Yao น้ำพริกมะเขือยาว
2. Spicy Mushroom Salad, Yum Hed Ruam ยำเห็ดรวม
3. Stir Fried Red Curry with Tempeh, Tempeh Pad Prik Kaeng เทมเป้ผัดพริกแกง
4. Essential Veggie Soup, Kaeng Jued แกงจืดหมูก้อนวีแกน
5. Coconut Snowballs, Kanom Tom ขนมต้ม
The cost to participate in this inaugural plant based cooking class is 1000 baht per person. The dinner is limited to 15 participants and takes place in Panisha’s home in Sukhumvit 101/1. Book your seat by sending your bank transfer receipt to line id panisha_p. Detailed directions will be sent to all confirmed guests.
Among Bangkok’s street food, you might call them the ‘traffic jam’ bananas.
And if you’ve ever been to Bangkok’s old town, you likely know exactly the sweet, deep fried, and super crispy bananas we mean. In this historic part of the city it isn’t uncommon to be at a busy intersection and see vendors selling bags of fried bananas while wading out into the oncoming traffic. Often this takes advantage of traffic already at a standstill in Bangkok, but hungry motorist can also be blamed for creating a traffic jam while lining up for fried bananas as well!
But Bangkok’s most controversial street food snack isn’t too difficult to make at home. We’ve been testing our recipe in the Courageous Kitchen, making adjustments each time, to make it easy for you to follow at home. All you need to do is gather the ingredients for your batter, and find ripe bananas.
In Thailand, the task of gathering quality bananas a bit easier thanks to the biodiversity of the banana plants grown around country. Thailand is home to nearly 30 types of banana, with many of the popular ones available in local fresh markets and grocery stores. Arriving from farms all over the country, the bananas appear in different shapes and sizes, unfamiliar to people who are used to the limited options in the West. Thais instead have the luxury of choosing between ‘kluay hom’ fragrant bananas, chubby sweet ‘nam va’ banana, and creamy ‘kluay kai’ bananas, to name a few.
Don’t worry if you don’t have many choices, and remember sweet plantains can also be used. Go for whichever bananas you can find, and prep them to fry just as they begin to ripen. Act quickly, however, because if you let them get too ripe, they may become too soft and mushy. This makes the bananas more difficult to work with and you reduce your chances of a crispy end product.
Slice your bananas long and finger length to make them easy to eat. As you slice them you can drop them into the batter and they’ll be ready to fry. Fry until golden brown, and drain. You’ll have accomplished your mission if your fried bananas are still crunchy and tasty after they have cooled down.
bananas – 1 kg of bananas (1 bunch) cooking oil – 1 liter coconut milk – 2 cups rice flour – 1 cup sticky rice flour – 1/4 cup tapioca starch – 1/2 cup sugar – 2 tbsp salt – 1 tbsp shredded coconut – 1 cup baking powder – 2 tsp white sesame – 1 tsp black sesame – 1 tsp (optional to mix white and black or 2 tsp of either will work as well) powdered sugar (optional for garnish)
Fried Banana Instructions:
Heat your oil in a deep wok or pot. The oil is ready when it is over 100 degrees celsius (210F)
Mix dry ingredients, except your shredded coconut and sesame.
Add coconut milk and whisk well. The texture shouldn’t be overly watery or dry, similar to pancake batter.
Finally, add your coconut and sesame. Spread evenly, but don’t mix thoroughly, because we want these ingredients to coat the banana as you dip them and not get stuck at the bottom of your mixing bowl.
Dredge your bananas, allowing the excess batter to fall back into the bowl. Then drop into the oil.
Cook for 3-5 minutes, flipping occasionally until golden brown.
Rest to cool and allow excess oil to run off. If desired, decorate with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Note: Keep in mind the temperature may vary for different types of oil. If your bananas are taking too long, you may want to increase the temperature.
What makes Thai fried bananas so special?
The Thai fried banana may be more unique than others you have tried around the world. This is likely because of the widespread street food culture, and the availability of fresh ingredients. The best vendors in Bangkok, along with having a great selection of flavorful banana species, likely also utilize fresh shredded coconut and fresh coconut milk in their frying batter.
The ingredients add to the fragrance of the snack, and lend some stretchy density to the crust in each bite. The snack holds up, retaining it’s crunch even long after being removed from your frying pan or wok. In our cooking classes, this means guests can pair the fried banana with ice cream, or if they’re super full take them home and enjoy them later.
What if I don’t have the shredded coconut?
You can make this recipe without the coconut, but coconut lends both fragrance and texture to the snack. We used fresh shredded coconut, but understand most people may only be able to find dehydrated coconut flakes.
The bananas will cook a lot faster without the coconut in the batter. So pay attention to them while they’re in the oil, and adjust the cooking time as needed.
What can I do with the leftover batter?
We have used the same batter to fry mushrooms, chili, sweet potato, and pumpkin. If you have more veggies or fruit you want to give a whirl while your oil is hot, give it a try! However, since it’s is coconut milk based it usually does not last long, nor does it reheat well. For these reasons when there’s leftover batter, we make the most of it by frying up whatever we have in the fridge. For more savory vegetables, enjoy them with sriracha or the spicy hot sauce of your choice.
Why is this Bangkok’s most controversial street food snack?
In a city where you can find deep fried scorpions on a stick, it may be a shock to learn Bangkok’s most controversial street food is also one that’s easy to eat. However, people’s affection for the street food bananas, and how portable they are, definitely factor into all of the hype and controversy you may not have known about if you live outside of Bangkok.
For years the local city municipalities have tried to end the practice of walking into traffic to sell the bananas. This happens at big intersections in old town, and at the traffic light in front of Bangkok’s Nung Lerng Market.
For the most part, in the public eye and even with authorities like the Thai Royal Police who are tasked with enforcing rules against such vending, opposition to the sales have been mixed. Police have been known to feign enforcement, only to work out a separate deal with the vendors themselves (with a few free bags of fried bananas thrown in we’re sure).
However, the tide may finally be turning as street food everywhere in Bangkok has taken a hit since government crackdowns began in 2018. More enforcement from the government means fewer spaces to vend, and more intense competition with nearby competitors, displacing some vendors and eventually driving others out of business. Like all vendors around the city, even those who could be considered the most menacing are facing an uncertain future over the next few years.
This month don’t miss, Ladakh – Land in the Clouds, a special photography exhibition in Bangkok. The exhibition is by David Simon, an expat living in Bangkok who leads adventurous motorcycle tours when he’s not teaching at a local international school. As with David’s tours, the photographs also attempt to take viewers on an adventurous journey through the stunning Indian countryside.
The focus of the photographs is the province of Ladkh, India. David considers the area one of the most beautiful on earth. Unfortunately, despite the raw natural beauty of the surroundings, few people know about Ladakh, because conflict in the region has also made it one of the world’s most disputed areas.
The exhibition launch will be held March 14th, from 4pm until 6pm. The prints will be on display throughout Cajutan Swedish Restaurant, and cost 2,500 each to purchase. Following the launch event, guests are invited to enjoy a sunset drink on the Cajutan rooftop.
Proceeds from the sale of prints will go to benefit Courageous Kitchen’s work with marginalized communities in Bangkok. The support is particularly timely as the impact of the coronavirus has crippled the organization’s social enterprise offering Thai cooking classes to tourists.