One of our favorite recipes, is the super savory and crispy Vietnamese Banh Xeo. A popular street food snack in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh, the yellow tinted crepe has gained popularity throughout many Southeast Asian countries because it can be a cost effective way to feed a big family. This makes it a great recipe for use to teach, as we reach out to families in need in Bangkok.
“I grew up in Vietnam, but we lived in a remote village in the countryside. I never had a chance to have banh xeo until learning to cook with Christy. I can’t wait to try making it for my family.” – Alina, CK Trainee
Just like Alina, there are lots of people who may not have had the joy of enjoying these deliciously crispy crepes. They are more fragile and more deeply savory when compared to western crepes. To master the perfect crunch, you need to steam a thin layer of batter until golden brown and it naturally releases from your pan.
However, the real fun part begins when you see what’s inside. Typically bahn xeo can be stuffed with a choice of chicken, shrimp, ground pork, and bean sprouts. But there’s not reason they can’t be vegan, gluten free, or cooked with whatever ingredients you have in the fridge.
Enjoy Christy and Alina’s rendition of the renowned sizzling crepe below. Remember you can request this dish in our charitable cooking classes, and the proceeds from your cooking class and donations will help us to teach and train more young people to be leaders in the kitchen, and their community like Alina.
Banh Xeo Recipe
Recipe by Christy Innouvong & Alina Xiong
Yields: 10-12 crepes
2 cups soda water
1 bunch of green onion, chopped into centimeter pieces (aka scallion, roughly about 200g)
125 ml of coconut milk (a tap more than half a cup)
140 grams rice flour
1-2 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
200g shredded chicken breast or protein of your choice
Tip: Some versions call for you to stir fry your protein with a tbsp of garlic and onion. This is optional.
Just be sure you cook your filler protein in advance, so you don’t need to overcook your crepe while waiting on the meat to finish cooking.
1 carrot, shredded thinly
300g bean sprouts
Veggies for Wrapping (optional)
You’ll want to wash all your leafy greens well because you will eat them raw. Be sure to leave some extra time for removing them from the stem if needed.
1 bunch of Vietnamese mustard greens
Tip: This can be hard to find. Substitute Vietnamese coriander, perilla leaf, or heart leaf if possible.
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of cilantro
1 head of romaine or similarly leafy lettuce for wrapping
Vietnamese Dipping sauce
Nuoc cham (pronounced NEW-uk jham) aka Vietnamese dipping sauce is traditionally poured over each crepe, or alternatively used for dipping bites of your banh xeo or fried egg rolls.
Here’s a simple recipe for nuoc cham:
1/2 cup of soda water
1/3 cup of fish sauce
1/4 cup of vinegar
3 tbsp of white sugar
2 tbsp of lime juice
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 spicy red chili chopped
Prepare Your Batter
Combine all batter ingredients except scallions in a large mixing bowl for at least 30 minutes before cooking. You can leave refrigerated up to one night before cooking. Add scallions only right before making the crêpes.
Prepare Your Filling
Cook your protein and slice or shred small, so it can easily be eaten when biting into the crepe.
Wash bean sprouts and leafy greens. Keep your leafy greens large and intact, they will be used to wrap bites of your stuffed crepes.
Making the Banh Xeo Crepe (Each takes approx. 5-7 mins)
In a skillet, heat to medium and then turn the heat to low. This is important because if the skillet is too hot, it will burn your crepe before it is fully cooked. Brush some cooking oil (a teaspoon will do) on your skillet and add your batter (approximate ½ a cup). You can pick up the pan and tilt so that the batter covers the entire skillet.
Tip: If you add too much batter, simply pour the excess back into your batter bowl.
Add a little bit more batter if it wasn’t enough to cover the pan, but to achieve a thin, crisp omelette the less batter the better. Add your filling ingredients and cover for 4-5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, the bean sprouts should appear slightly cooked and the batter should also be transparent and crispy around the edges. You can brush a touch of oil around the edges to help lift your crepe.
Remove the lid and fold in half (omelette style), transfer to a plate and serve immediately with greens and dipping sauce on the side.
How to Eat Banh Xeo
Roughly tear your fresh herbs and place on top or inside of crepe. Generally people will chop the crepe in several pieces and eat inside of the large leaves as a wrap. Decide whether you prefer the leaf wrap version, or just want to eat it like a taco. Whatever you choose, be sure to drizzle your nuoc cham sauce over the entire banh xeo crepe. Enjoy!
Time to talk about Bangkok’s fresh fruit buffets! Come to Thailand and experience an overload of tropical fruit, available for ridiculously affordable prices. Imagine kilos of fruit for the price of what people are paying, for a single fruit in colder parts of the world. This makes enjoying fruit in Thailand, easily a bucket list item everyone should be checking off!
We’re blessed to be able to enjoy this fruit regularly and to bring our Bangkok cooking class guests, and street food tour foodies to our favorite local markets. Each time the adventure is a feast for the senses, and we want to answer common Thai fruit questions you may have when planning your trip here.
Gorge of fruit Thai style by hunting these five fruits during your trip!
Mangosteen is one of Thailand’s most loved tropical fruits. If you’re hunting an exotic taste in Bangkok’s markets this fruit is a great place to start. The eye-pleasing spherical purple fruits usually have a sprig of greengage from the top when they’re fresh. You’ll want to pull that off and squeeze the fruit, allowing it to come apart naturally with the interior white and fleshy fruit still intact. The sweet and tart fruit is delicious and will have you coming back for more! Just keep in mind the best mangosteens aren’t in season all year long, but those of you visiting during the rainy season will find them plentiful and cheap.
Durian is the most infamous of fruits on this list. Unlike the unanimously loved queen of the fruits above, this King of the Fruits isn’t for everyone. That’s because the extremely creamy texture, gym sock funky smell, and the mix of sweet and savory this fruit can offer can be off putting.
However, along with tourists gagging on youtube, there are also videos of devotees who swear by the fruit as a sweet, and filling source of natural fat. The breed and quality of durian can vary, so take a Thai friend to your local vendor to help you get what you’re looking for in the $6-10 treat, and write us a comment to let us know whether you’d love it or leave it.
Although there’s some stiff competition, to me rambutan is one of the strangest looking fruits. You’ll know when you’ve spotted them in the market because the appearance is more similar to a multicolored nerf ball, than the juicy fruit you’d expect.
Once the colors on the outside nodes of the rambutan begin to dim, the fruit has started to rapidly ripen. When you’re shopping in Bangkok’s markets, grab the brightest ones and gently squeeze, pulling from both sides until the hull splits somewhere in the middle.
When you enjoy the fruit, be sure to be careful of the scratchy seed on the inside which can pull away with the flesh of fruit and be unpleasant to eat. Buy $3 of this fruit and you may already have more than you can carry!
Mango needs no introduction. The tropical delicacy is idolized in places whose frigid climates could never support their cultivation. Many of our guests also complain that where they live the quality of the imported mangoes isn’t high and they can be bland or difficult to eat.
In Thailand, there are more than 200 hundred types of mangoes. Thais eat them both green, sour, crunchy, and unripe, as well as sweet, succulent, and ripe and juicy. With quality mangoes going for $1-$2 per kilo, this splurge is definitely in your budget when you visit the local Thai market.
Think of this as a jumbo, bland kiwi. You don’t really get the idea behind the name unless you see them when they’re small at the end of their stems, over looking the rest of the plant with its unique dragon-resembling shape. These fruits are best served chilled and should be mildly sweet. In other countries they can be downright bland, so you can also jazz them up with a simple squeeze of lime.
The Best Bangkok Markets to Visit:
Where are the best places to try fruit in Bangkok? Here’s a short list you should add to you itinerary if you’re staying near them on your visit. If not, dig around for the nearest fresh market near your hotel or airbnb, and you should still be able to find an abundance of fresh fruit for cheap!
Or Tor Kor Market
Easily on of Bangkok’s nicest markets, the well lit and organized spot, offers a soft landing to tourists. When you visit, you won’t be able to miss the large corridor where many of the vendors are selling fruit, but look around other spots in the market to spot the odd fruit vendor as well. Don’t forget to stop in the Royal Project Shop on the premises for organic produce as well.
Reach Or Tor Kor Market on public transportation, using the MRT Kampaengphet and BTS Mor Chit Stations. Open 8am-6pm, daily.
Khlong Toey Market
The largest and craziest of Bangkok’s markets, is located quite near the city center. The key to this market having so many ingredients is the strategic location of the nearby ports. If you visit the market above to ease into Bangkok, you visit this market to fully experience the chaos and calamity that a busy Thai market can offer. Renovations have made finding your way around the market easier, but don’t underestimate the crowd, and be aware of vendors who may not like you photographing or touching fruit that you don’t intend to buy.
The closest public transportation to Khlong Toey Market, is the Queen Sirikit MRT Station. Open daily, 24 hours, but for the best produce visit early morning.
Walk through aisles and aisles of fruit in Samrong market, which is easily accessible by skytrain for people living in Eastern Bangkok. The large and stretching market has large fruit vendors, but be on the lookout for the mom and pop vendors who may sell more exotic fruit than what you can source from industrial farms.
Conveniently, the expansive Samrong Market is located just a short walk from the BTS Skytrain Samrong Station. Open 6am-8pm, daily.
8 Tips for Enjoying Thai Fruit
Enjoy with friends – With the fruit so cheap and abundant, you’ll want some friends for backup while enjoying these healthy and delicious treats. A few dollars in Thailand can buy more fruit than you may be able to carry alone.
Peel fruit like a local – If you have a Thai friend, bring them along for your market adventure. Be sure to follow their instructions on how to open your fruit, to keep from getting it all over your clothes! For jumbo fruit like jackfruit and durian, leave it to the local experts, please.
If it’s funky, spit it out – Just like tasting fruit anywhere, occasionally some of the fruit has spoiled or gone bad. If you detect any sores or discoloration on the fruit, or odd smells and tastes, don’t feel pressured to consume it.
If exposed, wash it – Just like you would at home, you want to wash any fruit with edible or porous skin. For fruits with a significant husk, be on the lookout for other pests like ants that may be on the outside, and rinse away dirt to keep in from contaminating other parts of the fruit when peeling.
Be adventurous – Be brave! If the fruit in front of you doesn’t look like something you would normally love, try it anyway. Don’t like the first bite of durian? Try another bite. This isn’t to contradict advice about safety, but to remind you that you have to be adventurous to make the most of the wide range of exotic Thai fruit.
When possible, enjoy chilled – Bangkok is hot and the markets are our favorite places, but they can become sweltering as well. Stay hydrated, and get that fruit back to your fridge where you can chill it and enjoy it even more.
Store properly – If you’re buying fruit you expect to ripen over a few days, take the advice of the vendors on how to store it. For proper maturation, many fruits do not need to be refrigerated. Others, however, may spoil before you have a chance to eat them, if not properly stored.
Dip to enhance flavor – We recommend for your first time trying fruit on its own. However, many Thais enjoy their fruit with tangy, spicy, or sweet condiment sauces. These may range from a fishy sauce for dipping sour mangoes, to sugar-chili mixes for enjoying popular fruit like guava, rose apple, and pineapple.
Consider this a beginner’s guide to a few Thai fruit! There is much more to discover when you’re in Thailand, and we hope this article has helped to stoke your appetite for fruit and foodie adventures.
We’re proud to announce our Bangkok cooking classes have banned the use of single use plastic. Thailand is among the worst plastic polluters in the world, and we hope being the first cooking class to go plastic free will challenge other businesses and people to do the same.
The signs of global climate change can be felt in Bangkok. The temperatures are rising, the city is sinking, and flooding becomes worse every year. The climate crisis is just the backdrop to a culture wide preference for cheap plastics used for on the go food, especially street food, of which Bangkok is known world wide. In fact, we’re still recovering from our cooking class space being flooded last month. This is a problem that can feel overwhelming, so the key is making small changes that can empower us to rethink our impact, and inspire others at the same time.
It started with straws…
We have been weening off of single use plastic for the past year. If you’ve attended our class then you know, we’ve never served plastic straws since our cooking classes started in 2017. Instead guests drink their cooling herbal teas through morning glory (a water spinach that has mostly hollow stems) straws that we provide. They’re not only a better alternative than plastic straws, but have a better mouthfeel than the metal ones, and can be stir fried or thrown in a soup in a pinch. The edible straws have gotten good feedback from our guests as well, and we’ve been building off of this enthusiasm in our war on plastic. We’ve even been bringing our green straws to teach about sustainability in Bangkok’s international schools.
From straws we moved to bowls, probably the most important plate-ware in a Thai household. Here we use a variety of solutions from plain ol’ regular bowls to biodegradable palm wood bowls, and as often as possible plating your food in a natural bowl. This means that pineapple fried rice is served in, well, a pineapple. Your pomelo salad? Dished up in the beautiful carved pomelo bowl. From everything we’ve observed, Thai culture already has the local knowledge to use less plastic. Part of our job is recognizing this wisdom, and turning back the clock to bring some of these trends, such as cooking and packaging food in banana leaves, to our classes and outreach.
There are challenges to going green…
One misconception is about what we mean by refusing to use single use plastic products. We don’t want anyone to think you’ll come to our class and won’t see any plastic present. We do still use reusable plastic containers and plates, as many of the alternatives are considerably more expensive. This is something we want to be transparent about, because ‘plastic free’ seems to mean different things to different people. We’re anti single use plastic and strive not to even accept plastic or styrofoam from vendors in the local market. This means even on our street food tour in Bangkok, you’ll catch our staff bringing our own containers and silverware for you to use to eat!
Also, for many restaurants and food providers like us, there are real food safety concerns when switching from plastic. For example, how do you naturally clean your morning glory straws before giving them to people? These are real challenges we have to spend energy on remedying, and training our staff as we abandon plastic. The hardest thing to give up? Plastic wrap and plastic gloves! We don’t want not using them to increase the chances someone will become sick from what we’re serving. This means being thoughtful about preparing for each class, and making sure our entire team is cognizant about food safety concerns that come along with these changes.
Our mission to be more environmentally friendly isn’t over. We’re learning, growing more of our own food, and doing our best to share what we learn as well. Let’s all strive to do better together!
I remember watching my mother make sticky rice every morning. She’d be up long before the sun. The roosters crowing along to the sound of lukewarm water running through every hand full of starchy grain.
Washing, rinsing, and repeating as the cloudy water floated away.
Soaking, sitting, steaming.
She’d do this day in, day out. Never skipping a beat, never missing a meal.
Piping hot pillowy balls of goodness. Perfectly salted, perfectly sweet. I never realized how much I craved for something so simple. As I grew older, the annoyance of my mother’s 5am cooking call was a missed memory. I longed for the aroma of freshly steamed rice. Searched the blankets for the warm bamboo baskets she kept it in. Hiding it from my siblings and I, until it was cool enough for consumption.
The history of this dish originates from my mothers homeland, Laos. Although you can find it in nearly every Thai market, it is one of those Issan dishes that most Lao people eat daily. Oftentimes, multiple times a day. Sticky rice is a long, white fragrant grain almost only discernible by it’s thickness, compared to traditional jasmine rice. You may find it in San Diego’s asian markets labeled ‘sweet rice’ or ‘glutinous rice’. We use it as the vessel to carry other dishes like stews, dipping sauces known as jeow, or to accompany your favorite meat. Unlike Thailand, Laotians eat almost solely with their hands. Sticky rice balls are our utensils, and you scoop your food with the rice, sharing each meal family style.
Historically Lao people ate sticky rice because it sustained them for long days on the farm. Many of them harvesting their own fields of rice as the wet lowlands provided the perfect burial ground for the coveted glutinous rice seeds. My family still harvests rice in their fields in Northern Thailand. As the days begin and end, they always include a warm Thip Khao (a traditional woven bamboo basket) full of the sticky goodness that is affectionately known as khao niew. These are the moments I now long for as an adult; family meals and shared laughter. Learning the history of how we came to be, honoring the land and our ancestors.
“A single grain of rice can tip the scale. One man may be the difference between victory and defeat.”
– The Emperor in Disney’s Mulan
Christy’s Top 5 Tips on How to Make Sticky Rice at Home
Buy the correct rice. Many people don’t know that sticky rice is a species of rice, often referred to as glutinous rice.
If you plan to make it often, consider investing in the bamboo basket to make it the traditional way. Other clever ways include making it in a pressure cooker with options for different types of rice grains.
Don’t wait until you’re hungry to make sticky rice. The process is long. Prepare ahead, washing and soaking your rice the night before you plan to cook it.
A little plastic wrap on the spoon or bowl used for scooping and molding the rice keeps the rice from sticking to it!
Sticky rice is both a dinner staple and a dinner utensil. When the food is ready, this isn’t the time to be posh! Instead use your hands to ball up the sticky rice and dip it into the food you’re eating.
Most of you know Alina as your favorite Thai cooking teacher who’s greeted you, and taken you to the market in our Bangkok cooking class. In the nearly 3 years she’s worked with us, we’ve seen her transition from shy rice farmer, to a fiery force in the kitchen.
Here are 10 quick questions to help you get to know this ambitious young woman, who we believe is a natural born leader.
What’s your favorite dish to eat?
Cheeseburgers and tom yum goong, but it depends on the cheese. I like the fake kind!
What’s your favorite dish to make?
Thai curries I think. Because I like making the curry paste from scratch.
What’s the best part of working at Courageous Kitchen?
Teaching tourists how to cook Thai food. It helps me improve my English, meet new people, and gain cool opportunities.
What has been the highlight of your time here?
I met my idol, Chef Ian Kittichai, and cooked Massaman curry with him. I learned new techniques that I use to make my curry now.
What are you most proud of?
I like discovering new recipes and creating cooking videos to teach kids. I can’t believe I can make my own videos, it’s really hard!
When you’re not cooking, what do you like to do?
I like to garden, go out to eat, and love going to the movies!
If you could travel anywhere where would it be?
New York City. I’ve always heard about it, and it looks beautiful.
What do you like to teach?
I like to teach cooking. My passion is cooking so it makes me happy every time I share my recipes.
What is your superpower?
What does courage mean to you?
To be beautiful, to have confidence, and to fight for your life.
The kitchen is a special classroom, where students can be given the power to create, collaborate, and thrive! We believe this to the core, we preach it, and try to live by it. But we are also quick to admit the kitchen isn’t the only place children can express themselves, and learn new skills. In a recent Saturday cooking and jam session, our Courageous Kitchen students welcomed children from the Khlong Toey Music Program (KTMP) for a memorable afternoon.
If you’re unfamiliar, the KTMP music program is named for one the most infamous slums in Bangkok, Khlong Toey. Despite the rough surroundings, there’s important work happening in their community, and KTMP is part of the change that’s happening in this overlooked area of Bangkok. With a similar ethos to Courageous Kitchen, KTMP believes children deserve a safe place to learn, especially because of the pernicious nature of the cycle of poverty. Instead of proselytizing the way of the wok and other culinary arts like us, their program teaches guitar, drums, and several other instruments, adding English and other extracurriculars as often as possible. Each time the students have an opportunity to perform, they earn new fans across the city of Bangkok and online!
Still kids, even the ones gaining fans each week through their music on facebook and youtube, get nervous meeting other children. For this reason, we didn’t jump right into learning to play music when our two student groups came together. First we had to get to know each other. So to kick things off, we began the day with fun ice breaking games. The games required the students to interact with one another, learning each other’s names, and teaming up to identify vocabulary words faster than other teams.
The instruments made an appearance after we got to know each other and whoa did it get noisy! The students and teachers dispersed themselves around the room teaching the same melody, with a different instrument in each group. There was an entire section dedicated to our mini percussionists, the singers and ukulele players claimed the center of the room, and the electric and acoustic guitar fans filled the gap on the other side. I’d compare the sound and fury of the activity to having a baby elephant dancing in your kitchen. But despite what it did to our eardrums, looking around at the excitement on all the children’s faces as the instrument workshop began, was incredibly rewarding.
Low thuds, random strings, and excited voices filled the room as the students began to get the hang of the instruments. The KTMP teachers encouraged the children to change groups once they had the melody down, much to the excitement of the girls torn between playing the drums, and switching into guitar hero mode on KTMP’s shiny electric guitars. Knowing the kids would be working up an appetite, our kitchen team was rendering the fat off a kilo of shrimp. They would go on to use the fatty oils from cooking the shrimp, to toss egg noodles before serving.
Days before this event, we held meetings to debate what to serve our new friends at KTMP. On such a fun day, we wanted to serve familiar food that the kids would gobble down, but with a Courageous Kitchen twist. Cooking up ‘mama’ noodles easily won by popular vote. Named for the most popular brand of instant noodles in Thailand, mama noodles are popular in the low key street food stalls all over the country. The noodles are well known as a nostalgic childhood snack. However, instead of making a broth full of the msg filled flavoring packets, we made our own giant pot of creamy tom yum broth to serve our hungry little musicians.
As the scent of shrimp tinged egg noodles, and lemongrass broth began to fill the house, full bars of notes were beginning to tumble out as well. The practice was paying off, and the students were becoming more confident playing the song. Soon they would play it together, Thai, refugee, and migrant kids, all strumming to the same rhythm. For the finale, the KTMP youth performed a few more songs, before everyone agreed it was time to eat. The noodles were ready to eat, but the kids quickly organized into teams, some making spring rolls to eat with their noodles, while the others were ready for a cooling dessert snack.
There’s more you should know about the special students from KTMP. They didn’t just show up for tom yum noodles. They have been hearing about Courageous Kitchen for weeks, selecting us as the charity they most wanted interact with and help. In the lead up to meeting each other, they used the power of their music, performing and spreading awareness to raise money for us. In a few short weeks the students, supported by their tireless teachers, raised and donated nearly 14,000 baht (about $440) to help children in our program!