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.
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!
Hey parents! Welcome to the Courageous Kitchen, we’ve got a fun recipe to share with you today. If you haven’t been on our site before, we’re a charity helping marginalized youth in Bangkok, and funded by guests taking our cooking classes and tours. Today we’re taking Thailand’s iconic pad thai recipe from our classes, keeping the dish’s Thainess intact, while making it fun for kids (and easy for parents).
One of the classes we offer is a cooking class for kids and families, and pad thai is often a favorite of our visitors. However if we want everyone to enjoy their own plate of pad thai, we’ll usually have the parents making a traditional pad thai recipe, but do a simplified version for the kids using instant noodles. So today’s recipe has been battle tested both with the refugee kids we serve as a charity, and with many of you who stop by during your travels in Bangkok to support us.
Why is Cooking Pad Thai so Difficult?
For those unfamiliar, pad thai is the iconic Thai dish most famous as the ambassador of Thai food to countries in the west. For example in the US, newcomers to the cuisine often make this steamy hot plate of noodles their first stop. The sticky noodles are delicious when hot, eye pleasing, especially when decorated with shrimp, and unlike some Thai dishes, not going to burn you with spice.
Pad Thai recently made our list of Thailand’s best noodle dishes, but we must admit recreating a delicious version at home is a challenge. This is largely because of ingredients that are hard to find, or misunderstood. When you search the internet you also have a barrage of recipes, many of which look and taste nothing like the delicious plates you may have tried in Thailand.
Today we want to offer you an easy pad thai recipe, that’s appropriate for kids and really tasty. To make it we’ve omitted much of the long list of ingredients, including components like the toasted peanut garnish, which many children may have an allergy to anyway.
Your focus, instead of giant shopping list of exotic ingredients, is instead on making a delicious sauce. If you can master the sauce below, that’s half the victory already claimed! Later we’ll stir fry it with instant noodles, but if you keep some of your soon-to-be-famous pad thai sauce stocked, it can be an easy dish to whip up in a pinch.
Kid’s Pad Thai Sauce Recipe
This sauce recipe is enough for 4-5 portions of noodles. If you’re happy with the first round, make it in a larger batch and keep refrigerated for whenever pad thai cravings may strike.
1 cup tomato ketchup
Tip: Unlike sour tamarind juice, this is likely already available in your fridge!
1 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
Tip: If you’re using another type of sugar such as palm, agave, or natural sugar, simply add to taste.
1/4 cup fish sauce
Tip: Go meatless and substitute in high quality salt or soy sauce to taste.
1/3 cup vinegar
1 tsp paprika
Grab a non-stick pan and put it on low heat.
Add all of your ingredients, mix, and reduce on low for 30 minutes.
Remember to stir as it reduces, and when ready, it should be thick enough to easily coat any type of noodles you use.
Allow to cool and store in the fridge. If refrigerated, this easy pad thai sauce should last a few weeks.
Tip: Use the sauce for other things! If you’re happy with the sauce and the kids like it, use it for whatever suits you. Dip chicken nuggets, use to flavor your kid’s fried rice, or instead of plain ketchup on french fries.
Kid’s Pad Thai Recipe
1 pack of instant noodles
Tip: The size of the noodle packs may vary by brand, but typically they are 60-80g per pack. That’s filling portion for kids 9 and up, so adjust as necessary.
50g tofu, chopped into small squares
1 handful of blanched Chinese kale, broccoli, or the veg of your choice
Small handful of bean sprouts
2 tbsp of pad thai sauce
1 tbsp of oil for stir frying
Tip: Our kids don’t like lime. Do yours? If so, make this an optional garnish, along with a few more bean sprouts on your child’s plate!
Blanch any vegetables you want to add by dipping into boiling water for a few minutes (for Chinese kale this usually takes about one minute in boiling water).
Remove from the boiling water and add to ice water to stop the vegetables from cooking, and preserve the fresh color.
Use the same boiling water now to quickly boil your noodles. Most instant noodles will only take 1-2 minutes to become soft. Set aside.
Add oil to your wok or non stick pan. Follow with your chicken and cook until the color changes.
Add your vegetables to your cooked chicken, along with tofu. Stir quickly to heat the vegetables up.
Now add your cooked instant noodles and mix well.
Add bean sprouts and your pad thai sauce.
Mix everything and push to the side of the pan, away from the heat. In the hot portion of the pan crack and scramble your egg, stirring vigorously until cooked.
Once the egg is cooked, mix with all of the other ingredients and turn off the heat.
Now that you’ve mastered the sauce, you’re ready to get to the stir frying. Once your ingredients are prepared, this should go rather quickly. Follow the instructions below, and remember not to feel as though you can’t improvise the recipe to slip in more veggies, or even to omit meat in the dish entirely.
Thanks for trying out the Courageous Kitchen recipe for kid’s pad thai. We hope you have an opportunity to cook it together as a family, and enjoy a taste of Thailand wherever you are around the world. Please take a moment to get to know us better, by following our food and charitable adventures on facebook and instagram. As always, happy cooking!
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!
“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 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...
Last month we featured the powerfully spicy, but often misunderstood drunken noodle recipe to assist you with letting the heat linger on beyond the end of summer. This month the vibrant red chili residue on our fingers may be reminiscent of a scene from Halloween, but we promise it won’t burn you nearly as bad as last month’s devilishly tasty noodles. In Thailand October’s biggest holiday isn’t Halloween. Instead of spooky decorations, the country is anxiously preparing to cover food stalls in little yellow flags for the celebration of the Vegetarian Festival.
For the occasion we’re making Thai nam prik pow jay (น้ำพริกเผาเจ), often referred to in recipes as Thai chili jam. For example, you can find it used in classic renditions of tom yum soup recipes, but most methods of making this chunky roasted paste include meat byproducts such as fish sauce, fermented shrimp paste, and dried shrimp.
Here’s a vegan version you can follow to make the paste by soaking, blending, roasting, seasoning, and finally reducing fresh Thai chilies. We hope knowledge of how to make this mainstay ingredient will inspire you to make your own at home, for use in vegetarian, vegan, and non-veg soups, salads, or various Thai concoctions.
This recipe yields 480 – 500 grams of roasted sweet chili jam.
2 cups Vegetable oil
120g Sun-dried chilies
2 tbsp Palm sugar
3 tbsp Tamarind juice
1 tbsp Salt
1 tbsp Black soy sauce
1 tbsp Roasted ground peanuts (unsalted)
Thai Chili Paste Instructions
Soak the sun-dried chilies for 30 mins in water until they turn soft. Cut them open to remove seeds, then cut them into small pieces and rest them aside.
Peel garlic and shallots, rinse well, and slice them small.
Toast the sliced garlic and shallots until they turn golden brown
Pound the chili skins into a fine texture. This will take about 30 mins with a traditional mortar and pestle. Alternatively, you can use a blender or food processor to speed up blending the ingredients.
Add the toasted garlic and shallots, pounding or blending them together until all the ingredients turn into a fine paste texture.
Heat your wok or nonstick pan, adding 2 cups of oil. Next, add the paste into the wok then stir and mix well, allowing the oil to blend, and shallots to cook down.
Now you’re ready to season your paste. Add palm sugar, salt, black soy sauce, tamarind juice, and ground peanut. Stir for 20 mins until the color of the paste turns darker and you can smell a smoky aroma. The oil should now appear a deep red color.
Turn off the heat, and put the paste into the jar or airtight container. To avoid risk of illness and increase shelf life, we recommend sterilizing your container by boiling it in advance. You can also leave some space near the top of your container empty, filling the empty space with the extra oil from your pan.
When I finish making my own Thai chili paste, what recipes should I use it in?
Thais love their roasted chili jam. In Thai it’s called nam prik pow. When you have mastered a recipe for this paste you can use it in a variety of recipes such as:
Tom Yum Soup (as well as some versions of Tom Kha)
When does Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival take place?
The Thai Vegetarian Festival happens each year in October for 10 days. The dates vary depending on the lunar calendar, but you can usually expect it to happen within the first two weeks of the month. In 2018, we will celebrate the Vegetarian Festival from Monday, October 8th, until Wednesday, October 17th.
During this period, many people will give up eating meat, visiting temples to make alms. To support them, many of the street food and restaurants around town go completely vegan, or jay. Following this tradition goes beyond just vegetarianism, and includes refraining from eating eggs, dairy, garlic, onion, honey, and other ingredients.
Is vegan Thai chili paste used in street food in Bangkok?
Heck no. Ahem— let us rephrase— absolutely notEVAH.
Although Bangkok has seen a resurgence of vegetarian (and to a lesser degree vegan) cuisine, don’t expect to experience this on the street. You can trust we’d know, because we’re always scanning Bangkok street food options in our weekly street food tours. Even during the Vegetarian Festival, many of the recipes where you would find the paste are forsaken, for less indulgent choices like soup noodles.
What are your favorite vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Bangkok?
Since there aren’t too many to choose from, this isn’t too difficult to answer. When our team is craving vegan Thai food that we can’t make at home, we visit May’s Veggie Home. The name sounds like a Thai vegetarian spot, but the restaurant is actually vegan. There’s lot to choose from on their menu, it’s not too pricey, and it’s located a short walk from the Asoke skytrain station.
When we’re craving non-Thai vegetarian food, it’s usually hands down North and South Indian eats from Dhana Bhavan. Much harder to find, but always worth the hunt. Not far from this backside of Silom, is also Bonita Social Club, a place which has one of Bangkok’s best veggie burgers.
Would it be hard to be vegetarian or vegan in Bangkok?
Yes, it can be depending on how restrictive your daily diet has become.
Do you love to eat fruit? Are you ok with mushrooms or tofu in everything? Not eating meat is one problem to adjust to, but tacking on a soy allergy, or disdain for fruit and mushrooms, could make your time in Thailand disastrous.
Here are a few tips to help you survive vegetarian or vegan life in Bangkok:
Be prepared to cook for yourself.
Be able to explain your dietary restrictions in Thai.
Explore the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, which has a stronger green-eating food scene.
Beware of sneaky meats (aka meat sauces and broths) that may be a small component of Thai dish you love.
Tip your veg hawking street food vendors and restaurant staff, tell friends, and help them promote their restaurants on social media.
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider supporting Courageous Kitchen with a donation of a plate or cooking class below.
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Each week Courageous Kitchen provides fun, education instruction to at risk students. This instruction includes English language learning, cooking classes, and special outings. You can donate any amount, but if you’re unsure here are some suggestions:
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