Here’s a few scenes from a big weekend in Bangkok for the Courageous Kitchen team. For the first time, we’re popping up to serve a menu all of our own creation in a local restaurant. The menu is a testament to healthy eating, sustainability, and rustic Thai food. We couldn’t be more proud to have our student leaders participating and to share this event with you.
The Courageous Kitchen leadership program gives students opportunities to grow as cooks and as well balanced young people. Although the coronavirus has limited our activities this year, this month has been busy. With the Thai vegetarian festival happening, we took our young leaders into the combonation restaurant of Bolan and Err, to serve our own plant based menu.
During the pandemic we have been taking our healthy cooking to the next level, even launching a delivery service for plant based vegan food. So were please to be able to collaborate with the rustic cooking of the team behind Bolan and Err. The invitation from Chef Bo and Dylan gives our students a unique opportunity to see behinds the scenes, in not one, but two restaurants. In addition to having a hand in making dishes from Err, which specializes in elevated Thai drinking food, our students all get their first peek at fine dining dishes from Bolan.
The collab features two plant based set menus, one from Central Thailand and the other from Southern Thailand. Both sets feature our homemade soybean products, tempeh and tofu.
“The guests really loved your fried tempeh dish, now I want to taste!” remarked one of the waiters from Err. The dish they’re referring to is a special Phuket style fried curry paste and crispies piled on top of battered tempeh. The dish is called ‘tempeh tod kreung’ and the crunchy tempeh is a good match for the spicy and sweet paste.
The most popular dish from the Central Thailand set is the red curry or ‘gaeng daeng tempeh’. While you can experience a Thai red curry at any Thai restaurant, this dish is special because of the curry paste is handmade, and the ingredients in the curry are representative of Thai biodiversity.
“When we talk about plant based food, many enthusiasts do make a point to eat locally and in season. This is similar to many of the teachings we hear from Chef Bo, whether in the restaurant or on her television show, she always uses her food to highlight the diversity of ingredients in Thai cuisine.”
In addition to the tempeh in the curry, there’s a trio of pea aubergines, winter melon and snake gourd. The latter two especially are often overlooked by restaurants, even though people at home in the provinces still grow and use these ingredients commonly in their cooking. Each of these ingredients are abundant during the rainy season, and because they all have a different texture, keep your tongue guessing with each bite of the curry.
We’re relishing the experience to serve our supporters in Bangkok this weekend and learn from great chefs. We hope to take what we’ve learned into future endeavors, whether in our cooking classes or other training aspects of our leadership program. Never before has the overlap between food and health been so important, and we hope to shepherd our communities here and online towards better wellness as we grow.
Special thanks to the the Bolan and Err chefs and staff, and we look forward to collaborating on special events with them again in the future.
This month we’re launching a new delivery menu for plant based food for our customers in Bangkok. The menu combines Thai dishes we love to make in our cooking classes with our favorite homemade meals. The menu is geared towards busy families who want to save time in the kitchen without compromising their diets.
The new menu is an opportunity to extend interest in healthy cooking to people who haven’t had a chance to join our cooking classes. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm about plant based eating in the Thai community right now,” says Panisha Chanwilai, our vegan cooking teacher.
“But when people look for plant based recipes online, they might assume it’s all salads and pasta. I want Thais to be proud of our own cuisine, which can easily be made into healthy meals.”
For instance, this month one of the featured dishes is tom kha soup. Thai food fans may recognize this dish as the calmer little sister of spicy tom yum soup. The dish is a soup is composed of coconut milk, made fragrant with classic Thai aromatics like kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, and galangal.
Besides the ingredients that make the dish tom kha, there’s a lot of flexibility to decide what else we would like to include. These variations are common to see from one Thai household to the next. One family may choose to include banana blossom, another prefers the soup with a variety of local mushroom, while still another adds extra chili jam to add heat and color.
Our version is made without any meat products, nor fish sauce. We also no longer use white sugar, and try to exclude oil in our recipes whenever possible. This addresses many of the common criticisms of trends in Thai food the last few decades, which can be oily, overly sweet, and scant on vegetables. However, when you have homemade Thai food, this isn’t always the case.
Ready to try food from Courageous Kitchen? In addition to the meals, customers can order our homemade tofu, tempeh, and other food products. Orders are placed by Thursday each week, and the food is delivered to people’s homes every Sunday in a refrigerated truck. As always, proceeds from the sales will help us continue our mission to feed and educate during these uncertain times.
We’re excited to share that our new veggie burger patties are now available for sale in Bangkok. The patties are the result of a lot of hard work and testing, as well as feedback from our healthy eating supporters. Consider them as a healthy and filling meal, that is also part of our efforts to encourage everyone to eat better and reduce food waste.
The patties we’ve created aren’t like the ones you’re seeing swapped for beef at fast food restaurants. Instead of an imitation meat, they’re homemade patties created using a special blend of vegetables and herbs. The main ingredient for the burgers is okara, the leftover soy pulp from making tofu. We blend the pulp with mushroom, spring onion, and dried spices before hand making each patty.
Before the pandemic hit, our tofu making class had been generating a buzz with healthy eating expats and visiting tourists in Bangkok. When the lockdown happened, although our classes had to stop, we continued making tofu at home and supplying a few local restaurants. To make tofu you need to squeeze the moisture out of the soybeans, leaving the fibrous part of the bean behind. While it may seem like a worthless byproduct bound for the trashcan, okara still has plenty of nutritional value.
To avoid food waste, we’ve been experimenting with using the leftover okara in different recipes. We’ve made a variety of spreads, pastes, and even cookies. However, the most popular of our creations have been the veggie burger patties. The soy pulp allows them to be dense and pliable, while still being soft on the palate and enjoyable to eat. That’s not bad for a leftover food product that might seem worthless at first glance.
Often overlooked because of the delicious sweet potatoes themselves, the leaves of the sweet potato plant are nourishing as well. Sweet potatoes grow in the soil unseen, but above them is where all of the action is happening. Given enough space sweet potato vines are prolific. They will act as ground cover, stretching across your yard, and when given the opportunity to climb, will grab hold of nearby plants, posts, and fences. With plenty of sun provided, the heart shaped leaves stay ever stretching to find new opportunities to sun bathe.
Any gardeners reading are likely to join in our enthusiasm for these tasty leaves. The same can’t be said of regular potato leaves which can be toxic. Pumpkin, squash and other gourds have leafy vines, but the leaves have a sticky layer on them that needs to be peeled. Then there’s the incredibly popular cruciferous greens like kale which are well known, but sweet potato leaves are seldom as bitter, often being neutral tasting. This means they’re also good for introducing more green into the diet of young people as well.
A few ideas for cooking sweet potato include having them raw in a salad, or as an addition to a green smoothie. When harvesting them for a salad, look for the tender young leaves, often a deeper color than the larger leaves. For stews, stir frys, and any heavier cooking, the larger leaves hold up well. We use the beautiful new leaves as a colorful and tender garnish on top of other dishes as well. These leaves appear darker in color and more waxy looking, but lose this sheen as they grow larger.
Today we want to share a bowl of simple, sweet potato soup. The recipe is versatile, allowing for lots of variations. Feel free to make it your own, using different vegetables and locally grown herbs if needed. The point is for the soup to be a vehicle for nutrition, and a champion for biodiversity. The flavor comes from the combination of soft and hard aromatics in the recipe, basil leaves and lemongrass, and should only be mildly sweet with an optional touch of heat from fresh chili. Enjoy the recipe below with a heap of sweet potato leaves, and any other nearby and nutritious ingredients you have to add.
Serves: 4-6 people
Equipment: mortar and pestle, pot
Prep & Cooking Time: 30 minutes
1L water or stock 500g sweet potato leaves 500g winter melon (substitute another soft gourd like zucchini if needed) 1 angled gourd, sliced 1 carrot, sliced 5 lemongrass stalks, smashed 6 shallots, smashed 4 coriander roots, smashed 3-4 fresh Thai chili (substitute with mild chili or bell pepper if desired) 1 tbsp of palm sugar 1 cup of soy sauce 1 tsp of salt 1 tsp of black soy sauce 1 bunch of lemon basil (or other sweet tasting herb leaf, like Italian basil)
1) Prep all your ingredients, washing and peeling as neccesary. Before you start cooking, consider which vegetables you’re adding that may need more time than others to cook. 2) Pound your shallots, coriander root, and lemongrass in a mortar and pestle. Or bruise with a heavy object. 3) Add water to your pot with these three aromatics (shallot, lemongrass, and coriander root) and bring to a boil. 4) When the soup is fragrant and lightly boiling, add any tough vegetables like carrot, followed later by soft veg like winter melon and angled gourd. Cook until soft. 5) Adjust your heat to low and season by adding your palm sugar, soy sauce, black soy sauce, and salt. Taste and adjust as needed. 6) Turn off the heat and add your fresh handful of lemon basil. 7) When serving remember to avoid adding lemongrass into your serving bowl. You can remove it completely, but leaving it in the soup will allow it to continue to add flavor to the broth.
This recipe is suitable for a large family of 5-6 people and may put a big dent in your garden. Don’t worry though, the sweet potato plants are resilient, and can survive your pruning and nibbling. Do let us know if you loved this recipe by donating to our charitable work, or signing up for one of our online classes. Then check back soon for more updates and recipes!
Are you familiar with turmeric milk, golden milk, or if you’re feeling fancy a ‘golden milk latte’? They may be popular at your local cafes and in the health food community, but they’re easy enough to make at home too. Whatever you prefer to call this special drink, let’s have a closer look at the ingredients and method for making your own healing cup.
The most prominent tradition of drinking turmeric infused milk comes from India. On the subcontinent a traditional ‘haldi doodh’ simply calls for warming milk with turmeric before serving. However, now that turmeric is becoming increasing popular outside the region, you’ll find popular versions mix in Indian spices like what you would find in a recipe for Chai, including: ginger, cloves, green cardamom and cinnamon. This makes the tea more fragrant and tasty, and possibly distracts newcomers to turmeric from the pungent, unfamiliar flavor. Turmeric aficionados however, can feel free to veer from the recipe, making your turmeric milk with as few or as many spices as you fancy.
But why do we call turmeric-infused milk, ‘golden milk’? No one seems sure, but we shouldn’t underestimate the possibility of the culinary world simply appropriating a common Indian drink and renaming it. If this is the case, whether the term originates as a clever marketing campaign, or an intentional attempt to obfuscate or mystify the origin of the milk tea, we should have strong reservations about what we call it. Keep this in mind if you’re deciding to add it to your menu.
Controversy aside, we should all be including turmeric more regularly in our diets, as recommended in the tradition of Ayurvedic medicine. Long before the hundreds of research studies commissioned in the past decades, traditional healers in India recognized the benefits of consuming this brightly colored root. Thanks to the volume of research the western world now also associates turmeric with a long list of health benefits including being a powerful blood cleansing, inflammation reducing, brain boosting, heart healing, and cancer resisting rhizome.
For those not already very familiar with turmeric here are a few tips for maximizing the potential uses in your daily life:
1) Avoiding Yellow Hands & Utensils
One of the first things you’ll learn from using turmeric, especially the fresh version, is that the color is incredibly strong. While the skin on the root is usually a dull black, once gently scraped away, you will reveal the surprisingly deep orange color. Beware though, because this enchanting orange-yellow color can stain your hands, cutting boards, kitchen countertops, and anything else the root may come in contact with.
2) Understanding Powders and Supplements Pills
Outside of Asia, one of the most common ways to consume turmeric is as a powder or supplement. Be sure you have it from a reputable source, and understand whether you’re having dried turmeric powder, an extract like curcumin, or some variation. This is important to know as the potential benefits and use may vary. If you’re using these products to battle a specific illness, consider consulting your doctor about the appropriate dosage
3) Increasing Bioavailability
In addition to not being widely grown in many western countries, the other reason turmeric is often taken as a supplement is that turmeric may be less bio-available to your body in other forms. Bioavailability means your body can easily digest and put to work the most healing chemical components. Some foods require us to prepare them a certain way to make the nutrients in them more bioavailable. To improve the bioavailability of turmeric, for instance, prepare with healthy fats sources like coconut milk. This is because turmeric is more easily fat-soluble than water-soluble. Another tip is the use of black pepper, which can give the body more time to circulate and process the turmeric
If you think about how turmeric is typically consumed in places around Asia, we know local traditions have dictated this bioavailable method of consumption for hundreds of years. The best example can be found in many of the curries you love. Typically most any yellow colored curry you can think of, regardless of the nation of origin, is so colored because of the addition of turmeric. Those curry pastes contain many ingredients, but two not often excluded are coconut milk and black pepper. One of the tips in our green curry recipe calls for adding a small nob of turmeric to enhance the color, not to mention the health benefits!
Turmeric Milk Recipe (Golden Milk)
2 cups of coconut milk (or the milk of your choice) 5g turmeric, smashed (or 1 tsp of turmeric powder) 5g of sliced ginger, smashed 2-3 black pepper pods 1-2 green cardamom pods, smashed and seeds removed 1 small cinnamon stick 1 tbsp of date syrup (or other natural sweetener)
1) Smash any fresh or whole spices in a mortar and pestle, or with another heavy tool. This isn’t a pulverizing smash, but strong bruising that will allow the essential oils to come out more easily. 2) Add dry spices to a small pot over low heat. Briefly toast until fragrant. 3) Pour coconut milk (or the milk of choice) over spices and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Don’t let your milk boil too vigorously. 4) Add your sweetener and stir. 5) Turn off heat and allow to cool for another 5 minutes or longer before serving. This gives the ingredients more time to steep into the milk. 6) Strain out your spices are you pour into a glass or mug. Serve hot, or over ice. 7) Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top if desired.
Tom Yum lovers will be excited to learn you can enjoy the popular soup in a variety of ways. One of our favorite renditions is in the form of fried rice. This is similar to what you would order at a street food stall with a wok station. If you can find fragrant herbs to add, this recipe will be a great way to spice up your usual homemade fried rice!
Aromatics & Cooking Method
If you’re new to tom yum, the flavors come from a combination of aromatic herbs popular in Thai cooking. Those herbs are lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaf. If you’ve ever had them in a Thai restaurant you may remember them because they’re the bits in the soup you can’t eat comfortably. Although all of them are edible, each is so coarse they would be really tough to chew.
To make the fried rice version, you’ll need to find your local asian grocer and prep the ingredients. Unlike the soup where the herbs will boil together, this recipe requires the elbow grease to pound them in a mortar and pestle. This is a big job, and is best done in a traditional stone mortar and pestle, so that each of the ingredients is properly smashed.
Can you put the items in a food processor or blender? Sure you can. However, often when we’re using the mortar and pestle, blending is not the most important function for using this traditional kitchen equipment. What we really desire are the essential oils from the ingredients that will make a paste that will remind your eyes, nose, and mouth of your favorite tom yum soup!
Finally, we should add some details about the moisture content of the fried rice. If you’re not cooking over high heat, or using leftover rice that is drier than rice freshly steamed, you may find the final product too soggy. If you know you prefer the drier, more crusty fried rice— be prepared with a heavy duty wok or pan to use. That way you can stir fry you rice longer, and scrape the stuck rice at the center of the wok to free the toastiest bits before they burn (not the best use of your non stick pan). Don’t be surprised to find cooks who love their fried rice this style, even throwing the wok or skillet of fried rice into the oven for a crispy finish.
Tom Yum Fried Rice
Equipment: mortar and pestle (preferably stone), wok
1 cup of rice
70-100g of protein (we used tofu)
1 tbsp of oil
30g tomato (plum or less watery tomatoes work better)
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tbsp of sweet chili jam (nam prik pow)
Optional: Lime to squeeze on top and spring onion for garnish
Tom Yum Paste Ingredients:
1 tbsp of minced galangal
1 tbsp of thin sliced lemongrass
2 chili (optional)
Prep all your ingredients. In mortar and pestle, pound lemongrass, galangal and chili together. Set aside.
Chop your proteins bite sized or smaller.
In a wok over medium heat, add a tbsp of cooking oil.
Add your proteins (If using tender meats like shrimp, you can set aside after cooking) and stir until mostly cooked.
Then add your paste and allow to become aromatic. Followed closely by your onions.
When your proteins are cooked and other ingredients smell nice, add your mushrooms and tomato.
Now you’re ready to add your rice. Mix with everything and add soy sauce and chili paste.
Stir fry until ingredients are well incorporated, or you have achieved the desired texture (give it an extra few minutes if you prefer a dry fried rice).
Plate and garnish, reminding your guests to squeeze their lime wedge over the top before enjoying.