Sweet Potato Leaf and Lemongrass Soup Recipe

Sweet Potato Leaf and Lemongrass Soup Recipe

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.

Young sweet potato leaves on the end of a sprawling plant. The leaves are edible and have no bitter after taste.

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.

Mix up your usual salad greens by adding sweet potato leaves. Here a young sweet potato stem anchors this salad (with the dark leaves), along with butterfly pea flowers and sesame seeds.
Often the young leaves are darker in color and more tender, making them a great for garnishing other dishes like this gaeng som curry with durian.

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.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

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.

The dominant flavors in this soup are the lemongrass and basil flavors, followed by a slight sweetness from the palm sugar and shallots.

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!

A Rejuvenating Golden Milk Recipe

A Rejuvenating Golden Milk Recipe

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.

Turmeric is a great addition to your diet. Fortunately finding it fresh or in powdered form is becoming easier for people around the world.

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)

Ingredients

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)

Turmeric and ginger smashed in a traditional stone mortar and pestle.

Instructions

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.

After you’ve gotten the hang of making turmeric milk, try adding it to your hot or iced coffee.

We hope everyone will incorporate more turmeric into their diet, and continue to look for more creative uses for this healthy herb. If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, consider donating in support of the work of Courageous Kitchen, or signing up for our online classes.

Tom Yum Fried Rice Recipe

Tom Yum Fried Rice Recipe

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.

Homemade Thai chili jam is best (see our recipe), and you can use the excess oil for cooking your fried rice.

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

Gather, wash, and prep all of your Thai ingredients for this recipe, along with the protein of your choice.

Equipment: mortar and pestle (preferably stone), wok

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 70-100g of protein (we used tofu)
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 30g mushroom
  • 30g tomato (plum or less watery tomatoes work better)
  • 20g onion
  • 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)

Directions

  1. Prep all your ingredients. In mortar and pestle, pound lemongrass, galangal and chili together. Set aside.
  2. Chop your proteins bite sized or smaller.
  3. In a wok over medium heat, add a tbsp of cooking oil.
  4. Add your proteins (If using tender meats like shrimp, you can set aside after cooking) and stir until mostly cooked.
  5. Then add your paste and allow to become aromatic. Followed closely by your onions.
  6. When your proteins are cooked and other ingredients smell nice, add your mushrooms and tomato.
  7. Now you’re ready to add your rice. Mix with everything and add soy sauce and chili paste.
  8. 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).
  9. Plate and garnish, reminding your guests to squeeze their lime wedge over the top before enjoying.
The combination of classic Thai aromatics makes this a spicy choice no matter what meat, seafood, or plant based alternative you choose for your recipe.

We hope you enjoy this combination of two of our favorite things, tom yum and fried rice! Remember you can support our project and the creation of more recipes by making a donation or booking an online or in person cooking class.

PS – Don’t forget to tag #courageouskitchen on instagram to show us the results of your cooking too!

Bangkok’s First Plant Based Market

Bangkok’s First Plant Based Market

We’re excited to share our participation in Bangkok’s first plant based food and sustainability market. The upcoming market takes places this month on July 19th in the Ekkamai area. The event will host a collection of vendors promoting their plant based food items, and a variety of lifestyle products encouraging sustainability.

Root the Future is hosting Bangkok’s first Plant Based Market

The market is hosted from 12pm to 4pm by the team behind the Root the Future blog and healthy eating campaign. The website promotes plant based eating and sustainability in Thailand. The term ‘plant based’ refers to diets similar to veganism that promote eating fruits, vegetables, and whole foods for the majority of nutritional needs.

The health benefits of a plant based diet are a major reason we’re excited to be participating in the event. However, the focus on the reducing waste and protecting ecosystems through more sustainable living is equally important. The event will also be our first opportunity to publicly promote our tempeh, a healthy source of plant based protein.

Our freshly made tempeh being pan fried.

Our tempeh is made by fermenting organic soybeans into patty that can be sliced and added to food as a meat substitute. The healthy product is a great addition to Thai dishes which can too often over emphasize the meat products. In addition to fundraising through the sell of these products, we will also be excited to share about the work we’re doing to serve vulnerable communities in Bangkok.

Participants are reminded to bring their masks, water bottles, food containers, and reusable bags for this event. No single use plastic will be available, and social distancing will be encouraged whenever possible. Including Courageous Kitchen, there should be around 20 vendors with a variety of products for sale, ranging from plant based burgers, to natural soaps, and even a mini cafe for cats needing to be adopted through the Paws Bangkok Foundation.

Now is a great time to support produce from Thailand’s organic farmers.

The venue is located about 10 minutes from the Ekkamai BTS Station in the central business district of Bangkok. For more details, visit the event listing on the Root the Future Facebook page.

Is it Still Good? 5 Qualities of Outstanding Tempeh

Is it Still Good? 5 Qualities of Outstanding Tempeh

We announced recently that we have begun making our own tempeh for those who want to try and support us in Bangkok. Since tempeh is so new here and many places around the world, we wanted to make sure some of the common questions you may ask about the soy product are answered. One of those is, “Is there a way to tell if my tempeh is still good?”

There are a few factors you should know about to be able to evaluate good tempeh — no matter whether you’re evaluating the freshness before you buy in the store, or after the tempeh has been sitting on your refrigerator shelf.

Look at the list below and keep each of these components in mind so that you can help have the best chances of getting great quality products from good sources.

A 100g of homemade and organic tempeh that was made in banana leaf instead of plastic.

1) Color

When you buy your tempeh you should be able to look at it and have an idea of the freshness. The beans in the tempeh should be packed around a firm layer of white mold (called mycelium). As this layer reaches peak, some discoloration may occur where you see some black or gray spots. If the tempeh continues to mature, the mold will become a more yellow color. This is normal and still edible unless the tempeh is wet or consumed by mold of another color.

2) Aroma (Smell)

“Why does my tempeh smell bad?”

How do you judge a fermented product which can already be strong smelling by using your nose? Your tempeh should smell nutty, fermented and earthy, but not overly pungent. If the tempeh can be smelled from a distance, odds are it has likely gone bad. A smell of rot or noticeably strong notes of acetone, alcohol, or ammonium mean you need to dispose of your tempeh. These smells arise as other type of bacteria begin to rapidly grow on your tempeh. Preventing this means keeping your tempeh refrigerated or frozen, and dry, until ready to use.

Sliced tempeh and pan fried tempeh, ready to be used as a meat substitute.

3) Texture

Your tempeh is made of soybeans enshrined by white mycelium. If properly fermented, this layer of edible mold should grow evenly between the beans. When choosing your tempeh be sure the mold has grown completely without any cracks or areas among the beans where the mold has not grown.

Low Moisture Content (Dryness)

Your block of tempeh should be dry, never slimy or damp. Storing the tempeh with too much moisture can encourage other types of bacteria to grow, making your tempeh go bad more quickly. Tempeh can be frozen safely, but be aware that if not properly defrosted (this can be safely done in the refrigerator), moisture and condensation can start to form on the outside of your tempeh.

Roasted tempeh served in spicy and tangy Thai choo chee curry.

Environmentally Responsible

When possible buy organic tempeh. The soybeans are easier to soak when making the tempeh, and result in softer and more porous tempeh overall. Since the majority of soybeans are mass produced GMO crops, these can be harder to find, but worth the search. Farmers who do grow soybeans without damaging food and environments with dangerous chemicals also need our support.

Besides Thai recipes, tempeh can also be used in western style dishes like this pasta made with zucchini noodles.

Also, look for vendors using natural packaging to ferment their tempeh instead of plastic. The most common material used is banana leaf, which unlike plastic, naturally allows air to circulate, promoting the growth of the mycelium. The result is beautiful tempeh, naturally fermented that doesn’t contribute to environmental degradation.

Tempeh is a great source of plant based protein for everyone. Let’s spread awareness about the need to create diets that are more inclusive or plant centric and environmentally responsible. Courageous Kitchen is doing our part to educate and feed people in need in Bangkok, and your support makes a difference.

Fresh Organic Tempeh and Tofu for our Bangkok Fans

Fresh Organic Tempeh and Tofu for our Bangkok Fans

During the global Covid-19 pandemic, we have been exploring new ways to engage our supporters, and fundraise for our work. Previously, our in-person classes where our sole method of generating interest in our work. However, like many other businesses, we have been scrambling to do more online and reduce the face to face nature of our interactions. Now we host online classes to help you master Thai food, but have also been making efforts to sell food products locally. The most important of these projects has been the production of plant based protein foods, tofu and tempeh.

Lately when you see the term plant based protein mentioned, the reference is usually to efforts by food scientists to make fake meat. Many of these imitation meats have even become popular globally, attempting to lure both vegans and vegetarians, as well as their healthy eating friends. However, while the popular wisdom is go high tech, we’re going the opposite direction. Instead of helping to create highly processed imitation meat, we’re leaning into the lightly processed Asian traditions of tofu and tempeh. We’re confident these products made with organic soybeans, can encourage people to reduce their meat consumption, which is better for our bodies and the environment.

The gamble we’re taking is hoping our customers will recognize the value and craft necessary to make homemade tofu and tempeh. Often these are products that can be easily misunderstood. Both are soy products, and while tofu is very well known, tempeh is still a new item in many markets. Tofu is the cooked, squeezed, and coagulated soybeans that we press into blocks. Those blocks can be sold and sliced down to be pan fried or used in stir fries and other dishes in place of meat.

Hand crafted tofu made from Thailand’s organic soy beans.

While tempeh is made from the same beans and used similarly, the Indonesian creation has many of its own characteristics. For starters, the product requires you to ferment the soybeans before cooking them. Then the beans are dried and packed for a second, but more controlled fermentation. During this process, the bacteria added to the beans grow, attaching and connecting each of the beans. The result is firm patty of edible mold and beans. Despite how that sounds, you might be pleasantly surprised how tasty tempeh can be when properly cooked!

Since tempeh doesn’t enjoy the popularity of tofu, there is a learning curve to cooking it the first time. Tempeh can then be sliced and roasted, chopped, stir fried or stewed. The unique structure of tempeh, helps it to hold its shape when cooking, and gives it a toothsome bite (more similar to a meat product than tofu) when eating. Furthermore, the process of making tempeh, makes the nutrients in the beans more bioavailable, resulting in a healthy, probiotic, and protein rich source of nutrition.

Tip: Slice your tempeh thin before cooking and using as a meat substitute.

We suggest new customers to slice their tempeh thin, and to start out by substituting it for meat in a few of your most flavor-packed dishes. For example, given the right amount of time to soak up flavor, tempeh makes and excellent substitution in Thailand’s coconut milk curries. Alternatively, you can take sliced tempeh, season it, and oven roast until crispy. The resulting tempeh bites can be eaten as a snack, or added as a crispy ingredient in other dishes (salads, stir fries, and sandwiches for example).

Besides saving you time in the kitchen, our tofu and tempeh products are also made from organic soy beans. Like many places around the world, soy in Thailand is a cash crop, making it difficult to source organic beans. We work with small Thai farms, especially in Northern Thailand, to source the beans, giving us an opportunity to support organic farmers. This is important because these farmers can often be priced out of local markets by the glut of GMO soybeans and mass produced soy products prevalent in most stores.

Spicy tempeh pad krakow (Thai basil stir fry with tempeh)
Mixed soybean tempeh with Thai Choo Chee curry

We hope everyone is striving to eat better during this stressful time. One way is to add tofu or tempeh to your diet, and make an effort to consume less meat. We should also do what we can to support our farmers, and strengthen the food ecosystems feeding our communities during crises.

We’re so proud to be providing these products, so look out for them as options in your CSA boxes from Bolan Restaurant and Farmtastic. Soon you will be able to add them as a vegetarian option to your orders with Sloane’s as well. So please be on the lookout for them!