Courageous Kitchen Bangkok – Cooking class in Bangkok Review
After seeing our recent series on Responsible Travel, my friend suggested I look into Courageous Kitchen in Bangkok. At first glance, I gathered they did street food tours and hosted a cooking class in Bangkok. “Inspiring marginalized youth in Bangkok through the power of food!” A bold mission for a food tour company, I thought.
I continue reading their story, and I come to understand they do much more than offer food tours. Firstly a not-for-profit, Courageous Kitchen in Bangkok started with humble beginnings of teaching English to children without access to standard education. Over time, Dwight and Panisha, the couple behind the outreach, expanded the program to teaching math, food safety, nutrition and, you guessed it, cooking.
Life and lessons from Courageous Kitchen in Bangkok
It is one thing not to know how to read or write or do basic maths, but it is another thing to be unable to prepare food for yourself. Having the skills to cook can be equated to having survival skills. To be clear, I’m not talking about making elaborate dishes. I’m talking pure, simple and wholesome meals you can eat every day.
Have you ever eaten rice noodles and thought, surely, this is easy to make. Guess what? It is. Standing over my freshly made flat noodles, I was impressed with my creation yet ambitious to make more. As we continued the process of noodle-making, this old gem came to mind, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.”
Some of my earliest memories as a kid is being in the kitchen. My first job was cooking rice, which only lasted a couple of years until I moved to dish duty, and my brother became the rice cooker. My first dish was ramen noodles, and my second dish was spam, eggs and rice. Not the healthiest, but these were the first meals I ever made on my own. Teaching children how to cook is equipping them with skills they can use their whole life.
Moreover, Courageous Kitchen in Bangkok teaches business basics and leadership skills to underprivileged youth. The founders of the organization believe, “Leaders in the kitchen are leaders in the community.” In a country synonymous with self-run food stalls, such as Thailand, having the skills to cook coupled with fundamental business knowledge creates a potential for young adults to be independent, generate income or pursue a profession in cooking.
Sade with Dwight and Panisha founders of Courageous Kitchen
Plastic Free – Courageous Kitchen Bangkok Review
Last year, the tourism authority in Thailand launched an initiative to cut-down plastic waste with an ambitious goal to “reduce tourism-related waste to 50% by 2020.” The efforts were supported by some big players in the tourism industry campaigning to tourists and businesses to be more eco-minded when travelling.
As if teaching the community life skills isn’t enough, Courageous Kitchen in Bangkok has recently announced they are the first plastic free cooking class in Bangkok. They guide students to think differently about plastic and started teaching about plants which provide nourishment and an alternative to plastics. For example, in our class, we were given morning glory straws to drink our cool drinks. Thai morning glory, because of its long hollow stem, can be used as a drinking straw.
Operationally, they have worked hard to reduce plastic waste however the real opportunities are with the local vendors, many of whom are still heavily dependent on plastics.
Indigo colored drink is from the butterfly pea flower (called anchan in Thai)
When you mix with lime the color goes from blue to purple like the flower. The green straw is morning glory!
Courageous Kitchen’s humble home for our class
Noodle Making – Cooking class in Bangkok
We start with a market tour, where I make some new friends with the ladies in my group. Our guide, Alina, tells us she is our guide and our teacher for the day. We learn about different fruits, where they make the curry paste, and how they make fresh coconut milk. “Fresh coconut milk needs to be used today,” she states adamantly, “tomorrow it will go bad. Also, you should only use this milk for cooking, not drinking.” Her assertiveness reminds me of a chef I used to work with, which brings a smile to my face.
Alina takes us to a favorite food stall, where Aunty is handling a mallet (the only way Asian ladies can) chopping fried goods into bite-sized pieces. Fried corn fritter, fried spring roll, fried tofu and fried taro is drowned in a sweet-salty, sour-spicy sauce and handed to us in a large bowl with skewers. The oily treats were just a snack for the short 5-minute walk to our class. It took us two minutes to gobble it up.
We arrive at Dwight and Panisha’s family home, and after a refreshing drink of blue juice (butterfly pea flower), we start making noodles. We make the batter, and we learn how to layer the pans to create a level noodle (not fat on one end and thin on the other.) Then we steam, peel, cut noodles and start all over again. Despite our best efforts some noodles still came out a bit fat on one end and barely-there on the other.
The results from my cooking class in Bangkok
For the rest of the morning, we make noodles, we laugh, and we cook pad see ew from our freshly made flat (err, fat) noodles. We eat our home-made lunch and drink this delicious blue juice through morning glory straws. We put together a simple and delicious dessert and chat about future dreams and new food making classes.
The proof is in the pudding when I learn Alina was one of their first students in this initiative. Coming from a country town about an hour drive from Bangkok, she was taught English and later came on board to guide the cooking classes. She’s been teaching courses for three years and wants to continue to learn and create more in the kitchen.
For me, Courageous Kitchen in Bangkok is deserving of a spot on our Responsible Travel listfor their efforts in educating and empowering the youth of Bangkok while being creative and developing new ways to add value to tourists and their local communities.
A variety of veggies at the fresh produce market
(L-R) purple eggplant, wing beans, white and green eggplants, baby bittermelon
Alina, our guide and teacher
Aunty’s fried snacks food cart
In the wok, fried tofu
(L-R) spring rolls, taro rolls, corn fritters
Stir-frying our flat noodles for pad see ew
Plating up the finished dish!
Homemade pad see ew
Homemade shells made from rice flour for our dessert dish
Preparing for the dessert dish
Boiling rice shells
I learned I would probably never be skilled with the wok. However, when you do teach someone how to make noodles, they can eat noodles for the rest of their days.
Cost: USD 47 per person
Follow: @courageouskitchen on Instagram