Food is not only nutrition, but also one of the most personal manifestations of our cultures, values, and traditions. Our series, Behind Recipes, profiles a different healthy chef every month to uncover personal, untold stories about their favorite foods.
This month, Pepper Teigen (yes, Chrissy Teigen’s mother) shared one of the first dishes she learned to make with her grandmother, kanom krok (or Thai-style coconut pancake) and shared the recipe excerpted from the book. her new, The Pepper Thai Cookbook: Family Recipe from Thai mother is everyone’s favorite($ 18).
I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother when I was growing up in Thailand. My mom used to sell lunch to the kids who went to school in front of our house and I got up early every morning to help her. Even when I was four or five years old, I helped her to cook lunch. I was so funny looking at my niece, Luna, and thinking about how I helped her cook when I was her age!
At that time, I thought of working at school lunch as a chore. But looking back, I’m glad I had that time with my mother. Lunch is traditional Thai dishes such as papaya salad, chicken soup with vegetables and white rice, or stir-fried cabbage and broccoli. Later, when it was lunchtime, I helped her to clear the food through a small window before sitting down to eat her own lunch.
Cooking and eating with the family is what makes food so special; that’s what gives it meaning.
Looks like my grandmother is always cooking. One of my favorites that we often cook together is kanom krok, or Thai coconut cake. The salty and sweet portions are similar, they are made with rice flour, jasmine rice, coconut milk and brown sugar. I can still picture her using ice to grind the rice into flour. We don’t have instant powder like now. You have to start over by soaking the rice in water and then crushing it with stone to turn it into your own homemade rice flour. When the dough is ready, she will let me pour the dough into small holes on the krok kanom grill. That’s the fun part. When they’re ready, we cover them with scallions together. They are the perfect afternoon snack.
The first time I was 10 years old, I made the krok kanom myself for the first time. My mom told me, “You need to find something to do.” So I made some and started selling them on our doorstep – just like I saw my mom do with school lunches. My grandmother came and tried some and they got her consent. That’s the great thing about kanom krok – they’re so simple that even a kid can do it.
Now, I make Thai coconut cakes all the time with Luna. She loved them as much as I did when I was her age. We are happy to cook them together. She likes to drop the dough down the little holes in the grill like I did. They don’t take long to cook, so it’s not difficult for me to make them for her whenever she wants. You can also make a large batch so they can snack throughout the week.
I’m glad I spent some time cooking with my mom and grandma, and I’m happy to share that with Chrissy, John and the kids now. The foods I learned to cook, like kanom krok, have stayed with me all my life and will continue to be passed down through generations. That is really important to me. Cooking and eating with the family is what makes food so special; that’s what gives it meaning. These Thai coconut cakes are more than just pancakes. Celebrating decades is baked right in flour, coconut milk and brown sugar. The ingredients are what makes it delicious, but legacy is what makes it special.
Kanom krok (Thai coconut pancake)
Make 50 pancakes
1 cup of rice flour
1/4 cup cooked jasmine rice
1/4 cup creamy coconut milk
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
For the top layer:
1 cup of creamy coconut milk
1 tablespoon of tapioca or cornstarch
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Melted coconut oil, for cooking, or vegetable oil
8 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup canned corn kernels, drain
1. Start by making dough. In a blender, combine two cups of warm water, rice flour, cooked rice, coconut milk, shredded coconut, brown sugar and salt. Blend until smooth. Set the jar aside. (You can use it to pour the dough later.)
2. Making mulch: In a small bowl, beaten with coconut milk, tapioca starch, sandy sugar and salt until dissolved and no lumps remain.
If using the kanom step pan:
1. Place one pan step kanom ($ 25) over medium heat and let it heat up for a few minutes. (The pan is ready when a drop of water flows out immediately.) Place the wire rack for the ripe pancakes on your work surface. There are topping bowls nearby. Paint the cups of the pan with oil. Stir the flour mixture with a spoon, then pour about 2/3 cup full of flour into each cup. After the dough has been cooked for about a minute, stir in the topping bowl and stir well with the enough topping spoon in the middle of each pancake to fill the cup. Sprinkle each cake with scallions and corn kernels.
2. Lower the heat to medium-low and loosely cover the pan (any large lid will do) or foil tent. Cook, cover the pot, until the edges are golden brown and the tops are no longer runny, about six minutes. (Because the pan is non-stick, check the bottom of the cake with a small spoon to see if it’s golden.) Using a small spoon or butter knife, gently lift the cake out of the pan and place it on a shelf. Repeat with the remaining batteries. Serve warm kanom krok.
If using a muffin pan instead of a krok kanom pan:
1. Preheat oven to 450 ° F. Place muffin pan in oven and heat for five minutes.
2. Carefully remove the muffin pan from the oven and add a few drops of oil to each cup, using a brush or heat-resistant paper towel to rinse the cups evenly. Put the pan back in the oven to heat the oil, two minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the oven and pour the batter into each cup about 3/4 inch deep; You will hear it sizzle. Gently tilt the pan to spread the dough evenly.
4. Bake until dough turns to skin, for three to four minutes. Carefully scoop a large teaspoon of the topping into the center of the most-cooked batter, filling each cup with about three-quarters of an inch or so. Sprinkle each corn and scallion.
5. Return the pan to the oven and cook until the filling hardens, 12 to 15 minutes. Use a butter knife carefully to loosen the krok kanom from the surface of the pan. Repeat with the remaining batteries. Serve warm kanom krok.
As told Emily Laurence.
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