If there’s one grandma we would choose to be the matron saint of our family kitchen, it’s Pepper Teigen. Lucky for us, Yai (“grandma” in Thai), as she’s known in Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s household, is spilling her culinary secrets in The Pepper Thai Cookbook, featuring vibrant dishes that, until now, she never bothered writing precise recipes for. (As Chrissy notes in the foreword, “She cooks more by instinct and memory.”)
In the delightfully laid-back, flavor-forward compilation, Pepper shares some of her greatest hits—including pad Korat (a love letter to her hometown); tangy cucumber salad and more “not boring” greens; stir-fried curry crab; and Son-in-Law Scotch eggs (i.e.: A suitor is a keeper if he appreciates the dish, but also, as the book illuminates, “the Thai word for eggs is slang for a man’s sensitive parts […]; mess with my daughter and you’ll end up with your ‘eggs’ cooked in hot oil!”).
Among the colorful anecdotes, family is a constant source of inspiration, and the Teigen-Legend kitchen is usually abuzz. Pepper’s trick for getting the kids involved? Put them to work! “Luna loves being up on the counter. She’s so happy cracking eggs or helping me mash stuff with the mortar and pestle. Chrissy was my masher, too—I never use a food processor!” shares Pepper (who, as the oldest of five children, knows how to rally a crew).
And when it comes to developing a spice-loving palate in kids, Pepper recommends starting them young. “I bring in a variety of fresh herbs (basil, lemongrass, cilantro) to get the children accustomed,” she says. “Black pepper and white pepper have a little bit of spice, then gradually you add more without them even knowing it.” Meanwhile parents and older kids can turn up the heat by dipping into side dishes of condiments at the table. (Pepper carries her homemade spicy stash in her purse at all times.)
Here, we excerpted Yai’s two recipes dedicated in the book to her “sweet angel grandbabies.” But really, who doesn’t want umami-packed stir-fried broccoli tonight?
Miles’s Tofu Soup
This savory pork and vegetable soup with chunks of soft tofu was the first solid food I ever made for Miles, who has since grown into one of the world’s hungriest and best-eating toddlers. I’d like to think Yai had something to do with that. Even though this soup is light and mild, it’s not just for babies. It’s great to make for someone who is under the weather or hungover! I always have a big pot of it ready in the morning after the Oscars party.
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 lb ground pork
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 medium carrot, sliced into ½-inch coins
- ¼ head napa cabbage, cored and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
- 8 oz bok choy, roughly chopped (tough stems trimmed)
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
- 10 oz medium-firm tofu, drained and cubed
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp fish sauce or light soy sauce, plus more to taste
- Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
- Chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
- Fried garlic, for serving
In a medium bowl, mix together the pork, garlic, white pepper, and soy sauce until combined.
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the carrot. Drop spoonfuls (about 1 tablespoon) of the pork mixture into the broth to make little meatballs. They won’t be perfectly round—that’s okay. Let the meatballs cook for 4 to 5 minutes, skimming away any fat that bubbles to the surface. Add the cabbage, bok choy, and celery, and cook until the bok choy has turned bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tofu and cook for another minute, then remove from the heat. Season with the salt and fish sauce, tasting and adding more if needed.
Serve the soup with rice, either mixed in or on the side. Garnish with fried garlic and cilantro.
Luna’s Broccoli Beef
As soon as Luna was old enough to chew solid food, I was making her this basic but delicious stir-fry, which delivers a shocking amount of rich beefy flavor despite its short ingredient list. The secret is the oyster sauce, which adds serious umami, so much so that you won’t even miss the beef if you leave it out. (Sometimes I’ll make stir-fried broccoli for the kids and it disappears just as fast.) Broccoli is one of Luna’s favorite foods, but she obviously inherited that gene from John, who might love the vegetable even more. No matter what age you are, there’s a lesson here: Boiled broccoli? Nobody wants seconds. Stir-fried broccoli? You can’t make enough of it.
Serves 2 to 4
- 1 lb skirt, hanger, or flank steak, sliced against the grain into ½-by-2-inch strips
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- Ground white pepper
- 1 lb broccoli (about 2 heads) florets cut into bite-size pieces, stems peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp cornstarch (optional—it helps make the sauce thicker)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
- 3 tbsp oyster sauce
- Cooked jasmine rice, for serving
In a large bowl, combine the steak, soy sauce, and a pinch of white pepper, and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes while you blanch the broccoli.
Fill another large bowl with ice water and set it next to the stove. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook until it turns bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl of ice water to cool, then drain.
If using the cornstarch, in a small bowl stir it together with 1 tablespoon water to make a slurry and set aside.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the steak and stir-fry until it is mostly cooked, about 3 minutes. Add the drained broccoli, oyster sauce, and cornstarch slurry (if using) and toss to coat. Continue to cook, stirring, until a sauce forms and the broccoli is warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with the cooked rice.
Reprinted from The Pepper Thai Cookbook. Copyright © 2021 by Vilailuck Teigen with Garrett Snyder. Photographs copyright © 2021 by Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
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