The Pepper Thai Cookbook: Chrissy Teigen’s mom talks food, family and her need for Thai spice

(CNN) — As everyone who’s visited Thailand is aware of, meals is a essential element of the practical experience.

Whether or not you happen to be road side in Chiang Mai slurping back a bowl of khao soi noodles or taking pleasure in a Michelin-starred Thai food in a superior-end Bangkok restaurant, the recollections of those powerful, well balanced flavors remain with you extensive after you have left the country.

Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen knows this all much too properly. Mother of model, Tv set persona and entrepreneur Chrissy Teigen, Pepper emigrated to Utah from Thailand’s northeast Isaan region in the early 1980s.

For years, she claims she attempted to replicate the flavors of property, battling to locate elements in the small American town she lived in.

“When I experienced Chrissy as a baby I bear in mind likely to a small market place,” she tells CNN for the duration of a recent video interview.

“I was the only Asian in that minor city — Delta, Utah — where by Chrissy was born and I asked for ‘Can you deliver in bean sprouts and lemon grass you should?’ And they did. But other than that, I experienced to travel 100-200 miles just to get gaprao (Thai basil).”

Now, Pepper lives in Los Angeles with Chrissy, son-in-legislation John Legend and their two children, Luna and Miles. She can make normal cameos on their Instagram feeds, generally showing up in the kitchen cooking together with Chrissy or her grandkids, or joining them on their travels.

Pepper’s impact can be found in Chrissy’s two cookbooks and on her Cravings site. But for the to start with time, the mom/grandmother is sharing her stories and recipes in her pretty own ebook.
“The Pepper Thai Cookbook,” out this week, is an 80-recipe selection filled with magnificent shots of foodstuff and her relatives, accompanied by chortle-out-loud anecdotes and touching memories of her activities increasing up in Thailand and her daily life in the US.

“It can be just kind of like owning a little one once again!” Pepper says of her new e-book. “The exact same feeling. I’m so energized and a very little bit nervous.”

The e book functions dishes from several regions of Thailand. But Pepper places her very own spin on some of them — pad Thai brussels sprouts, any person? — whilst also which include other spouse and children staples like scalloped potatoes, the 1st “American dish” she realized to make.

“Our relatives enjoys to consume,” claims Pepper. “So I have my favorites from Isaan (in the reserve) mainly because that’s where by I’m from at first. Which is my most preferred flavor. And then my relatives likes exploring some northern and southern Thai foodstuff.”

“Do not be frightened”

Thai cookbooks can frequently be intimidating for at-residence chefs, relying on the availability of components or particular nutritional limitations.

But Pepper knows from expertise that variations are frequently unavoidable and just needs persons to have fun in the kitchen, declaring she routinely receives requested for advice on how to make Thai recipes healthier or vegetarian-pleasant.

“Thai individuals tend to consume all working day. A minimal bit below, a minimal little bit there. Food stuff is just about everywhere. The aroma of street food stuff hits you as shortly as you wander out the doorway in the early morning.”

Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen

“Will not be afraid,” she states enthusiastically. “I labored pretty hard with the writer’s (Garrett Snyder’s) assistance so we received it. It is easy, and easy.”

What wasn’t straightforward, however, was getting to document the measurements for every recipe. Pepper says a large amount of what she does in the kitchen area is dependent on intuition, so she experienced to determine out how a lot of each component she was basically working with.

“Anything will come from my head, so the measuring, the pounds…that was the largest challenge. When I did it myself I never need a recipe — when I wanted two tablespoons I did it without measuring. But I tested myself. It was pretty much accurately best each and every time.”

Exploring the preferences of Isaan

Pepper grew up in the tiny town of Nakhon Ratchasima — unofficially acknowledged as Korat — in Isaan, wherever her grandparents have been rice farmers.

This region is famed for featuring some of Thailand’s finest culinary hits, like larb (a spicy minced meat salad) and som tum (papaya salad). (See recipe for Pepper’s fried chicken larb at the end of this feature.)

These bold, extreme flavors ended up normally a section of Pepper’s daily life. The oldest of five youngsters, she states she was in the 3rd grade when she began assisting out her mother, who worked in a school cafeteria.

“I begun likely to the current market with my mother and arrived again at about 5 or 6 in the early morning and just started preparations,” she recollects. “I was the sous chef for my mom before I could leave for university. At lunch time I had to come down and assistance her selling, like a food items seller.”

Pepper feels Thailand’s status for currently being foods-obsessed is deserved, with the question “gin kao yung” — have you eaten nevertheless — a consistent fixture in day-to-day discussions.

“Thai men and women have a tendency to eat all day,” she suggests with a giggle. “A tiny bit right here, a tiny little bit there. Food items is everywhere. The aroma of avenue foods hits you as quickly as you walk out the doorway in the morning.”

Even however it’s been a long time because she still left Isaan, Pepper suggests she requirements to consume Thai food items as soon as a working day — which can get challenging given how often she’s on the street with Chrissy, John and the kids.

“Just about every time we travel I start out packing chili peppers, a krok (mortar and pestle for crushing elements like chilies and garlic), immediate noodles, chili powder, fish sauce,” she says. “Vacation for me is incredibly tricky because I have to have Thai food stuff.”

Thankfully, she says her Grammy-winning son-in-law is an adventurous eater who isn’t really afraid to attempt new flavors.

“John is so great!” she says when questioned whether or not he can take care of spicy food. “He can try to eat all the issues with me. He is a incredibly superior activity. He attempts anything. When we were being back in my hometown he tried all the bugs in the bug cart.”

That journey took position two decades in the past. Pepper introduced Chrissy, John, Luna and Miles back again to Korat with her, the place they explored the city’s avenue food items scene. A check out to a local market place brought about a little bit of chaos, with followers swarming the loved ones as they designed their way through the group, their tour even broadcast stay on Facebook.

Pepper acknowledges it’s complicated to journey with her superstar daughter and son-in-regulation given the notice they draw in, but feels honored to have been given such a warm welcome in her hometown — she was even granted a key to the metropolis of Korat from nearby officers.

“I am so delighted persons recognized me,” claims Pepper. “From just staying a minimal lady who goes to the industry just about every day, to currently being a mom… and look at me now.”

Introducing her grandkids to Thai flavors

When traveling to Thailand, Pepper says she always has to have a bowl of boat noodles.


When questioned to one out the very first point she eats when she actions off the airplane in Bangkok, there’s no hesitation.

“Ahhh, me and Chrissy gotta go get boat noodles!” she suggests, referring to kuai tiao ruea — little bowls of beef or pork noodles with a hearty broth accompanied by herbs and veggies.

The identify is derived from the first suppliers who at the time paddled by the canals and rivers in and all over Bangkok, cooking steaming scorching bowls of noodles appropriate in their boats. Today, they are served in dining establishments as effectively but you can however appreciate the classic, floating model.

“Often we get in the vehicle and go straight from the airport, straight to Ayutthaya in which (some of the ideal) boat noodles are,” says Pepper.

Though Chrissy could possibly be a massive enthusiast of Thai meals now, Pepper claims that wasn’t always the situation.

In the intro of her ebook, she notes how her well known daughter usually wanted American foodstuff like grilled cheese and pizza when she was a child. But as Chrissy grew more mature, she began to request for all those Thai dishes she grew up cooking and feeding on with Pepper.

Pepper’s grandchildren, on the other hand, previously have Thai favorites of their personal, which are integrated in the ebook.

“They enjoy my food items! They normally ask for it and I delight in executing it, I am so content. Luna encouraged me this morning, ‘Tell them I really like your jok,'” states Pepper, sharing the suggestions her five-year-previous granddaughter gave her about what to go over during the interview with CNN.

Pepper suggests her fried chicken is also a strike, and Miles, who is approximately a few, particularly enjoys her ribs — with heaps of garlic.

These times, Pepper doesn’t have to travel hundreds of miles for ingredients. She claims she has a back garden crammed with contemporary deliver, though other merchandise are simple to locate in Los Angeles, allowing her to cook all her Thai favorites at residence.

And as the Thai-American embarks on her newest journey as a cookbook author, she states Chrissy has been a big source of aid and comfort together the way, encouraging her to share her recipes with the environment.

“She’s just so proud of me,” suggests Pepper, breaking into her trademark smile.

Recipe: Pepper’s Fried Hen Larb

Pepper's Fried Chicken Larb.

Pepper’s Fried Chicken Larb.

Jenny Huang/Clarkson Potter

Serves 2-4


— 2 tablespoons new lime juice

— 1 tablespoon fish sauce

— 1 teaspoon light brown sugar

— 1 tablespoon Toasted Rice Powder, retail outlet-acquired or home made

— 1 teaspoon Roasted Chile Powder


— 6 fried rooster tenders (about 12 ounces), sliced, or 3 heaping cups of chopped fried hen

— 1 medium shallot or ½ crimson onion, halved and thinly sliced (about ½ cup)

— 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)

— ¼ cup packed cilantro leaves

— ¼ cup torn mint leaves


— Cooked sticky rice or jasmine rice

Make the dressing: In a smaller bowl, whisk alongside one another the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, rice powder, and chile powder until eventually put together. Established apart.

Make the larb: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Unfold the rooster on a sheet pan and bake right until heated by way of, 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, incorporate the heat hen, shallot, scallions, cilantro, and mint, then little by little pour the dressing in excess of the prime while tossing. Blend carefully but comprehensively. Style and modify any seasonings as wanted. The larb must be tangy, salty, and a little spicy (like me).

Provide promptly with rice.

Recipe reprinted from The Pepper Thai Cookbook, out there online now and in bookstores close to the entire world. Copyright © 2021 by Vilailuck Teigen with Garrett Snyder.

Guide photographs copyright © 2021 by Jenny Huang. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random Household.

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