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Chrissy Teigen’s mom is sharing her favorite Thai-American recipes.

By Oset Babür
December 09, 2020
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The Pepper Thai Cookbook Cover

It’s time to stock up on shrimp paste, fish sauce, and, of course, plenty of spicy chiles between now and April 13, which is when Vilailuck “Pepper” Teigen’s debut cookbook hits shelves. Teigen shared a first-ever look at the cover of The Pepper Thai Cookbook with Food & Wine, and, needless to say, it’s going to be difficult to choose which of her recipes to dive into first.

Pepper—who is the mother of Chrissy Teigen and grandmother to Luna and Miles—says she hopes the book empowers readers to turn to traditional Thai ingredients in their day-to-day cooking. She currently shares many of her tips on the Cravings website and as part of her “Pepper’s Corner” video series, so it’s no surprise that the book reads like a natural extension of Teigen’s expertise in Thai cooking for an American audience. Although she teamed up with writer Garret Snyder in November of 2019 to start officially writing the stories in the book, many of the recipes are from Teigen’s childhood in Isaan, a small town in northeastern Thailand. 

“I grew up helping my mom, who was a cafeteria lady at school,” she said. “I essentially had to be another mom, because she was a very hard-working lady who woke up at 2 a.m. to go to the market. When I got older, I went with her and had to learn all of the ingredients, vegetables, preparation, everything … when I go back to Thailand, I would love to go back and visit that market.”

Although the recipes stay true to the dishes Teigen grew up cooking and eating, the book is meant to feel accessible to readers across the US. “When I first came here thirty-eight years ago, Thai ingredients were not accessible,” she said. “I had to travel to find them! Now, we’re so lucky, because you can find most of these things in a general market, even Thai peppers and lemongrass.” 

That said, Teigen encourages flexibility. “There’s nothing in here where it’s like, if you can’t find Thai basil, you can’t make it. You can use regular basil,” she said, laughing. “I used to be so strict, but now I’m like, if you can’t find or don’t like Chinese broccoli in a recipe, just use something you do like!”

The book includes chapters like “Always Snacking,” “Eat Your Veggies,” “Salads but Not Boring,” and “Queen of Leftovers.” Many recipes are just a handful of steps, a choice that Teigen hopes will make the book feel “easy, simple, and fun.” She’s most excited to share a recipe for Pad Korat, a versatile variation on traditional Pad Thai from her hometown that can be served with chicken, beef, tofu, or mushrooms, as well as her coconut pancakes, which she’s already taught Luna how to make.

Personally, I’ve got my eye on a recipe for sweet and spicy chile jam tea sandwiches, as well as a tantalizingly easy smoky green chile dip, which Teigen says she loves to dunk crunchy pork rinds into.

The Pepper Thai Cookbook is now available for preorder on amazon.com.