Destination: Making Coconut Rice (and more!) at the Brooklyn Kitchen

Good friends reunited in Brooklyn on a HOT day…

As the school year was winding down and the kids and I were making our summer plans, my friend sent me a quick note asking if I wanted to visit her in New York this summer to take a cooking class at The Brooklyn Kitchen. Me? Turn down an invitation to take a cooking class? Never!

We both took a quick look at the awesome schedule of classes (jams & jellies? grilling? pasta making?) and finally settled on a class exploring Thai street food. Both of us have a houseful of adventurous eaters but we agreed that our families would probably appreciate it if we could expand our current Thai dinner options at home beyond our tried-and-true Pad Thai…

After letting our kids explore Brooklyn for the day and walk slowly (so slowly!! it was hot!) around the city, we handed them over to a neighborhood sitter and (giddily) headed for the Brooklyn Kitchen. We wandered around the immense kitchen store, ogled the wares, checked out the local food finds, the amazing (and somewhat scary) counter for the Meat Hook, and made quick plans to use our 10% discount wisely after the class ended.

The Meat Hook – They don’t mess around.

We finally headed to the classroom, washed our hands, put on our aprons, and grabbed a glass of homemade sparkling water. We sat down at one of the stainless steel tables and looked over our recipes for the evening – Pounded Papaya Salad, Beef Salad, Wide Rice Noodle Stir Fry, and Coconut Rice. Wow. Before we even started cooking, I knew that these recipes would be making their way into the rotation at home very, very soon.    

Our instructor, Connie – young, funny, informative, and totally approachable – greeted us and we almost immediately began to learn about and prepare our first menu item – pounded salad. After she scared us all into never, ever using a mandoline (just kidding – she only scared us into being super, super careful!), we got down to business cutting and chopping and pounding with our tablemates.

Tish – hard at work!

The Brooklyn Kitchen does not offer the kind of cooking classes where the participants look attentively at the cooking area, hoping to be picked to actually help do something instead of taking notes and taste testing. No way. In this class, you have to work for your food! Our instructor was more like a kitchen coach – helping us all master these recipes for ourselves – not doing them for us so they look pretty. The impact of having a hands-on class experience is undeniable.  Hands-on cooking creates a kind of muscle memory in a no-fail environment.

It was also great to get to know the people seated at our table. Chances are pretty good that you are going to get along with other folks who decided the most fun they could have on a Monday night is in an industrial kitchen learning to cook Thai food. As a side note, I will mention that it is totally possible that my friend and I were a.) the only non-couple in the room, and b.) the only people with kids. Tish tried to tell me that we were also the oldest people in the room but I told her she was cray-cray. I like to think that we were right in the middle…   

Once you make these recipes for yourself, as part of the class, you leave with the confidence that you can go home and re-create it all for your friends and family – in our case, our seven hungry children and two supportive spouses. Truly, we left this class with knowledge far greater than what could ever be written down on a recipe card. We made new friends, we learned new skills, and we got a glimpse into a culture that neither of us have the opportunity to see firsthand. Connie was an amazing resource throughout the entire process, not only giving us helpful tips as we were cooking, but also teaching us about where to find a great wok (Chinatown or online – don’t spend more than $30!) or the best local markets to find unusual ingredients. If you have the opportunity to take a class with her or truly any class at the Brooklyn Kitchen, run, don’t walk – and definitely sign up early. Classes fill fast! I am already planning my next trip…

Putting the Cooking Class To the Test … 


When I headed back on the train to Boston the next day, exhausted and still mildly full from the night before, I couldn’t wait to test out my new Thai cooking skills as soon as I got home. I confess that instead of Chinatown, I headed to my local Whole Foods where I had very good luck finding key ingredients.

My first goal was to make the pounded salad. In order to do this, I needed a green, unripened papaya. I bought what I thought was a green, unripened papaya … but then it sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of days in the tropical climate that was Boston this July and, much to my chagrin, stealthily ripened while I wasn’t looking.

Undaunted, I changed my first Thai cooking project quickly from salad course to dessert course… instead of a pounded salad, I decided to make a coconut rice and top it with this beautiful papaya. When life ripens your papaya … make dessert!

Making coconut rice is one of those recipes that I know all of you love – a recipe that’s not really a recipe. Make some rice, add some coconut milk … top with sweetened condensed milk and fresh fruit. Dessert. Done.

3 Ingredients … Too Easy

Coconut Rice with Fresh Papaya (adapted from Connie Sun, The Brooklyn Kitchen)


1 to 1 1/2 cups of rice, prepared with water only
1 can organic coconut milk (shake well)
Sweetened condensed milk
Fresh papaya – peeled, seeds removed, and chopped


1. Prepare your rice using only water or use leftover rice. Spread the rice in a medium casserole and let cool.
2. Pour one can of coconut milk (shake well!) evenly over the cooled rice.
3. Serve the rice in small bowls, generously drizzle with sweetened condensed milk, and top with fresh papaya.

Coconut Rice With Fresh Papaya

Enjoy! This recipe can be topped with any fresh fruit that you find in season. At the Brooklyn Kitchen, we had our dessert with dragonfruit, mango, and lychee. Amazing. Really, you can’t go wrong… use whatever you can get your hands on!

My closing thought…

Thanks to the wonderful people behind the scenes and in the classrooms at the Brooklyn Kitchen.


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Erin Brighton

I am a native New Englander now living in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina and enjoying summers in sea-breezy Scituate, Massachusetts with my five small kids and two large dogs. I love to cook easy, local, and gluten-free for friends and family.

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