A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.


Monthly Archives: June 2006



Fun Talop 7

Posted at 5am on 6/3/06 | read on
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Fun Talop is the name of an isaan-style Thai restaurant that, I think, started out at the famous Chatujak Market. That’s where I first came across it anyway. The restaurant is located in a somewhat remote corner of the market and was hugely popular, with lines of people breathing down your neck and staring at your som tam as they waited to take your seat. The woman who made som tam there did so in two of the biggest mortar and pestles I’ve ever seen, working with one pestle in each hand! The 7 above refers to the fact that this new Fun Talop is the seventh branch of the original restaurant, which shows its popularity. Luckily for me this most recent outlet of Fun Talop is about 1 km from my house. So of course we had to try it out.

We started with a dish that we always ordered at the original Fun Talop, plaa som:

This is a kind of freshwater fish that has been stuffed with rice and left to ferment for a few days. The fish is then deep-fried until crispy, and is deliciously sour. The only downside is that it contains hundreds of literally microscopic bones, which inevitably end up lodged in your throat.

We had tom saep, an isaan-style tom yam, with tender pork ribs:

This was also sour from the use of lime juice, and was fortified with khao khua, ground roasted sticky rice.

And of course when eating isaan food you also have to have som tam, papaya salad:

This kind is called tam sua, and the papaya is mashed up with thin rice noodles.

We also ordered a plate of sai krok isaan, fermented pork sausages:

The casings are stuffed with rice and fatty pork, and are grilled or deep-fried. They are taken with hearty slices of garlic and ginger.

And when eating isaan food the rice of choice is sticky rice:

All in all a great lunch, but for some reason I miss the hustle and bustle of the original.

Bangkok B&W Episode 4

Posted at 5pm on 6/4/06 | read on
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Was recently in the Tha Pra Chan area, the same place I visited with Pim a few months back. I’m actually in this area quite often nowadays, but don’t always have a chance to take pics. This is probably one of my favorite places to take photos in Bangkok; it’s one of the few atmospheric neighborhoods in the city, and it’s near the Chao Phraya River as well as lots of other attractions.

Tuk tuk are still a common form of transportation in this older part of Bangkok.

A temple along Thanon Maharat.

A well-stocked newsstand near Chang Pier.

Selling noy naa, custard apples.

Open-air pool, near Pak Khlong Talaad.

A vegetable delivery person taking a break, Pak Khlong Talad.

How To Make: Kaeng Massaman

Posted at 6pm on 6/7/06 | read on
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Kaeng massaman, literally “Muslim curry”, is a dish you’ll probably find in almost every Thai cookbook. I’ve tried many of these recipes and have never been happy until recently. The following recipe is one that I came across in a Thai-language cookbook and adapted myself, and is by far the best I’ve seen. Kaeng massaman differs from most Thai curries in that it doesn’t have a curry paste that’s pounded up in a mortar and pestle; the ingredients, mostly dried spices, are added step by step. Keep in mind that Thai-Muslim food tends to be sweet. If you don’t like sweet dinner dishes, than reduce the amount of sugar in the last step. Most people expect this dish to have peanuts; you can put them in there at the last step if you want, but I think it’s oily and fatty enough already!

“Muslim” Curry with Beef Kaeng Matsaman Nuea
(Serves 4)

Ingredients
Beef 500 g
Thick coconut milk* 1 cup
Think coconut milk** 1 cup
Freshly roasted and ground
coriander seed 3 Tbsp
Freshly roasted and ground
cumin seed 2 tsp
Chili powder 2 Tbsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Ground pepper 2 tsp
Cooking oil 3/4 cup
Chopped shallots 1/4 cup
Cinnamon 3 pieces
Star anise 3
Thai cardamom (look krawaan) 10
Water 1/2 cup
Potatoes 200 g, quartered
Shrimp paste 1 tsp
Peppercorns 20, crushed
Shredded ginger 1/2 cup
Salt 1 1/2 Tbsp
Tamarind paste 4 Tbsp
Palm sugar 5 Tbsp
Onion 1, sliced

*Thick coconut milk is the coconut milk that comes directly from the can.
**Thin coconut milk is canned coconut milk that has been diluted, 50%, with water.

Method
Wash beef and cut into large bite sized pieces. In a medium saucepan, cover beef with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until beef is tender, at least 40 minutes.

Combine ground coriander, ground cumin, chili powder, and ground pepper. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add oil and fry shallots with cinnamon, star anise and Thai cardamom, until golden and crispy. Add dry spice mixture, stirring well to combine. When fragrant, add thick coconut milk followed by water. Bring to a slight boil and add potatoes. Simmer until potatoes are just done, about 5 minutes, and add beef. Combine shrimp paste with two Tbsp of hot curry mixture and return to saucepan, stirring to combine. Add peppercorns and ginger. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmering until fragrant and flavors have combined. Add thin coconut milk and season with salt, tamarind paste and palm sugar. Bring to a boil and add onions, simmer until onions are soft and remove from heat.

Serve hot with rice as part of a southern Thai meal.

Hookahs and kebabs

Posted at 12am on 6/8/06 | read on
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ThaiDay, 08/06/06

From Iran to Bangladesh, a tour around the cuisines of Nana’s Soi Arab

The songlike call to prayer emerged from a mosque across the street as I sat sipping a glass of mint-laced tea. I turned to find the source of the noise but by my view was obstructed by the fragrant smoke of several turbaned men smoking hookahs. Where am I, you may wonder? Well, not Dubai, or Damascus, or even Beirut, but rather Bangkok. Sukhumvit Soi 3/1 to be exact.

Known colloquially as Soi Arab, this street, and the area that surrounds it have long been associated with visiting Muslims. In reality, the name Soi Arab is a misnomer, as the area is home to North Africans, West Africans, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Persians and Malaysians, as well as Arabs, but the atmosphere is unmistakably Muslim.

And a great deal of this atmosphere is provided by the area’s lively food scene. Muslim food conjures of images of flatbreads and skewered meat, mezze and bizarre grains, and Soi Arab is no exception. A stroll around the area will reveal signs advertising a variety of restaurants serving Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Malaysian and Persian cuisine. However, despite these names, the vast majority of the restaurants serve what could only be described as ‘Pan-Muslim’ cuisine, typically incorporating elements of the better-known Lebanese and Indian styles of cooking. A restaurant claiming to have Turkish food might also have hummus on its menu, whereas a Bangladeshi restaurant may also serve a few Arab specialties. However there are a few restaurants that focus on the cuisine of a particular country, which are described in more detail below.

Nasser Elmassry Restaurant & Shishah
4/6 Sukhumvit Soi 3/1
02 253 5582
www.restaurant-shishah-nasir.com

Nasser Elmassry is one of several Egyptian restaurants in the Soi Arab are, but judging by the amount of kitschy Egyptian paraphernalia and abundance of stainless steel, appears to be the most well established. However it’s the food, rather than the ambiance, that has kept me coming back to Nasser Elmassry for years. The freshly baked pita bread (particularly the kind topped with garlic) is the best in the area, delicious when dipped into the Middle Eastern standards of hummus and baba ganoush, and hand-in-glove perfect with the Egyptian national dish, ful, pureed fava beans. As with most Muslim food, the emphasis at Nasser Elmassry is on meat, and my companions and I ordered grilled lamb chops and mutton and chicken kebabs, which served together on a vast platter, appeared substantial enough to satisfy any large carnivore. The meats were delicious and suggested every adjective associated with grilled meat: smoky, juicy and tender. One disappointing aspect of Nasser Elmassry, other than the grumpy and pushy service, is that more than 2/3 of the menu is written only in Arabic, suggesting that there’s almost certainly a great deal more on offer than the usual Middle Eastern standards.

Nasser Elmassry also features a shishah, an upstairs smoking room, where customers can recline and watch Egyptian TV programs while smoking fruit flavored tobacco from bubbling hookahs. You can also eat there if you don’t mind consuming your kebab in a haze of cherry-scented smoke.

Al-Iraqi Restaurant
8/17-18 Sukhumvit Soi 3/1
02 655 5357

Tucked into the far corner of Soi 3/1, Al-Iraqi is a restaurant that one could easily pass by without noticing it, as I did myself several times. The restaurant, as the name suggests, serves the cuisine of Iraq, a country known for many things other than its food, but the existence of a restaurant in Bangkok serving its cuisine must mean there’s something there, so I gave it a try.

Navigating the lengthy menu, I asked the staff for something typically Iraqi and was steered towards the Iraqi kebab, two skewers of minced lamb, lightly spiced and served on a bed of shredded cabbage. The meat was, I imagine, probably as good as grilled minced lamb can possibly be, and was accompanied by two colossal wheels of freshly baked bread made in a tandoor-style oven in front of the restaurant. I was only able to eat one piece of bread and was shocked to see the Iraqi man at the next table order curry and bread, as well as a heaping biryani-style rice dish, also a staple of Iraqi cooking.

Kebabs
Sukhumvit Soi 3/1, next door to Nefertiti Egyptian Restaurant

If you find the relatively high price of food in the Soi Arab area prohibitive, it will come as good news to learn that the area is also home to one of Bangkok’s best value meals: kebabs. Consumed directly on the street or at rickety tables, the kebabs sold in Soi Arab are utterly proletarian, but really are delicious, and at 50 baht, one of the best deals in Bangkok. There are three vendors selling kebabs, but the best is found at a basic restaurant adjacent to the Nefertiti Egyptian Restaurant. The kebabs here are carved from rotating spits of beef or chicken, rolled in a thin flatbread and are slathered with the requisite vegetables and sauces (as well as, oddly enough, but deeply satisfying, thick cut French fries) before being warmed in a sandwich grill. Simple, delicious and filling. And the kebab I ordered take home was just as delicious as the one I ate at the restaurant.

Abyssinya Café
16/11 Sukhumvit Soi 3
02 655 3436
www.search.in.th/abyssinya

Those in search of something more obscure than hummus or pita can do no better than Thailand’s only Ethiopian restaurant, Abyssinya Café. Located just off of Soi Arab on Sukhumvit Soi 3, this café/restaurant was started three years ago by Tigist Fekade, an Ethiopian woman who, in the words of her daughter, Frey Nebiat, was simply “looking for good coffee.” Ethiopia is the homeland of the coffee plant, and when Fekade was not able to find real Ethiopian coffee in Bangkok, she decided to circumvent the problem altogether and opened her own café serving the drink.

It didn’t take long before customers started asking for Ethiopian food, and Fekade expanded the café concept to include a variety of traditional Ethiopian dishes. Stopping by on a recent day I ordered yemisir kik wet, a vegetarian set that included stewed lentils, curried onions, a vegetable curry and an Ethiopian-style vegetable salad. My companion ordered yedoro kei watt, chicken cooked in spicy/sour berbere sauce and accompanied by homemade Ethiopian style curds and a hard-boiled egg. The dishes were served together on a large platter, the curries placed directly on top of two vast portions of injera, spongy Ethiopian-style bread. “We used to get our injera directly from Ethiopia,” explained Nebiat, of the soft, gray flatbread, “But Ethiopian Airlines stopped giving out free tickets, so now we make it here.” Along with teff, the grains used to make injera, the restaurant imports the majority of its ingredients, including the chilies and spices used to make the piquant berbere sauce, a staple of Ethiopian cooking.

The emphasis on coffee has not faded, and every Saturday and Sunday evening at 7:00 PM, Fekade brews up Ethiopian coffee beans the traditional way.

Shater Restaurant Persian Food
79/6 Sukhumvit Soi 3/1
02 655 6460

Persian is one of those cuisines I had only ever read about, so I was excited to discover that Soi 3/1 is also home to a restaurant featuring the food of Iran. I visited the restaurant recently looking forward to trying something new and exotic, but was disappointed by the menu, which seemed to feature nothing but eerily similar combinations of grilled meat and rice. Surely the people of Iran eat more than this? Nonetheless I braved forward and chose a dish highlighted as the “Webmaster’s Favorite”, the gormeh sabsi (“parsley, cilantro, chives and beans cooked with veal shank and served with basmati rice”). The dish took the form of a dark puree of the aforementioned herbs, with the random bit of bean and meat floating in the mix. The dominant taste was sour, and was not entirely unpleasant, but was entirely uninspiring. The dish and its accompanying Everest-like mound of rice seemed to be an illustration of food for sustenance. Perhaps I should have stuck with the grilled meat?

Al-Hussain Restaurant
75/7 Sukhumvit Soi 3/1
02 252 0240

Al-Hussain is located in the heart of Soi 3/1 and boasts a vast display case holding a variety of curries and brandishing a line of Bangladeshi text. Assuming the restaurant served Bangladeshi food, I asked the employees to recommend any specialties of this country. “All our foods are Bangladeshi,” said the man behind the counter, in an effort to get me to hurry up and order something. So I pointed to a chickpea curry, curried vegetables, and dhal, pureed lentils in a spicy broth, accompanied by the ubiquitous naan bread. The food was hearty and tasty—very similar to meals I’ve had in Pakistan, although I don’t think it was particularly Bangladeshi, which to my limited understanding emphasizes freshwater fish and mustard seed.

Al-Hussain features an open-air dining area, and during the course of my meal, every time a European-looking foreigner walked by, the staff had the annoying habit of screaming “Welcome saaar!” which seemed to result in making all European-looking foreigners eat everywhere but Al-Hussain.

Secret ingredients

Posted at 8pm on 6/14/06 | read on
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ThaiDay, 15/06/06
Inspired by a delicious Italian meal, our writer tries to make it himself.

Fans of pasta and pizza in Bangkok should consider themselves particularly fortunate; the Italian Trade Commission estimates that there are currently more than 300 Italian restaurants in the capital. This is obviously a wonderful situation for diners, but what about those of us who love to cook? Does Bangkok also have the ingredients and produce to make a high quality Italian meal at home?

I first began to think about this after eating at biscotti, the Four Seasons’ Italian restaurant. When I stopped by last week, Chef Giovanni Speciale was preparing food from his home province of Puglia, also known as Apulia, the “heel” of the Italian boot. His meal began with hearty slices of grilled bread spread with ricotta forte, a pungent cheese spread, accompanied by a white globe of mozzarella di bufala topped with arugula and cherry tomatoes. This was followed by orrechiete, the “little ears” of pasta often associated with southern Italy, served with a thin sauce of broccoli, anchovies, chili and olive oil. “You cook the broccoli in the same water as the pasta, and you add just a bit of chili,” explained Chef Giovanni, who emerged from his kitchen to explain each course. The final course was bombette di maiale, thin slices of pork filled with provolone cheese, wrapped in pancetta and grilled.


Chef Giovanni Speciale explains the nuances of Puglia’s major product, olive oil.

Wiping our plates clean of dessert, my companion and I were awed; the meal was simple and even rustic, but astonishingly delicious, the result of strong, confident flavors and quality ingredients; in short, I wanted to make it. Luckily, during the course of the meal, Chef Giovanni was kind enough to describe how the dishes were made. The only obstacle would be finding some of the more obscure ingredients. Obviously this would involve sourcing a fair amount of imported meats and cheeses, but when possible, I wanted to look into the growing variety of Italian-style ingredients that are being produced in Thailand today. An invaluable tool in my mission was a map provided by the Embassy of Italy, Bangkok With an Italian Heart, which describes the various Italian institutions, monuments, restaurants and shops found in Bangkok.

To recreate Chef Giovanni’s antipasti, I followed a lead indicated on the map and visited Maria Pizzeria (909-917 Silom Road,02 234 0440). Seemingly a nondescript pizza parlor from the outside, Maria is also the home of Gennaro, one of Thailand’s first producers of Italian-style cheeses. In an effort to provide cheese for his popular pizza restaurant, owner Somchai Thaveepholcharoen decided to make Italian-style cheeses himself. He sent an employee to Italy to study cheese making, imported the necessary equipment, and began producing Italian-style cheeses using Thai milk. That was 15 years ago, and today Thaveepholcharoen produces more than 10 different styles of cheese including mozzarella, ricotta, mascarpone, scamorza and most interestingly, a fresh mozzarella that contains buffalo milk. “[Buffalo milk] is very hard to get,” explained Thaveepholcharoen. “Thais aren’t interested in making it, so I can’t get a lot of it.” It is this fresh cheese that I have come by to pick up, and Thaveepholcharoen mentions that Gennaro products are also available at some branches of Tops, Villa and Foodland, but he has no problem with people coming to the restaurant simply to buy cheese to go.

My next stop was at another business featured on the map, Food DItalia (160/1 Sukhumvit Soi 33, 02 259 9549). Owned by Roberto Brivio, a friendly native of Milan, Food DItalia is an importer of Italian food products into Thailand. Though the vast majority of his business is conducted through hotels and restaurants, Brivio is more than happy to serve individuals who are willing to come to his showroom. “I like being here to explain the products to customers,” explains Brivio. I describe the meal I plan to make and he is able to provide every last ingredient including smoked pancetta, which Brivio slices paper-thin, a “spicy” provolone cheese known as auricchio, and ricotta dura di pecora, a sheep’s milk cheese from Puglia. “People in Puglia use this cheese on pasta instead of parmesan,” explained Brivio, as he gave me a piece to taste. The cheese was delicious, and was just one of the products that I didn’t previously realize was available in Bangkok. As an added bonus, I am able to take Brivio’s last bag of fresh orrechiete; a vast improvement over the dried stuff generally available at Bangkok’s supermarkets.


Food DItalia owner Roberto Brivio slices off paper thin slices of prosciutto.

I had mentioned to Roberto that I was still in need of wine, preferably something from Puglia, and he suggested I visit ItalAsia’s showroom at All Seasons Place (Wireless Road, 02 685 3862). ItalAsia is Thailand’s oldest importer of Italian goods, and claims to have the largest selection of Italian wines. I stopped by the small shop, and after some deliberation, picked up a 1.5 litre bottle of Sangiovese di Puglia, a dry red that would hopefully go well with the slightly spicy pasta course and the grilled meat with its strong cheese filling.

I still needed a few odds and ends, and stopped by Villa, Bangkok’s standby for imported groceries. For better or worse, Villa’s stock of specialty food items is unmatched, and I needed a few items that could only be found there. I picked up some arugula from Rai Pluk Rak, Thailand’s first organic farm, as well as a jar of oil-preserved anchovies from Siam Fishery, a Thai brand. I also bought a loaf of country-style sourdough bread from La Boulange, Bangkok’s best bakery, which sells its products at Villa.

My final stop was at my favorite store in Bangkok: Doi Kham (101 Kamphaeng Phet Road, 02 279 1551). This tiny supermarket located near the Or Tor Kor Market stocks a truly impressive variety of Western-style produce grown in northern Thailand under the auspices of the Royal Project Foundation. The fruits and vegetables sold at Doi Kham are high quality, pesticide-free and include such Italian staples as eggplants, artichokes, fennel, zucchini, bell peppers and radicchio, as well as fresh herbs such as sage, Italian parsley, oregano and thyme. I picked up some young broccoli and juicy cherry tomatoes—essential ingredients for the pasta dish, and made my way home.


Doi Kham stocks an impressive variety of produce.

The next day I invited some friends over and made my Apulian meal. Relying on Chef Giovanni’s descriptions and my own experience making Italian food, the cooking went relatively smoothly. The antipasti of grilled bread, arugula salad and mozzarella was a hit, the creamy buffalo cheese winning over even those who normally don’t like dairy products. The fresh pasta of the next course was deliciously tender, and was only improved by the tender Doi Kham broccoli and tomatoes and the strong flavours of the Thai anchovies and dried chili. The Apulian wine stood up to the food well, surviving both the spicy pasta and the strong provolone in the grilled pork.


Pleasing the critics.

In the end my Apulian meal wasn’t necessarily cheaper or even more delicious than my meal at biscotti, but for someone who loves to cook, it was a pleasure to discover the diversity of products available in Bangkok. And although sourcing these ingredients may have involved a considerable amount of travel, it was worth it considering the quality of both the imported and the domestically produced products. With resources such as these, surely it’s only a matter of time before Italian food in Bangkok moves from the restaurant into the home.

Nong Khai

Posted at 4am on 6/15/06 | read on
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Nong Khai is the name of a province in NE Thailand. Lying on banks of the Mekong River, the city of Nong Khai sits directly across from Vientiane, the capial of Laos. Nong Khai is also the name of an Isaan/Vietnamese restaurant very near my home. The place is a real hole in the wall, incorporating insanely crappy service, horribly filthy tablecloths and a kitchen I’m sure I do not want to see. But despite all this, the restaurant serves some of the most interesting regional food in Bangkok, a delicious mix of Vietnamese and NE Thai fare.

Below is by far my favorite dish at the restaurant, as well as possibly one of the tastiest dishes I’ve come across yet in this country, laap plaa duk:

Laap, as you may already know, is a kind of NE Thai-style “salad” usually consisting of minced meat. Plaa duk means catfish. In this laap the catfish has been grilled, then the meat picked off and minced up along with some hearty freshwater snails. The lot is then mixed up with sliced shallots, green onions, fish sauce, lime and khao khua, ground up roasted sticky rice. It is then served with two vegetables, dill, in the back, known in Thai as phak chee lao, “Lao coriander”, and a hard-to-find herb called phak khayaeng. I’m really not sure how to describe the flavor of this herb, which I’ve virtually only ever come across at this restaurant, but it’s sort of bitter and fresh at the same time. The laap itself is spicy, sour, savory, smoky, crunchy, chewy… it really has got everything.

Following close behind the laap plaa duk in terms of interest and flavor is the restaurant’s namesake, som tam nong khai:

This som tam differs from papaya salad elsewhere in the use of a few very interesting ingredients. First of all, the small green seeds on the top are called kathin and have a pungent flavor, similar to the southern Thai favorite, sator. Also making this som tam very unusual is the addition of kung ten, literally “dancing shrimp”. These are tiny freshwater shrimp that are kept alive until being cooked (or more commonly, eaten raw). They are named for the way they bounce around in the mesh containers they are kept in until being used. And finally this som tam uses a particular kind of small round green and red tomato found in northern isaan and northern Thailand known as makhuea som. These tomatoes have a wonderfully crispy texture, and a slightly sour/sweet flavor. All in all a very unusual and delicious variation on the already delicious papaya salad.

Next was deep-fried pork belly served with thin rice noodles and crispy fried shallots, a dish of Vietnamese origin, I do believe.

Pretty damn good, but crunching through deep-fried pork fat is a guilty pleasure I’d rather not take part in too often.

One of the most popular dishes at the restaurant is a Vietnamese dish called naem nueang:

This is grilled pork “sausages” served with a variety of condiments and rice paper wrappers and a fat bowl of fresh herbs. You take a lettuce leaf, top it with some herbs, top this with a piece of rice paper, a chunk of sausage, a chunk of garlic, cucumber, chilies, unripe banana or starfruit, and finish it off with a generous dollop of the requisite sweet/sour peanut sauce. The final step involves rolling this “package” up and stuffing it in your greedy gob. Yes, I know, a lot of work just to eat, but it’s worth it.

My companions ordered this dish, pork skewers wrapped in bai cha phluu (wild tea leaf) and “grilled”:

I write “grilled” rather than grilled because the menu says they are grilled when in fact they are deep-fried. A brilliant idea for a dish, but definately not something that should be deep-fried; the greasy skewers alone are enough to make me not want to eat it.

Lychee Season!

Posted at 4am on 6/16/06 | read on
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That’s right, it’s lychee season, and this year, as usual, we’ve received a fat box of these beauties direct from Chiang Mai.

Here is Khuat unveiling the booty chest of lychee goodness:

And Norng Paeng displaying her ration for the evening:

That large box is far too much for us to eat on our own, so we usually end up giving lots away. Jealous?

Nonthaburi Market

Posted at 12am on 6/17/06 | read on
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Inspired by a writer acquaintance who encourged me to “hone my craft” I decided to get out of my home office and take some photos. My muse led me to Nonthaburi Market, north of Bangkok. This is a really fun market in a sort of old fashioned area right next to the Chao Phraya River.

A marketside breakfast of stewed pork leg amongst the flies and screaming vendors. Not my ideal brekkie:

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Much more interesting for breakfast are khanom jeep, Chinese-style dim sum-like meat tidbits:

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You’ll need coffee, and that’s what this cheeky lad is here for:

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Steamed plaa thuu, mackerel, is one of the most common foods in Thailand:

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Sometimes plaa thuu is grilled, along with chilies, garlic, shallots and eggplant, and then mashed up in mortar and pestle into a delicicous dip. Here are the ingredients before the mashing; the dish is made to order:

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This guy is dishing up preserved freshwater crabs, a popular ingredient in NE-style som tam:

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This guy was selling knives and razors. To the right is a try of very finely chopped ginger. I’m not sure if this was for sale or a testament to the sharpness of his knives!

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A few more pics from this trip can be seen here.

North and South

Posted at 2am on 6/17/06 | read on
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Was at the venerable Or Tor Kor Market again this afternoon for lunch and a spot of shopping. Since the recent rennovation, the old Or Tor Kor is becoming a more and more interesting place to eat. Today’s lunch involved eats from the polar opposite ends of Thailand; the cool north and the spicy south.

Starting in the north, I downed a bowl of khanom jeen naam ngiaow, a spaghetti-like sauce of pork and tomatoes served over thin rice noodles:

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These were served up by a lady from Chiang Rai in the far north of Thailand. Here’s the old gal dishing up another bowl:

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A single bowl of noodles generally not being enough, we decided to move to the stall next door, which served southern-style food. Khuat ordered kaeng tai plaa, “fish kidney curry”, a really freaking spicy curry that tastes much better than it sounds, served over the same rice noodles:

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I ordered the same curry, along with a side of khua kling neua, beef simmered in curry paste, served over rice:

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Also really freaking spicy.

Here are the shopowners, two ladies from Phuket, in the midst of a lot of predominately orange-colored, really freaking spicy southern Thai food:

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Saraburi Style

Posted at 3am on 6/19/06 | read on
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Was on my way to somewhere else and stopped by the tiny town/province of Saraburi, about 100 km north of Bangkok. Saraburi is mostly known for its dairy industry, and is the first place Thai people started milking cows, about 40 years ago. Other than that, it’s not known for much, but I came across a couple cool food surprises nonetheless.

My first discovery was a Thai snack called karee phap. This is, believe it or not, the Thai pronunciation of the English word “curry puff”, and refers to small deep-fried turnovers. These bad boys are sold in the thousands along the main street of Saraburi, mostly sold at roadside stalls like this:

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Many of the vendors were Muslim, which is not surprising when one considers how much they resemble samosa. The curry puffs are filled with a variety of fillings, ranging from savory, such as chicken or pork, to sweet, such as pineapple or chocolate:

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They are all made by hand:

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and deep-fried until crispy. Here’s a close up of my pork and shitake mushroom curry puff:

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Not too shabby, and I like the “layered” effect of the dough. Bought four (two pork and shitake and two “original chicken”), which at a paltry 5 baht each, almost made me feel guilty. Interestingly enough, the word karee is also Thai slang for prostitute. Would be curious to find out the origins of that.

Another fun discovery in Saraburi was the roadside stalls selling local agricultural products:

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These can be found in rural areas all over the country, and vary depending on where you are. In northern Thailand you can find things like freshly-picked wild mushrooms or wild honey. In Saraburi the emphasis was on bamboo and pumpkins:

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In the top photo the small bamboo was grilled, something I’d never seen before. Unfortunately I’m not currently in need of giant pumpkin or a bamboo root, and only took photos.

My final discovery came while looking for lunch on the hardscrabble streets of Saraburi. Other than karee phap, the food situ in Saraburi is pretty grim, and I it took me a long time to find something that wasn’t wrapped and deep-fried. Eventually I came across a shop selling beef noodle soup. This is not something I would normally choose, as beef in Thailand is invariably chewy, usually consisting of fat and joints rather than meat, and the broth that accompanies this soup is usually way too sweet. However, this place served beef that was par-boiled to perfection, and accompanied by “homemade” beef balls that were tender and delicious:

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Throw in a few more veggies and you got yerself a damn good bowl of noodles.