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I’ve been on the road quite a bit lately, the reason for not having posted in while. However I’ve recently become the owner of an intimidatingly black MacBook, so you can expect some mobile blogging in the near future.
My first trip took me once again visit Ayuthaya. I’m always happy to go there for fresh air and the chance to explore, but the excellent Thai food has also become a good enough excuse in its own right. I’ve already mentioned it here and here, so by now you know that if you visit Ayuthaya, you must eat at Baan Wacharachai. This time I wanted to try something different, and asked the locals about the best place to eat kuaytiaw ruea, ‘boat noodles’, a dish associated with the city. I was enthusiastically pointed in the direction of an open-air restaurant across from the ruins of Wat Ratburana called Lung Lek (‘Uncle Lek’):
Lung Lek’s noodles here must be among the most intense bowls I’ve ever consumed. There were the usual condiments on the table (fish sauce, dried chilies, sugar), but none was necessary–the noodles were already thoroughly spicy, sour and sweet. The beef variety (pictured above) contained a few slices of very tender stewed beef along with lots of unidentifiable bits, and the pork combined par-boiled pork and meatballs. Both contained a handful of par-boiled phak boong (sometimes known as ‘morning glory’, a green aquatic veggie), crispy rinds and a dose of blood. After a bowl of each (they’re small and cost 15 baht) I cycled just up Thanon Chee Kun to Paa Lek (‘Aunt Lek’), another recommended noodle joint. Paa Lek’s noodles (pictured at the top of the post) were slightly more attractive, and judging by the crowd (and the wait) more popular, but I felt they lacked the intensity of the previous shop’s. Sweet was the leading flavour here, and I’m not a big fan of bean sprouts.
I’ve previously mentioned roti sai mai, candy floss wrapped up in thin pancakes. On this trip I had my sights set on another Ayuthaya sweet fav, khanom babin:
Tiny pancakes of sticky rice flour and coconut meat. When done right they’re just a tiny bit crispy on the outside, and soft and sticky on the inside. And they’re usually not too sweet either (a rare trait among Thai sweets). Khanom babin can be found in abundance at the market located directly behind Wat Phramongkhon Bophit.
On my most recent trip I spent a week in three of Thailand’s southernmost provinces: Songkhla, Pattani and Narathiwat. Due to a violent insurgency that’s been brewing since 2004, there’s not a lot of folks visiting these parts, but there’s still a lot of interesting things to see…and eat.
Every big city in the south has a night market. Hat Yai’s:
featured a few stalls selling curries, grilled seafood and khanom jeen (fresh rice noodles served with curry). There were also several stalls selling kai thawt hat hai, Hat Yai-style fried chicken. However where it concerns the local dish, the residents I talked to consider Kai Tod Daycha, with three branches around town, the best:
Hat Yai-style fried chicken differs from elsewhere in its spice-laden marinade, and Daycha served the eponymous bird over fragrant yellow rice, or with a side of som tam (papaya salad).
In addition to Muslim-style food, there are also lots of ethnic Chinese in the south, and at a cafe in Hat Yai I had a wonderful bowl of ba kut teh:
pork ribs cooked in a herbal broth and served with sides of rice and deep-fried bits of dough. And yes, that’s an entire head of garlic there in the broth.
Moving south, Pattani also has a much smaller, but still interesting night market serving a mix of Thai-Muslim and Chinese dishes:
The city also has one of the most vibrant morning markets in the region:
Most people in Pattani are ethnic Malays and there were more conversations in Yawi (a Malay dialect) than in Thai. In addition to language, breakfast is also very different in Thailand’s deep south. Undoubtedly the most popular morning meal in these parts is khao yam (pictured at the top of this post), rice, often cooked with a type of purple flower, and topped with a bunch of finely-sliced herbs, roasted coconut, and a type of fish sauce called budu. The thin red strips are a kind of flower called dawk dala.
Another ubiquitous breakfast, especially in Muslim areas, is roti, a type of crispy pancake associated with Thai-Muslim cooking, and often served with a curry dip:
Thai Muslims really love sweet food, and will often put a tablespoon of sugar or three into the dip. In fact, despite southern Thai food’s reputation as the hottest regional cuisine in the country, I found that many dishes featured sweet as their leading flavour. In Songkhla they like a dish called tao khua:
thin rice noodles and deep-fried crispy bits swimming in an insanely sweet sauce.
After a meal like that, I rarely felt a need for dessert, but really fell for khanom kho:
These are soft balls of dough and coconut meat surrounding a tiny cube of raw sugar. The combination of the soft, fluffy outside and the crunchy inside was amazing.
This is my first post at my newly-redesigned website. I’m still learning how to post and use some of the new functions, so it’s something of work in progress. Once I get everything ironed out I’ll start publishing RealThai here and you’ll be able to check out all my blogs, as well as a portfolio of my work and samples of my published work, all at one convenient hub.
Until then, the pic above was taken in the old district of Songkhla, in southern Thailand. I’ll be posting more from southern Thailand, as well as other places I’ve been lately, soon.
You’ve undoubtedly been re-directed here from RealThai, my former Thai food blog. Thai food fans don’t despair just yet–all my previous entries have been moved here, and I’m still living in Thailand and the bulk of my entries will continue to emphasize Thai eats. However, I’m doing a lot more traveling these days and wanted a more general forum from which I can share my food discoveries. I also like the idea of a ‘hub’ of my own work, and if you’ve got the time to explore the site a bit, you’ll also find a Photo Blog, my portfolio, as well as my Bio and a few examples of my published work. Update your bookmarks and enjoy!
A while back, I started showing the locations of the places I mention in Google Maps. As some of you pointed out, the maps were written in Thai–not a great deal of help to most of the people who come here. Fortunately, in glancing at my Google Map today, it appears that it now includes both Thai and English. So, please take a look, click on whatever looks good, and hope this tool helps you find it!
I’m currently on Ko Pha-Ngan, a beautiful island in southern Thailand. At the moment, the water is clear, the weather sunny and I’m having a great time with old friends. There’s only one downside: the food is bloody awful. Actually, that’s a bit too strong. The food here isn’t unsanitary, or rotten or even that badly prepared. It’s just phenomenally bland. A boring, uninteresting approximation of Thai food for gastronomically timid foreigners. To make things even worse, every restaurant on Haad Yao seems to have the identical menu, and they staunchly refuse to vary from this. Among the more bizarre things that I’ve been served is something called Haad Yao fried rice (pictured above), rice fried with ketchup and chicken, and wrapped in a thin omelet. You can opt for the classic Thai dishes, but unless you’re a fan of limp, salty ‘kana with garlic’, greasy phat thai, or milky tom khaa, you’re screwed.
Our only saving grace at this point has been a streetside som tam and grilled chicken stall about three kilometres up the road.
The proprietor is from Buriram, and makes papaya salad just the way I like it: sour and spicy. If you go to the same area in the morning, you’ll even find, believe it or not, authentic southern Thai food such as khanom jeen. Unfortunately a taxi ride there (actually a seat in the back of a truck) costs more than the meal, so what would be a dirt cheap meal anywhere else in the country becomes an exorbitant splurge here.
In a couple days I’ll be crossing over to Ko Samui, home I’m sure to even more quasi-Thai food, but also the location of Bangpo Seafood, a beachfront restaurant serving authentic Ko Samui-style Thai food that, despite having eaten there only once, I still count as one of my most memorable eating experiences in Thailand. Can’t wait.