Recently the Dutch television programme The Taste of Life was in Bangkok. I took them around town for a day, and even feature in part of the show! Apparently the video can be seen here, but I’m on the road and have yet to find a connection fast enough to accommodate streaming video. If you’re blessed with amble bandwith take a look and let me know how silly I look.
I’m on Ko Samui, doing the photos for Lonely Planet’s upcoming Ko Samui Encounter guide. I have a big fat list of places I have to shoot, but the good thing about doing this job is when I come across something interesting I can usually just shoot away. This happened when I was taking photos of Na Thon, Samui’s main port. It was sunset, and several ships had docked and were unloading fish:
A bit later, the remaining natural light mixed with the fluorescent and tungsten lights of the boats to create a pretty cool effect:
If you look closely, you can see that they are filling the boat with ice, which also added an interesting element to the pic.
I’ve been on Ko Samui for almost a week now, and although finding real Thai food is not impossible, it can be something of a struggle. While on Lamai Beach I had a handsome meal of bangers and mash, was tempted to order pizza (‘Chef from Naples’), and one night ate dinner at, uh… a Swedish restaurant (falukorv med stekt potatis och äkta svensk senap!). These were all satisfying, but I was still longing for something… local. I finally found it the next morning at Lamai’s morning market. There I had a breakfast of sweet Thai tea with a Thai sweet (pictured above–name forgotten). Sweet, yes, but Thai. More to follow…
After several days on Ko Samui, I officially have no more reason to bitch about the lack of local eats. While staying on Lamai beach I discovered a stall at nearby Talat Dao that sells a variety of khanom jeen, curries served over fresh rice noodles. This is possibly the most common dish in southern Thailand, and is served at all times of day or night. Khanom jeen can also be got in other parts of Thailand, but what makes it different down here are the types of curries served and the toppings. Southern Thais like their chili heat, and the innocent looking, typically yellowish curries you’ll see here are some of the spiciest in the country. The one pictured above is called naam yaa plaa (pictured above), and is a fish and coconut milk-based curry particular to the south. As with all types of khanom jeen, when you order you’ll simply get a shallow bowl with a handful of noodles and a ladleful of curry. It’s your job to top it with the fresh herbs and veggies held in vast trays on the tables. These herbs typically include a couple kinds of basil, young cashew nut leaves, phak chee lawm (an herb almost identical to flat leaf parsley, pictured above) cucumbers, long beans and a couple types of pickled veggies. It’s all for free and you simply take what you like, rip it all up and mix it into your noodles.
Another very southern type of khanom jeen is kaeng tai plaa, literally ‘fish kidney curry’:
I think this curry, which also includes crispy bamboo, grilled fish, long beans, and a type of sweet potato-like local tuber, is about the spiciest thing humans were meant to consume. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also extremely salty. After eating it I was still feeling the burn a good 20 minutes later. Honestly though, it wasn’t all that unpleasant. Have you ever eaten anything so spicy you actually felt a bit… well, high?
This pic makes me smile. She was originally from Bangkok, is a housekeeper at one of the big hotels at night, and by day is a vendor on Chaweng. Buy something from her if you see her!
Lunch at an unidentified curry restaurant, Ko Samui. Isn’t food beautiful?
Reproducing famous works of art at Chaweng Beach, Ko Samui.
Dancing ladyboys along Thanon Bangla, Patong, Phuket, of course:
Throwing around superlatives can be a scary thing, but I think I’m justified in this case. I’ve been to many, many restaurants in Thailand, and have eaten some pretty amazing food, but Bangpo Seafood particularly stands out in my mind. I knew something was special about it after my first visit over a year ago, and wrote quite a few good things about it, but have always been keen to go back and see if the restaurant was really was as good as I thought.
Well, after two recent visits, my initial impression was right, and I think Bangpo Seafood just might be my favourite restaurant in Thailand.
This informal beachside restaurant located on the northern coast of Ko Samui serves the local dishes of the island. This means lots of seafood, including some unusual ingredients such as waay, a type of small octopus, sea urchin roe and flying fish. Coconuts, a major crop on Ko Samui, feature in several dishes, including khaao man, rice cooked in coconut milk with a pinch of salt and dried green beans. This is the house carb, and apparently was how people on Ko Samui used to prepare their rice. And as with southern Thai food in general, veggies also play a large role, especially in khoei jii:
Shrimp paste pounded up with coconut meat, shallots, chilies and crab, smeared on the inside of a coconut shell then grilled over coals and served with local herbs such as young cashew tree leaves. This dish is given to everybody who walks in the door, and is far from being a throwaway appetizer. I’d be more than happy with a few of these and the previously mentioned coconut rice.
The first dish I ordered was plaa hoop ping:
Flying fish (plaa nok en) that is splayed, coated with a coconut milk/plack pepper/turmeric mixture, then grilled. The result is smokey, salty, oily–everything you’d want in a fish dish.
A Thai-style ‘salad’ of a local variety of seaweed, which included sour mango and cockles, and oddly, peanuts.
The owner didn’t exactly have to twist my arm to convince me to try two of Surat Thani’s famous oysters:
Served Thai style with accompaniments of naam phrik phao (a sweet/spicy chili sauce), lime, deep-fried crispy garlic and shallots, seafood dipping sauce and pungent krathin leaves. Despite how impressive they look, I found this the least interesting dish I ate at Bangpo Seafood. The oysters were simply too big, too tough, and had little flavour.
There was also plaa insee phat chaa:
Mackerel stir-fried with fresh herbs. Very oily, as you can see, but the mixture of green peppercorns, krachai (Chinese key–a ginger-like root), garlic, Kaffir lime leaves and fresh fish was outstanding.
And these are just the dishes I ordered. While I was wondering how I could possibly consume all this, the owner’s wife brought out a couple more dishes for me to try, including tom som waay:
a soup of a kind of small octopus made sour by the addition of tender young tamarind leaves, as well as several tiny deep-fried fish that one eats in one go, head and all.
And you know what? Other than the oysters, it was all outstanding.
So if this isn’t enough to convince you to hop on the next plane, I don’t know what else I need to do. However, a brief word of warning: apparently in the same area there are a couple identically named restaurants serving inferior food. If you aim to go to this one, be sure to make certain that you’re at Ta Khoe’s (the owner, pictured at the top of the post) restaurant.
The entire photoset can be seen here.
Bangpo Seafood (Ta Khoe)
6/4 Moo 6, Mae Nam
077 420 010
lunch & dinner
At a smoking area, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Paper lanterns line a street in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.
Public awareness, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
Shinjuku reflected in a bus window, Tokyo, Japan.