A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.


Monthly Archives: December 2009



Riquexó

Posted at 2am on 12/3/09 | read on
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Riquexó, a Macanese restaurant in Macau

Those wishing to taste the true flavours of old Macau can do no better than stop by Riquexó, a restaurant serving Macanese cuisine, a blend of Portuguese, Chinese, and on occasion, Southeast Asian ingredients and cooking styles.

The restaurant is still run by its original owner, Aida Jesus:

Aida Jesus, the 90+ year-old proprietor of Riquexó', a Macanese restaurant in Macau

who despite being in her mid-90s, continues to look after Riquexó on a daily basis and, on occasion, even contributes dishes herself, such as xarope de figo, a sweet drink made from fig leaves. Besides being one of the few interested in preserving the culinary heritage of Macau, Dona Aida is also apparently one of the only remaining native speakers of Pátua, an old dialect of Portuguese that was previously spoken in the former Portuguese colony.

As the sign (above) suggests, Riquexó is self-service, and in fact is more like a cafeteria. You queue up, point to whatever looks good, and a tray will be brought to you.

Scanning the day’s offerings I immediately ordered capela:

Capela, a Macanese dish at Riquexó, a Macanese restaurant in Macau

I’d read about this traditional Macanese meat loaf, but had never previously tried it. The dish was rich and well seasoned, and the steamed greens were a perfect accompaniment. The cheesy crust and minced olives were signs of the dish’s Portuguese origins, and accompanied by rice and a cold Sagres, it was my favourite part of the meal.

We also ordered a dish of feijoada:

Feijoada, a Macanese dish at Riquexó, a Macanese restaurant in Macau

the bean stew that is also the unofficial national dish of Brazil, another former Portuguese colony. Riquexó’s feijoada featured a thick broth, the result of using a pig foot, and was supplemented with cubes of pork, carrots and cabbage.

And finally we ordered what is probably the most beloved Macanese dish of all, minchi:

Minchi, a Macanese dish at Riquexó, a Macanese restaurant in Macau

Paradoxically, the dish has little resemblance to anything Portuguese or Chinese, and the name is most likely a corruption of the English word “minced”, but according to Célia Jorge, author of À Mesa da Diáspora, a book on Macanese cuisine, minchi single handedly embodies comfort food for people of mixed Portuguese and Chinese heritage. The dish combines minced beef (or pork, or a blend of the two) wok-fried with little more than onions and two types of soy sauce, and is served over rice or cubes of deep-fried potatoes with, on occasion, a fried egg. I’ve made it at home on a couple occasions and was particularly excited to try the ‘real’ version, which to be honest, wasn’t quite as tasty when served at room temperature.

Additional information about Riquexó and Aida Jesus is available in this article, which also has a recipe for capela.

Riquexó
69 Avenida Sidónio Pais, Macau
+853 2856 5655
Noon-10pm


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Another stab at dim sum

Posted at 1am on 12/5/09 | read on
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Inside a dim sum restaurant in Macau

Despite my previous tirade, I was still willing to subject myself to more dim sum.  This was partly for nostalgic reasons, as I wanted to revisit a dim sum restaurant in Macau that I remembered from a previous visit.

Beginning at the Ruínas de São Paulo and wandering along hilly lanes until we reached the beautiful Jardim de Luís de Camões, I spotted the restaurant and we stepped in. The choices appeared a bit more diverse than those at restaurants I’d encountered in Hong Kong:

The offerings at a dim sum restaurant in Macau

and actually included some vegetables. Beginning at 1 o’clock and moving clockwise, there was steamed fish balls, deep-fried wontons, eggplant with a fish paste filling, steamed pork-filled buns, firm tofu stuffed with pork, and in the middle, fish head with black beans. Unfortunately it was a bit of a cold morning and most dishes chilled upon arrival, but we kept warm with hot tea:

Inside a dim sum restaurant in Macau

Unfortunately the food was not quite as tasty as I remembered, and as a frustrating but appropriate footnote to my dim sum experience,  I suspect that the red fish balls gave me one of the worst cases of upset stomach I’ve had in years.

Regardless, if you’re willing to risk it, the restaurant is located near the entrance to Jardim de Luís de Camões:


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Café Ou Mun

Posted at 1am on 12/8/09 | read on
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Tijelada, Portuguese egg pudding, Cafe Ou Mun, Macau

I was originally drawn to Café Ou Mun, a tiny café in central Macau, for little more than an early morning galão (the Portuguese equivalent of a café au lait) and a pastry. But the quality of the food led me to make a few more visits, including one proper meal.

At first glance, the emphasis at Café Ou Mun is on sweets:

Desserts at Cafe Ou Mun, Macau

And not only do they look great, but they were some of the tastiest desserts I’ve encountered in a long time. My hands-down favourite was the sweet pictured at the top of this post, tijelada. Translated as Portuguese egg pudding, tijelada is a wonderfully eggy and barely-sweet pastry that I later tried to recreate at home with disastrous results (go here for an interesting video, narrated in Portuguese, about making tijeladas the traditional way).

However in addition to sweets, Café Ou Mun also serves a few prepared savoury snacks, including pastéis de bacalhau, the famous Portuguese salt cod croquettes:

Pastéis de bacalhau, codfish cakes, Cafe Ou Mun, Macau

not to mention an à la carte menu of traditional Portuguese dishes. Stopping by for dinner one night, we started with a salad-like appetizer of octopus:

Octopus salad, Cafe Ou Mun, Macau

served with olive oil and pickled minced onion. I ordered bacalhau à brás:

A dish of Bacalhau à brás, Cafe Ou Mun, Macau

salt cod (bacalhau) sauteed with shoestring potatoes, onions and egg. Café Ou Mun’s version was a bit gloopy and heavy, but I’ve enjoyed the dish on previous occasions, and while in Macau picked up some bacalhau and plan to make the dish myself, following this recipe. And finally there was porco à Alentejana:

A dish of porco à Alentejana, Cafe Ou Mun, Macau

the famous dish of cubes of pork marinated in white wine before being braised with clams and served with deep-fried potatoes and parsley.

The main courses perhaps weren’t as impressive as the phenomenal pastries, but Café Ou Mun is a great place for a snack or a simple meal. Wish we had a branch here in Bangkok…

Café Ou Mun
12 Travessa de São Domingos, Macau
+853 2837 2207
8am-11pm Tues-Sun


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Mae Buay

Posted at 4am on 12/9/09 | read on
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Mee krob, crispy noodles, Mae Buay, Suphanburi

When I find myself in an unfamiliar province somewhere in Thailand and am in need of something to eat, my first course of action is typically to call Suthon Sukphisit. Khun Suthon writes the Cornucopia column that runs every Sunday in the Bangkok Post and is a wealth of knowledge about regional Thai food and interesting restaurants. In fact, I think Khun Suthon has been so many restaurants around Thailand that he’s beginning to get them mixed up. On a recent trip to Suphanburi, a province about two hours north of Bangkok, I called Khun Suthon to ask if he had any recommendations and without hesitation he replied, “You should go to Paa Muay, it’s in Pang Plaa Maa District, just outside Suphanburi.” I made a mental note and headed off to Bang Plaa Maa, only to find that there was no Paa Muay, but rather the almost identically-named restaurants Phii Muay, Paa Muay (different tone) and Mae Buay. Not wanting to bother Khun Suthon any more, we placed our bets on Mae Buay, grandest of the lot. And although I haven’t yet confirmed it with Khun Suthon, I’m pretty sure we made the right choice.

If you can read Thai, the best thing you can do in provincial restaurants is to order straight from the list of recommended dishes, usually the first page of the menu. Mae Buay’s recommended dishes included mee krob, shown above. Unusually, the dish included egg and was garnished with crispy pork rinds. The slightly sweet noodles were great tamed by the crispy/sour/sweet sides of pickled garlic and Chinese chives.

There was hor mok plaa chon:

Hor mok plaa chon, steamed snakehead fish curry, Mae Buay, Suphanburi

a ‘steamed curry’, as David Thompson likes to call it, of snakehead fish. Slightly spicier than most, creamy from coconut milk and revolving around freshwater fish, the dish exemplified central Thai flavours and ingredients.

There was phat chaa plaa maa:

Phat chaa plaa khang, spicy freshwater fish stir-fry, Mae Buay, Suphanburi

a central Thai-style spicy stir-fry using the somewhat coarse freshwater fish that is the district’s namesake. Although oily, I love this dish particularly for its typically generous amount of garlic and green peppercorns, ingredients typically used in an effort to mask ‘strong’ tasting meat or fish.

And finally there was the sour soup, tom som plaa khang:

Tom som plaa maa, sour fish soup, Mae Buay, Suphanburi

Unlike the more popular sour Thai soup tom yam, tom som is made tart by the addition of dried/salted plum and young ginger. The plum provides the soup’s sourness with a salty undertone, and coupled with the very fresh freshwater fish, the dish was the perfect bookend to a delicious, balanced central Thai meal.

Thanks, Khun Suthon.

Mae Buay
44 Moo 5, Bang Plaa Maa District, Suphanburi
035 587 077


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Sam Chuk Market

Posted at 11pm on 12/16/09 | read on
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Sam Chuk Market, Suphanburi

After lunch at Mae Buay, we headed north to Suphanburi’s Sam Chuk Market. The market, which was recently recognised by UNESCO for its efforts in conservation and preservation, is today a popular tourist destination among Thais, despite apparently nearly having died a decade ago. It’s located along the banks of Tha Jeen River, and is comprised of several well-preserved wooden buildings, some of which are over 100 years-old. It’s touristy, but in the Thai sense, which means that the emphasis is on food. You’ll find lots of central Thai-style curries, salted eggs, chili dips, sweets, noodles and old-skool coffee shops. To view a slideshow of images from Sam Chuk Market, click on the image above and use keyboard arrows or hold your mouse above the images to navigate through them. (On the nerd front, these images have been edited using Adobe Lightroom on my new iMac. This is my first time using the programme, so you can expect to see some variation in quality among images until I get the hang of it.)


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New Mabuhay

Posted at 12am on 12/21/09 | read on
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 Mabuhay, a Filipino restaurant in Bangkok

I’m currently at work on a piece about obscure ethnic restaurants for the Bangkok pages of CNNGo.  You wouldn’t think that other Southeast Asian cuisines would fit in this category, but for some reason, there are remarkably few here in Bangkok, and New Mabuhay is the only place my friend, a Filipina and nearly 30-year resident of Bangkok, knew of that served Filipino food.

Arriving on a lazy Saturday, we ordered adobo, one of the most famous Filipino dishes:

Pork adobo at Mabuhay, a Filipino restaurant in Bangkok

And justifiably so — this was my first adobo, and I loved the combination of vinegar sourness and black pepper bite. In fact, the dish, with its use of fatty pork and copious shallots, reminded me a lot of Mae Hong Son-style kaeng hang lay.

There was pinakbet:

Pinakbet, mixed vegetables with shrimp paste, at Mabuhay, a Filipino restaurant in Bangkok

mixed vegetables fried with shrimp paste. This dish reminded me of a kaeng som without the broth and sourness, or even kaeng paa without the soup and spice.

We meant to order sinigang na pusit, which I was told is a soup of squid in its own ink, but due to a communication error (my own fault; I was speaking Thai when I should have just used English), we got a rather bland dish of veggies fried with squid:

Squid fried with vegetables  at Mabuhay, a Filipino restaurant in Bangkok

We also forgot to order sinigang na Bangus (fish with sour broth), and that day the restaurant wasn’t making relyenong bangus (deep fried stuffed fish), but this is just all the more reason to return.

Continuing my research for the piece, on Wednesday I’ll be heading to a Cameroonian restaurant (cheers, Newley!). If anybody has any tips for other obscure cuisines in Bangkok, drop me a comment or an email.

New Mabuhay
1/31 Soi 19, Thanon Phetchaburi, Bangkok
02 255 2689
8.30am-10pm


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Amirra

Posted at 9pm on 12/23/09 | read on
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The spread at Amirra, a Cameroonian restaurant in Bangkok

In my previous post I mentioned that I was on a hunt for obscure ethnic restaurants in Bangkok. Well, after a bit of research, I think it’s safe to say that it doesn’t get much more obscure than my most recent discovery. Amirra is a minuscule, family-run restaurant that serves the food of the African nation of Cameroon.

I was introduced to the restaurant– in reality more an open dining room — by Stanley, a Cameroonian football teammate of my buddy Newley. Arriving in the Nana area one recent afternoon, Stanley led us down a narrow alley, up four flights of stairs and past a very domestic living room to a tiny dining room with three tables. We were greeted by the friendly eponymous owner, and Stanley, speaking rapid French, proceeded to order a virtual West African feast. There was haricots:

Haricots, a bean and beef stew, at Amirra, a Cameroonian restaurant in Bangkok

a beef and kidney bean stew traditionally eaten with deep-fried or steamed plantains. He explained that this is one of the more common street dishes in Cameroun and apologized for the fact it isn’t possible to get “real” plantains in Bangkok, claiming that what we were eating were simply bananas.

There was also gumbo:

Gumbo, stewed okra, at Amirra, a Cameroonian restaurant in Bangkok

stewed okra with chicken, as well as a bowl of légumes, stewed greens with beef, a dish not unlike the US soul food staple collard greens. In fact, Newley, who is from South Carolina, noticed several similarities between these dishes and traditional food of America’s south. All the vegetable-based dishes were meant to be taken with couscous de Cameroun, a dish not like the Moroccan-style couscous most of us are familiar with, but rather a variant of fufu, the starchy West African staple. Stanley explained that in Cameroon couscous can be made from any available starch, in particular cassava, but here in Bangkok Amirra has to make do with the next best substitute: cornmeal. Everything was accompanied by a deliciously spicy chili sauce called peppée.

Amirra is not the most sophisticated dining experience in Bangkok, and is a bit of a struggle to find, but for hearty eats and mad street cred, there’s no comparison. To get to Amirra from Soi 3, enter the street side street that connects to Soi 3/1, and turn right into the sub-Soi that leads to Masjid Nana. Enter the red door on the right and proceed to the 4th floor.

Amirra
4th fl, directly above the 7-Eleven at the intersection of Soi 3 and Thanon Sukhumvit
089 824 7204
Noon-midnight


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