A Travellerspoint blog

Been Busy...

Apologies for the delay!

Sorry it's been a while. Time is short when you're busy adventuring and eating! I promise that I will update soon. At least when I arrive to NYC in a week. In the meantime, I have just uploaded a ton of pics of India, Egypt (mostly food) and Greece to Flickr, if you've got time.

PS - Some people have commented that they like my food commentary. If anyone wants to introduce me to someone that would be interested in hiring me as a food writer, I'd be the happiest (unemployed) eater on the planet!

Posted by hsustyle 11:38 Comments (0)

Upset Stomach?

Not from Thai food.

overcast 85 °F

When I got to the airport, I found I had an hour or two to spare before my plane boarded. I thought I'd walk around and check out what the stores had to offer. Soon, I was having uncomfortable pain in my abdomen. Oh no, I thought, it is never good to have GI issues in a place that only has public bathrooms. My mind raced back over the foods that I had eaten that day. Was is something at the Floating Market or at the local lunch place? What could it have been? Then it dawned on me. Right before heading to the airport, my friend and I had stopped at Starbucks. I ordered a iced tea, but they misunderstood and gave me a iced tea latte... It's not the first time that I've forgotten that I'm lactose intolerant. Ha, so I had a little laugh -- with all the street food that I ate in Thailand, it's Starbucks that gave me indigestion. Knowing what it was made me feel better and the pain soon went away.

Lesson of the day: watch what you eat (and drink), even at the Western chain places!

Posted by hsustyle 03:03 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Local Lunch

Little roadside stand, famous with the locals

overcast

As we got off the boat at the Floating Market, my friend asked where we could get a good lunch. He recommended a place just down the road. We went "down the road", but then the road split in two directions... We chose the left path and soon found the joint. Right off the road, it had some guys grilling outside and some tables under a thatched roof. No tourists at all, only Thais. I was psyched. The place is known for their papaya salad, so we ordered some "not so spicy." Then we had some sliced pork and cucumbers, pig stomach and kidney mint salad, sticky rice and grilled chicken thigh.

The papaya salad was actually quite spicy. Either they didn't see the note on our order or they like it really spicy. My friend said it was probably the later since people in rural areas eat food much spicier than in the city. The pork and cucumbers came with a dark red chili sauce that wasn't that hot. And the pig mint salad was quite good and slightly spicy. The chicken was meant to be eaten with the sticky rice in either a chili fish sauce or a sweet chili sauce. Having a sweet tooth I had a lot of the sweet chili sauce. I found the sticy rice very interesting. It's not like East Asian sticky rice, which is short grained and very moist. This rice is medium-long grain, not moist on the outside, but is very "adhesive." So it's very easy to get a big clump of it and dip it in sauce. My friend warned me that it's very hard to digest and can make you feel pretty sleepy. I definitely fell into a food coma on the drive back to Bangkok, but I don't know if it was from the amount of food or the sticky rice...

Posted by hsustyle 23:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The Floating Market

Touristy, but fun!

overcast 85 °F

On Saturday morning, my friend took me out to the Floating Market, which is a bit outside of Bangkok. As we were driving out, the scenery turned industrial and then agricultural. Soon it was rice fields, salt drying fields and palm trees instead of the concrete jungle of Bangkok. We took a local shortcut there which involved looking out for the giant soysauce bottle and then turning left at the giant fish sauce bottle. hahah.

Once we got there, we quickly hopped on a boat to do some floating shopping. We both hadn't eaten breakfast, so we both had food on our minds. We got some noodles, coconut pudding and some thai iced tea for brunch.

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You can see the noodle lady and her boat in the background. It was sort of a build-your-own-noodle-dish affair. I opted for rice noodles with some sprouts, coriander and a bit of pork. Then you add the condiments, such as fish sauce, crushed peanuts, sugar and dried red chilis.

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The coconut pudding came in a little leaf package and also had roasted coconut inside.

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Yum!

As you float down the canal, the sides are lined with stores that sell mostly tourist souvenirs and other boats have fruit and other food to eat.

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Besides touring the main canal, my friend talked to the guide in Thai and we went down an older, traditional canal and had some palm juice and bought dried fruit. It was nice; having been in the city, I had forgotten what it was like to have just a few people around and enjoy the quiet.

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It was a grand old time -- very colorful and fun. I even got to see a Thai celebrity filming one of her TV series!

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Posted by hsustyle 21:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Japanese Food -- Thai Style

Anything is possible if you dream it up!

sunny 92 °F

On Friday afternoon I met up with my friend for some more time eating and touring the malls. Our first stop, MK Restaurants. She said that I had to go here if I was in Thailand. It's not traditional Thai food, but the Thai people love this place so much that there are multiple on each block in some areas of the city (just like Starbucks!). It's a style of food called Thai-suki, which is basicallly the Thai version of Japanese hot pot. There are raw vegetables, tofu, fishcakes, meat, noodles brought to the table and you cook it yourself in the boiling broth at the center of your table. The most Thai part about it was the garlic chili sauce that you add to your cooked food once it's come out of the hot pot! Good fun, with a Thai twist.

Next, I got a bit of Thai fast food. Related to my previous Taiwan post on McDonalds, this item was from KFC. I had seen TV and poster ads for it: deep-fried sushi. Why would you do that? I'm not sure, so I had to taste it myself. It proved to be a lot of fried batter around a california roll. I really couldn't taste much other than the fry flavor. Maybe I tasted a bit of mayonaise? Not that great...

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If that wasn't enough, when we went into a grocery store, my friend told me about deep-fried seaweed. The Thais took Japanese food and fried it again! It was the thin strips of nori seaweed, fried and packaged like potato chips. I bought a pack out of curiousity, but haven't actually had it yet. Maybe because it's more interesting than it is appetizing to me.

Funny what happens when cultures mix. Some successes and some... not-so-successes.

Posted by hsustyle 10:14 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Aw Taw Kaw Food Market

Another food adventure...

sunny 93 °F

Early Friday morning, on my friend's advice, I went to Aw Taw Kaw market, where the "best" food is sold. I had to find out what the meant (and tasted like). It was explained to me briefly as an up-scale outdoor food market where all the finest, biggest and most beautiful produce was sold.

I wandered out of the underground metro to see a large tented areas with tons of tables. There was definitely a lot of produce and it all looked quite good. But which to try? Then I spotted it. It looked like durian, but when I asked if it was a lady shook her head and said something in Thai. (Not many people spoke English, but I managed...) I found out later it was jack fruit. The man selling it was cutting the large fruit open to reveal smaller orange pods of flesh surrounding a seed. He would separate the pods, remove the seeds and serve them on a plate.

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You can see the whole jackfruit on a stand in the background.

Next up were two young guys using a hot cooking stove with three little platforms. On each platform, they would smooth on a little bit of batter and cover it with a little conical lid. Then after a while they would put on a bit of dark filling and wrap the half-cooked batter around it. I got a tray full of the little dumplings and they added some garnishes like chilis, fried garlic bits, coriander and lettuce.

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A little bit further, I saw a man making little cups of something very white. The bottoms of the cups were golden brown and crispy and the top was soft and still wet. On some of the cups, he would throw some chives. He pointed and said "Coconut," and I got half a tray of chive and half of plain.

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Still not satisfied with my brunch, I looked for one more item. When I saw a lady behind a pile of raw oysters and mussels, I knew I had to have whatever she was cooking. It ended up being a sort of egg scramble. There was a bit of batter fried with eggs, oysters and mussels. It was served with a sweet chili sauce.

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My whole meal, assembled together.

The egg scramble was my favorite, the sweet chili sauce made it so different than the kind of egg dish I'm used to. Then the little dumplings were sweet and salty inside (I learned later that its roasted coconut and peanuts). I tried it first plain and then with all the garnishes, which was much tastier. Then the jackfruit was very interesting. With the lingering sweet pungency of durian, the slight tropical flavor somewhat like papaya, but a firm, dry, slightly starchy texture and mouthfeel. I liked the coconut cups, especially with the saltiness of the chive topping. I couldn't eat it all, so I took some back to the hotel as a late night snack.

(It still tasted good cold, by the way.) Happy eating!

Posted by hsustyle 09:45 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Shopping, Food and shopping

in that order...

sunny 95 °F

Any sort of shopper will be happy in Bangkok. There is something for everyone: the rich, the poor, the mass-amounts-of-cheap-things buyer, the art collector, the fashionista (high-end and hipster), the cute souvenir buyer, the shoe lover, the bargainer, the gold lover, the shop-till-your-feet-hurt-and-then-get-a-massage shopper... you get the picture. I experienced a lot of it on Thursday, with a bit of eating in the middle (of course).

I was told that I had to go to Siam Paragon, the newest mall in Bangkok. And it was truly amazing. At about 1pm, I walked from the hot sweaty crowds from the sidewalk to the crisp air-conditioning and sleek white marble of this upscale mall. It had it all -- from Gucci, Chanel, Burberry to the hippest Thai and East Asian designers. The design was impressive, more like a minimalist 5-star hotel then what I pictured for a mall. Also, a world class aquarium lies in the basement! But what impressed me the most was the food court.

I followed the arrows to the escalator for the food court. As I got closer to the food court, I was was blown away. It was at least 7 times bigger than the average American food court and designed with cool curves of frosted purple and blue glass. Then something really caught my attention: 60-gallon fish tanks that you can eat at. Wow. I quickly tried to browse all the stalls when I realized that a special event was happening with 5 large tables. The banner said, "Authentic Taste of Thailand." I was in.

Not much English was spoken by the staff, so I just picked the most interesting things and paid them what they asked.

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I got the Som Tom Pue, the papaya salad with the raw fermented crab that was mentioned in an earlier post. I figured that I had to try it, especially when I pointed to the basket of crab and the server replied, "Thai-style." The guy next to him picked up a 8 small green chili peppers and asked me something in Thai. The server mixing my salad slapped his hand away and started laughing. I assumed the whole event meant that I didn't look like I could handle that sort of heat. I probably couldn't. I gestured with my thumb and index finger close together and said, "Just a little?" My salad mixer guy put in two chilis. Phew.

I also picked out a small deck-of-cards-size package of something wrapped in green leaves and steamed. The server attending to that section said, "Seafood" when I pointed to it, so I went for it. At what seemed like the dessert table, I asked for small little cups of gel-ish custard that was labeled "banana" over which the server generously sprinkled shredded coconut.

There was no way I was going to pass up eating right in front of a giant fish tank. Surprisingly the coral reef tank was less crowded than the other theme tanks (freshwater, koi, aquatic plants), so I settled my self in front of some clownfish and dug in.

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To drink, I opted for the coconut juice, fresh from the natural container. I didn't waste the fresh coconut meat either. It had been a long time since I had had fresh coconut and it surprised me how different it tasted from dry shredded coconut. The flavor is more mild and a bit more "green."

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The Som Tom Pue was not all that hot, thanks to my thoughtful server. The fermented crab was not as strong as I suspected. It was quite easy to eat because the server threw in the whole crab and pounded it a few times in the salad. The legs ended up broken from the body and if you just bite down on it, the raw meat just squishes out. I found that the closer you got to body meat, the more pungent and fermented the taste was. I can't lie; I had a few moments of fleeting nausea. But I pushed through...all for you, my faithful readers.

The leaf package was quite good. It was a red curry, seafood (fish?) and rice mash with some whole shrimp and squid in it, all steamed in the leaf. Strong lemongrass and ginger flavors were also present. It was a bit spicier than I could handle, so each time the burn got unbearable, I took a bit of the banana custard cups and it tamed the fire in my mouth. Quite a good amount of food, but I decided that it wasn't anything that a few hours of mall-walking couldn't burn off.

So I set off to burn off the food at the other malls in the area. yes, there about 6 malls in the Siam area of Bangkok. Two of them are attached to the Paragon. Then others are across the road. It is a massive shopping town. With all sorts of different things. Siam Square is outdoor and has local Thai designers that cater to the young hip crowd. Then MBK is an outdoor market brought indoors. If you need to buy 1000 different dressy shoes for onlly 8 dollars each, it wouldn't be a problem at MBK. Or any sort of cell phone accessory. Or 60 different belts. They have it all, in any color and for a cheap price.

I met up with a friend from Berkeley and we went for dinner and then to yet another shopping spot! We had pad thai at a famous place in the Ari area of the city. They make pad thai with traditional noodles, rice noodles, even with papaya shreds. It's so good that even the princess of Thailand has been there! After dinner, she explained street food to me while we headed to the Sun Luum Night Bazaar. It was my favorite of the day and I recommend it to anyone visiting Bangkok. Open from 6pm to 12pm, it has four sections of outdoor stalls that sell souvenirs, clothes, artwook, furniture. But it has a artistic, craftmans sort of feel to it, which made me like it. And there's a huge beer garden and food area where you can take a break. After that, there are plenty of foot massage salons to rejuvenate your aching arches!

Man, what a day.

Posted by hsustyle 09:55 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Wat Pho and Wat Arun

Two temples opposite one another on the Chao Phraya River

96 °F

These two temples are recommended after the Wat Phra temple, so early Thursday morning I set out to see them.

Wat Pho is a temple and the official massage school of Thailand. If you want to have a massage business in Bangkok (of which there are many) you must first get certified at Wat Pho. It also houses the huge golden reclining Buddha, which was quite a sight to see. It was so large and the building so tightly built around it that taking a picture of the whole statue was quite difficult.

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The rest of the buildings and stupas at Wat Pho were an different style of mosaic with many Chinese style statues:

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After Wat Pho, I couldn't resist the sweet fragrant smell of roasted bananas. It was 4 pieces for 10 baht and as advertised on the sign, they were -- "Good"!
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A quick ferry ride across the river took me to Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. It's done in the older style and is similar to the famous Khmer-style temples in Siem Riep, Cambodia.

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The towers in the background are Wat Arun. You can see the stairs above the orange roof. To prevent becoming an exhausted, sweaty excuse for a human in the midday heat, I opted not to climb up Wat Arun...
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Gorgeous flower on a tree outside the temple.

The sun, humidity and heat were not conducive for lingering and appreciating the temple, so I took a quick look and headed to the other famous attraction of Bangkok: shopping. (Indoors, with air-conditioning)

Posted by hsustyle 23:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Out to dinner!

Fried fish, tom yum soup, vine tips, and shrimp cakes!

sunny 88 °F

I was lucky enough to have a friend of a friend take me out to dinner on Wednesday night. It was a beautiful restaurant by the river and one of the bridges. Seemed like quite a local secret as there were barely any foreigners.

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As we sat down, dinner boat cruises passed by decorated in colorful neon. One of my favorites was a boat decorated with colorful flowers and the words,"We Love Our King."

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First came the fried fish with a chunky chili-pineapple sauce. Crunchy skin outside, tender soft meat inside drenched in sweet spicyness perfect with a bite of rice.

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Next came the young vine tips sauteed with shrimp and deep-fried shrimp cakes with a sweet syrup. I was told that the shrimp cakes were best drenched in syrup, so I did as told and we had to ask for more syrup. Might have been my favorite of the night! We finished off with the shrimp tom yum soup that filled our table with the scents of lemon grass, ginger, shallots and lime leaves... I can't quite remember all the ingredients, but it was good. Great dinner in the warm Thai night. It was just the beginning of my Thai food adventure...

Posted by hsustyle 23:00 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Ayutthaya

Ancient capital of Thailand

92 °F

Before Bangkok, there was Ayutthaya. While Bangkok has been the capital for around 200 years, the city of Ayutthaya is some 700 years ago. It isn't still standing as it was destroyed in a battle, burned to the ground and the royal family wiped out. But, the ruins are kept has historical national parks so that visitors can imagine the grandeur that used to be.

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The first temple I visited was the most intact.
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As evening grew near, my stomach started growling and I opted to fill it with a coconut creamsicle.

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At first I thought the "1" on the cart meant that the popsicles were 1 baht. But the guy told me, "No, ten baht. Me, number one." Then pointing to another man with a popsicle cart nearby, "He, number two." We all had a laugh, including popsicle man number two, who took this picture for me.

More pics at Flickr.

Posted by hsustyle 22:51 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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