Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's "SOI" good

In Chiang Mai, Thailand there is an amazing local dish called Khao Soi (pronounced 'cow soy'). I've posted this picture before but, wanted to put it up again since I'm finally including the recipe.

I have Robyn to thank for sending us to Lam Duan to get the dish. Farina, Mary and I set out in a tuk tuk to find the place and $3 and a quick ride later we were there. This place is a very very casual restaurant but, as you walk in and look right you see the incredibly clean kitchen and the gorgeous woman who is cooking. We took a seat and were greeted by our server, a 17 year old Thai teenage boy who immediately said "how ya' doing" with flawless teenage-American dialect. We cracked up (turns out he went to 2 years of high school in Boston and Texas). In any case, we each ordered a bowl of their specialty-Khao Soi, one with chicken, one with pork, and one with beef. We also had a side of pork satay with peanut sauce (he asked, 'do you want 10 satay or 20'-the Thai equivalent to our fast food boxes of nuggets!).

Three minutes later the steaming bowls showed up. The deep bowls were full of rich meat and egg noodles bathed in a light coconut curry sauce glowing turmeric yellow. On top was a nest of crispy egg noodles and on the table were condiments galore. In true Thai fashion, this is a dish that each diner finishes to her own tastes. We had chopped shallots, cilantro, lime wedges, pickled vegetables, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste. The dish was delicious! We ate, with chopsticks and spoons, until our bowls were empty. The flavors came together perfectly-the fresh garnishes balancing out the richness of the coconut milk and the meat just melting in your mouth.

I've been thinking about the dish since I returned home. Naomi told me that she and Jeff had a recipe for Khao Soi in Hot, Sour, Salty Sweet-their amazing book about the flavors of southeast Asia. I took their recipe, played with it a bit and came up with the one below. I loved it! It is a bit like a southern Thai red curry, the kind we're used to eating at U.S. Thai restaurants but, it has a smoother flavor. It isn't traditionally made with a veggie in it but, I liked the addition of zucchini and think you could egg eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower, or what ever you like.
Khao Soi (adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid).

2 cloves garlic

coarse salt
1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tbs red curry paste

1 tbs vegetable oil, plus more for frying noodles

4 cups canned coconut milk, with 1/2 cup of the thick cream set aside
1 pound beef chuck, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1 tbs sugar

3 tbs Thai fish sauce

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tbs fresh lime juice
1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles (easy to find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket)
Garnishes: chopped shallots, cilantro leaves, sliced green onions, lime wedges, chili paste

Rough chop the garlic on a cutting board then sprinkle it with a pinch of salt. Using the back of your chef's knife, smash the garlic and salt together until they form a paste. Mix the garlic paste with the turmeric and curry paste in a small bowl.

In a large pot, heat the tbs of oil over medium high heat. Add the curry paste mixture and saute until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the 1/2 cup of thick coconut cream and mix to combine. Sprinkle the beef with salt and add it to the pan with the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is lightly browned. Reduce the heat if the juices in the pan are getting dark to quickly. Once the beef has browned, add the fish sauce, remaining coconut milk, 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, to release any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low so it is cooking at a very gently simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is slightly reduced, 1-2 hours.

While the beef is cooking, fry the noodles for the garnish. Heat 1-inch of vegetable oil in a small deep pot over medium high heat. While it is heating up, take a handful of the noodles and cut them into 1-2 inch pieces. When the oil is hot (test is by adding a bit of noodle-it should sizzle and float to the top). Fry the noodles in the oil, stirring once or twice, until puffed and golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer them to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. They will stay crispy for several hours-just hide them or you'll eat the entire plate!

Just before serving, add the zucchini to the Khao Soi and stir to combine. Cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes more then stir in the lime juice. Heat a large pot of salted water over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the noodles. Cook until just tender, about 3 minutes, and drain well.

To serve, place a spoonful of noodles into a deep soup bowl. Spoon the Khao Soi over the top-there should be more broth than noodles. Garnish with some of the crispy noodles. At the table, pass the remaining garnishes for the diners to use as they please. Eat with chopsticks and a soup spoon and enjoy.

Serves 4

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

It's good to be back to my regular Wedneday post. Here's what I'm reading today.

The SF Chron no longer has a Wednesday food section. After the news this morning, it might no longer have a paper! As I see good stuff on their site, I'll continue to post links from here. For today, nothing exciting...

A green way of cooking pasta? Just when you thought you'd heard enough about going green, Harold McGee, in today's NY Times, tests out the idea that you need quarts and quarts of water to properly cook your pasta. Reading the article, as well as comments from Lidia Bastianich and Marcella Hazan, I'm not sold on his 2-cup method but, I'd give it a try. The guy is a food scientist extraordinaire and he tests this stuff like nobody's business so, it's worth at least a shot in my kitchen, right?

It took the LA Times to write reviews of the two places in Seattle I've had high on my list for a while: the Corson Building and Spinasse. I'm bound and determined to try both on my next visit. I loved Matt Dillon's Sitka and Spruce (no, not that Matt Dillon) so I have no doubt the Corson Building experience will be amazing. Spinasse is helmed by Justin Neidermeyer, who worked a year in Italy mastering the art of homemade pasta. The menu looks delicious and I've heard great things.

Also in today's LA Times, a great article on slow cookers (or crock-pots). I don't have one but, just last night in my class I had students asking me about how to use them. The recipe for Cuban-Style Braised Pork Shoulder looks like the perfect way to take advantage of the slow and low cooking.

Another out of town review, but this one in today's Washington Post. Last September I wrote on the blog about an amazing meal I ate at Napa's Ubuntu. I probably mentioned the cauliflower dish served in little cast iron pots. Anyone you talk to who's eaten at Ubuntu will gush over this to-die-for preparation. Even Jean-Georges loved it. Here is the recipe! It's actually a handful of recipes in one as the cauliflower is served several ways in one dish but, if it tastes anything like what Jeremy Fox does at the restaurant, you'll love it. Be sure to read the arcticle too...

Happy Cooking

Friday, February 20, 2009

Satisfying a Craving

I am so happy to be home, and actually stay here for a while. I just had two amazing trips and loved every minute of both of them but, I miss cooking in my kitchen.

Today I had a craving. French Onion Soup...don't ask me where it came from. San Francisco was actually 60 degrees, our heat was off, and my flip flops were on. Why the craving for a soup that usually satisfies the soul on a chilly day? Who knows. You know how it is when you think of something to eat and just can't get it out of your head.

I went to The New Basics for a reference and modified their recipe to make my own version. I am very happy with the results-it was just what I was hoping for. I served mine with oven roasted cauliflower and panko crusted chicken. You could toss a nice salad and serve it with your soup and that itself makes a fantastic meal.

French Onion Soup (modified from The New Basics by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins)
1/4 cup butter
4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbs white sugar
1 tbs brown sugar
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups good quality beef stock or broth (preferably low sodium)
3 cups good quality chicken stock or broth (preferably low sodium)
2 tbs ruby port (dry sherry would work well too)
Pugliese bread, or a nice baguette, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices (1/serving)
grated Gruyere cheese, (about 2 tbs/serving)

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stock pot. Add the onions and stir well. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are beginning to soften, about 20 minutes. If they begin to brown, reduce the heat. Remove the lid, sprinkle with sugar, and continue to cook the onions until they are very soft and translucent, 15-20 minutes more. Don't rush this step-you want the onions to soften and caramelize but not brown and turn bitter. Season well with salt and pepper.

Add the beef broth and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the liquid is slightly reduced. Stir in the chicken broth and port and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is rich tasting and golden brown, about 40 minutes more. Soup can be made to this point, cooled, and refrigerated up to 2 days.

Just before serving, reheat the soup. Toast the bread until golden brown. Top each slice of bread with the cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Ladle the soup into warm bowls and top each serving with a Gruyere toast.

Happy Cooking

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sorry for the Lapse

I'm wrapping up a little family vacation and headed home tonight. Sorry it's been so long since you've heard from me. I've been gone but, haven't forgotten.
Look forward to some new stuff ASAP
Thanks for staying tuned!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

After a 36 hour journey home, I'm back. Jet lagged and a bit scattered but, I am here.

Figure I'll make this a short one because for any of you who have waited out my LONG posts from Asia, you probably need a break. Thanks for reading!

If you're in SF, you probably know the SF Chronicle is posting their food section over the course of a couple days instead of their regular Wednesday issue. I'll continue to post a highlight on Wednesday, if I find one. In addition to the opening of Nopalito, the little Mexican sister of Nopa, the food section has an article about meatloaf and local chefs. One of my favorites is the meatloaf at Blue Plate. I've loved this place since day one (when they had no pastry chef for the opening weeks and I used to make the desserts at home and drop them off!). Chef extrodinaire, Corey Obenour (and his former partner, my cousin Ian), had the meatloaf on the menu from day one and it is still a hit. Now you can try making it at home. Now if only they'd bring back the Lazy Daisy Cake.

I've never loved Nutella. I'm admittedly not a huge hazelnut fan and am sure I'd be addicted to the stuff if it were chocolate and almonds, walnuts, or pecans. Honestly I'm thankful it's not! Today's LA Times has a handful of recipes using Nutella and I think I may actually try the ice cream. It's got a rich custard base plus a cup of Nutella. I may throw in some chopped almonds for good measure.

I don't know if it's too much Asian food but, Mexican sounds delicious to me right now. This recupe, for Sopa de Tortillas de Huevos in today's NY Times looks so hearty and satisfying. I love big soups like this and, no matter what nationality you are, I think you can call this one comfort food.

Salted Pecan Caramel Blondie Cake
? I miss my desserts! Thai sweets were just not my thing. I craved a dark chocolate brownie or a piece of salted caramel. This recipe, in today's Washington Post, might just satisfy my cravings for a while. Ya think?

Happy Cooking and Happy Reading...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Goodbye Asia

I am writing from the Tokyo airport on a massive layover between Thailand and the States. What else does one do here for 6 hours?

Our final dinner in Chiang Mai was back and Jeff and Naomi’s. While we pitched in with some prep here and there, Naomi, Fern, Ying and the gang did most of the cooking. It was Thai grilling and salads and they really did some amazing stuff (the full meal is above). There was a Thai beef salad, not unfamiliar to us but of course better in Thailand (w/the exception of their beef being on the tough side), a fabulous fish salad, a white fungus salad (which sounds kind of nasty but tastes amazing), a cellophane noodle salad with pork, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, chicken wings and pork loin pieces marinated in black pepper and fish sauce and grilled with a spicy dipping sauce, and of course sticky rice to scrape up all the bits from our plates. Full and happy, we walked the night bazaar and ended up in a pool bar that was ringside for the nightly Thai boxing tournament. You need a strong stomach to watch this sport. It’s rough and brutal and the kids who do it look so young. Most of us just peeked in between playing pool with another woman named Fern (a fabulous, and I mean fabulous, Thai drag queen) and drinking our Singha on ice.

The last day was a Sunday so, after shopping a bit and packing our bags we met up at the Sunday Market. This is the market we saw our first day in town, exactly one week ago. It was really fun to see it again. Not only did we realize we’d missed half the vendors but, seeing it after immersing ourselves in a week of Thai food and culture made it that much better. We recognized more food, we could haggle over prices when buying souvenirs, and we could even find our way around. We said our good-byes at the market and waved a final farewell to Thailand.

What an adventure this has been. Never having been to Asia I really had no idea what to expect. Tokyo was a great starting point. We were in Mika’s capable hands and she surprised us with every move. Bangkok was nuts. It is a huge metropolitan city that in many ways could have been anywhere in the world. However, looking behind the urban veil, we uncovered markets and people that many tourists don’t see. We ate incredible home cooked food served by Ann in the back corner of the Chatuchack market. We walked the streets to see open air butchers and fish markets and we took a long tail boat through the residential canals to see how the real people of Bangkok live on the river. Finally, Chiang Mai and the north. This was the bulk of our trip and our ultimate destination. The city is vibrant and energetic. People are everywhere and they come from all over. The old walls of the city are still in tact but today they are flanked with Starbucks on many sides. Further north, in Thaton and Fang, we saw elephants on the sides of the road, tribal people selling their hand crafted wares, and delicious produce we’ll never find in the states. We cooked on a farm up north and on a deck at an apartment in the city. We met new friends and loved being with old ones. Memories were made and lots of laughs were had. These are relationships that will last, built around food and an immersion into a new culture. I feel honored and privileged to have been a part of it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thursday morning brought another day of sunshine. While many people in our group hopped the van to see elephants, Farina, Mary and I stayed back to walk around the city. Naomi met us in the morning at the coffee stand near our hotel. This tiny alley-way spot makes traditional Thai coffee, or café boran. It is amazing-the dark brewed to order coffee is mixed with sweetened condensed milk and topped with a bit of evaporated milk. The coffee itself is so good we hunted it down to bring home. It’s not our traditional brew. These beans are roasted with corn and soy giving them a nutty, almost cocoa, flavor. For a girl who loves her coffee but drinks only decaf, this drink finally got me off the wagon. Fortunately the coffee itself is so low in acid it doesn’t have nearly the effects of the strong stuff we drink at home.

We spent the morning at another tribal market. This one, near a local mosque, was full of not only tribes from norther Thailand but influences of Burma as well. We tasted delicious chick pea fritters, much like a middle eastern falafel. I am guessing these are the lovely bits that float in the samusa (not samosa) soup at Burma Superstar in San Francisco (we tried the samusas too!). For breakfast we had a warm bowl of rice noodles topped with soft bean curd, cilantro, peanuts and chili. It warmed like a bowl of oatmeal but clearly tasted of Asia. There was that gelatinous texture again, not my favorite but the flavor really was delish.

After the market we wandered the streets buying a few souvenirs and tasty bites along the way. After climbing in a tuk tuk (think motor scooter with a back seat for three) we were whisked across the river to Lamduan for khao soi (above). This dish, tasting of hints of Burma, is amazing. A broth rich with coconut milk and aromatics with full of bits of tender beef, fresh pork, or chicken pieces and noodles. The steaming broth was topped with crunchy fried egg noodles and cilantro and it was served, Thai style, with vinegar, pickled vegetables, fish sauce, chili paste, and sugar to use as garnishes. It was fantastic, filling, and flavorful. We each had a bowl along with a plate of 10 pork satay with a (too sweet) peanut sauce and the bill came to $6—total! This was home made food cooked by a woman who is known all over for her khao soi. $1 a bowl-it’s amazing to think what a person can eat in Thailand for well under $10 a day.

Thai cuisine is cooked very differently than western food. Rather than seasoning in layers, like we do, Thai food is seasoned very little as it cooks. The eater is then put in charge of seasoning a dish to his or her taste. The condiment tray with our khao soi was a perfect example of this and one we've seen everywhere we've eaten.

Friday night of our “Immerse Through” program was potluck night. Naomi and Jeff asked us to forage on our own for prepared food or ingredients and assemble/cook them late in the afternoon. Farina and I were so inspired by our café boran, we decided to try making a pots de crème with the same flavors. Having no oven, and no water bath to bake our custards, we steamed them with moderate success. The texture was definitely less dense than we’d hoped and the coffee flavor not as pronounced. Thai people don’t eat much dessert and when they do it is rarely the intense rich dessert we are used to having. I think our dessert fit the bill here but, when we get back home I want to play with the recipe so it’s more to my taste. I love the idea of maintaining the integrity of a native recipe but, this one just didn’t blow me over.

The night ended with a rot daeng (red bus) ride to two different dance clubs. Now, a night out dancing is nothing new but, dancing in a Thai club is a complete and total trip. The first club, Hot Shot, had no dance floor. You sit and tables, put your purse and drink down and when you like the song, you just stand up and dance right there. The music was live and had the feel of an 80s hair band playing love songs. A little slow to start so we went to club number two, 'Red Sunset' in English, I can't remember the Thai name but will definitely get it up here soon. This is a club like no club I’d ever seen. The place was at least as big as three high school gyms side by side. Huge high ceilings and walls full of giant pictures of Marx, Mao, and Che. Again, we were seated at a table and when we looked around the place was FULL of people dancing at their tables. The music was live but this band was full of energy. 10+ people on the stage including a horn section. After a few dances at our table, we followed Jeff’s lead and danced our way to the front. Here there was a small dance floor (really just a walk way between more tables). The amazing thing about this place is that everyone dances with everyone-who ever you happen to be standing by or even by yourself. We cut it up with a Thai cowboy and a few other interesting characters before calling it a night. We were exhausted but, this was a night we couldn’t have passed up. It was great to see so many people, not drunk and obnoxious, dancing together and having such a blast.

Oh to get a good night's sleep...more later

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How Do I Cook with a Doughnut in my Hand?

Day two, Tuesday, was another amazing morning at the market and afternoon cooking at Jeff and Naomi’s. I hustled into Jeff’s group to shop-rumor had it they’d found doughnuts the day before I didn’t want to miss that. We shopped for our ingredients and made our way to the stand. Made to order Thai style doughnuts were different and really tasty. The dough is made without sugar (but there is a bowl on the table if you want it). The best part was the doughnut master who could form the dough into an elephant, dinosaur, or dragon. An artist, for sure. We brought back a bag to share and the motto of the day was 'how do I cook with a doughnut in my hands?"

We cooked an amazing chicken soup with roasted green chiles, steamed chicken and cellophane noodles wrapped in banana leaves, and a spicy pork ‘sauce’ that was out of this world. Oh yes, we also made a mixed vegetable soup with frog. I don’t mind frog. It honestly does taste like chicken so this one didn’t scare me. That is until we couldn’t find the ‘prepared’ frogs at the market and had to buy the fresh (a.k.a live) ones. It was quite a site seeing one of them jump from it’s bag onto our table of ingredients, only to meet its demise with a swift whack over the head. So glad that wasn’t my job.

After lunch we piled into two vans and drove three hours north to Thaton, just three miles from the Thailand/Burma border. On our way to cook at Fern’s family farm for two days, the drive was stunning. We even passed a group of elephants doing work, or maybe just chilling out, off the side of the road. We stayed overnight at a hotel by the river and woke up early to head to a market in Fang. This area of Thailand is full of amazing and beautiful tribal people, many of them refugees from Burma. We shopped where they shop so we could go back to the farm and cook what they cook. The food is heartier with less of the Thai ingredients we tend to think of. There is no fish sauce, little lemongrass, and a lot less of the flavor pastes we were using as bases in the food earlier this week.

We cooked for two days at the farm, enjoying amazing lunches outside (like the spread above). My favorite dishes were a chicken and potato stew, fish stew with tomatoes, meatballs with chiles, turmeric, and lemongrass (the only time we used it), and a banana flower salad. The best part was cooking with Jam, Ying, Fern, and Fern’s mother. Fern was the only one who spoke English but, again, the warm smiles and helpful natures of the other women made it a joy to cook with them. Some of them had never spent any time with ‘foreigners’ and when we left they were overwhelmed with emotions, as were many of us.

We headed back to Chiang Mai tonight and are resting up for tomorrow after a couple of magical days. This is beautiful country with beautiful people.

Chiang Mai

We arrived in Chiang Mai mid afternoon and were greeted by travel agent extraordinaire Deb and one of our hosts, Jeffrey Alford. A short ride to our hotel and we quickly got to our rooms, left our bags, and headed to the local market. The Sunday market in Bangkok is a simple market full of cheap souveniers, clothing, spices, and food. We sampled a Thai style gyro with sliced chicken, herbs, vegetables and not enough hot sauce as well as a giant calamari grilled to order with a really nice spicy marinade. After snacking and shopping we met Jeff and his wife Naomi at their apartments. We were introduced to Ying as well as Fern, her daughter Melissa, and her mom. They were all to be around for our week of shopping at the markets, cooking, and eating out. We were welcomed with tables full of Thai snacks, our favorite being the dip/condiment made of roasted chilies, garlic, and shallots (perfect dip for the local pork rinds) and the peanuts fried with wild lime leaves, chili, and shallots. After lots of snacking, and drinking Thai Leo beer (on ice!), we headed to the night market. We sat behind the stalls and ate rice noodles with curry-three types (fish, chicken, and pork) all made with delicious broths. The table we sat at was loaded with condiments for our bowls-bamboo shoots, banana flowers, pickled vegetables, and shredded cabbage. It was interactive and delicious. After wandering the market, we crashed hard, anxiously waiting for our first day of cooking.

After a fast walk around the city’s canal, we met in our hotel lobby at 8:30 am. We divided in three groups and headed out to different city markets to do our shopping. Jen, Penelope, and I were with Naomi and Ying. They gave us our shopping list and guided us through the market, giving us the chance to shop on our own. Not only did we find all of our ingredients but, we saw ingredients such as grasshoppers, ant eggs (maggots, if you ask me), and live frogs. We passed on the bugs for the day, thankfully. The group shopping for the catfish picked one so fresh it actually leaped right off the scale and onto the ground!

We went back to the apartments to prepare many dishes. Over the course of the morning we made a delicious sausage like mixture of pork, lemongrass, wild lime leaves and chiles. We cooked over charcoal braziers (above) on the deck and made beef soup, catfish laab, pork, laab, and sticky rice. We ate the meal gathered on the floor around the steaming dishes. Naomi, Jeff, Fern, Ying, and Melissa all guided us through the day but the true star was Fern’s mom who, originally from north of Chiang Mai, is an amazing cook. She spoke no English but somehow communicated to us through the food, teaching us new techniques and flavors that helped us create these unique dishes. Her face shined bright with an ear to ear smile and, in her fine blouse, skirt, and gold jewelry she got right down with us and yielded a Thai style cleaver like nobody’s business.

Tonight we’ll pile in trucks for dinner at a local restaurant and more market shopping and cooking tomorrow. Stay tuned…

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thailand Part Two

I apologize in advance for the confusing order of the recent posts. When I open my blog editor in Thailand all the instructions are in Thai so I'm clicking buttons by memory. The first post from Thailand is two posts below this one.

Greeted by another hot and sunny Bangkok morning, we met after breakfast the hotel’s boat dock. A quick ride to the Sky Train then a transfer to the subway got us to Chuckchuck market. We started on the food side. A daily market of produce, fresh fish, meat, ‘take away’ food, and kitchen wares. The Thai people selling their products were proud and gracious, trying their best to answer us when we didn’t recognize the Jack Fruit, Rose Apples, or Roti. The 'food paparazzi', as we've nick-named ourselves, was out in full force taking photos of all the food in sight (like the chiles, above). Jen bought a little kit to make mien-a snack from the north consisting of dried shrimp, toasted peanuts, toasted coconut, fresh ginger, fresh limes, fresh shallots, a sweet sauce, and green leaves to use as edible cups. When we finally ate it (the next morning at the hotel) the staff looked so excited! We each assembled a cup and definitely liked the sweet and salty snack but, the best part was when our server asked if he could have the rest because he loved it so much.

Ok…back to the market. After the food market, we cut over to the other side of the street for lunch. The restaurant was buried deep in one of the sections of what must be the largest swap meet in the world. This huge market, on the weekends only, is packed with stalls selling everything from antique bronze buddhas to bolts of Thai silk to denim hot pants. If you need a watch, a sauté pan, or a swimsuit you’d surely find it here. Before we could shop we needed a meal so Sue took us to Ann’s restaurant. Nestled in next to an orange juice squeezer, Ann has been running this amazing little spot for 20 years. She cooks at home all week with two helpers and brings her food to the restaurant on the weekends. She serves over 200 people Thai food that is out of this world. Just a few of the dishes we ate were red curry chicken, fresh rice noodles with herbs and peanut sauce, grilled calamari, and fish soup in a spicy broth studded with mint and lime. The plates kept coming as Ann sat and chatted with us tableside. She is a gorgeous Thai woman who looks to be in her early 40s. She is a passionate cook and keeper of traditional Thai recipes, feeding the locals and fortunate tourists with care and love. It was a spectacular lunch.

While eating we chatted up another foreigner sitting next to us. He said the market was his favorite place in Bangkok and he’s been eating at Ann’s for years. He was a Canadian journalist in town on his way to Chiang Mai to write about a couple starting a cooking school. Well, we were the students going to the school and he was there to write about our experience. Who knew we’d stumble upon him ahead of time and even share a meal. It was a strange and funny coincidence. Needless to say, if you’re reading En Route magazine on Air Canada in the near future you might see the bit about meeting up.

Shopping after lunch was obscene. While things are cheap and there were clearly bargains to be had, the heat was oppressive and the crowds were nuts. One hour later we were back on the subway heading for the hotel. We had a little R&R before heading out to meet Sue again for dinner.

She took us to Face, one of a small chain of Thai and Indian restaurants around Asia. The space was a flurry of staircases, secret doors, fish ponds, and rooms. We found our way to a large private room and ate under the shadow of a huge Burmese Buddha. We enjoyed cold Singhas with juicy chicken wrapped in pandan leaves, spicy (very spicy) fish soup, pomelo salad, morning glory with a simple sauce, crispy fried soft shell crabs, basil chicken, and sea bass in banana leaf. Dessert is few and far between in Asia. They enjoy fresh fruit and not much else which, as you know, doesn’t always do it for me. But, this meal ended with traditional sweet sticky rice and mango along with friend bananas and coconut ice cream. It was a nice evening with fantastic smells and even better company.

It’s off to Chiang Mai to begin the cooking part of this adventure. Things will be decidedly more rustic but, we’re anxious to hit the markets and start cooking ourselves. More to come….

Related Posts with Thumbnails