To say I ate well in Thailand would be one of the biggest understatements I could make. Not only did I eat well, I tried a lot of dishes and everything I ate was delicious, fresh and flavorful.
I was introduced to Thai cuisine at an early age. Five minutes from my home in California there is a terrific Thai restaurant run by the friendliest family from Chang Mai, Thailand. I fell in love with curries, but whenever I bought pre-made curries at the supermarket or tried making my own, they never even tasted close. So I decided to treat myself to a cooking class at Silom Thai Cooking School in Bangkok so I could discover the secrets of making a curry and anything else I could pick up.
The 5-course class cost 1,000 baht ($32); the class was fun and you get to try a lot of food, but it’s not for people who are looking for an advanced Cordon Bleu experience, because a lot of the ingredients are pre-cut to speed up the process. The morning began with a visit to a market where there were bags of pre-made curries for sale (photo above), machines buzzing as they grated coconut, and men and women carefully inspecting tables piled high with seafood. We picked up key Thai ingredients including sweet basil, holy basil, lemon/lime basil, bird’s eye chilies, spur chilies, limes, kaffir limes, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai coriander, tamarind, galangal ginger and mung beans. Up first was tom yum goong, hot and sour prawn soup.
This was one of my favorite dishes. The soup combines prawns, straw mushrooms, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal ginger, fish sauce, lime juice, water, tomato, coriander, green onion, Thai chili paste, coconut milk, and bird’s eye chilies, if you can take the heat.
We cooked two curries, the phanaeng curry with chicken (pictured below) and a green curry. For the phanaeng curry we bought a red curry paste at the market and added our own tamarind paste (made by mashing tamarind in hot water), beans, red chilies, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar, roasted peanuts, fish sauce and coconut milk.
For the green curry, we made our own paste by grinding up green spur chilies, green bird’s eye chilies, red bird’s eye chilies, lemon grass, galangal ginger, kaffir lime rind, shallots, garlic, coriander root, turmeric ginger, roasted coriander and cumin seeds, roasted black pepper and shrimp paste. Really, a food processor is probably the way I’ll do this at home, although your arms get a good work out with the mortar and pestle. We mixed the paste with coconut milk that we made by hand mashing ground coconut with warm water.
We also cooked cashew chicken (top of post) and to finish off the meal we had one of my favorite desserts: mango with sticky rice. Sticky rice needs to be soaked over night and you cook it in a steamer. Then you pour coconut milk that has been cooked with sugar and pandannas leaves over the rice and sprinkle some mung beans on top. The challenge will now be finding all of these ingredients in another country!
If you aren’t big on cooking, Bangkok has plenty of street food and a lot of it is on sticks.
For dinner (really, I did get hungry later), Claire, the fellow I stayed with, made reservations at Klua Kling off of Thong Lo Soi 5. Klua Kling specializes in Southern Thai cuisine. I had never tried dishes from this region and they tasted a lot different from the standard well-known Thai fare that I mentioned above. They were much spicier and I could see the influence of Malay traders and others who must have passed through here years ago. The fish curry with large bamboo pieces was phenomenal:
After three days in Bangkok I headed to Phuket where I met up with my friend Chloe. We both had head colds so we ordered some tom yam soup and pork with basil and we started to feel better.
From Phuket we headed to Ko Phi Phi Don, which I will post about soon. Our favorite restaurant on the island was Papaya. This simple unpretentious place had great food at reasonable prices.
We sat down at the restaurant around 2 p.m. and there was no one else there, seems to be an evening place. We were told we wouldn’t be able to order from the full menu, but we were able to get what we wanted: pad Thai noodles, som tam — green papya salad, and some veggie rolls.
The pad Thai was delicious. I could eat this dish at least once a week:
As we dived into the Pad Thai, we watched the cook grab a papaya and begin peeling it:
The resulting salad was phenomenal. So fresh with a delicious dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. I could have had this for the next week and been happy.
For lunch the next day we tried beef larb. This was the first time I had tried this dish and boy did it pack the heat.
For dinner we grabbed some red snapper that came with a pineapple and tomato salsa.
I loved the Thai writing on this can of Coke:
To cut the heat when we ate the larb, we ordered some Chang beers. We also tried Singha beer. Both were OK, but nothing I would go out of my to search for.
After all the food and hot weather, sometimes you just want to find a cool place and take a nap:
Happy eating to all! And to all my new followers who found me when this blog was Freshly Pressed, welcome aboard and thanks for following, hope you enjoy.