Posts tagged ‘thai food’
Arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport long past 11:00 p.m. on a July evening, I transformed from a drowsy denizen of giant metal flying machines into a dazzled and grateful traveller, amazed to actually be standing on solid ground at my destination: Thailand. Like the magnificent red and gold doorway greeting placed to greet passengers stumbling in from the jetway, this handsome sala on the concourse reminded me that I was back in Thailand, where visual celebrations of Thai culture enliven everyday places and moments.
Murals like this vision of a lotus pond and another with a still life of mangosteens, durian, rambutan, pineapple, lychees and other Thai fruits lined the gleaming cavernous passageways leading into the main terminal. Had I not been on a moving sidewalk, I would have tried to photograph every one. The restrooms featured flourishing orchids, duplicating their lovely presence in the mirrors.
Even the boards informing passengers where our luggage could be picked up tickled me, with the listings of arriving flights. Nothing so familiar to me as Denver, Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami; there I was in a place where jets zoom in from Guangzhou and Hanoi, Seoul and Macau, Vientiane and Hong Kong, Manila and Singapore. I easily found my refrigerator-sized rolling suitcase, cleared customs speedy-quick, and found the taxi stand, where I was soon paired up with a driver who stowed it handily in the trunk of his small sedan and headed us off toward my hotel.
To my delight, the trunk of his taxi not only accomodated my massive suitcase but also held a sticky-rice serving basket, his old-school lunchbox, tucked over to one side. This pleased me: Some things continued as I remembered them from 37 years ago. The sparkling airport, the elevated expressway, and the highrise Bangkok skyline visible from the taxi confirmed that much had changed since 1978, when I departed from Bangkok’s original Don Muang Airport, at the end of my Peace Corps service in 1978.
The taxi driver’s lunch and the night markets we passed now and then as we sped through the city reminded me that while I had eaten fairly recently on the airplanes carrying me from North Carolina to Atlanta, to Tokyo, and then to Bangkok…..
….I had not dined to my heart’s delight, nor had I enjoyed even a morsel of Thai food. I considered asking the driver to drop me off at one of the night markets, but given my massive suitcase and carry-on’s, such nimble and spontaneous actions were not on the menu.
But once I arrived at my hotel, checked in, and got settled in my sixth-floor room with river view, I spied the Room Service Menu. And did I see the magic words, “24-Hour” Room Service Menu? I did indeed. This made me so happy. But what to choose? Laab Mu (minced pork salad with Thai herbs? Tod Mun Plaa (deep-fried fish cakes with cucumber salad)? or Gaeng Peht Beht Yahng (red curry roast duck)?
Well, none of the above, since the “Not available after midnight” caveat applied to my moment in time. But turning the page, I found the perfect supper, the ideal late-night Thai comfort food: kao tome, rice soup. Much as I love jook, Chinese-style rice soup made by slow-and-long-simmering of raw rice grains in lots of water to create a lovely porridge, I absolutely adore Thailand’s version, made by simmering cooked rice into a clear but hearty and comforting soup.
Kao tome comes with seasonings, some added and some on the side as kreung brung rote, or flavor-adjusters. Vinegar with chilies, fish sauce, dried ground red chilies, and sugar are the basic, standard offerings. My soup already ‘dressed’ up just right, with chopped cilantro, green onions, crispy garlic fried in oil, and minced pickled radish scattered on top, enhancing the finely chopped pork dropped into boiling water during cooking to make soup.
Even though kao tome is a meal in a bowl (especially popular with those recovering from or en route to a hangover), I ordered myself a plate of rice and nahm plah prik, fish sauce with finely chopped fresh hot chilis. My feast arrived in about 20 minutes, the amount of time it took to turn rice into kao tome. Finishing touch: a Singha beer, Thai-style, with ice, the way I like it, so the heat doesn’t warm it up.
While I ate my first meal back in Thailand, I thought of many late-night kao tome meals taken at the restaurants along the major highways, where air-conditioned Thai tour buses stop halfway through their all-night express runs in to Bangkok from up-country cities and towns. At first I found it odd that the buses stop around 1:00 a.m. at a designated restaurant and travel center, so that everyone can get off, shop a little, use the facilities, and then eat a bowl of kao tome which is included in the price whether you eat it or not. But what a good idea: The drivers can stretch and have a bit of ‘lunch’, and what a boost to my ability to fall asleep for the remainder of the trip, awaking just as sunrise informed us that the bus was nearly to our destination. So many good memories, often food-centered, each one leading me to another. It was after 2:00 a.m. by the time I set my tray out in the hall and went out to my balcony to enjoy the river view.
I can’t share my supper with you, but I can let you join me on the balcony of my hotel room for a taste of the sights and sounds of the Chao Praya River very late at night. Click HERE for a peek via my Vimeo files. I thought I was too excited to fall asleep, but once I turned off the light, I drifted in to a sweet, sound sleep. For me, kao tome works every time.
A tall cool Thai iced coffee, brought to my table at a small, delightful Bangkok cafe, one which became instant headquarters for many of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers gathered at the Royal River Hotel during July for Peace Corps Thailand 50th Anniversary celebrations. Check my blogpost HERE about my first meal there, a fantastic lunch made even more delightful by the company with whom I shared it: Ellie and Paul, two PCV’s I met during my Peace Corps Thailand time.
CLICK HERE for the video tour of the restaurant, featuring other wonderful Peace Corps folks and a beauty shot of ‘kai jiow‘, Thai omelet with the original Sri Rachaa Sauce on the side. Other PCV friends include Linda, Carolyn, and Pat. More names coming. And I will find out the name of the restaurant. I took it for granted, because there it was, coming and going many times a day. If you’re coming in toward the hotel, it’s on the right, about halfway up and just before the small canal. Here’s the Royal River Hotel website, with which to find the lane, Soi Charansanitwong, off Rajwithii Road at Krung Thon Bridge, west bank of the Chao Praya River, Thonburi Side.
CLICK HERE for the blogpost with photos of our meal.
Thai iced coffee delivers a particular pleasure, as it’s seasoned with roasted spices and made superstrong, generously sweetened and enriched with my favorite, evaporated milk. This was one of many food-moments in which I found things I remembered from my long-ago Thailand days unchanged, unspoiled, still fantastic and still right there, woven into everyday Thai life. Look for Thai coffee powder in plump cellophane bags in Asian markets, if you’re hankering to try it at home. Iced and with milk, it’s ‘cah-fey yen‘. Iced without milk, it’s ‘o-liang‘.
That’s me, 23-year old Peace Corps Trainee, working on an ESL lesson plan during practice teaching at a school in the northernmost Thai province of Chiang Rai. It was March of 1975, the beginning of my time in Thailand.
I returned in 1989 to do research for my first cookbook. Now I am heading to Thailand again, this time to to join festivities for the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps. RPCV and Human Dynamo-Genius Carolyn Nickels-Cox and Friends of Thailand, a group of returned Peace Corps volunteers, have organized grand array of celebrations. For the scoop, click HERE:
I will begin and end my journey in Bangkok. In between I will go to the Northeastern Provinces of Surin and Burirum to visit my students, colleagues, neighbors and friends. I am so excited, eager, grateful, and happy to have this privilege of nearly two weeks in the Kingdom of Thailand.
For a peek at my Thai Peace Corps days, you can visit the Nancie in Thailand page on my website by clicking HERE.
To see photos of my Thai student, Mr. Riat Prombut, and a public health project at the school in Burirum Province where he is teacher, click HERE.
Below is a map of Thailand from my book, Real Vegetarian Thai. (I will revise this post to credit the artist asap.) To locate my Peace Corps site, look in the Northeastern region, near the Cambodian border, for the town of Thatoom on the Mun River in Surin Province.
I’ll return home with abundant photos and stories to share. Recipes, too! Check back here, and on my Facebook Author Page HERE and Friends page, starting toward the end of July, for an on-going buffet tales and pictures. Must close now, as I just thought of 3 more additions to my ever-growing list of must-eat foods and essential ingredients and kitchen tools to find while in Thailand.
Son-In-Law Eggs for My First #LetsLunch
What a treat and an honor to join the #LetsLunch folks for the first time. Eggs symbolize beginnings, so I’m taking this theme a little bit personally, since I am lunching with you for the first time. I cooked us up a batch of Son-In-Law Eggs, a traditional Thai with-rice dish. It’s a party dish beloved throughout Thailand. During my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Northeastern Thailand, I encountered them at weddings, ordination ceremonies for young men becoming Buddhist monks, and other celebrations, whenever the accent was on special treats rather than everyday fare.
In my small upcountry town of Thatoom in Surin Province (on the Cambodian border between Korat and Ubol Rachathanii), duck eggs enjoyed most-favored-egg status, as they were more common, less expensive, and endowed with a rich, deep flavor and color appreciated by all. Recently I’ve seen duck eggs on sale at Whole Foods Market, and I look forward to using them for my next batch of Son-In-Law Eggs. Chicken eggs work wonderfully as well. Typically, Son-In-Law Eggs are served whole, drenched with an irresistible tamarind sauce, sweetened with palm sugar and sharpened with fish sauce. I also love them halved, served over a pool of sauce and sprinkled with some sauce and the tasty garnishes of crispy shallots, crispy garlic, and cilantro. To make them finger food, you could serve each half in lettuce cups, with garlic and shallots sprinkled over it and sauce on the side to be spooned on by each eater.
Nancie’s “Real Thai” Son-In-Law Eggs
Son-In-Law Eggs make a fine addition to an Asian-style rice-centered meal, as well as an alternative to deviled eggs for a picnic, potluck, or brunch feast. You can make the sauce in advance, covering and refrigerating it for a day or two, as long as you let it warm up gently and serve it at room temperature. The eggs look crispy, thanks to their deep-fried status, but in fact they come out chewy and multi-textured, perfect for delivering richness enrobed in the sweet-salty-tangy tamarind sauce.
1/3 cup tamarind liquid (see recipe*)
1/4 cup palm sugar or brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons water
Fresh cilantro leaves
Coarsely ground dried red chili flakes
6 eggs, hard-cooked and shelled
6 small shallots, thinly sliced crosswise and separated into rings (1/3 cup)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise (1/4 cup)
Vegetable oil for frying in wok or small deep saucepan (3 to 4 cups)
To make the sauce, combine the tamarind liquid, palm sugar, fish sauce, and water in a small heavy saucepan. Bring to a lively boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring now and then, until the sauce is smooth and about as thick as maple syrup. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
To make the eggs, pour the oil in a wok or deep heavy skillet to a depth of 3 inches. Heat over medium to medium-high heat, until a bit of shallot floats and sizzles wildly at once, (a temperature of 350 to 375 degrees F). If the eggs are wet, pat them dry with a paper towel. Line a medium bowl with paper towels and place it by the stove.
Gently slide 3 of the eggs down the side of the wok or pan, or lower them into the hot oil with a slotted spoon. Using a spatula or slotted spoon, move them gently around to keep them from resting on the bottom. Turn and cook until the eggs are golden brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside in the paper-towel-lined bowl. Repeat with remaining eggs.
To fry the shallots and garlic, let the hot oil return to good frying temperature. A bit of shallot should float and sizzle wildly at once. Have 2 paper towel-lined plates by the stove, along with a slotted spoon or a fine mesh strainer for getting the garnishes out quickly. Scatter the shallots over the hot oil in the wok, and quickly and gently turn them to help them separate and cook quickly and evenly. They will brown quickly. As soon as they are nicely but lightly browned, quickly scoop them out and onto one of the papertowel-lined plates. Now scatter in the garlic and let it quickly cook in the same way, gently pushing clusters apart. Scoop out the garlic onto the other paper-towel lined plates. Then transfer each garnish to another papertowel to absorb more oil. Scatter on a clean platter and set aside to cool and dry.
To serve Son-In-Law Eggs
Carefully halve the eggs lengthwise, using a sharp or serrated knife. Pour the sauce onto a deep plate or a shallow bowl or a small platter, big enough to hold all the eggs. (Keep some aside if you like, to add at serving time.) Arrange the egg halves yolk-side up on the sauced plate. Sprinkle eggs with the fried shallots and garlic, and cilantro leaves and chilies if you are using them. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Traditionally these are served with rice and other dishes as part of a meal).
Serves 6 to 8
1/4 cup tamarind pulp (makahm biak/wet tamarind, sold in blocks)
1/2 cup warm water
Place the tamarind pulp in a small bowl and add the warm water. Soak for 20 to 30 minutes, poking and mashing occasionally to break up the sticky lump and dissolve the luscious pulp.
Pour the tamarind pulp and water through a fine-mesh strainer, and use a spoon to mash the pulp against the strainer, extracting as much of the thick liquid/sauce as you can. Scrape off the bottom of the strainer to get every drop of the thick puree which will accumulate there. Discard the remaining pulp, fibers, and seeds. Thin a bit with water until the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream or split pea soup. Use as directed in recipes, or cover and refrigerate for a day or two. (
Makes about 1/2 cup
These recipes come from Real Thai: The Best of Thailand’s Regional Cooking by Nancie McDermott, Chronicle Books 1992. Copyright: Nancie McDermott All rights reserved.
#LETSLUNCH is a movable, expandable, irresistible virtual feast!
Visit these excellent bloggers for eggs extraordinaire. And check back; more egg dishes to come…
– Ana‘s Breakfast Pizza at In Foodie Fashion
– Charissa‘s Gluten-Free Leek, Ham & Pecorino Souffles at Zest Bakery
– Denise‘s Beet Dye & Pink Deviled Eggs at Chez Us
– Eleanor‘s Medley of Eggs at Wok Star
– Emma‘s Eggs In A Hole at Dreaming of Pots & Pans
– Felicia‘s Perfect Sandwich at Burnt-Out Baker
– Grace‘s Scrambled Eggs & Tomatoes at HapaMama
– Joe‘s Kim-Chi Deviled Eggs at Joe Yonan
– Karen‘s Molecular Gastronomy “Eggs” at GeoFooding
– Leigh‘s Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls at Leigh Nannini
– Linda‘s Home-made Cadbury Eggs (Maple Chocolate Eggs) at Free Range Cookies
– Linda‘s Taiwanese Tomato Eggs at Spicebox Travels
– Lisa‘s Legendary Egg & Onion at Monday Morning Cooking Club
– Lucy‘s Old-Fashioned Boiled Dressing (& Chicken Salad) at A Cook And Her Books
– Nancie‘s Son-In-Law Eggs at Nancie McDermott
– Rashda‘s Bombay Toasts (Spicy French Toasts) at Hot Curries And Cold Beer
– Rebecca‘s Mini Meringue Buttons at Grongar Blog
– Vivian‘s Oeuf Chaud Froid at Vivian Pei