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Bangrak Food Tour, Day 2

8 Oct

Before we left Bangkok to go back to San Diego, we decided we needed to top off the rest of our trip with some more eating. Although international flights are awesome because they still feed you real meals and alcohol, that doesn’t make it delicious food. So for our last day of vacation, we woke up and went out venturing again.

First things first, because we took off as soon as we were awake and packed, we needed some of the best orange juice I have ever tasted…

I don’t know why, but oranges in Southeast Asia are orange on the inside and look like limes on the outside. And they are freaken delicious when squeezed into orange juice. When we were in Bangkok the first time, when we first arrived in Cambodia, a Polish couple that we hung out with introduced us to these. 20 baht a bottle.

Orange juice will never be the same…unless I live in Thailand again.

Other than the juice, we decided to just try the few remaining things that we had yet to eat…(this kind of means the things I wasn’t eager to eat)

Fish ball soup. Exactly the way it sounds. I am not a stranger to fish balls, but the yumminess of these mashed up balls of chopped up fish meat truly depends on the quality of the meat and the texture that is created. These were so-so. Not my favorite, but not inedible. The broth was pretty good, but a bit salty for boyfriend and I’s palette. It was just fish balls, some thin noodles, and spring onion. Pretty simple. Cost a dollar and was rather filling with all that liquid.

After this, we went shopping a little bit in all the markets. I bought 2 shirts for about $7. They will probably last me just the fall season because they aren’t the best quality, but hey, who doesn’t mind a cute new shirt or two? I wanted to do more shopping but it was obnoxiously hot and the markets are like a maze – I don’t know how I would have ever gotten home if Emilio wasn’t blessed with some sense of direction and held my hand firmly the entire time.

As we walked home, which was a good 30 minutes away, in order to cool off with a few beers before we had to check out (another awesome thing about our hotel — they let us check in/out at our leisure) we decided to get two more snacks.

Fish ball wontons. Jaja.

There was a woman selling these wonton wrapped chopped up pieces of fish from a vendor. We saw a guy order a stick of them for like 10 baht and decided to go for it. We had absolutely no idea what she was selling or what the filling would be. They were, again, exactly what I expected. A sauce with them would have made them delicious, but they were just a bit dry for my liking.

And, because I am obsessed with street food and vendors who ride up in carts on their motorbikes, I thought I would also share a picture of what eating on the street means here…

I want to eat like this in the States.

And lastly, we got some take-away of pork fried rice to take to the airport with us. I think you probably know what fried rice looks like. (Note – we were served pork fried rice as one of our meals on the airport…this fried rice killed airplane fried rice).

And again, rather than $70, we spent MAYBE $3 today for our lunch. That’s less than $10 for both days. And we did some good eating. I am always going to make up my own food tours from now on. Waaaaay better. Plus, eating is definitely the best way to discover a new city or culture – at least when you’re pinche gordos like us!

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Bangrak Food Tour, Day 1

7 Oct

When I took the cooking class in Siem Reap, I met a lady who had just traveled from Thailand. She highly recommended taking a food tour in Bangkok. Well, I am backpacking and I am naturally a cheapass. Plus, sometimes the whole obvious tourist group walking around is embarrassing to me. And the final kicker? I looked up the cost and it was about $35/person. That’s 70 bucks for us to sample food! I decided to kick that idea to the curb and I created our very own personalized food tour.

First, I just did general research of “what to eat” in Bangkok — and realized that we had tried a lot of those foods already in our travels in Thailand. Then, I looked at the food tour itinerary — they won’t tell you exactly where you’ll be going, but they mentioned a few “highlight” dishes and the general area they are going in. Luckily, the hotel we were staying at was within a (long) walking distance to Bangrak. This is a more historical part of town because many of the vendors/restaurants have been around forย  a long time. There are also markets and shopping around. I saw very few obvious tourists in this area.

Because we had dinner reservations to celebrate our last night of vacation at 8pm, I decided to split our food tour in two parts. Half of it today, half of it the next morning before we had to catch our flight. It worked perfectly.

First stop? Volcanic fried mussels & oysters.

From what I read, this place is named “volanic” because its origins were on the streets and a large fire erupted (almost volcanically ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) whenever this meal was being cooked up. Due to its popularity, it has moved inside a “restaurant.” I put this in quotes because whenever I say restaurant here, all that it really means is a tiny storefront with a few plastic chairs and tables. We aren’t talking anything like Olive Garden set up.

I am not a huge mussel or oyster fan. Their little “sacks” or whatever pretty much disgust me. But when in Rome…

The pancake is like an egg/pancake batter with fried mussels inside and then it is topped with fresh oysters and sweet chili sauce. If you love shellfish and Asian flavors, this might be your dish. As not a lover of either mussels or oysters, it was good, but not a re-order dish for me. The mussels were actually quite small and the texture was good and not sandy. I could probably eat that part again. Oysters, while fresh tasting and literally burst in your mouth, are just not my thing. Emilio likes oysters with tapito and lime, but even these were a bit much for him because they just sat on top of the pancake. And it was a bit overpriced, in my opinion, at 70 baht.

But still – food tour continues! Next stop? Duck.

This spot was a bit harder to find. The restaurant was called Prachak Pet Yang. It was not necessarily obvious that it was a restaurant, because from the street, it looked like a butcher of duck meat only. The menu had the tiniest bit of English writing — but enough for me to know what I wanted to order at this place — roasted duck over rice with some special sauce.

This was pretty delicious. Duck is a very sweet meat (this was only the second time I have had it) and the sauce was sweet also. Personally, I could used some heat but the flavors didn’t seem as though they would mesh with the chilies in fish sauce or chiles in vinegar that are condiments at each table. 70 baht for this meal also.

And then we stopped for a refreshing drink, or at least, that is what I expected it to be. I read about these Chinese herbal teas that we needed to try because they were simultaneously good for you and good tasting. They may have been good for you, but they were not good tasting. I forgot to take a picture. But because we couldn’t communicate with the vendors, we ordered blind. The boyfriend got a green one and it tasted like grass and hay. I got a dark red one that I thought would be like a fruit juice, but it only attempted to taste like fruit juice. A little disappointing, but hey, I think we got our vitamins.

Last stop – dessert. Now, we had seen lots of grilled bananas along the way in all three countries. But I read that these fried bananas were a must. Finding this place was easy — the cart had a long line of locals waiting for their fried goodness and that’s always a good sign to me. We stepped right in line to await our turn.

These were exactly what you expect them to be — they tasted like a fried banana, but they woman who cooked them threw in nuts and some kind of coating on the bananas that almost tasted like caramelized peanut brittle that coated the bananas. And for 20 baht — that’s a good dessert!

Overall, the food tour was quite fun. We got to walk around a busy little area and try some new food. The best part? For day 1, we spent roughly $6 (that’s waaay less than $70)!

Chiang Mai eats

7 Oct

Chiang Mai is in Northern Thailand and there are slight variations to the food there. We fell in love with Chiang Mai, as it’s a city but a manageable, walkable size. Unfortunately, since we decided last minute to come here – we had originally planned for five days in Bangkok but everyone we met on our travels said that was too long so we changed it to 2 nights in Chiang Mai, one night on an overnight train, and one night in Bangkok. But, back to the food…

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As usual, we had some favorites. This was the healthiest, vegetable version of cashew chicken we had. It was in a cafe type setting restaurant called “the hut” and promised, and lived up to, serving large portions. Still, it cost 60 baht (two bucks!)

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Another favorite – wide rice noodles with Chinese greens and chicken. Of course, it’s take away (rather than “to-go”) and only cost 30 baht. We bought it at one of the night gate markets (Chiang Mai was originally a walled city so there are now “gates”).

And then, the more interesting eats…

Like I previously said, Northern Thailand has slight variations. At this restaurant, that is literally a garage with some chairs and tables, I ordered Khao Soi. It’s Northern style green curry soup with yellow noodles, crispy fried noodles, and chicken. It was glorious. The flavor of the curry was great, and it was interesting to try it as a soup with noodles rather than over rice, the way I am accustomed to. And only 30 baht.

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Khao Soi – Northern Thailand style green curry soup

The ordering of this food was a bit more complicated, though. This restaurant only served 8 dishes that had the Thai name of it and a picture. Mi mascota immediately pointed at a picture when the owner, who spoke some English, said it was northern style noodle and spicy. Done deal. And then he tried to tell us it was blood. Ooohhhh…blood cake soup. We had seen this all across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. We had originally learned about it when preparing for our trip by watching Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods.

Blood cake is exactly what it sounds like. It’s blood, congealed to almost a jelly consistency. it was only 20 baht, so I told Emilio to go for it.

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Unfortunately, I have no idea what this was called. But it was basically thin rice noodles with a spicy tomato-onion broth, that Emilio compared to sopa de fideo (he was always comparing food to Mexican flavors – what a mexicanese). And, of course, with chunks of blood.

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Both of our dishes were served with shredded cabbage, pickeled cabbage, shallots and lime.

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Ready to chow down!

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And a few minutes later –

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And gone!

I tried several bites and really, it was a mental thing to get over the fact that we are eating blood.

Emilio says this – the blood was tofu texture, but lighter and smoother. Also like tofu, it soaked up the flavor of the soup. It wasn’t irony or “bloody” tasting.

I mean, look at the bowl – he obviously liked it!

Koh Samui

4 Oct

From Krabi, we took a bus to Surat Thani and then caught a ferry to Koh Samui. “Koh” means island. Our entire trip there was pouring rain and I was fearful my beach vacation would continue that way. However, Samui (pronounced like “cold” in Japanese), was gorgeous.

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We stayed a bit out of town at the Koh Samui Resort. Initially, this place was great – a nice room and feet away from a private beach. But we had no running water – and not just hot – no water in the sink, toilet, nothing! That was pretty annoying. But by our second day, they figured it out and gave us a fruit plate in apology.

Our first night there we got there pretty late and were tired from the long day of traveling so we just hung out in the pool (where, I might add, for the first time in my life, I sat at the bottom!) and went to dinner.

At dinner, Emilio ordered this –

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Shark. And NO, not shark fin or something illegal. Shark. We decided it had the consistency of fish, but the flavor of chicken. It was good, but not a brand new flavor/texture like eating tarantulas. It was 50 baht.

For our second full day, we rented a motorbike. Emilio has been wanting to do this the whole vacation but Saigon was too crazy and Cambodia and Krabi had everything in walking distance. a bike cost about 180 baht for a full 24 hours. Way cheaper than 200 baht/person taxi rides. If you can drive one, get one!

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He was a little too big for the bikes. ๐Ÿ˜‰ considering the scars he has on his knees from four-wheeling, I was a little hesitant about this but it was actually a great way to get around. And don’t worry, dad, he drove very safely. I, on the other hand, can’t even ride a bike so couldn’t keep the bike going straight for the life of me.

And another thing that cracked me up was how you bought gas. Apparently, this was no big deal to Emilio because you can buy gas this way in Mexico. At first, I kept thinking – what’s that yellow stuff in the Coke bottles for 40 Baht? I found out its for this –

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But…let’s get to the food! Emilio doesn’t call me China gorda for nothing!

Street food here was excellent. We started with a few snacks, went for a massage, and then came back for some more!

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I can’t get over fruit shakes. I have a different flavor everyday and they cost 30 baht – about a buck. This is strawberry. But papaya is amazing and the other day, Emilio had a pineapple-coconut that was oh-my-god refreshing.

For appetizers, we had food on a stick:

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Hungry bear.

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Octopus with hot sauce. The sauce had a great kick and flavor to go with the just-right chewy of octopus. 10 baht.

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Chicken on a stick. I need to figure out this marinade. We have had it a few times and we keep trying more! 10 baht.

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Livers. Eh. I have had liver before so nothing too crazy. Good flavor, not my favorite texture. Again, only 10 baht. Three things on a stick and a fruit shake for 2 bucks! Where else can you get appetizers so cheap?

Then, break for massage and walk along the water (romantic, isn’t it?) and back for some more eating…

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Again, Pad Thai. Probably the best I have had. Just with tofu and egg. 30 baht.

And lastly,

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Fried chicken. 50 baht. For me, its like chicken katsu but served with sweet chili sauce.

And that was the end of our eating frenzy for the night. But for about 5 bucks, I can’t think of better eating!

Krabi Street Food – Again

28 Sep

Street food in Thailand has made us not like restaurants anymore. I hope that in the next three places we go, we can only eat from on the street! It’s super delicious and cheap! Plus, a Chang beer in the restaurant is 99 baht (over 3 dollars), so we have been going to the local store and buying them for 45 baht and then taking our beers and enjoying them on the street!

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So much better!

So over the past few nights here in Krabi, we have tried a few more delectable items.

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Pineapple fried rice – 50 baht. The girl made it quite spicy for us but the pineapple really balances it out to give that spicy-sweet combination that Emilio loves. Plus, we learned that Thai people eat pineapple after their meals to get rid of that overly full feeling – so why not eat it as you go?

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Tempura prawns – 50 baht. To me, this isn’t Thai-specific (the Japanese in me totally wants to claim tempura) but the girl who served these does them right! The batter is pretty thick, but is fried to a perfect crisp and has great texture and taste. I tend to pick off batter a little when I eat, but I think Emilio was licking the crumbs from the plate he liked it so much. It was served, of course, with chili garlic sauce.

And I am about to post three pictures of the same thing, but only because it was that good..

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OMG. Chicken on a stick – 50 baht. I don’t know what this meat was marinated in, but it was cooked in between a large pair of ohashi right in the grill in front of us. Amazing!

And what’s even more amazing? Street food here is probably the original good truck as we know them.

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If you look at the cart carefully behind Emilio, you will notice that attached to the street food cart is a motor bike. At the end of the night, they pack all their gear into the cart and drive it away – its all attached to their bike. Ingenious!

Why can’t the States have food carts like this?!