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Thai Green Curry

21 Oct

When I was in Thailand, I took an amazing cooking class and learned (finally) how to cook my favorite Thai dish — green curry. I have attempted to make this dish several times and it was always a fail. When I make Japanese curry, I always buy the packaged curry mix because it is what my mom always did (I will continue to always do this because it is my mom’s style and isn’t mom’s food always the best?). In that same thought, I had used prepared green curry paste to make Thai Green Curry. However, in this choice, was my mistake. Making curry can be a bit time consuming, but oh-so-worth it.

To make the curry paste, you need the following ingredients:
15 Thai green chiles (must be green to maintain the green color)
1 shallot, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP ginger (in Thailand, we used galangal, but I have not seen this at local stores, even the Asian ones)
1 tsp Kaffir lime peel (again, I can’t find this so I used regular limes — it definitely changes the flavor)
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp shrimp paste
1/2 tsp salt

If you have a mortar, grind all these ingredients together until they create a paste. Alternatively, you can use a blender. However, I really do believe that grinding the ingredients breaks down and blends the flavors together better.

My cooking instructor told us that you can keep this in the fridge for about 30 days. You can also freeze it for about 2-3 months, but if you freeze it, cook it in a little oil first to release the flavors again.

Then, comes the actual curry.

To make Thai Green Curry, you will need:
1-2 Chicken breasts, sliced into thin pieces (the thinner, the faster it will cook)
2 tbsp of the green curry paste you just made
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup of mixed vegetables — my favorites for this dish are eggplant, baby corn, and bamboo shoots
5 Kaffir lime leaves (I can’t find these, but this is what we used in the class)
10 leaves Thai basil (I substituted the sweet basil that is easily found in grocery stores)
7-8 Thai green chiles (adjust this depending on your spice tolerance)
1/2 TBSP fish sauce
1/2 TBSP soy sauce (the original recipe calls for 1 TBSP of fish sauce, but I don’t love that flavor so I half it with shoyu)
2 tsp sugar

Thai green chiles. If you noticed the dried red chiles, those are for red curry paste. The same recipe, with the switch out of these chiles, will give you red curry instead of green curry.

Directions:
1. In a wok, bring the coconut milk and the green curry paste to a simmer.
2. Add the chicken. Remember, this needs to be sliced THIN so that this cooks within a few minutes.
3. Add your vegetables and cook.
4. Add fish sauce, shoyu, and sugar to taste.
5. Add the kaffir lime leaves and basil.
6. Keep tasting and add more salt and/or sugar to your taste. Let simmer for a few more minutes and then it’s ready!

Serve with a bowl of white rice and enjoy!

The Boyfriend Rates It:4
I didn’t grow up eating curry but it is one of my favorite dishes. I mean, it has heat from the Thai chillies and a little bit of sweet from the coconut milk. Whats not to like. It is a dish with many layers and complex flavors.

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!

Nahm (as in nom nom nom)

8 Oct

Nahm is the restaurant that I found on a list called “Word’s Top 50 Restaurants” when I was doing food research for our trip. In case you haven’t realized it yet, Emilio was in charge of the travel plans and I was in charge of the eating interary. You can read the list of amazing places to eat for yourself here. (I just want you to know that that is the first time I have ever made a link without actually showing the URL – I am getting better at this blogging thing slowly but surely).

Nahm is run by an Australian chef who has the same restaurant in London – which won a Michelin star (and then lost it). And just because its a new trick I learned, you can learn about Michelin stars here. It is Thai food, but obviously a bit modernized, priced way higher than street food, and just taken up a notch. It is inside the Metropolitan hotel and is a great setting.

We decided to get the set menu – where they bring food out to you, but you don’t necessarily know what its going to be. This was 1700 baht a person (about $55) but this is cheaper than set menus at renowned restaurants in the States. The silly thing was that we also got a bottle of wine and that was 1800 baht — more expensive than all the food!

We started off with canapes – little small plates that get your appetite going.

The first was a dish (and I don’t know what the fancy restaurant name of any of these things are) was this tapioca dumpling that had peanut and smoked fish on the inside. Looked weird, sounds weird, tasted good.

Actually, that was a lie. Before we got this dish, we got compliments of the chef. This was a triangle of pineapple with minced pork and palm sugar on top. The palm sugar made it a bit chewy, but the flavor was spicy and sweet.

Ok, I’m done lying…back to the canapes.

The second canape was southern grilled mussels. These were smokey and for a non-shellfish lover, they were pretty good. They were served with a side of fresh cucumber (notice how small cucumbers are here — these are not the GMO veggies of US grocery stores) which was a nice refreshing contrast to the smokiness bbq of the mussel.

We then were served these little rolls that looked like a cross between fried spring rolls and wafer cookies. These wafer rolls had chicken and lychee on the inside. Simple, crunchy, sweet.

Our last canape, which honestly could have been our last plate because we were already getting full and had so many dishes to come, was probably the best thing we ate all night. It was spicy pork with mint, peanuts, and crunchy rice which you rolled up (like lettuce cups) in betel leaves. Side note – I looked up what betel leaves were because I had never heard of them and apparently people in SE Asia often chew them for both their questionable medicinal effects and for their euphoria-inducing effects. Interesting, eh?

Then, came the salad. For this, we received a salad of deep fried soft shell crab with pomelo (a citrus fruit), chilies, and coriander. And I forgot to mention this. When we first ordered the set menu, our waitress asked us if we had any dietary restrictions or foods we didn’t enjoy. We eagerly assured here that no, we ate pretty much anything. We forgot that we hate fish sauce. At least fish sauce overdone. This salad had potential to be good, but the dressing definitely had fish sauce. I tried to sneak it across the table to the boyfriend’s side, but he didn’t appreciate that much since his nose is also now sensitive to this stench.

The soup course was a clear broth with minced pork and prawns with pak warn and squid. I have absolutely no idea what pak warn is. I tried to do a search of it but all my results said something like “US officials warn of Pakistan threat.” Um, that wasn’t in my soup. The identifiable thing to me was spring onion. It was good, but honestly, at this point, we were reaching our full limit. We literally went outside for a breather.

Our next course came in three parts. I was very confused how to eat this all together and our waiter had some difficulty explaining it. It was a coconut cream soup with pork, prawns, green chilies (which means they are young and not as spicy – I learned that in cooking class, bitches!), shallots, and coriander. It was served with this platter of vegetables — cucumber, leaves, and the like and deep fried carp fish. This could have been my favorite thing to eat, I think, except the fish sauce was ridiculously heavy in the coconut soup. I tried to filter out the prawns to eat, especially since I like coconut soup flavors, but I am not even sure Emilio tried it once I mentioned fish sauce. I tried to push it to his half of the table again – he wasn’t having it.

Our next dish was the curry dish. There were so many amazing sounding options for the curry serving that this was the only time I wished we hadn’t done the set menu. The curry that we were served had wagyu beef with bai yar (some kind of leaf vegetable but I don’t know what it is). All I can say is this – fish sauce.

The second dish that was in competition for favorite dish of the night was a simple stir-fry. It was stir-fried pork with yellow beans and ginger. We ate it with steamed rice and it had a great kick to it. Nothing that was overpowering, but enough to make you go, “hmmm…spicy!”

That was a dish I might have to re-create. After we ate it, Emilio told me that pork was his favorite meat. What?!?! I cook dinner every night and I never make pork. I think maybe twice I have cooked it. So apparently, more pork and maybe more pork when its done like this!

With all this food, we couldn’t finish it. We ate all the canapes because we walked in hungry. But all these main dishes, unfortunately, had some leftovers (except maybe the pork πŸ™‚ ). But, there’s always room for dessert right?

Except dessert tonight……

We decided to go for it. For the past 24 days, we’ve walked in the streets and always smelled this smell that made us exclaim, “What the hell is that?? I had been tempted to try it, even though I watched Andrew Zimmerman barely swallow it on his show. I mean, it’s fruit? How can a piece of fruit possibly taste bad?

If you have never tried durian before, I highly suggest that you never do. Mi mascota and I will, as you probably can tell, will try just about anything. I tried three bites of durian and I spit each and every bite out. Emilio swallowed a few bites but was laughing (that kind of laugh that you have when you don’t know what else to do in the situation) and couldn’t believe at how “gym-socky” it tasted. It was disgusting. The saving grace was this excellent mojito-type cocktail I had that washed it all down. Why durian is called “the king of fruit” in Thailand, I can not understand. Our waitress said she’d never even tried it — it smelled too bad. Dare I say that we left this trip with a strong distaste for fish sauce and durian? I think so.

We also had two other “treats” for dessert.

One was this simple, unripe mango fruit with a lime-salt on it. I think I just prefer ripe mango with sticky rice.

We also had a persimmon dish that had yellow noodles (I couldn’t see or taste this) wrapped in another pastry roll. This tasted fine, but again, my belly was just bursting and I wanted to not burst the seams of my dress. The funny thing was that when we did our food tour on Friday afternoon, I saw these little permission pancake rolls everywhere.

I am not sure if you noticed, but those little fruits on the durian and the pancake dish were bites of one of the most amazing fruits (unlike durian!) that I have ever had. They were called mangosteen. And they were umptious, delicious, delectable little bites of sweetness. I understand why mangosteen are considered the “queen of fruit” in Thailand. It can claim that title justly.

Overall, how would I rate Nahm?

The dishes we had were done well. If we didn’t have such strong aversions to fish sauce, and now apparently, a fruit of all things, I think we could have easily said it was a great meal. And, it was a great meal. I just wish that we had thought to speak up (and remember, even) our food/taste preferences when we were asked. Otherwise, this might have been a 4.5/5 star rating for me (I am a stickler for giving 5’s), but for me, it was probably more like 3.5/5. I would come back, but probably control my menu a bit more so I could be more selective.

So, how did the boyfriend rate it?

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 forΒ  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 πŸ˜‰ ) 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 to Bangkok

7 Oct

Our trip is almost over! From Chiang Mai to Bangkok, we took an overnight train. The train left at 5pm and we didn’t arrive in Bangkok until about 8 or 9 in the morning the next day. However, the train was a pretty comfortable way to travel — and we saved a night of paying for a hotel. I think each seat cost around the $17-20 range and we were told by fellow travelers to get the lower berth for sleeping. There were chairs facing opposite each other, but when it came time to put the beds down, the lower seats became the lower berth bed and then the lower berth was pulled out from the top. If I had to redo this though, as the lower berth is slightly more expensive, we would have opted for one lower and one upper. This is just because we are cuddlers. πŸ™‚ We just put all our luggage in one bed and slept in the other.

Emilio pretty much passed out the second we got on the train. And it’s obviously not done here, but there are curtains to provide some privacy. The train also had a restaurant and a wait staff going up and down the cabins. The best part (and this will make my dad happy)? There were sinks where I could brush my teeth at night and when we woke up. It’s just like a moving hotel!

Here is a picture of about the size of the seats. If it was possible, we could have just gotten one seat and shared this! And yes, there is Emilio’s rice paddy hat. Everyone got a kick out of this tall Mexican walking around with that hat attached to his backpack. He keeps telling me it was worth the $1 and traveling around with it everywhere because eventually, he’ll wear it when we garden.

Since we have now been traveling for 24 days and have been traveling frequently in this past year, we decided to save our best hotel for last for our “one night in Bangkok.” We have been members of hotels.com and have finally earned a free night and for this night, we used it.

We stayed at the Urbana Sathorn hotel. This is business district area, so it is definitely not where the backpackers stay and not necessarily even the liveliest place. But, after all this time traveling, it’s what we were looking for — a beautiful hotel. Plus, it was within walking distance to several markets (and that means street food pictures are coming up!) and the special dinner we had been waiting for at Nahm (also coming up).

I wouldn’t normally post pictures of my hotel, but this room cost us $10 (taxes and all that nonsense) and it was way bigger than the apartment I live in and I wish I could live in it — it was so nice!

These picture aren’t doing it justice! But, it was beautiful. We just spent the afternoon in the pool and then eating on our personal food tour and at our fancy restaurant– but that’s up next!