Category Archives: dessert

I’m Toast

Toast: it's what's for dessert at Suan Luang market

Toast. What’s not to like? Or, more accurately: what’s not to dislike? I think that’s what ends up becoming the main rap against toast. A spineless blob of a person is a milquetoast. And something that’s effectively done, used up, ruined — it’s toast. As in, “you’re toast”. “They’re toast”. “This writing career that never started, it’s toast.” Not that I’m talking about myself, mind you. I’m doing swimmingly, thank you very much. My services are very much in demand. Now please excuse me as I edit these Tops Supermarket Recipe Cards (TM). Deadlines, I haz ’em!

*  *  *

I’m done. You didn’t even notice I was gone, did you? That’s how amazing I am. Why the Wall Street Journal isn’t bashing down my door is beyond me. I can only imagine they are busy setting up the next sap who can be publicly pilloried for more page views on their website. I don’t see what the big deal is. I, too, was raised the stereotypically Asian way (no Bs allowed, no friends, no boyfriends) and look how great I turned out!

What was I talking about? There is no way to link “Tiger Mothers” to toast, is there? See what I did? I linked them anyway! I’m a genius. Or I am still drunk from last night. One of the two. I blame @pmetz and his delicious wine. You gotta watch out for those Luxembourgers.

But as I said, toast gets a bad rap. Toast can be good, clean fun. And although you look at a big piece of freshly grilled toast, slathered with salted butter and doused in the siren call of granulated sugar, and say “I can do that at home”, you don’t, do you? You sit down there on that stool at Suan Luang Market, at that stall with the cow face on it (because milk and toast are inextricably linked in the minds of Thai people), and stuff your face with that sweet, sweet oblivion. And you cry a little bit and churn over past regrets and wonder what Padma Lakshmi is doing, right at that very moment, and if she’s thinking of you, too.

Toast cubes and coconut cream dipping sauces

(Photos by @SpecialKRB)

Yes, toast wrecks your diet. It’s evil that way. It’s that undermining saboteur who poses as your friend, casually mentioning the very worst moments of your life in a crowded room, among polite company, making you want to shrivel up and die. But it’s SO SO good. And the best place to plunge into that sweet oblivion, for me, is on Dinso Road, part of that beautiful loop in Banglamphu that is my favoritest place in Bangkok. It’s called Mont Nom Sod (Fresh Milk Mont) and it doesn’t just offer toast with butter and sugar for 13 baht, but also toast with condensed milk, toast with orange jam, toast with coconut custard (two colors, orange and green), toast with chocolate, toast with creamy corn soup, toast with peanut butter, toast with creamy taro (Mondays only) and toast with creamy pumpkin (full moon days only), all for 20 baht.

 

Toast and drink at Mont Nom Sod

Mont Nom Sod

160/2-3 Dinso Road

02-224-1147

7 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, dessert, food, food stalls, markets, restaurant, Thailand

Things to be Thankful For

Yes, I know. “You’re late, beeyotch”, you say. I am indeed a day late, but last night, sitting among friends and a table groaning under the weight of delicious food, I found myself, for once, momentarily forgetting to complain about my sad-Jen-Aniston-dust-bunny-in-a-girdle existence. Instead, I found myself feeling thankful. And I don’t want to let go of that feeling just yet.

So here, in no particular order, are Things to Be Thankful For:

Pumpkin danish from La Creation de Gute in Hong Kong

Pastries. Need I say more? This is the entire reason people still get up for me on the Skytrain (cuz pregnant ladies be needin assistance!)

Geoduck sashimi in Shenzhen

Travels. Going anywhere new gives you (and by you I mean me) the golden opportunity to 1). meet great people, 2). try things you’ve never tried before, like this geoduck sashimi in China, and 3.) blather on about it endlessly in blog posts that make no point. How lucky is that?

Rambutan in Chantaburi

Thai fruit. It’s the best in the world. Really! The range and variety of fruits in this country are dazzling. And they are all delicious, in their own different ways and in their own various seasons.

Thalad Gow in Chinatown

Outdoor markets. Is there a more fascinating place to explore? From France and Hungary to Vietnam and Japan, outdoor markets are my favorite place to go to find out about a place. Someday, I may even work up enough courage to try out this pickled crab stand in front of the Old Market in Chinatown.

Tamarind chili dip with purple long beans in Sukhothai

Chili dips. They are my favorite part of a Thai meal. And they are so criminally underused, especially in Thai restaurants abroad! Tamarind, shrimp paste, crab eggs, lohn (coconut milk-based dips) — krueang jim are the dish that packs in a significant amount of protein and a wide variety of veggies, making it (and a bowl of rice) a complete, nutritionally balanced meal for millions of Thais, every day.

Chicken wings in kajorn blossom broth at Guaythiew Pik Gai Sainampung

How could I go this long without mentioning street food? Thailand, obviously, has some of the best in the world. People may be up in arms about farangs taking to their own mortars and pestles in restaurant kitchens, but Thai food’s real heart comes from the street.

Family. In a fit of earnestness (which will die at the end of this sentence), I am actually posting a real family picture and not a shot of the Kardashians. Of course, I am not in it.

Other things for which to be thankful: great wines (I would include a picture, but let’s face it, when I start being thankful for wine is the exact moment when I start being incapable of taking a picture); good friends; air-conditioning; the Steelers (haterz gonna hate!); people who are bored enough to occasionally read this blog (thanks, really); and the fact that my infant son is so readily diverted by a tissue.

Oh, and this:

Nam ngiew

I’m off to Chiang Rai next week for even more. Enjoy the start of your holiday season!

6 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, Chantaburi, chicken, Chinatown, dessert, food, food stalls, Hong Kong, markets, noodles, Northern Thailand, restaurant, Thailand

Glutton Abroad: Full of crab in HK

I never miss hairy crab season in Hong Kong. For the past six or seven years, when the “cold” weather comes around, I have faithfully trekked to this sun-soaked little spot in South China. The thing is, I sometimes end up having to do some strange things in order to get to that hairy crab (without having to endure a corresponding dent in my bank account, that is. Ahem).

Which brings me to this packed supermarket in Wan Chai, staring at a row of beer bottles, and debating whether to choose the popular Tsingtao or the vastly less expensive Pabst Blue Ribbon (half the price of the Chinese beer, to be exact). Not a beer drinker myself, I am tempted to spring for the PBR and let the chips fall where they may. I then remember that I will soon be sailing in the middle of a very large body of water, and that some people on board will want to throw me into it.

We are buying supplies for a boat race from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, a boat race that ends up not being a boat race (at least on the first day), halted by authorities of something for some reason or other in the hours before it is due to start. My heart silently lifts, thinking I will be spared a five-hour boat ride to the mainland, only to plummet minutes later when it is decided: we will “go at around the same time other people go, to the same destination”, my husband acting in some important sailing capacity and me as weight.

I could bitch and moan for pages about the rest of that trip; how I endured moments of terror each time our boat tipped through another white-lipped swell, and how later, when I got sick, I didn’t care what happened to us.  But I’ll leave it at this. I’m still alive. And I had plenty of hairy crab to console me.

Holy crab!

Hairy crab, also known as “freshwater crab”, are called that for the seaweed-like “hair” around their claws, and come from eastern Asia. They are prized for their sweet, tightly bound meat and, at around the end of each year, the dabs of glutinous rice-like eggs underneath their carapaces, which are too yummy to be adequately described. The best and biggest, I am told, are said to come from a certain lake near Shanghai, where the “slime” at the bottom is apparently ample, giving each crab a proper workout. Although hairy crabs are sourced from all over the place, only a handful of HK restaurants have a certificate allowing them to purchase crab from this one lake. The following place is one of those restaurants.

Hang Zhou (1/F, Chinachem Johnston Plaza, Johnston Rd.)

Before I start, I’d like to talk about an invaluable tool to anyone who wants to ensure they get a good meal in Hong Kong (aside from very accommodating and generous friends, which we also had): www.openrice.com. This site recently started up an “English” version, enabling tourists to get the nitty-gritty from the locals.

However, I put “English” in quotation marks, because a lot of the time what is said is a little too local. For example: “I ate (insert Chinese character here), which was so so good! Make sure you (insert Chinese character here)” — turning a lot of reviews into a sort of madlib in which you can feel free to insert whatever your heart desires at the moment. I find this strangely mirrors a lot of interaction in HK nowadays, where people seem to speak a lot less English than they used to (“why don’t anyone speak amerikin, goddamit?!”), making verbal interaction a sort of mental madlib where there is only one right answer.

Ordering in Hang Zhou — and everywhere else we went, for that matter — went a little like this: “I would like honey ham.” “Huh? Somethingsomethingsomething ham somethingsomething pork?” Then you would be forced to repeat “honey ham” over and over again like an idiot until someone said “Ah! Honey ham!” In a way, it was a little like ordering in Thailand for me, but in English instead of Thai.

So, here, we did finally get that honey ham: slivers of ham paired with crackling skin, shoved into a steamed white bun and dipped in the ham’s honey-like sauce. There was a succulent baked fish with halved cherry tomatoes for eyes; a virtuous mound of braised spinach; shell-on shrimp in a shallow pool of tea; and row upon row of hairy crab. There was also what we were told was a “beggar’s chicken”: an entire bird wrapped in lotus leaf and baked — easily our favorite discovery here.

The "special baked chicken"

Him Kee Hotpot (1 & 2/F, Workingfield Commercial Building, 408-412 Jaffe Rd)

Woman need not live by hairy crab alone. This friendly and, uh, aromatic hotpot place allowed us to order a host of ridiculous things and two different broths (one, mild with corn and carrots; the other, thick with the tongue-numbing, thick-shelled Sichuan peppercorns). We ate many things, most of which we did not finish: a mountain of tofu, platters of mushroom caps, baby bok choy, slivers of beef, and goose intestines — delightfully springy and creamy, all at once. My favorites were the pre-hotpot offerings of snails, slathered in chilies and deep-fried garlic. But — sob! — the plates of bacon were left half-eaten.

An immobile feast

A new thing for me: chicken testicles. They ended up being surprisingly big, if I may say so myself (a little bigger than the pad of my thumb). Blanched in the broth, their tense, elastic texture gave way to a creamy burst of liquid when bitten into (and this will be the first and last time you read a sentence like that on this blog).

Dude, where's my balls?

Spring Deer (42, Mody Rd., 1st Fl., Tsimshatsui Kowloon)

I had been looking forward to going to a Peking-style hotpot restaurant ever since reading about it on @e-ting’s blog. How bitterly disappointed I was, then, to discover that it was FULL on the only day I was free to go. Thinking I would then end up wandering around the Elements mall, the lovely concierge at the W pressed this card into my hand and said, “This is very traditional. I will make a reservation.”

Needless to say, I lurved it. And not really for the food. Spring Deer is mainly serviced by a staff of white-coated old men, reminding me of the very old restaurants in Rome where the average age of the server is around 55. Unobtrusive, swift, and discreet (no guffaws of incredulity at the amount of food we order, the server simply tries to run away when he thinks we’ve had enough), the service here is among the best we’ve ever had in HK, and that’s including Caprice et al.

The signature dish, of course, is the “world famous Peking duck”, a dish we’re told requires two staff cooks who make 100 ducks a day. It’s different from the kind we get in Bangkok: rounds of smoky flesh are still attacked to the crispy skin and wrapped in thicker, floury pancakes with slivers of cucumber and leek and an inky plum sauce.

Spring Deer's Peking duck

Aside from a multitude of other dishes that I’ve clean forgotten (unable to gauge when a lot is too much, we usually stop ordering when the waiter tells us “I think that’s enough”), we ordered deep-fried mutton, not as nice as the duck. Chewy like a sort of makeshift jerky, it’s paired with a vinegary sauce that is meant to cut through the fattiness but doesn’t quite manage it.

Deep-fried mutton

Yung Kee (32-40 Wellington St.)

Everyone knows Yung Kee. But I’d never eaten here before. I am ashamed to say I can’t tell you how many times I passed by this restaurant on my way to some dodgy place in Lan Kwai Fong. So when our friend suggests going here, there is nothing to do but agree.

This restaurant is, obviously, an HK institution — the equivalent of what La Tour d’Argent used to mean to Paris. We’re told it seats thousands of people per meal, and that the higher the floor, the better the food. Of course, the dish we are all supposed to order is the roast goose. So we do, and we do again (no one here stops us, or even blinks an eye). We order deep-fried spare ribs, goose webs in abalone sauce, sauteed scallops in XO sauce, deep-fried beancurd, eggplant with mushrooms, braised duck in orange peel and platter upon platter of garlicky greens. We order until we can’t bear to look at our plates again, and after that, we order mango pudding. We order a lot.

Goose, goose, deep-fried beancurd

Kam Fung Cafe (41 Spring Garden Lane)

Our last meal before boarding the plane involves sweet, soft hot buns split and stuffed with heart attack-inducing slabs of salted butter, surprisingly savory eggy tarts that break apart when you bite into them, and cup upon cup of milky tea. We’re at Kam Fung Cafe, sharing tables with strangers who are surprisingly friendly, and watching locals consume bowls of what appears to be an HK-style version of Western food: soupy macaroni or egg noodles, topped with a runny fried egg or slivers of cooked ham. The ultimate in comfort food, after days of fatty fowl and chicken balls, trekking from Shenzhen to HK and back again, enduring seasickness and a rugby game where I am accidentally doused with beer by an irate NZ fan aiming at a gloating Aussie (in all fairness, he was pretty annoying). I am tempted, but still too full.

Breakfast

Next up, I will embarrass myself not once, not twice, but FIVE times on various golf courses throughout the Pacific Northwest, all for the privilege of dining at Portland’s Castagna and Seattle’s Lark. Because someday, eventually, I will be hungry again.

4 Comments

Filed under Asia, beef, chicken, Chinese, dessert, duck, food, Hong Kong, pork, restaurant, seafood

The Taste of Envy, II

Bitter melon stewed with grilled pork and squid at nahm

Many Thais might be accused of feeling envious of famous Australian chef David Thompson, and for good reason. His restaurant nahm (lowercase “n”, somehow) at The Halkin in London was the first Thai place to earn a Michelin star — an indicator of big-time international acclaim, if you are a chef — and he is the author of one of the most well-regarded cookbooks of all time, Thai Food. Calling him an “expert” on Thai cuisine is no big stretch.

Unless, of course, you are Thai. If you are Thai you are supposed to exclaim at the arrogance of a Westerner who has the temerity to come to the motherland with an outpost of the well-regarded Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in London (at The Metropolitan, 02-625-3388). Because cooking Thai food for ignorant foreigners is one thing, but cooking it for Thais is another.

Or that’s what the media would have you believe. A “New York Times” story purporting to chronicle Thais’ feelings about Thompson and his characterization of modern Thai food as “decaying” and less complex than before caused a big splash a few weeks ago and, to me at least, seemed like a load of BS. Who cares? Another restaurateur comes to Thailand. Oh, he cooks Thai food? OMG! More manufactured controversy.

But a few days later, it seemed I was proven wrong. It seemed like people really did care. Or maybe I should just quote the Nation opinion piece, penned by ML Saksiri Kridakorn: “…it makes me hotter than biting into a hot chili hidden in a larb dish. It was a slap in the face to all Thai chefs in Thailand: don’t they know how to cook their own cuisine? It was also a slap in the face to all those who go to Thai restaurants. That makes all of us. What have we been eating?”

I wasn’t sure I understood what ML Saksiri was saying (do you say “khun”? Do you say “mom”? I don’t know!) Was he saying foreigners can’t cook Thai food? Because that makes absolutely no sense to a person who went to cooking school in France and somehow got a CAP in French cuisine (an achievement which really is a slap in the face to the French people). Or is he saying Westerners can’t criticize Thai food? Because I criticize Western food all the time, and if I couldn’t, what would be my reason for living?

I think — and this took a little digging — that he was saying David Thompson couldn’t possibly come to Thailand and purport to save “decaying” Thai cuisine, when it is not decaying, and doesn’t need his help. Well, all that stuff is arguable (the “decaying” part). But it did drum up some pretty publicity for nahm! Naturally, I went there to try it out.

Grilled mussels, satay-style

An amuse-bouche of “candied” pork on a sliver of pineapple (called ma hor) started the meal; then, a succession of canapes including a lovely mieng featuring pomelo, tiny bite-sized mee krob rolls (what is this thing with mee krob? Argh) and skewers of grilled mussels, slathered in peanut sauce and accompanied by cucumber slivers.

Local chicken given the "massaman curry" treatment

After that, a quick succession of dishes (so wise, keeping it family-style!): stir-fried pak waan (sweet greens), fiery nuea kem (sun-dried beef), a bright, buoyant cucumber yum, a pounded tamarind chili dip, a lohn-like pla rah song krueang, and a lovely-looking massaman chicken curry that I got nowhere near to even tasting (one thing that bugged me: it says it’s “bresse” chicken on the menu? Does this mean that “poulet de bresse” is being raised locally? How do I get some? Stop telling me I’m misreading “bresse” for “breast” on the menu!)

However … and I hate saying this, because this means I am a xenophobic, foreigner-hating Thai: there were some misfires. Like a vegetable yum that wasn’t as yum-like as I’d want it to be: my American palate only tasted sweet. The bitter melon, while still delicious, was a little more along the “bitter” end of the taste spectrum than I’d like my maraa to be (read: stewed to oblivion). In general, the food seemed to play more along the upper end of the registers, and I’m a girl who loves the deep, dark bass notes represented by gapi (shrimp paste). In that way, it reminded me a bit of Chote Chitr (where the chef, incidentally, is Thai).

Yummy custard apple with tapioca, coconut cream and mini-"doughnuts" -- genius

And, strangely, I was disappointed to not get to see Chef Thompson himself, although we did get to meet his partner, Tanongsak Yordwai. I think meeting the chef himself would be the one thing that would tip unsure and/or conflicted locals still mentally processing their meal at nahm into “I’m a David Thompson fan” territory.

Or maybe I’m just disappointed I didn’t get to take a picture with the man himself, slapping mah face.

4 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, celebrity chefs, chicken, curries, dessert, food, restaurant, Thailand

Stuff face with sweets, feel like a good person

Something sweet and Thai

I used to not be a “desserts” type of person. My favorite part of the meal used to be the salad. Now that I am the ripe old age of 65, my body chemistry has changed, and sweets have become an integral part of my diet. Cupcakes, pie, cake, Thai sugary egg drops, coconut custard, even those creepy little marzipan fake fruits — all are ready fodder for my gaping face.

Luckily, some people are organizing a get-together after my own shriveled, blackened old heart. Calling it a “sweetup”, the bkkfatty crowd are meeting up (get it? Meetup? Oh, never mind) at Tenface Bangkok’s Sita bar (check this out at www.tenfacebangkok.com) on Friday, September 10. A 300 baht entry fee will get you a “dessert bar” stuffed with sweets from both sides of the East-West divide and an insane buy 1, get 1 drinks deal ALL NIGHT (I foresee many “I wish the earth would swallow me up right now” moments). Even better, all proceeds go to charity, so you can eat like a pig and feel like a saint (check out www.insearchofsanuk.com) for more details.

Also, a little birdy (called “Twitter”) says Movenpick is sponsoring the event. Score! Maple-walnut ice cream, anyone?

For upcoming details, go to www.dwightmturner.com

And now, a parting picture of gratawn loy gaew to get you in the mood.

All about the food porn

(Photos by @SpecialKRB)

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, dessert, food, restaurant, Thailand

Markets: the Best of the Best

Nam prik at Aor Thor Kor

There is no “wet market” in Bangkok that comes close to “Aor Thor Kor” in terms of variety, quality, and cleanliness. This is probably why we brave the 40+-degree heat and washrag humidity to vie for the very best gaengs (curries) and pads (stir-fries) with scores of other helmet-haired matriarchs and their bag-laden drivers.

And it’s not just a place for stuffing your face and emptying your pockets. Markets are always the places I head for first when I travel. There is no better place to find out about a country than through its markets; no truer mirror to the aspirations of a people than their stomachs. Here at Aor Thor Kor (the Thai abbreviation for the market’s full name, the “Marketing Organization for Farmers Market”, or MOF), those hopes and aspirations come neatly wrapped in banana leaves, enclosed in pudgy plastic bags, garnished with a handful of deep-fried basil. 

But even in this nirvana of ready-made curries and coconutty sweets, there is a hierarchy — the creme de la creme. In this bewildering matrix of fried food and sifted spices, where to go? Below, the best of the best:

Just a fraction of Mae Malee's offerings

1. There is no gaeng (curry/soup) vendor better than Mae Malee Gaeng. In Bangkok, period. From the tried-and-true old favorites (green chicken and beef massaman curries) to regional specialties (gaeng thrai pla, or spicy Southern fish entrail stew, and the bitter, piquant stir-fried sator) to hard-to-find gems (like the veggie-heavy gaeng liang, meant for breast-feeding mothers) — Mae Malee has it all, a one-stop shop to covering every inch of your dinner table.

Mae Malee's steamed seafood curry

2. But it would be boring to live by Mae Malee alone. Sudjai Gai Yang is known across the country for is succulent grilled chicken — be it factory-raised or gai baan, referred to in English with the euphemism “traditional”, but better described as “free range” (of course, some Thais also refer to them as “scrawny”). There is no country that loves its poultry more.

Butterflied grilled chicken at Sudjai Gai Yang

 3. In a sea of nam prik (pounded pepper dip) vendors, Nawanporn nam prik gapi stands out (and a proper Thai doesn’t throw a dinner without some sort of nam prik). The namesake offering (shrimp paste pepper dip) is earthy, fresh, full of the deep bass note of flavor that leaves some in rhapsodies and others with a grimace. Funny how shrimp paste has become synonymous with Thai food; it was brought to Thailand centuries ago by the Chinese.

Grilled river fish, a perfect accompaniment to shrimp paste dip

4. Mae Prapaisri sells the best mango sticky rice in the market. Sure, it’s a well-loved treat known to anyone who has ever had a mouthful of pad thai, but there are circles within circles, differing degrees of excellence in an already excellent dish.  Here, the mango is always ripe and succulent, the rice glossy and firm, the coconut milk rich and robust.

A different dessert known as khao lam -- sticky rice stuffed in bamboo

5. For the very best of “old-style” Thai eating, look no further than the end of a Thai meal, where the food becomes its richest and sweetest. And the richest, sweetest dessert vendor of all is Gao Pi Nong, purveyor of all that is drenched in coconut milk, fashioned into eggy golden threads, stuffed with coconut custard, or boiled in rice flour.

Gao Pi Nong's black sticky rice with taro in coconut milk

And that’s it. Check out Aor Thor Kor and sample these wares for yourselves. Or find your own favorites. You won’t be disappointed. (Open 6-20.00 daily. MRT: Kampaeng Phet, BTS: Mo Chit).

More Aor Thor Kor fare

(Photos by @SpecialKRB)

6 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, chicken, curries, dessert, food, food stalls, markets

Thai Dessert Tacos: Shrimpy goodness

Persimmon and egg kanom bueang

Kanom bueang are thin crepes dotted with a thick, marshmallow fluff-like cream, festooned with a variety of toppings — from super-sweet (persimmon) to crunchy-salty (dried shrimp) — and folded in half for easy, distracted, walking-down-the-street-and-staring-into-the-sky-type dining. They can be an acquired taste (shrimp + marshmallow fluff = some, uh, getting used to) but if you keep an open mind, you can see how blurring the line between salty and sweet can end up amplifying and more clearly defining both kinds of flavors.

Now courtesy of @SpecialKRB, you can see how they are made. No room for butterfingers here!

(Video taken from in front of Rungrueang pork egg noodle shop on Sukhumvit Soi 26)

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, dessert, food, food stalls, Thailand