Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Orange (juice) Season

I spent my youth looking forward to and dreading the year's different seasons. Since moving to Thailand, I have missed the dramatic shift in temperature and changing foliage. To say Thailand lacks seasons would be misleading though. Here in Bangkok there are four seasons, just not vastly different from one another. There is hot. This is ever present. There is hotter, there is wet, and there is cooler. I don't want to ruminate on the weather for long as I'm more interested in what the small changes bring to the world of Thai fruit. It just so happens to be the cool season right now and it feels pretty damn good with only one exception: The fruit selection is sparse. Sure, there are always pineapples, watermelon, and fantastic bananas. But gone are the days of mangosteen, rambutan, durian, lychee, longan, and longgong. Also, I found some limp rose apples, pricey mangoes, and iffy looking sapodillas this afternoon. The sad truth is that this time of year there is a serious lull in the supply of the fresh, cheap, and local fruit. Currently my one fruit pleasure is the orange.

Currently there are a plethora of roving orange vendors. I see them in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings. The oranges can be sweet and a real pleasure to eat. The one drawback is that they are full of seeds, making them a bit annoying at times. I'm not picky, but it does take away from the eating experience. Luckily there is another great option; Juice.

I like to drink a nice big glass of juice, so I need a lot of oranges. I use most of a kilo to make a large pint glass full of juice. At 20 baht a kilo, this is an inexpensive and healthy habit.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lopburi Monkey Festival

I spent this past weekend in the town of Lopburi. There were a few reasons I was happy to be in Lopburi. One was for purely social reasons. Also, I had never visited Lopburi before even though it's a pretty quick bus/van/train ride from Bangkok. Last but not least, I wanted to see the yearly Lopburi Monkey Festival.

As always I sniffed around looking for good food. I was not disappointed. As I have said before on this blog, the food is always remarkably good outside of Bangkok. In Lopburi, I didn't have anything out of the ordinary, just consistently good food. There was a lot of hoi tod (miscle omelette) around, so I had to indulge.

Hoi tod is kind of a hit or miss dish for me. Cooked at too low of heat, it becomes a greasy, soggy mess. Done right, it is a real treat.

Hoy thod is made with tapioca flour, egg, and mussles. It's topped off with bean sprouts, cilantro, and sweet chili sauce.

I was happy to find that in Lopburi there are an innordinate number of fantastic fruit shake stands. I washed my hoy thod down with a water melon smoothie.

Sunday morning brought tourists, journalists, families, and monekys together for a yearly celebration of the macaques that live in the town of Lopburi. Once a year they are treated to a royal feast of fruit and other delicacies.

Set up began at about 8:00 AM.

Monkeys started to gather. So did the people.

The monkeys were not intimidated by the police presence. They were only moderately deterred by the men wielding large sticks to keep them from crashing the feast early. A few succeeded in sneaking into the feasting grounds before they could be chashed out. A few sneaky monkeys made off with a handful of durian, an apple, a banana, or dragon fruit before the party even started.

Like the rest of us in the audience, the monkeys had to sit through parades, dances, speeches, and photo ops before they were allowed to gorge themselves.

At about half past ten, the men with sticks backed off and the monkeys descended onto the tables bearing a variety of fruit, bottles of water, and cans of pepsi.

I found it amusing to see the monkeys being served. The next day they would be hit with sling shots and chased out of the surrounding shops. Today would be their one day to be appreciated. Vermin they would be therafter.

There were certainly a lot of Monkeys, but there were also a lot of journalists.

After watching the monkeys enjoy their meal, my party decided it was time for ours.

We ventured just behind the temple to a duck noodle shop. I had bami and duck.

Not very good, but I followed it up with another delicious fruit shake.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Naam Phrik Stand

I'm a lucky guy. I have a lot of food choices right outside my door. Lately I have been visiting a nice naam phrik stand right by my building.

There's a nice spread of food: you've got your curries, fried fish, boiled or steamed veggies, and a variety of naam phrik. It's a free for all: you take what you want and you're off! A little of this and a little of that and you've got yourself a fresh and healthy meal.

A bag of crab naam phrik, a fried fish, okra, morning glory, egg plants, banana flower, and rice. A perfect meal for two, or one meal for a glutton.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yam Naem

Now this is interesting: the following dish was presented to me by some co-workers the other day and they called it "Yam Naem." I was puzzled because I know yam naem as a fermented, limey, and spicy "salad." This was entirely different.
This one is made with large balls comprised of rice, pork, and spices, that is all mixed together then eaten with greens.

So many greens were given to eat this with that in fact it was like I was eating a "salad" as I know it: heavy on green leafy vegetables. There was: lettuce, basil, and betel leaves. Very satisfying.

I always wondered what this dish was, but for some reason never bothered to try it. Maybe there is a lesson here. I'll let you figure it out.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday, November 11th

On the corner at Soi Convent and Silom Road.
Mass produced tasting noodles, metallic tasting dumplings. 'Nuff said.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Noodles, fried things, and coffee

Of all the mistakes I could have made this past weekend, the most appalling one was going to Chinatown on a full stomach. I didn't panic though. I partook in one of my favorite eating traditions. That is of course "second lunch."

I found myself on Charoen Krung 16 (Soi Itsara Nuphap), which is essentially a market in an alley. There's all kinds of meat, fish, fungi, and indistinguishable products. It's exciting, but certainly not if you are claustrophobic. I passed by "Hong Kong Noodle" and realized that it was time for second lunch.

I was greeted by hanging ducks, fresh noodles and dumplings, and a full house. Yes, this was the place.

I sat down, relayed my order, and watched people. They watched back.

A very nice bowl of Bami kiao bpet nam (Duck noodles with dumplings) arrived at my table.

I hadn't intended to order it with everything but I couldn't say no. I really was excited for the dumplings as they are almost always excellent in Chinatown. This was no exception. The dumplings each included a little pork and a small shrimp. Very fresh, very tasty. The duck was also very nice. I don't go seeking out duck, but I would definitely order it here again. I do seem to end up with this particular combination every time I come looking for Bami in Chinatown.

Another satisfied customer

I continued along the streets being tempted by new and unfamiliar snacks. It wasn't until I saw this snack did I stop:

This woman is making what looks like hoi tod in a pan usually used to cook kanom krok, or on occasion quail eggs. I asked her what it was, but I've already forgotten what she told me. Another few customers stopped by and asked what exactly it was she was selling. If I'm not misinformed, this is not a common snack. At least not 'round these parts.

Mussels, squid, savory batter, hot sauce, and lots of oil. Quite a caloric hit.

I waddled on down the street wondering how I was going to keep from getting sick when I stumbled upon Lae Sae, an old school coffee shop I read about from the always informative realthai. I had wanted to try this place out for a while, so I figured now was the perfect opportunity. I spent the next hour or so talking with a group of Thai Chinese (great?) grandfathers. Smoking, spitting, talking about everything and or nothing at all, and slow coffee and tea drinking are more or less perfected at this establishment. Everyone made me feel welcome, even if they told me that I in fact "look old" for my age. Whatever. I did appreciate their honesty.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Begging for Squid

This evening as I walked up Silom Road I was approached by a late thirty something (fortysomthing?) man. Maybe he was Irish. I'm not sure. He told me a very familiar story about having his things stolen, his embassy was closed for the day, so he needed some money. Maybe for a hostel. Anyhow, I tried to give him the impression that I wasn't his guy, but to no avail. He claimed he could pay me back, but it didn't seem very heartfelt. He even suggested I go to an ATM. Right. I agreed to give him what was in my pocket, 20 Baht, but only while telling him my suspicions. I told him that his story was in fact very familiar. I have heard it all over the world. I have even fallen for it before. He gave me my money back and said "You people make me sick." He said something about being offered only 20 Baht one too many times. He stomped off down the street mumbling to himself.

I continued to walk when I came across a squid stand on Sathorn Road that does a lot of business after normal working hours. It was quiet, and I had the 20 Baht just burning a hole in my pocket.

I wondered if my new friend would have enjoyed a bag of squid, but I'm sure it was not the kind of bag he was looking for.