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Thailand

Street Market Eats in Bangkok

July 25, 2011

Ben and I have seen little of Bangkok, yet we absolutely love the city. That doesn’t make sense, let me explain…

We love the bustling pace yet laid-back nature, the heat and humidity, the smells, the noises, we love it all. Yet we’ve seen very little of the actual tourist places in Bangkok. Every time we visit, we prefer to spend as little time there as necessary, rather dash straight to the bus station and begin the 7 hour journey to Baan Dada. Generally, an overnight stay is mandatory, and so we head out for some Street Eats and maybe do a little MBK shopping – hello $20 shoes.

One day I’m sure we’ll schedule ourselves to arrive in Bangkok with enough time to visit the Temples, Museums and such, yet we’re quite happy doing our thing – wandering around the streets, soaking up the everyday sights, sounds and smells, and simply being buzzed that we’re in Thailand, about to see the kids again. I must say, on our first visit to Bangkok in 2009, Ben surprised me with a day at the Thai Blue Elephant Cooking School, for my birthday. It was fantastic, the best overseas cooking school experience I’ve had to date.

Our favourite night market is Sukhumvit Soi 38. It’s not flashy and it’s pretty small, but every night at around 8pm it comes alive with aromas that make you want to park yourself on a plastic stool and never leave. Here is a snapshot of our latest visit in February this year.

Eagerly awaiting a dish we had been reminiscing for 15 months…

Pork Satay Skewers, with the best satay sauce ever. It’s deliciously spicy, with some enthusiastic peanut chunks, and also fairly thin – hence why I spilt it all down my white top…this is not uncommon practice for me.

After our mandatory satay stop, we headed to another personally well loved street restaurant on the opposite side of the market.

Here we ordered Tom Yum Goong, Pad Krapow Moo and Pad Thai. Unfortunately the latter two were a bit lack luster, certainly compared to our beloved Kanchanaburi and Sangkhlaburi version. Yet the soup was lovely – look at that chilli and those little bobbing mushrooms!

Lemongrass Lemonade for refreshment…it tasted a little too fresh, if you know what I mean. Which I don’t exactly….it was just a bit ‘off’ for me.

What was next?…Oh yes, dessert, from another fabulous, very popular street stall selling none other than Mango Sticky Rice. All I have to say is, “mmmmmHmmmmm“.

It was as delightful as it looks – sticky, sweet, luscious heaven, with slabs of the plumpest, most dreamy mango I’ve ever eaten.

*sigh*, I miss Thailand.

Soi 38 is a great place to get a Thai street food fix, especially for satay, soup and sweets. You’ll see locals picking up bags of food on their motorbikes, before scooting home for dinner with family – usually with a baby haphazardly strapped on. Tourists are certainly becoming aware of this little market, but it’s not overrun, which I like.

The street food is one of my favourite things about Bangkok, and Thailand in general. Honest and self-assured, exciting yet comforting – it’s a wondrous thing, one that you must be sure to experience at least once in your lifetime.

Heidi xo

My Best Ever Pad Thai

June 29, 2011

My best ever Pad Thai is from a street restaurant opposite the main bus station in Kanchanaburi. Yep, it’s true.

When Ben and I take the 7 hour bus journey from Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi, heading to Baan Dada, we have a quick 10 minute stopover in Kanchanaburi. Despite it being a fairly generous break by bus-journey standards, by the time we have a toilet break we are always rushing. Always.

Every time we have made this trip, we have had to sprint to our bus as it pulls away from the station. Every single time. You’d think we’d learn, but no! You’d perhaps think that we’d reassess our ability to do all we wanted in those 10 short minutes, but you would indeed be wrong. You see, on our first trip we spotted a lady making Pad Thai on the street out the front of her restaurant. We ordered and received two take-away packs, before madly dashing to the bus.

Once safely on the bus, we ate our boxes of authentic Thai take-away. And that was it. From that moment on, the first 3 hours of the trip from Bangkok to Sangkhlaburi would be spent eagerly awaiting the sight of that lovely, talented lady and her wok. We knew we were in for a stressful 10 minutes, but we didn’t care about that…

The Pad Thai is honestly too good to pass up. It’s worth the stressful dash to the bus before it vanishes from sight with our luggage forever. It’s just worth it.

Sticky, but not overly so. Slightly sweet, but what you really get is that lovely wok flavour, combined with super fresh ingredients and generous serves of egg, tofu and all the good stuff.

In January, following on from our 12 days in Vietnam, we headed to Thailand, destination Baan Dada. It had been 15 months since our last visit, which meant it had been 15 months since our best ever Pad Thai. We were positively buzzing, incredibly excited to have it again.

We’ve enjoyed this blissful Pad Thai three times now, and each visit our anticipation builds. Yet we are never let down. In fact I think our lady makes it that little bit better each time. Perhaps that’s how she lures hungry travellers in?… She’s just doing her part to stimulate the local economy. Maybe in the end people just move to Kanchanaburi to be closer to their best ever Pad Thai? Sure, why not? It works for me!

Heidi xo

Swimming at Ban Mai

February 3, 2011

When it gets really hot in the afternoon, a swim in Ban Mai river is the perfect way to cool off. We take the kids down in the truck, and watch them have an immeasurable amount of fun.

Here is a video, filmed by the gorgeous Wahlawutt. It shows a quick snapshot of the river. I think he is a budding film-maker! He pressed ‘stop’ just before you got to see him, which is a shame – he’s a real cutie.

The older kids love to jump off the 7(ish) metre high cliff edge, which is a little scary but a whole lot of fun! Usually we just swim in the shallow, waist-high water, looking after the young ones as they splash and swim and play. The joy in their eyes is beautiful. Then they get cold and wrap themselves in our clothes, as we make the bumpy trip home.

Once we get home, it is bath-time, then dinner. Here is the Rat Pack eating their meal, “Gin Kao”.


(left to right: Sirichai, Wahlawutt, Kalazoo, Mongkon)

Heidi xo

Market Day at Huay Malay

January 30, 2011

The Thursday morning market in Huay Malay is thriving.

All the locals gather to load up on produce. There are fresh vegetables a plenty, mammoth cabbages and engorged cucumbers take first place. Tiny, potent chillies line every corner, markers reminding you that you are in Thailand, where heat abounds.

Beautiful fresh herbs.

Children skip to the sweets, and quietly ponder their big decision for the day – what shall I spend my 10 baht on? Will it be prawn chips, cream filled wafers, or meat on a stick? The latter usually wins. These spongy, processed balls and logs are ever popular with young children. Sure, they’re fun to look at, they would even make good projectiles in a fighting match…but to eat? No thank you.

Fresh fish, dried fish, fish paste – they have it all. Along with other meats and bits of carcas, flung upon a board and displayed for the discerning market go-er.

Hungry for a snack? There are greasy doughnuts slathered in sugar syrup, which are, just quietly, rather delicious. We also have fresh bananas, fried bananas or dried bananas – they love their guai here in Thailand. Banana trees line the streets, and you are never short of a bunch.

More meat on sticks.

Pad Thai – this was loaded up on shrimp flavour. Quite nice, though not a stand-out.

We have fresh watermelons too! Small, medium or large, you pick.

I believe these are betel leafs, used in the same vein as in Vietnam, where the old ladies chew them due to their addictive properties.

We tried an Indian style flat-bread with chickpeas and dried shrimp, which was quite lovely. With subtle flavours and some good nutrition, I was pleased to come across this little gem.

Our kids also have a stall here, selling donated clothes, pencils and other knick-knacks. It teaches them good communication skills and integrates them with the local community, and also raises a little money for the home. The kids love to come to the market for ‘selling’. They always go for a wander and spend a little of their saved money. What I love about our kids is that they all share with each other, and swap what they have – a bite for a bite, here try this, they’re so sweet. They’re always very generous to Sister Heidi and Brother Ben too.

Now we pack up and head home.

The kids had sort of a holiday this week, so many of them could join us for this market. Visiting the market is one of my favourite things to do here, and it was so nice to have such funny, gorgeous company.

Pictures courtesy of the kids 🙂 They love to take pictures and ‘movies’.

Heidi xo

Baan Dada days 1 and 2

January 24, 2011

Hello from Baan Dada!

We arrived Saturday afternoon, and we’re so happy to be back! Many of the kids remember us, which we weren’t expecting. It has been 15 months since our last (and first) visit. There are a lovely bunch of volunteers here also, from Belgium, England and the USA. We’re already having loads of fun, the energy of the kids is infectious. There are talks of a camping trip tomorrow, which would be wonderful.

For now, here is a snapshot of how we’re spent the past 2 days.

(not where we stay, but I had to show this hut, which is on their property)

In their new truck – the money we raised at our engagement party went towards this truck. Thanks to everyone who donated! The truck is epic!

Some of the kids performed at a guest house Sangklaburi to raise money for the home – and they take a percentage themselves, which they spend as they wish. Some save their money, some spend it on snacks. The older boy’s band, the younger boy’s band, the girls band and the dancers (doing traditional local dances) all performed.

The food – oh how we have missed this food! The mothers are angels, who prepare all the food for the kids. They sometimes, sometimes, let me help 🙂 They’re Neo-Humanists, and so they are vegetarians. This suits us fine, the tofu is yummy!

Fresh cucumber

Tofu and bean shoots

Cabbage and tofu

Som Tam (papaya salad)

Coconut pancake, from the market

Rice porridge

At a Temple, the kids playing with the camera.

And that is all for now – I’ll be back with more. Today we are hoping to do a little construction work. Right now I have Malaee and Malaoo on my lap, I must go play 🙂

Heidi xo

Random Travel Notes

January 17, 2011

1. I love exploring a city on foot, getting lost & finding hidden places that you would otherwise never have come across. Some of our best meals in foreign cities have happened this way, by stumbling upon a random little gem.

2. A hot, steamy shower at the end of a long day is pure bliss.

3. Every time I pay for a meal in Vietnam or Thailand I still feel the need to say to Ben, “all this cost $2!!”

4. I actually really enjoy getting massages & spa treatments. Prior to this trip I had had 2 manicures in my life & the same number of massages. & I kind if prided myself on that fact. Now I’m a little addicted…

5. Without meaning to sound patronising, I love how ‘simple’ life is here in Vietnam & Thailand. Family, work (often family businesses), food, life. Less drama, less distraction, more life.

6. I wholeheartedly believe that the best food in Vietnam & Thailand is not found in restaurants, it is found on the street or roadside cafes.

7. Yoga is a great way to start the morning. It helps me to focus my energy (usually I run in the morning, but in large, crowded, manic cities this can be troublesome) & helps keep me *cough* regular – let’s just say my body is used to wholegrains, which are noticeably absent in most Asian cuisines.

8. Travelling together highlights how similar Ben & I are. We both enjoy the same sightseeing activities, love exploring a city in a more off-beat way, get sick of clothes shopping but love anything to do with food (hello supermarkets!) & find great happiness in searching out local hangouts & trying to blend in. Ben often achieves this (so many locals have questioned “you Vietnam?”), but I kind of standout. In fact they take pictures of me. And then I blush & go red.

9. I am terrible at haggling. No need to expand on this, it is a fact. Ben, on the other hand, loves to play the game & sees it as a sport. Most of the time he wins.

10. Hairdressers in Vietnam love funky, 80s styles & play early 90s music.

11. Beer tastes better when you’re on holidays.

12. Long bus/train rides are a nice way to catch up on some reading, sleeping or do a little writing. Right now we’re on our way back to Hanoi from a day trip to Hoa Lu & Tam Coc (beautiful inland caves reached by boat). We rode bicycles between the towns. It was fabulous. I’m only just able to feel my toes again – it’s slightly chilly up the north of Vietnam!

Hanoi is such a fantastic city, I’m a little in love.

Tomorrow we are off to Halong Bay, staying overnight on a boat & doing some kayaking. I’m so looking forward to it.

Heidi xo

Here We Go ‘Round the Memory Bush

August 31, 2010

I love the sensibility that food summons. Different tastes and aromas have the ability to evoke memories of your childhood and overseas adventures, instantly transporting you back in time to a treasured place. Particular flavours and fragrances can unearth forgotten experiences, hidden beneath a veil of what is immediately present. I so cherish those moments when I unwittingly bite into something and am delighted by a vivid trip down memory lane.

The sweet and tart taste of mulberries immediately leads me down Memory Lane, where I make a right at Childhood Corner and find myself in my parent’s backyard, picking mulberries off of our mulberry bush with my brothers. Our purple stained fingers and mouths told my mother where we had been playing and what mischief we were up to. We would spend hours playing outside by the mulberry bush, creating fantastical worlds involving pirates and space ships, which we would turn into a play that my parents would watch (after they paid for their tickets, of course). I feel so lucky to have had two brilliant comrades growing up. I miss our theatrics and games.

The saccharine yet wholesome flavour of honey, banana and cinnamon on toast makes me feel like I am nine years old again, and in my parent’s kitchen. My dressing gown clad dad would assemble this heavenly combination for breakfast. It was his specialty, and even though it is very simple, no one can make it like dad.

The confronting, intense heat of birdseye chilli is a frequent and welcome visitor to my palate. It’s extroverted presence puts me back in the Thai countryside, sitting at the dining table in Baan Dada, eating whole chillies in an attempt to bond with the older boys at the home by proving how hardcore I am. Throat…on…fire…all the while shrugging, “that was nothing!!”

Whenever I take in the aroma of fresh seafood being cooked, I am once again in the vivacious markets of Ortygia and Palermo, Sicily. Mountains of weird and wonderful produce surrounds me. Marvellous melons, perfect peaches. Enormous and brilliant eggplants and tomatoes and lemons, oh my! Determined nonnas power their way to the front of the queue and instruct the vendor. This is their turf, don’t get in their way. Raucous and cheeky fishmongers yell and wink at you, parading their catch of the day. The intoxicating aroma of fresh seafood on the grill wafts through the market, over the heads of those seasoned nonnas, enticing you. I am in heaven in this cacophonous, vibrant world.

Thus is the power of food. It has the ability to nourish both your body and your soul, by arousing your psyche and allowing you re-live cherished, joyous times.

I wanted to post a recipe that evokes many beloved memories. I hope that it delights you as well. It is something that Ben and I make when we want to feel like we are back in Thailand, grabbing a quick lunch from a roadside café. It uses pork, which we found to be the most popular meat in Thailand. The balance of sweet palm sugar, salty fish sauce and sour lime alongside the heat of birdseye chilli is perfect, and quintessentially Thai. The fried egg on top really complements the sharp flavour of the mince, offering a soft, silky time-out for your taste buds. If you cook the egg so that the yolk is runny, it adds a delicious richness. The basil really makes this dish. In Thailand they use holy basil, however you can use Thai basil. I must admit, I have even used sweet/Italian basil in this dish. It isn’t the same, but it is still yummy! This dish is always served on steamed jasmine rice. To us, this is Thai food.

Pad Krapow Moo for Two

The name translates to stirfried “pad” basil “krapow” with pork “moo”. And “for two” means, as you guessed, serves two people. Plus, it rhymed and I thought it was cute.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons peanut oil (1 tablespoon for the mince, the other 2 for the eggs) – note, it does have a bit of oil. This is not something I cook very often, and don’t usually use this much oil in stirfries. However, to cook the egg in the traditional way they use this much oil. If I cooked this more often, I would look to remove the oil and forgo a bit of flavour to make it a bit healthier.
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 birdseye chillies, finely chopped
(less if you don’t like a lot of heat)
250g mince pork (you can use chicken or beef if you wish)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoons grated/shaved palm sugar
(you can use white or brown sugar if you don’t have palm sugar)
1-2 tablespoons water
2 handfuls holy basil
Steamed jasmine rice, to serve

I usually also serve it with steamed greens. You can add in green beans along with the garlic and chilli if you wish.

Method

For the egg:
Heat a well-seasoned wok over high heat. Lower the flame to a medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. Crack 1 egg into the wok, and fry whilst shuffling it around so that it doesn’t stick, but the edges go nice and crisp. You can spoon some of the hot oil over the egg so that the yolk cooks evenly. Once it is cooked to your liking (a runny yolk is really nice with this dish), carefully lift the egg out of the wok, put it on a plate and cover with foil to keep the egg warm. Add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok, and repeat the above steps with the remaining egg.

For the mince:
Add the final tablespoon of peanut oil to the wok. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and chillies until they become fragrant. Be careful not to colour them too much (they can easily burn). After ~30 seconds, or once lightly coloured and fragrant, add the pork mince. Stirfry until just browned all over. Add in half of the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Taste to assess what you need to add more of. I usually add all of what is listed, however your limes may be more juicy, etc. You want to balance the salty, sour and sweet flavours going on here. Play around with it – it’s fun! Once the flavours are balanced, add in a tablespoon or two of water, and simmer very briefly (~1 minute). If you overcook it, the meat can toughen. Stir in the holy basil until it just wilts, then serve immediately over rice. Top each bowl with one egg.

Yum! I’m hoping to cook this for dad soon, as he is keen to become more familiar with Asian flavours. He is flirting with the idea of chilli, however doesn’t yet fully appreciate its beauty. Hopefully I can pay him back for all the delicious mornings of honey, banana and cinnamon toast.

Heidi xo

Anne’s Words

August 28, 2010
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”.

– Anne Frank

I love this quote, it always inspires me to be a better person. To give more. To be less involved in myself. Anne Frank was an incredible girl. I have read The Dairy of Anne Frank at least four times. It still astounds me how articulate and inspiring she was.

Last year, Ben and I volunteered at Baan Dada for five weeks. It is a Children’s home in rural Thailand, near the Myanmar border. I won’t delve into how incredible and special this place is in this post. However I wanted to share with you some news that Ben and I are planning a fundraising event, to coincide with an amazing event taking place at the home.

Baan Dada are raising money to build a Technical School, so that the locals have somewhere to learn and study after high school. The amazing people who run the home and other volunteers are setting off on a journey to walk 225 Kilometers in October with the hope of raising enough money to start construction. They will walk from the town of Sangklaburi to the city of Kanchanaburi. All the details can be found on the website here.

Ben and I wish that we could join them for the walk, however timing and money does not permit it. So…..we are in the midst of planning a little something to do over here to raise money. We’ve been brainstorming a few ideas, but last night we pretty much settled on what we are going to do. I will let you know the details once they’re set in stone, but I’m getting pretty excited and thought I would share this with you today.

I hope Anne’s words resonate with you as they do with me. Of course everyone has different circumstances, and many of us have been through tough times in our lives. But generally speaking, we are pretty lucky here in Australia. It is nice to be reminded of this sometimes…

Heidi xo