What I’ll Miss About Thailand – The Food

It may not be one of the first cuisines that people think about when walking about the best food that this world has to offer, but Thai food is often high on many people’s lists. It would definitely make it on my top three, and living in Thailand, I learned about so many new dished that never make their way on to the menus of the Thai restaurants invading America.

You are guaranteed to see pad thai and pineapple fried rice on many of those menus and those are regular staples on many of the menus in Thailand, and yes, these are tasty dishes, but when I discovered all of the other ones available out there, I realized that many American had no idea the culinary delights they were missing out on.

When eating Thai meals, it is important to recognize that it is a family affair. Many dishes are ordered at a Thai restaurant ant they are brought out and placed in the middle of the table. A heap of rice is put on your plate and then you dig in, passing dishes around and trying a bit from each culinary delight. When I was at a restaurant I knew I was eating, but there were a couple times where the meals were designed for us at some of the hotels we stayed at and I was introduced to a couple new dishes in the process.

There are a lot of dishes that can found everywhere in the country such as somtam, a spicy green papaya salad, or tom yum soup, a spicy shrimp soup with a hint of coconut milk. They can be found from the southern beaches to the northern mountain with the only thing that each dish has in common is the fact that the word, spicy, is used in the description of the dish.

There are some regional dishes as well. My favorite would have to be a northern Thai dish called khao soi. It is a rich brown curry usually served with pork, but you can find options with chicken if that is what you prefer. It is topped off with fried rice noodles to give the dish the impression of a mountain filled with winding mountains which is what the name of the dish actually translates to. This is one of those menu items that I don’t think will be found in the United States at a Thai restaurant because it has not made its mark on the rest of Thailand yet. There were a couple of places in Bangkok where I could find a good imitation of this dish, but the best version remained at the small stalls, and mom and pop establishments in Chiang Mai.

The curries are delicious out in Thailand, and can be made to order with varying levels of spice. They can be served with rice or roti, a flatbread designed to scoop out the sauce, meat, and vegetables hiding just below the surface. It became a joke with my friends when we talked about how this option would be taken away when we traveled back to the United States. The Thai restaurants would only have names on the menu such as red curry or green curry, and not even allow their guests to attempt the name of the dish. I am sure I will find a version of my favorite, panaeng curry, but I will just have to hope that is what it is until it arrives in front of me, and I am sure it will never reach that level of spice that I had become accustomed to in Thailand.

There is always the street food as well. This is the main way that most people eat in Thailand. They go down to the main street in their part of Bangkok and look at what food options are available and pick the one that they are most interested in. I will admit that it is a little nerve wracking the first time you do it because you do not know how fresh the food is you are picking up, but there is a trick to finding the best food. Watch the crowd for a bit. See where most of the people go, and then you know that they are moving through their supply fast enough that the food will be fresh by the time you order, and it must be good if so many people are eating there.

Thailand is not just a great spot for its own cuisine, but it also specializes in all the other styles of food as well. They do a great job as well. If I got bored with Thai food all of the time and as long as I was in the bigger cities, I could find Italian, Mexican, Bar-b-q, Korean, Japanese, and Swiss. They put a little twist on it to make it their own, but the food was just as good as if you were getting it in the country where it originated.

I would have to say that they did breakfast the best. There is nothing better than going to a good breakfast place and having them make a fantastic meal for you, and in downtown Bangkok, there is an endless supply of them. I would always want to go back to the one that I just enjoyed, but would rarely do it because I would find another one that would be just as good or maybe even a little better.

The point being is that Thailand is a foodie’s paradise. They know how to cook out there, and combined with the pandemic, it made it a struggle to stay in some form of shape without having to buy a whole bunch of new pants. I will find the food like this again in other places, but nobody will be able to do Thai food like they do in Thailand, and for that reason, it will be one of the things that I will miss the most about that country.

Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I know a lot of people think about vacation and they get this image in their heads that all they will is find a hammock somewhere, nestle into it with a good book and ask the closest waiter to bring them another smoothie. And yes, a beach vacation involves a lot of that, but every once in awhile, you need to remove yourself from the hammock and see other parts of what the island has to offer. Koh Lipe has a nice section of the island devoted to this other activity and it is the perfect place to head to as the sun starts to sink in the sky, and things start to cool off, Walking Street.

Depending on which side of the island you find yourself on, it is either really easy to find or rather difficult. If you are on the Pattaya Beach side, there is a big entrance marking the street right across the sand from the plastic dock where the boats will drop people off at. But if you are on the Sunrise Beach, it is a little more difficult to find. First you have to locate the Anda Resort and then walk through its grounds and the nice big pool where everybody is relaxing. You then look for the big entrance to the right of the resort that will indicate you have made it to the bustling part of the island. You will have to watch out for the motorcycles on this street because it is one of the main thoroughfares but if you keep looking to the left, you will eventually find walking street and will be a lot safer.

Walking Street has a lot of shopping opportunities, but more importantly, it has all of the best restaurants. None of these establishments look over the ocean, so in order to attract the tourists that make it to this island, they have to try a different approach; they have to have good food. There are a variety of food options from vegan and vegetarian dishes, to Spanish tapas, American cuisine, Italian, seafood, and of course, a bunch of Thai restaurants. Two of my favorites so far are the Elephant which has a great bar and some really good burgers, and the Box which is a Spanish tapas place with a chef that came from Spain to add some authenticity to the dishes. If you call ahead, you can even get him to make a paella for a larger party.

It is not just the night life that makes it a fun place to visit. There are many sites that will keep you turning your head every minute, and of course, if you pay close attention, you will come across those minor details that prove that you are in a tourist destination. It is always one of my favorite things to read signs that have been translated from the native tongue into English in order to attract more customers. I don’t know if these mistakes are made on purpose in order to bring people in to have a little laugh, or if they discovered the magic of the mistake after it is made. Either way, it is always something to look for, and for some reason these are usually the places that have the most amount of customers.

Walking street is the place to make it to during the nighttime while in Koh Lipe. It gives this small island a little bit of everything you look for when choosing a getaway vacation. You have your beach living during the day, and vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down. It is a site that must be checked off your list if you ever make it this far south in Thailand.

Let’s Talk about Food – Nai Harn Beach

It can’t all be about the beach and playing in the water. There has to be a time to fuel up, and the Nai Harn Beach part of Phuket has a lot of options of great food all over the place. I have not really found the street food stalls that you would expect to see in a city of Thailand, but enough of the restaurants serve good Thai food that I do not feel like I have to worry about talking much about that. It is all of the other cuisine that is made available out here that makes this place a gastronomical heaven.

To start off with, I have not eaten many lunches out here. I have been moving a little slow in the mornings; it is vacation after all. And the resort that we are staying in, Nai Harn Beach Resort, serves the best breakfast buffet I have ever seen. They will make omelettes, or eggs benedict for you fresh, and the rest of the food is so well prepared that it is hard to believe that you are eating at a buffet. I am usually so stuffed afterwards that I am not hungry again until mid afternoon, so there is no reason to think about lunch.

Dinner has been a different story, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every place we have been to. The highlights have to be Rustic and Blue, a favorite of ours from Chiang Mai. We have been to that place at least four time during our visits to this northern part of Thailand, and we were really excited to see that there was another one in Phuket, right by the place where we are staying. The food is western cuisine with a heavy dose of seafood dishes in the Phuket version of the restaurant, but there are still enough of the other favorites to make it a comfortable. My favorite is the grilled cheese sandwich with maple bacon and jalapenos.

There is also the Green Tamarind Burger which took a little longer to find, but it was worth the search. The food there is obviously burgers, but could easily be the best burger I have found in Thailand. They make their own buns, and they have fresh ingredients that just make the burger a juicy treat to eat.

And if you are in the mood for Italian, there is Trattoria del Buongustaio. This is right next to the Nai Harn Beach resort, but it is not associated with the resort. The owner is always around helping the customers, and the food has an authentic Italian flavor to it. Most of the food comes with fresh seafood, and has a little bit of a kick to it that reminds you that you are in Thailand.

It has been one of my favorite experiences in this part of Phuket, and I am glad that it has opened up more so I could experience it. It makes me just as excited for the rest of the trip and I hope that the country stays open long enough for me to experience it, but with new Covid cases confirmed up north, it might end sooner than usual. If that is the case, at least I was able to have these moments in Nai Harn Beach.

Toby’s – A Breakfast Story

The French toast with a side of bacon

I recently talked about my staycation to downtown Bangkok being like a greatest hits album where I didn’t take any pictures because I have been to all the places I went to before. Therefore, it was pointless to take pictures because I was already so familiar with these places. But there was one place that I do want to talk about, Toby’s. I have never been here for dinner, and I have heard that they have some amazing Italian food, but I have been here a couple of times for breakfast, and it might be one of the best places for breakfast that I have ever been to.

How do I describe it? To go back to the analogy of a greatest hits album, there is always one song on it that stands out above all the rest. Yes, you still love all of the songs on the album, but there is the one song that everybody gravitates to. It is that band’s best of their best. It is the “Satisfaction”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Joker” on the album. And this is what Toby’s is.

Toby’s is a small restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 38 and you really have to have your eyes open to see the place or you can easily drive past it. But there are hints that you are close. There is usually a group of people gathered outside waiting to get one of the few tables the place has. Cars are collected on this sleepy street near to the entrance of the place. And your stomach will start growling because it knows the treat that it is about to experience.

The bacon platter with eggs done over medium

And yes, this place is worth searching for when you are hunting down a good brunch. The food is fresh and obviously prepared there. Most of the time, the dishes come with a selection of fresh fruit, unless you get the bacon platter (yes, they have a platter dedicated totally to different kinds of bacon), and this still comes with a bacon jam that I would recommend smearing all over the two eggs that come with the dish. But the best dish that they have for breakfast has to be the French toast. I have always enjoyed this dish and I have had some amazing versions of it, but the one here is made with crumpled corn flakes that gives it a crunchy coating that is so good. And instead of topping it with butter, they give you a scoop of vanilla ice cream that makes this entre more of a dessert that you will come back to time and time again.

It was the perfect spot to complete my greatest hits tour. It filled me up with the great food that this city has to offer before sending me back home and the reality of life. I will come back again someday, but for now this was a great way to enjoy a weekend in Bangkok.

The Things I am Excited About – The Move Day 24

I have spent a lot of time this summer talking about the place where I came from, and mentioning the place where I am moving to, but I have not really talked about it, and why I am excited about moving there. So I thought I would give a little time to talk about the things that I am looking forward to about the relocation to Bangkok.

First of all, I am looking forward to the food. I know that Korean food is the trendy thing worldwide, but I have never been a fan of this kind of food. I like the spices and I do enjoy the community spirit that is created by going to a Korean bar-b-q, but it has nothing that I have ever craved. I do enjoy what they have done to fried chicken, and I do not think that any culture can compete with this improvement on an American staple, but I cannot eat that every night unless I want to end my life by exchanging cholesterol for the blood in my veins. Basically, for the last four years, I have struggled eating.

My wife and I would always talk about our favorite foods in the world, and if there was one type of food that we had to eat for the rest of lives what would it be. Of course Italian always comes up for me because it has always been my favorite style of food, and my wife always talks about Japanese food because of the variety and the unique flavors that they explore in that country. And even though we both agree with each others’ main choice, we both agree whole-heartedly with Thai food. On my recent trip out there to scout out places where we would end up living, I even experienced new flavors that I did not know existed with this cuisine and it turned into one of my favorite Thai dishes. This just means that I have not tried everything that Thai food has to offer. I am excited to explore these options even more.

Which brings me to the next thing I am excited about, the street markets. There is a big one right next to the place where I will be living. It is not as big as the Chatuchak Market in central Bangkok, but it will still be a nice addition to the neighborhood. Apparently, it is only open during the weekends, but it will be the perfect place to pick up fresh fruit and vegetables. And the amount of fresh fruit that will be out there excites me a lot. I was able to get fruit in Korea, but it was heavily dependent on the growing season. When I arrived in the summer was when I could get green apples, but they disappear soon after I got out there. Berries would not be available until late in spring, and yes, I could get a watermelon, but I would have to spend up to $30 for it.

The fruit should be more readily available in Thailand, and the variety should always be there available at the markets and delivered that morning from the groves. I look forward to going to the market and searching for the perfect fruit and vegetables of the day and creating a meal with them later in the evening. I will not always have to wait until the weekend to make this happen either. Where we are moving has a mango tree in the front yard, and twice a year I should have a supply of fresh mangoes in which to eat and cook with. I see myself perfecting the best mango salsa by the end of the first year.

A lot of this is due to the thing that I am having a love/hate feeling towards, and that is the weather. It is going to be hot and humid, and this will never change. My two favorite seasons in Korea were autumn and spring. If you are ever visiting Korea, this is when you want to go because the weather is perfect and the changing of the trees, whether it is the shedding of the leaves or the blooming of the cherry blossoms, is spectacular. I will really miss that about Korea.

What I will not miss about Korea is its bitter winter. I have seen my fair share of bitter cold winters, but I have never experienced anything like the ones in Korea. The temperature drops and stays there. I used to look at the outside, not wanting to venture out because I knew it meant bundling up so my skin would not be ripped away by the dry frigid wind. It wasn’t even pretty because it rarely snowed in the winter to hide the dead tree and lawns. It was just cold. I will not miss that.

But I am not also a fan of extreme heat. I am a runner, and trying to run while it is hot and humid is harder than when it is cold and bitter. It just saps all of the energy from me, and I feel like I am wading through the air rather than slicing through it. I know I will eventually acclimate to this because it is never going to change, but I will miss the colder times of the year. I know this even before I make it out to Thailand  because as I said earlier, the milder times of the year are my favorite. It is still not enough to dissuade my excitement for this move, and it is this weather that makes all of the other things I am excited about possible. It is just a minor thing, and I know that I will be able to make the adjustment.

So as the time pushes closer when I will finally get make that last leap, I am starting to get excited about what the changes will be for me, and I can’t wait to share them with the rest of you.

It’s a Colorado Thing – The Move Day 9

Some people will see this picture and instantly know what I am going to talk about; whereas, others will look at it as some kind of Mexican food that they are not yet familiar with. Of those people who recognize this dish, not all are from Colorado, and it is true that this type of burrito is not only in Colorado and can be found everywhere in the Southwest. It is also a very popular dish in New Mexico, and Arizona, and has even found its way into some of the western parts of Texas. But this particular burrito comes from a great Colorado chain, Santiagos. So for today, I am going to claim that it is a Colorado thing.

What makes this burrito different from other burritos that you can find is that it is smothered in green chili. Now many people will automatically think of the can of Hatch green chilis that you can find in your local supermarket, and yes this is used to make green chili, it is not the same thing. It is really hard to describe what green chili is to somebody who has never has it. The best way I have found to do it is to describe it like a red chili you would normally associate with a chili cook off, except it is made with pork, spicy peppers including green chilis, and does not have any beans in it. Some call it a stew; others call it a soup; and still others call it a condiment. None are exactly right, and yet in some way, they all are correct. Either way, when ever you get an opportunity to put it in a bowl, on a burrito, on a plate of french fries, or a piece of fry bread, you do it because what you will get is one of the best meals you have ever had in your life.

Now many places in the Southwest make their own version of this delicacy, but I find the one at Santiagos to be the best. I am sure I am going to have a list of other places that make a better green chili in the comment section below, but I still find this one hard to beat. It goes great with the breakfast burrito that they serve there, but if you put it on any of their items, you won’t be disappointed. You can even get big bowls of it to take home which is just as good as eating it at any of its many establishments throughout Denver.

Green chili is one of the things that I look forward to every time I am back at home, and I am confused a little bit by the way it has never moved beyond the borders of this part of the world. I don’t understand why something so delicious can only be found in this part of the world. I plan to bring it to Thailand when I go out there. I am even plan on growing green chilis so I can have this dish any time I want and share it with my new friends out there. But the next time you find yourself in the Southwest, seek out this dish. You will understand what I mean after you have tried it once. It will become one of your favorite dishes too.

 

Let’s Talk About Food – Back to Japan Day 7

 

There are certain places in the world that people think of when they think of food, Italy, France, Thailand, and most definitely Japan. The culinary delights that can be explored in this country seems to be unlimited, and it would take a lifetime to explore them all. Each of them offer new tantalizing tastes that will make your bud sing, and a blog itself would have to be dedicated to the many ways food is offered in this country.

Of course, when the common man thinks about Japanese food, the first thing that comes to mind is sushi. It is an exotic dish in the United States, but it is not as big of a deal in Japan. Even though there are many fancy restaurants that can be found that serve this dish, it is considered more something that a person can grab for a quick lunch or even breakfast. My favorite way to eat sushi out here is to find the places that sit everybody around the cooks who constantly place various plates on a conveyor belt. You just pull off what looks good, and then the add up the plates, you pay and you go. It keeps everybody happy, and it is a fun way to eat sushi.

Another fun dish to have is okonomiyaki. This is kind of like a pancake made with dry rice as the main ingredient, but there are many other things that they throw into them. You mix them up in a bowl, and the cook them at your table. You can get healthy choices with fish and vegetables, or you can go the route that I went and load it up with a bunch of different meats. There is a really good restaurant that serves this in Harajuku called Sakura Tei. It is a little hard to find because it is hidden well among art galleries, but it might be one of my favorite restaurants in the world because of the food, atmosphere, and fun of making my own savory pancake.

I was also able to experience a lot of street food on this trip to Japan. Anywhere the cherry blossoms come out, they set up a festival for the two weeks that it happens. The booths come out and a variety of food is offered. You can find anything from ramen to fried potato swirls. It is also a fun way to dine because you get to jump into the festivities going on around you, and everybody can find something that they will enjoy.

Speaking of noodles, Japan offers many different types of them from cold buckwheat noodles to think steaming bowls of udon noodles. During the summer months, the colder options are great, but on this trip there was a little bit of winter still in the air, and I enjoyed the hot udon noodles. Many times they are served with some tempura to make a great meal anytime of the day.

Japan is also well known for its Kobe beef. This might be the most tender steak that I have ever had. It just melts in your mouth, and it is worth every penny I spent on it. The rumor behind why this beef is so tender is because the ranchers who raise these cows will feed them beer and massage them while they are alive. It makes the beef tender, and it makes me happy that at least the cow had a happy drunken life while still alive.

Basically, it does not matter where you go in Japan; there is going to be something amazing waiting for you. You just need to be a little adventuresome because you might not always know what it is you will be getting. There are many traditional Japanese dishes out there, but this a very creative country, and I always come across something new that quickly becomes my favorite new dish. The food alone makes coming out here worth it.

Let’s Talk About Food – Around the World Day 5

People love to travel the world for many different reasons, but the one reason that is included in what everybody says when they talk about the places they will be visiting is they are excited to try the food there. The dishes that places make are the things that make one culture distinct from another one, and there is nothing more enjoyable than experiencing what these cultures have to offers. Plus it something that we have to do on a daily basis. If we do not eat we can not live, so why not enjoy it while you have the opportunity.

But it is not only restaurants where this experience can be enjoyed. Many places around the world have markets where you can try many different types of food, or get the fresh ingredients that you need to make an amazing meal. There is a great one right off the Ramblas in Barcelona call the Boqueria. Even if you do not buy any food there, it is still a fun place to visit to see all the city has to offer in fine ingredients. There have been many times on my travels where I have had more fun going to these markets without a clue as to what I was going to make, but finding great ingredients and putting together one of my favorite meals I would have on that trip. It is one of the advantages of staying at a hostel because they usually have a kitchen that you can use. With the inception of Air B+B, this perk has been made available to more people without having to cram into a room with a bunch of strangers.

Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to make a meal yet, but it has not bothered me much because I am in Spain, the land of the tapas. A tapas bar will serve small portions of food, allowing you to have many different bites along the way. There are some traditional dishes that all bars will include, but it is fun to see the different creative ways a chef can piece together a meal out here. One of the best ones that we were able to experience was called Tapeo. It is a small place next to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. They have many traditional items, but they also blend in some Japanese flavors into their dishes such as this salmon potato dish that included a wasabi sauce that you could sprinkle on the top of the dish.

The dish was really amazing, but it was the bombastas they were so good that we kept ordering them right after we had finished eating them. They are a meat a potato ball that is fried so when you bite into them you get an explosion of flavor. It is dishes like this that make me know that I am in Spain and I will only be able to find these flavors in this corner of the world.

And of course, if small dishes are not your thing, you can still wander the streets of whatever place you are in until you find the perfect dish that you would want to try. If you are near the coast, try a plate full of fresh seafood. If in the center of a country, enjoy the hearty dishes they have to offer. The point is that wherever you go, make sure you eat, and eat well. It is part of the experience of travel and it makes each voyage even more memorable.