The Art of Khao Soi

If you haven’t been to Northern Thailand, you probably haven’t even heard of it. Shame. Khao soi is without a doubt the most iconic dish hailing from Chiang Mai. Rich, spicy, and complex, it’s also one of the most fun foods I’ve recently eaten. That’s because khao soi isn’t just a meal… it’s an art form.

Khao Soi

This dish is Northern Thai via Burma via South China. The details are murky. Whatever the more distant history, khao soi arrived to the Chiang Mai area through Yunnanese Muslim immigrants. Originally, rice would be ground, boiled, dried, and then sliced into the long noodles, giving the dish it’s characteristic name… “khao soi” translates as “cut rice.”

Now, khao soi is served with a visually appealing and texturally exciting double-layer of noodle goodness. Soft noodles swim in the broth below, topped with crispy deep-fried noodles balanced on top. And that’s what this bowl is all about, really:  balance.

For our first exploration, we did the one thing I never do… we went to a pretty sterilized restaurant with lots of shiny English menus and other Westerners. I know, I know. I’m already asking for it on this one. But here’s the thing. You don’t just eat khao soy. I knew we were going to need a little help here, if we were going to avoid looking like total farang ding dong.

Not convinced? Then take a look at this roadmap:

Sen Khao Soi diagram

We started by picking our meat (we both went with free-range chicken on the bone), spice level, and type of noodles. All of that comes served up and simmered in a soupy deep red curry and coconut sauce. OMG.

That’s not all. At Just Khao Soy, each bowl is appropriately brought to the table on an artist’s palette, surrounded by decadent little dishes to help you get the balance just right for your tastes. From fresh bananas and extra coconut milk to my favorites, shallots and pickled cabbage, we really got to play around with the essential flavors of Thai food–sweet, salty, sour and spicy.

Maybe it takes a little bit of everything to make a masterpiece, but when it’s done right, it’s done right. Delicious.

eating khao soi

 

The Details

  • Just Khao Soy
    108/2 Th Charoen Prathet
    Chiang Mai
    (pretty much just a hop, skip, and a jump from the riverside)
  • Expect to pay about 100-200 baht/bowl
  • If you’re like me and are used to eating street food (read, for Thais), beware. This was one of those places where the waiter thinks it’s funny that you order it spicy and so makes it extra spicy and sniggers in the background when your nose barely runs. Miraculously, I’m not dying, and funnily enough, I do see you over there!

Pie Wars: Battle of the Meat Pies

This week, we are excited to feature our first guest post! And what could be better to start it all off but a real down and dirty battle of the best meat pies?

In one corner, the saucy London parcel, in the other, the cheeky Aussie dish… who will come out on top?

Tom Hoschke of The Raw Prawn give us the play by play.

 

As an Australian, the meat pie is part of my cultural heritage. An ideal hand held snack, these hot pastry parcels filled with anonymous meat and thick, savoury gravy are an integral part of antipodean cuisine.

A pie with sauce is what you eat at half time at any footy game, in celebration or commiseration depending on how your team is going. It’s the working class lunch of choice, bought from the local milk bar or servo. Bakeries in towns across the country are judged almost entirely on the quality of their pies. In the 70s our national car company advertised with a jingle summing up the Australian experience: “Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars.” It is, unquestionably, as close to a national dish as Australia has.

aussie
via thepolkadotsuitcase.com

Of course, say this within earshot of an English person and they’ll reply with something like, “You know you guys didn’t invent them, right?”

Well, yes, of course I know that the idea of putting meat inside of pastry was not suddenly thought up one day down under. I’m not that naïve. Although, as the practice of eating stewed meat out of some sort of flour-based shell has been around since the time of the Greeks and Romans, and it was the French who made the pastry edible, I’m not sure where the Brits come off taking the high ground on that front. You weren’t the first to deep fry a piece of fish, either, but we’re happy to give you fish’n’chips.

That bit of cultural cringe aside, pies are undoubtedly an important food both in Australia and here in the motherland. As an expat with a soft spot for my homeland’s product, I had to seek out the British version. I decided to try that classic of working class London: pie and mash.

Going in with no real knowledge of the pie shop tradition, I had very little expectation. After I order from the delightful cockney accented woman behind the counter, she places a reasonable looking hot pie on a plate with an ice-cream scoop of mashed potato.

Then she did something that shocked me. She doused the plate with some sort of sauce, vaguely clear with flecks of green. And when I say doused, I mean drowned. It was as though the pie was on fire and she was using the sauce to put it out, a goal she would have achieved many times over.

via www.dailymail.co.uk
via www.dailymail.co.uk

I didn’t get this while I watched her serve, and it made even less sense when I started to eat. The sauce, which had, for me, very little flavour, did two main things to the dish. Firstly, it made the pastry soggy. While it’s possible that the pastry crust wasn’t the crispest to begin with (a reasonable assumption from looking at it), drenching it like this took away any real texture it had.

Secondly, it diluted the meat filling. I would cut into the pie and the meat would spill out, mixing with the liquid, dissipating any flavour of the gravy. The whole concept baffled me. I asked what was in the sauce and was told, “Parsley, and the rest is a trade secret.” If forced to guess any other ingredients, I’d go with cornflour, judging by the texture.

On doing some research, it seems that traditionally the pies were filled with the once plentiful eels of the Thames River, and the sauce was the liquor that the eels had been cooked in. In theory, that is still how they make this liquor, but if so the eels added no discernible flavour.

I’m sorry England, but when it comes to pies, just like the Ashes, Australia wins this one. We may play with the fillings, and we may dollop tomato sauce on top, but at least we maintain the integrity of the pie.

That’s not to say you can’t find good pies here in the UK. In particular, those offered by Pieminister, a company working out of Bristol, are exceptional. With stunning options like steak and stilton, chicken and ham, or classic steak and ale, their stall at Borough markets is one of my essential stops whenever I’m South of the river.

Then again, the owners started the company after visiting Australia and recognising that we made better pies. High praise from an Englishman.

So, sure, we didn’t invent the pie. But strewth, we sure got them right.

 

1044074_10151751894515320_1620965877_nAs an unsatisfied public servant in Australia, Tom Hoschke longed for new adventures. To satisfy this desire he left his job and his homeland, setting out for Old Blighty, where he has spent too much of his working holiday ignoring the “working” part. An enthusiastic devourer of all cuisines, he now writes The Raw Prawn, where he dissects the British food culture in ways only a colonial can.

Goong Ten: “Dancing Shrimp” in Northern Thailand

Everyone loves Thai food for it’s gorgeous aromas, fresh ingredients, and amazing presentation. Well, guess what? This ain’t your momma’s Thai food! Even some Thais are repulsed by the thought of goong ten, but up in the Northeast, it’s a culinary delight. Let me tell you, this dish is alive. No, I mean literally–it’s main ingredient is live, jumping, squirming baby shrimp!

Goong ten actually loosely translates as “dancing shrimp,” referring to the way these transparent little critters try to squirm away from you–even while eating. To make this odd salad, the little baby shrimp are tossed with seasoning, fish sauce, ground roasted dry chili, coriander, and a bit of onion. Lime juice is squeezed all over the top just before placing the lid on the container, and served with various sorts of leaves.

Goong Ten presentation

So what’s the deal with the lid? As soon as the lime juice hits the shrimp, they start going CRAZY! I’m not talking a little wriggling here and there, I mean the moment you barely lift that lid, they start leaping out in search of freedom. You can even hear the goong ten banging around against the ceramic walls of the pot. It’s an adventure before you even get them near your mouth! Once you’re ready, you just tear off a bit of a leaf and snatch some shrimp before they leap off the table, then shovel them in.

Goong ten in Northern Thailand

Once you do get them inside your maw (if you do manage to get that far), you’ll also get a little tickle from the odd antenna or two moving against your nose or chin, and the tiny tango continues on your tongue. The feel and texture of the goong ten is entertaining to say the least, but then there’s the taste! Like all Thai salads, you get the salty, sour, and spicy–but the way it happens is incredible. The slight saltiness of the immature shrimp ruptures on your tongue, complimented by a slight crunchiness, and finishing with the searing heat of that typical Northern dried chili.

Watch us try it for the first time, and if you look closely, you’ll catch a shrimp leap clear across the screen just before I taste mine!

So. Would I eat it again? … Maybe. To be honest, the flavor is great, and the feeling just… Interesting, as long as you can get past the idea of putting a live shrimp in your mouth.

Bon appetit!

 

The Details:

  • Goong ten is primarily served in the North/Northeast. We had our go at Huay Teung Thao Reservoir, just outside of Chiang Mai. The easiest (and best) way to get there is just to rent a motorbike and go!
  • I’ve been told you can also find it on the streets of Bangkok from time to time, but I have doubts about the freshness. Hey, go for it if you like!
  • Beware, you will attract quite a few stares and giggles from the Thais! All in good fun, of course 🙂

Tasty Thai Oyster Omelettes (Hoy Tod)

Oyster omelettes. Oh yeah, I know what you’re thinking. The first time I saw oyster omelettes listed as a must-try dish in Thailand, I probably screwed my face up into something ridiculous. The idea of oysters and eggs didn’t exactly strike me as a heavenly combination. But trust me. Sticking to that kind of inclination is bound to leave you seriously missing out on a unique and delicious nosh.

First of all, this isn’t really an omelette in the strictest sense, some even translate hoy tod as oyster pancakes. Instead, it’s a lethal combination of eggs, oysters, garlic, chili, green onions, and maybe even a bit of coriander (cilantro. I’m beginning to have a major identity crisis here!). What gives it that extra oomph, though, is the addition of a starchy solution that provides the whole thing with a delightful crunch.

Steven and I had the chance to play audience to an oyster omelette chef at a local market in Ratchaburi city. With expertise, she first splattered a few spoonfuls of the starchy solution, usually made from a mixture of rice flour and water, on to the flat grill. For each omelette, she then grabbed a hefty handful of fresh oysters and placed them in the center.

Oyster Omelettes 1

Next, she just cracked an egg directly on top. The mixture is left to sit for awhile, allowing that solution to provide the oysters and egg a lovely crispy brown before flipping. This is key, people. Also, can I just point out that this lady cracks eggs like a boss? No need to crack it lightly on an edge. No, no, she just picks that thing up and smashes it one-handed. Seriously.

Oyster Omelettes 2

Next, she used her ninja skills to chop through and mix the egg and oysters a bit with a metal spatula. She then added a bit more of the starchy batter to the omelets, flipping them over to brown further. Without all that crispiness, the omelette can turn into a bit of a soggy mess.

Oyster Omelettes 3

Once it’s nice and oily and brown and cooked through, the omelette is once again chopped up a bit, this time with chili, garlic, and all that other goodness added in. It’s then dressed with green onion, cilantro, and bean sprouts, and brought to the table.

hoy tod in Ratchaburi

But even though at this point I’m usually happily drooling and ready to dive in head first, I usually douse this thing with some sweet chili sauce–the ‘ketchup’ of Southeast Asia. There’s something magical that happens here… somehow the forces of these simple ingredients combine into something magnificently rich and complex. Soft, briny oysters are bonded by the sweet chili to the crackling, battery-egg mixture. Fireworks explode. It’s that amazing. Get one, ASAP!

The Details

  • I got mine at Ratchaburi central market, easily found in the complex under the yellow clock tower near the river. But you can get yours just about anywhere on the street, especially in Bangkok. Want to check out one of the best? Go to Nai Mong Hoi Tod, 539 Thanon Phlap Phla Chai, Bangkok. Yes, that’s in Chinatown, and yes, you might get lost trying to find it. It’s worth it, I promise.
  • Expect to pay a bit more for this dish than others–it will usually set you back about 65-70 baht. Remember, we’re talking loads of oysters here. That’s still a steal.
  • Extra crispy? Yes, please!

Tip Top Chip Shop Fish and Chips

Ahh… fish and chips. Let me start with a little story:
I was watching reruns of Frasier this morning (don’t judge). Frasier and his brother Niles are discussing opening a restaurant, when their father muses about the difficulties of keeping a restaurant running. He tells a story about this one little corner place:

“In ten years, it must have changed hands twenty times. First it was Ling Fun’s Lichi Palace, then it was Tony’s Meatball Hutch, then it was A Little Taste of Yorkshire–English food. Huh. Big surprise, that lasted about five minutes.”

That joke might not have sat well with Daphne (or my boyfriend!), but let’s be honest… the English haven’t got the best reputation when it comes to food. There are a few things I’ve yet to grasp, and some I just can’t stomach, but it would be unfair to slate it all as rubbish when you’ve got a few glorious things like Fish and Chips. The holy grail of greasy goodness, all conveniently wrapped in soppy newspaper. Delicious.

English Fish

So maybe I had a few tastes of fish and chips before, but I made a massive mistake. I ordered from a well-to-do fancy pub in Central London. I now know the secret to a good batch:  find a tiny spot on a small street, and you’ll know you’ve struck gold by following your sniffing nose.. and by the winding queue at the door. London ain’t got nothin’ on Yorkshire.

Here, the duo is brought together in holy matrimony–succulent white, flaky fish covered in a crispy golden batter with hot, fluffy chips. Gahhhh. (Remember, Yanks, fries are chips, chips are crisps, cookies are biscuits, and biscuits don’t exist. …lost yet?)

So fried fish came from the Jewish and glorious fried potatoes from Belgium/France, but exactly which Brit put them all together is up for debate. I’m not even bothering with that North versus South scandal. Whatever. It’s delicious. And the old duo actually helped win World War I by keeping the English minds and stomachs happy. That’s why it was one of the few foods not to be rationed during World War II!

You can douse it in salt and vinegar, order it with extra scraps, put it in a butty, or (a new one for me) cover it in curry sauce.

But whatever you do, don’t take the advice of the handsome Yorkshire bloke next to you and pair the already perfect meal with a can of Dandelion & Burdock. The only way I know how to describe the taste of this odd soda is that it’s like a combination of root beer and black licorice all stewed up together. And carbonated. I’m doing okay without it. But thanks.

Fish and Chips and Dandelion & Burdoch

But please DO embrace your inner Wallace and Gromit and head to the nearest chippy shop for some deep-fried amazingness. Alternatively, sit at home and drool over mine. This is one of those things that makes a trip to England successful. Huzzah!

The Details

  • Fish and Chips brought to you by:
    Beacon Road Fisheries
    47 Beacon Road
    Wibsey
    West Yorkshire
  • Please, my American counterparts, do embrace the vinegar. Become a true convert like me.

 

Old School Thai Eats in Ratchaburi City: Guay Tiew Gai

Ratchaburi might be famous among Thais for its variety of ridiculously good food, but it’s definitely kept a secret from the few foreigners that find themselves roaming the artsy riverside city. The signature dish at Guaytiew Khai Khun Mam, guay tiew gai, stands out as one of the best around.

These noodles are what I’d like to call perfection– they’re still slightly chewy without being undercooked or too soggy. Plus, there’s way more meat than meets the eye swimming in that bowl, although the barbecued pork steals the show. Thinly sliced, tender, and with that signature red color that just screams delicious! Don’t forget to opt for the soft-boiled egg if you really want to get things right. The other ingredients aren’t to be glossed over, either:  fresh coriander and bean sprouts add the perfect accompaniment to a broth more fragrant than most, toying with your tongue by combining sweet, sour, and spice all in one bite.

But don’t stop there!

pork satay

Stay awhile, relax, and order some moo satay to keep you busy after you’ve finished your noodles. You’ll get a hefty plate of marinated pork on skewers–none of that skimpy stuff you might find at other stalls! These skewers are barbecued on a charcoal grill until flavorful and tender, served with the traditional red peanut-y sauce and white vinegar cucumber/onion compilation, ajad. This yummy side reminds me of summers at home in the Midwest, when dad would whip up a bowl of fresh sliced cucumbers from the garden with vinegar. Translation:  better make sure I’m not around when it’s ordered, or it’ll be gone in a heartbeat!

Guaytiew Khai Khun Mam is impeccably clean and cute besides, exuding that old-time Thai style that gives you the warm and fuzzies. Rightfully so, it’s earned its place as a local favorite in town, so you’ll want to be sure and snag a spot quickly when you can. There are also pre-prepared options around the front counter, and loads of packaged sweets to pick up for a riverside snack later.

And want to know a secret? This is, no kidding, one of the best Thai dishes I’ve ever eaten. Maybe keeping secrets isn’t such a bad thing…

The Details

  • Guaytiew Khai Khun Mam is located right next to Prompaet Hospital on Ratyindee Road (not far from the big clock tower thing or the train station, if you’re more into landmarks)
  • The restaurant is open daily, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Highlights from Kin Jay Vegetarian Festival

Every year in October, the streets of Thailand fill with little yellow flags and banners signifying the ten day Chinese vegetarian festival in Bangkok, also called Kin Jay. Although I unabashedly love being a bit carnivorous, I find myself craving all-veggie dishes quite often in Thailand. I adore this little break when my local market is suddenly filled with lovely vegetables like baby corn, bok choy, and pumpkin (mmmmm) rather than the occasional mystery meat. But one night near the end of the festival, my boyfriend and I headed down to Chinatown, completely forgetting that the festival was on. We were delighted to turn the corner onto Yaowarat Road and have our senses bombarded with loud, thumping music, bright yellow banners strung across the streets, and stall after stall of delicious treats and lingering aromas.

chinese-vegetarian-festival-bangkok

Since we were both starved, we stopped rather quickly at a popular noodle stand, joining the others in the long, snake-like queue. The workers were throwing together rice noodles, vegetables, and spicy chili peppers in a steaming wok as fast as they could to keep up with the drooling customers. I made Ste stand sweating in line by the flames as I relaxed at a distance with my camera 🙂 That’s what boys are for, right? It was worth it in the end… these noodles were perfectly flavored with just enough chili to make things interesting without overwhelming the palate. There were plenty of mushrooms as well, which always makes me happy!

noodles kin jay bangkok

cooking-noodles kin jay

After getting a little something in our tummies, we started making our way slowly down Yaowarat through the crowds, seeing what else the Chinese vegetarian festival had to offer us. I was surprised to note that a good portion of the dishes up for grabs were fried… so much for a ‘healthy’ meal!  Seriously, I thought Texas had the hold on weirdest fried foods, but I think some of those competitors could take a clue from some of the snacks we spotted.

For instance, these fried flower petals and herbs intrigued my curiosity. I’m still regretting the fact that I didn’t try any… I especially wanted to taste the rose and sweet basil.

fried-flowers-chinatown bangkok

Next up, we found some sort of fried dough balls filled with cabbage and… ?? Okay, so I barely know what we were eating, but they tasted terrific (other than the fact that they were so scorching hot that they burnt my tongue…)! They were soft with a slight bit of crunch from the cabbage, and topped off with a sweet and sticky soy-based sauce.

inside-fried-balls kin jay

Definitely my new favorite fried treat came from this little stall selling deep-fried curry and Thai salad balls. Whoever came up with this idea is simply brilliant, and apparently the stall was hosted by a restaurant. Get me? That means there is a restaurant selling these things somewhere in Bangkok, and I’ve missed it ALL THIS TIME! At any rate, these are amazing, especially those with green curry inside.

fried-curry-chinese-vegetarian-festival

Next up, my favorite part–desserts. I’ve posted on a few favorites before, including Khanom Bueang and Luk Chup, and as you can tell I try my best to steer clear from the obvious choices. Thai desserts are so interesting, and different from what I expected. So on with tradition, we picked a hot dessert snack called Khanom Krok. These are like little coconut custards cooked in an ubiquitous cast-iron pan made specially for their purpose. Just like khanom bueang, Thais like to add some toppings that are considered savory to Western tongues, and our mixed bag included additions like green onions, corn, taro, almonds, and pumpkin. Although ‘custard’ is the closest way I can think of to describe these treats, there’s really nothing like it in our vocabulary–but they are absolutely delicious, easy to find on the street, and a must-try if you find yourself with a sweet craving in Thailand!

khanom krok kin jay

Last, but certainly not least, it was time for something to cool us off from the heat of cooking flames, sweaty people, and too many overhead lights… my favorite dish of the whole night (seriously!)… Tub Tim Grob, or “Rubies in Coconut Milk.” This cooling dessert is ridiculously simple, a combination of crushed ice, coconut milk, sweet syrup and “rubies,” which are simply red-colored water chestnuts. This stall was serving it with a few extras, such as lychee. It looks pretty uninteresting, but there is nothing more refreshing than this in the steamy hot streets of Bangkok!

tub-tim-grob kin jay

tub tim grob

(Oh yeah, and welcome to my first post on my brand new self-hosted site! YAY!)

The Details:

Bamee and Fruit Shakes on Soi 38

Soi 38 is a tiny little section off of Sukhumvit that I like to refer to as my night food market mecca. The stalls here have a reputation for being delicious and hygienic, so it’s a great place to ease in if it’s your first time eating street food fare–in fact, it was the first place I had a real meal on the street when I moved to Bangkok!

soi-38-stall

Definitely one of my favorite stalls on soi 38 is a little unassuming cart serving up some heavenly bamee noodles. I found out about this place from my go-to street food bible, Bangkok’s Top 50 Street Food StallsIf you plan on spending a considerable amount of time in Bangkok, I highly recommend purchasing this helpful little guide. The stall is located about half way down the left side of the market, right next to a shop with indoor seating (there are very few of these).

bamee stall soi 38

When walking up to the stall, one of the workers will usually start exclaiming, “chicken rice! chicken rice!” and pointing frantically at a picture of, well, chicken and rice. A lot of Thais have it in their heads that foreigners are afraid to try anything else, but take note! Don’t order chicken and rice, or you’ll seriously miss out! The star of the show here is bamee ruam giew, which is a bowl filled with buttery egg noodles, perfectly flavored and plump pork dumplings, sliced barbecued pork, and a surprisingly large heap of tender, sweet crab all swimming in a spiced broth. All that for 50 baht. Mmmmm…

bamee-soi-38

me and bamee-soi-38

Like usual, these bowls of noodle soup are way more filling than expected. But full or not, a trip to soi 38 is not complete without a stop at my other favorite stall, where I stuff myself even further with an amazingly fresh fruit shake. This stall is just on the right side near the mouth of soi 38, at the entrance to a tiny side soi. Here, the cart is laden down with heaps of fresh fruits and veggies for your perusal. Pick the ones you like (usually only two), and the magical man will whip you up a fresh smoothie that puts all those popular chains back home to shame.

fruit-shake-stall soi-38

This time, I ordered a great combination of banana and passion fruit. I love passion fruit, and the banana adds just the right bit of balance to its tartness. Ste ordered a watermelon and coconut shake which was… a bit of an odd choice. As usual, he was left with a bout of food envy! So good, and only about 35-40 baht each (cheaper if you only use one fruit).

fruit-shake-soi-38

Getting there:

  • Take the BTS to Thong Lo exit. It is located directly at the stop, and you can see it from the skytrain.
  • If you want to venture for another meal, I recommend avoiding the stalls with too many foreigners and sticking to the ones with the most Thais. You’re almost guaranteed a more authentic, and better, meal this way. Of course, you can always check out the World’s Best Pad Thai stall, which is just at the end of the side-soi past the fruit shake stall.

soi-38 from above

Colorful Luk Chup Candies

Today, I bring you the glorious luk chup candies. I’ve been eyeing these gorgeous little morsels for ages now, so when I saw a little stall out front today, I swooped in while the getting was good. Actually, I’ve rarely seen luk chup sold on the streets. This sweet was originally reserved for royalty, and you can primarily find it at specialty shops around the city, like Baan Luk Chup. 

colorful-luk-chup

Luk chup are incredibly colorful and shiny, shaped into miniature versions of fruits, chilis, and other vegetables. They look sort of like a fruity, gummy snack, so I was quite surprised when I bit into a little candy and got a whole different kind of flavor!

tasting-luk-chup

Actually, the shiny gelatin only covers the outside in a thin layer. Inside, the candy is filled with a sweet almond-like flavor reminiscent of marzipan, made from mung bean paste mixed with sugar and coconut milk. Their flavor comes from an age-old Portuguese influence that dates all the way back to the 1600s!

inside-luk-chup

I am sort of in love with them now, but I have to admit it isn’t for the taste. For me, the flavor was not particularly remarkable and certainly not helped by the slightly gritty texture of the paste inside. But I am in love with them because they just look so good! You can see why this sweet remains a bit of a high society treat, as the artistry involved is amazing… whether you like the taste or not.

Khanom Bueang: Tantalizing Thai Taco-esque Desserts

Thai food is pretty famous, but as far as desserts go, most people never stray much further than mango and sticky rice. While that’s admittedly pretty excellent, there is a whole array of Thai desserts which are spectacularly sweet and definitely worth a try. Khanom bueang is probably my favorite.

I first saw these little treats at MBK mall, and marveled at their uncanny resemblance to tiny tacos. The shell is sort of like a crispy crepe that almost tastes like a fortune cookie to me, which is folded up to contain a filling of sweet, thick coconut creme. It is then stuffed with toppings like shredded coconut, raisins, or foi thong. Did I mention foi thong is one of my favorite things EVER? Referred to as golden threads, it’s simply made from egg yolk cooked and soaked in a sugary perfumed water syrup. Okay, it might sound odd, but trust me. It’s amazing. Especially if you have a Thai friend to make it for you homemade like I do… 🙂

making-khanom-bueang

Some khanom bueang have a savory side sidling up to the sweet, topped with an orange filling made from minced shrimp, garlic, coriander, and shredded coconut. Admittedly, I could do without these…

Recently, a new stall has set up shop every Monday at the little market next door to my building which makes fresh khanom bueang that are spectacular (Side note:  I am obsessed with this market. Seriously). Unlike the ones you’ll find in tourist areas, skimping on the toppings, these are gourmet little buggers loaded with goodness. And they’re only 5 baht a piece!!

khanom-bueang

YUM. 

Oudt Leyden: Pancakes the Dutch Way

Oudt Leyden ‘t Pannekoekenhuysje was just a stone’s throw away from my little home in Leiden, and one of the first places I was encouraged to visit. The pancake house has been operating out of the center of the town since 1907, serving up the Dutch delicacies with precision to such guests as the Dalai Lama, Charles de Gualle, and Sir Winston Churchill.

oudt-leyden

It’s hard to believe now, but at that time I had only been abroad for about 2 days (solo) and was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience… and frankly a bit scared! I walked across the canal and loitered near the door of this adorable shop for a couple days before I finally ventured inside. For some reason, I was too afraid to go in and order because I could not speak Dutch–an irrational fear, really, as just about everyone in the Netherlands speaks impeccable English!

The inside of the shop was dressed with dark wood paneling matching the old-style dark wood tables and chairs, complemented by gilded mirrors and fake candle chandeliers dangling from the ceiling and walls.  Traditional Delftware vases boasted their blue and white scenes containing a single sunny yellow flower on each table. From my seat, I could see the blackboard scribbled with daily specials, and seasonal lunch and dinner dishes. I was the only customer, arriving only a few short minutes past opening time, and the waitress jumped with a start when she walked into the dining room from the kitchen.

oudt-leyden-inside

For me, pancakes had always meant one thing–thick morning cakes slathered in excessive amounts of butter and drowned in a golden stream of maple syrup. But this wasn’t America, and as I opened the menu the waitress left on my table, I was suddenly reminded of this fact. The ingredients you could choose in your pancakes were all new to me–pineapples, cheese, bacon, onions… the list was unending! I was also suddenly feeling a bit sheepish with my previous fears, understanding now how similar Dutch and English actually are (I studied linguistics, I should have known this!). Easily navigating the menu, I chose a delicious sounding Banaan & Poedersuiker (bananas and powdered sugar) pancake, and eagerly awaited its arrival.

oudt-leyden-pancakes-on-delftware

When it arrived, the waitress laughed as I gasped at the sheer size of this Dutch pancake, although much thinner than our American version. Lightly browned in patches, filled with warm, gooey banana slices, and dusted with sugary goodness, it was every bit as delicious as I had hoped. I was also pleasantly surprised that my dish was served on a traditional Delft porcelain plate. As I ate away my meal bite by bite, I slowly revealed the beautiful Dutch scene underneath.

oudt-leyden-dutch-pancakes

I will never say they’re better than mom’s, but sometimes I get an unquenchable craving for yummy Dutch pancakes, and they will forever be connected in my mind to the land of Rembrandt, tulips, a million bicycles, canals, and windmills. Oudt Leyden became one of my favorite spots which I learned was famous for a very good reason…

Check out Oudt Leyden’s website here:  http://www.oudtleyden.nl/en/

Pa Thong Ko: Scrumptious Thai Donuts

This is an ode to a sweet street food sensation.

An ode to little pillows of dough, with airy pockets and a slight greasy ooze that, let’s be honest, everyone secretly loves.

An ode to the little unsmiling man who drops dough in spattering oil, only to pull out these heavenly Thai donuts that leave me, well, smiling.

This is an ode to Pa Thong Ko.

pa-thong-ko-thai-donuts

These little guys take me back to when I was a kid, and getting the donut holes was an excitement all its own. They’re actually little deep-fried Chinese crullers, but they are the perfect (unhealthy) accoutrements to a hot cup of coffee at breakfast.

There’s an interesting little story about the name of these breakfast treats:  Originally, Teochew Chinese would sell “pa thong ko” and “yu tiao” at the same little stall. “Pa thong ko,” however, is the name of a steamed cake dessert, and “yu tiao” the name for the little donuts. The cakes were unpopular in Thailand, but somehow the name stuck, and what resulted was a mistaken identity!

Imagine someone walking up to a donut counter at home and saying, “Yes, please, I think I’ll have a cheesecake.” What?!

But hey, “yu tiao” or “pa thong ko,” I call it delicious.