Friday, 22 March 2013

Pad Thai – the Khao San Road Kind of Way

Khao San Road is somewhat of an institution in Bangkok. It’s the place to go when you don’t know where to go. From there anything is possible. Need a tuk tuk, get one there, need a hotel? Get one there. Need to do some shopping? Do it there. Need some food? Get it there. You get the point. It’s what I like to call the Bangkok melting pot. Everyone comes here. I just met twins from Hong Kong in a tattoo parlour, a British girl shopping for washing detergent in the seven eleven and an Aussie drinking a beer (typical), and it’s not even 6pm. I landed here at around 3pm from Krabi, a coastal town which boasts sandstone cliffs, endless beaches and humidity beyond compare. When I got here I boarded a bus and made my way to central Bangkok before swapping the aircon of the bus for the natural cooling air on the back of a taxi motorbike. Zooming through traffic, even up the wrong way on a highway, I eventually landed at the familiar spot that is Khao San. This road is about 400m and, like I made clear before, has everything you can want. I needed WiFi and here I am enjoying a beer at a bar while reminiscing about my day.

One of the highlights of my day, which was definitely not being denied taking certain items on the plane from Krabi, has to have been my late lunch. A paupers meal on the side of the road on, you guessed it, Khao San Road. There are a number of meals you can get on the side of the road while walking and admiring the sights – fresh fruit, grilled corn, BBQ sausage and palony’s, chicken kebabs/wraps, spring rolls or Pad Thai (plain, with egg, with chicken or with seafood). I opted for a Pad Thai without hesitation - my staple when in this area. A random traveller advised me once to get a Pad Thai with egg and a spring roll which they cut up into the Pad Thai and mix it through while cooking it in a wok in front of you. I tried this and have never looked back. It’s become my staple, my Bangkok saviour. These hawker artists throw the ingredients together in a wok or flat top grill and within minutes you have a delicious concoction of fresh vegetables, herbs and noodles flavoured with typical Thai tastes. Then it’s up to you to give the Pad Thai character synonymous with your own personal style. Mine is a dash of dried shrimp for salt, a smidgen of sugar for sweetness, a lump of dried chilli flakes for heat, a squeeze of lime for tang, a hell of a lot of crushed and roasted peanuts for crunch and a few splashes of chilli oil to bring it all together. It blows my mind every time.

Having visited Bangkok five times now and planting myself firmly at the virtual entrance of Khao San Road at the Top Inn I have become accustomed to the nuances of this place. I’m still no expert but I’d like to think I know how to spot a good Pad Thai. After witnessing several being made over the course of my travels here this is a recipe I’ve thrown together just like a proper Pad Thai should be, thown rogether...

My Authentic Khaosan Road Pad Thai

For one!

  • 60g stick rice noodles, soaked for 15 minutes in warm water seasoned with 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup Chinese greens (these could be bok choi or spinach or any greens bought at a Chinese/Asian supermarket)
  •  ¼ cup finely sliced carrots
  • ¼ cup bean sprouts
  • ¼ cup spring onions
  • ¼ cup morning glory (optional – bought exclusively at an Asian supermarket. I fount this ingredient recently in Cape Town at an Asian supermarket at N1 City)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp roasted and crushed peanuts
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp dried shrimps (optional – you can substitute this with extra fish sauce)
  • 1 tbsp (less or more) dried chilli flakes

  1. Firstly get your noodles ready by soaking them in some warm water for around 15 minutes with fish sauce and soy sauce. This will flavour the noodles and colour them slightly. After 15 minutes remove them and pour a little vegetable oil over them and lightly massage them with your fingers to prevent them sticking together.
  2. Now that your noodles are prepped and ready get your wok on the heat – ideally a round based wok on gas but if you don’t have one then a flat based wok or a large pan will go fine.
  3. Heat a little vegetable oil in the work or pan. When hot add you egg, within 30 seconds add your Chinese greens, carrots, bean sprouts, spring onions and morning glory. Stir for about 1 minute until the vegetables are covered in oil and the egg is scrambled.
  4. Add your noodles to the vegetables and stir fry for 2 minutes before seasoning with fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and lime juice.
  5. Turn off the heat and serve onto a plate. Season with dried shrimps (optional), crushed peanuts, chilli flakes and chilli oil.
  6. Enjoy with chop sticks.

There you have a traditional Thai meal of the highest order ready in under 30 minutes. The key here is to make Pad Thai individually – one at a time. Don’t try make a big portion for 4 or more people, you’ll only end up disappointed.

Right now I’m so satisfied, nothing in the world could have made me happier than eating this Pad Thai like I did just now.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Shake it up

The Thai’s are spoilt for choice when it comes to fruit. All around you, whether it’s a market, a stall on the street or a vendor cruising around on a bike and side cart you can get the ripest seasonal fruit for next to nothing. From individual portions to bags full, options are endless. Just this morning I tucked into some delicious, sweet and juicy pineapple. The vendor I bought it from prepares it in such a unique and attractive way. Despite the unbelievable freshness of the fruit, it simply looks good too. He was an artist. Sculpting the fruit to make it beautiful only helps the taste.

Pineapple alone isn’t exciting even though it is the tastiest pineapple you’ll ever have. There’s something about the tropical environment of Thialand and SE Asia that transforms the fruit into sweeter and juicier than we’re used to. The variety is what makes fruit here so exciting. Fruit like 
  • Longon - a yellow ball about the size of a lychee and wikedly sweet
  • Sala - Remember Wicks bubblegum? Well this fruit tastes like it
  • Dragon fruit - The weirdest looking of the lot. A bright pink fruit that grows on a cactus and is pure white with thousands of tiny black pips. Slightly sweet and of the texture of kiwi fruit
  • Star fruit - Also unusal looking and with a juicy flesh with the texture of grapes  
  • Mangosteen - Sweet like a lychee with a dark purple shell 
  • Jack fruit - Stinky and known to grow up to 30kg in weight. Jack fruit has a less pungent smelling fruit with a crispy texture unless it's kept outside where it can go slightly rubbery
  • Rambutan - Red/pink in colour it's another lychee type fruit with small soft spikes
  • Yellow watermelon - Exactly the same as watermelon but yellow. I was so excited when I first saw this
  • Durian - A huge spiky fruit, often confused with jack fruit. It's known as the king of fruits and has a custard type pod inside. The flavour is rich and luxurious, it's definitely the most unusual fruit you'll ever have

Another thing about the Thai’s is that they’re industrious. They make use of everything. Almost nothing goes to waste. This has given them an ability to have more than one use for the fruit they have. They sculpt it, cook with it, add it to sauces, make juice and other drinks, feed their animals all with fruit.

One of my favourite uses of fruit is juicing. Here’s a fool proof Thai shake recipe that, if made at home, will be exactly as good as one you’ll order while lying on a tropical beach in Koh Samui. It's enough for two shakes

  • 1 cup of your favourite fruit – mix them if you want
  • My favourite mix is: juice of 1 small orange, juice of ½ a lime, ¼ mango, 1/3 cup pineapple
  • ½ - 1 ½ tsp sugar (depending on the ripeness of your fruit)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 cup ice
  1. Peel and roughly chop the fruit.
  2. In a blender add the fruit, sugar, water and ice and blend together until the ice is well crushed.
  3. Taste and add more sugar if needed.
  4. Pour into a cocktail glass and enjoy.

This is the easiest way to recreate authentic Thai flavours at home. It's also a great way to get those vitamins in... Give it a try.


Friday, 1 March 2013

The perfect hangover cure

It is with great appreciation that I write this blog post... On my latest trip to Thailand with my friend Thomo, we decided to go and watch a ping pong show (for those of you who don't know what a ping pong show is I'll let you google it) and proceeded to get horribly drunk last night. It wasn't intended but I guess some places just have a knack of pushing your fun buttons - Patong Beach is just one of those places. It's not the most glamorous tropical island in the world but when the sun sets there is just one thing to do, and that is have fun.

The downside to all this "fun" that's had in Patong is that every day and every night eventually comes to an end and the next day inevitably hurts a little more than you want it to. This morning (or should I say this afternoon when I finally woke up) was no different. You'd think a person would learn but like I said, spontaneous fun has a way of convincing you that everything will be alright.

Now back to the appreciation I spoke of earlier... everyone has their own hangover cures and remedies, except for me! I don't know how to rid myself of a hangover except to wait it out and hope it goes away before too long. But today I found what I think could just be my perfect hangover cure! Now I know not everyone reacts the same to hangovers and these so-called cures but this one worked amazingly well for me. It's called Hoy Tod.

Hoy Tod is greasy, it's salty, with just the right amount of sweet, it's not healthy but who the hell cares!

This recipe will serve 2 people, make the batter at once and then the omelette one at a time using half the remaining ingredients in each omelette.

  • 100 ml all purpose flour
  • 200 ml tapioca/corn flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • salt
  • 150 - 300 ml water, as needed to make a smooth batter
  • 2 eggs
  • 5-10 tbsp vegetable / sunflower oil
  • 1 cup fresh raw mussels
  • 2 spring onions, cut at an angle in 1 inch lengths
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • black pepper
  • Siraracha sauce

The key to a good Hoy Tod is in the crispiness of the omelette. This is achieved with two main ingredients, fine flour like tapioca or corn flour and oil, lots and lots of it. You're essentially frying an omelette.

Here's how:

  1. In a mixing bowl mix together tapioca / corn flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and garlic with a pinch of salt. Add enough water to make a batter slightly runnier that pancake batter.
  2. Let this batter stand for about an hour. It'll thicken up a little so add some more water if necessary and you're ready to go.
  3. To a cup add about 1/3 batter and crack an egg into to the cup. Mix well with a fork or chop sticks until well combined.
  4. in a heavy based pan heat 3 tablespoons of oil until smoking hot. Add the batter from the cup and pour half a cup of mussels on top of the batter in the pan.
  5. Add another 1 tablespoon of oil over the omelette and swirl it around in the pan. 
  6. When the edges of the omelette start to go dark brown then start cutting it up with a spatula and mixing it around the pan flipping it over to crisp up both sides. The omelette should break up a little with different size chunks making up your end result.
  7. If the pan becomes a little dry add more oil.
  8. When the omelette is crispy add half the spring onions to it and give it a few more swirls around the pan before removing it to a plate off the heat.
  9. Very quickly in the same pan add half the bean sprouts and fry in the left over oil for 1 minute, constantly tossing. Flavour the sprouts with fish sauce and white sugar.
  10. Add the crispy omelette back to the bean sprouts and mix through. Season with pepper.
  11. Make your second omelette for someone else, unless you want it all to yourself.
  12. Serve straight away with Siraracha sauce (which you should be able to get at most Asian supermarkets)

This is by no means a meal you want to have when you're dieting. It's drenched in oil but as a snack while lazing about watching something good on TV I struggle to have anything better. Make it a Sunday meal you can spoil yourself with for being so good during the week...