I have so many pictures from Thailand it’s insane. I don’t know how I’m going to post them all. Street food and fruit alone… Anyway, I have a vaguely coherent first post here.
By our first hotel in Thailand, the easiest way to travel was to take the express.
The Chao Phraya Express. The river!
The most fun, pleasant way to travel! It was a wonderful mix of hippie tourists, navy dudes, professionals on their way to work, and students in adorable uniforms.
Our destination was Banglamphu, the backpacker’s mecca where a hostel room can be $7 a night. It’s a pretty neighborhood with winding alleys along canals.
And we arrived!
TripAdvisor recommended May Kaidee's restaurant and cooking school. This lady is ridic. She started her own restaurant in 1988 when she was FIFTEEN and has since expanded to multiple locations in Bangkok and greater Thailand, published a cookbook, gone on tour in the US and around the world, and is planning franchises in Philly.
She is SAVVY!
And the restaurant was gorgey.
I have never seen a lamp like this before! Those are REAL FLOWERS!
Love love love that wall color!
Step 1: Make your own curry paste!
Into the mortar and pestle (! this was legit, I saw this used all over Thailand) went galangal (crucially different from ginger, more on that later), onion, kafir lime leaves, garlic, chilis, lemongrass, and CUMIN! Who knew?!
Using a mortar and pestle is HARD and takes a LONG TIME, but sure enough; curry paste!
Next it was to market, to market! One of the reasons Sally and I picked this cooking school was because it included a trip to the market and a lesson on Thai ingredients.
First stop- the spring roll wrapper lady!
She had this thing to a science! She was holding a big glob of dough/batter, which was just flour, water, and salt that had soaked overnight. She had her hot griddle, and she’d just smack down the batter ball until just a thin layer came off, then spread that out, then cooked it for just a few seconds on the one side, and pulled it off the griddle.
We got a great lesson on herbs and flavorings! Here’s May holding up a big bag o’ tamarind:
She was saying that to get a good sour flavor, you can use vinegar or tamarind, but in Thailand tamarind is cheap and abundant, so that was the preferred ingredient.
Fresh straw mushrooms (I’ve only ever seen them canned!):
More awesome mushrooms (they are just more exciting in Asia):
An ingredient that had mystified me when I had it quartered in my curry the day before:
She had us scratch ‘n sniff ginger and galangal, and there is a real difference! Galangal doesn’t have the strong pepperiness. She said ginger for stir fry; galangal for curry.
She also talked about vegetarian substitutions, which was very helpful for me with lent coming up! She said for salads she used miso in lieu of shrimp paste; instead of fish sauce and soy sauce she used a blend of light and dark soy sauces; and to fill in for oyster sauce she used mushroom sauce. And it definitely tastes just as good vegetarian!
Here she is in her slightly ridiculous getup (the food was great, but the school and restaurants are definitely tourist operations- Thais seem suspicious of vegetarianism!). Crossing a busy street with a parasol. Loves it!
And we went out to the school kitchen, where everything had been beautifully prepped for us.
Fresh veg (eggplant, green beans, pumpkin!), cilantro, presoaked noodles, ground peanuts, galangal and lemongrass…
Oh em gee, okay, because I love you…
Coconut milk, soy sauce blend (we used both of these in almost every recipe); fake meats (TVP and fake sausage which was awesome); ‘fu; carrots, tomatoes, and mixed veggies; limes, garlic, ginger, bean sprouts, green onion, regular and tomyum chili paste (tomyum has toasted chilis); peanuts
Dish 1: Tom yum soup!
Stir fry (we used a wok-shaped thing for everything)…
Wee bit o’ coconut milk for richness :D
Incidentally, Mai was very supportive of health- she became a vegetarian for health reasons and tried to keep her recipes veggie-ful and heart healthy and acknowledged the abundance of saturated fat in coconut milk. However, I asked her about light coconut milk and she made a face, said it didn’t taste good, and pointed out the best thing to do was to order maybe one coconut-heavy dish along with a few others and share with friends. I like her way of thinking!
We switched off cooking (we were the only people at the cooking school that day!). Here’s Sally getting her Julia Child on.
The final product, with the (awesome!) vegetarian sausage:
Traditionally Thais eat it by grabbing a glob of sticky rice and dipping it in. It’s great!
Mai made us a dipping sauce: she said about 1 tbsp soy sauce and equal parts (about 1 tsp) cilantro, red chilis, and garlic. Made it zingier!
Next, stir fried vegetables with ginger and cashews (yum!)
In the alley between the cooking school and the restaurant… I guess in Thailand you know you’ve made it when your picture is on a fire hydrant!
Real pad thai, *swoon*. One of the greatest things I have ever tasted.
May made us take obligatory dorky eating picture:
Next peanut sauce!
Bloom tomato and curry paste in some oil:
Ground peanuts, coconut milk (the main ingredient, actually) and other goodies:
That spatula type thing was used for everything.
Give it a long cooksie to get everything all aromatic and awesome. Et voila!
We got our curry on!
Massaman (super coconutty)
And green, using our homemade curry paste! The Thais traditionally serve it with noodles instead of rice- and it’s way better!
Then it was back inside to the nice cool restaurant to make cold dishes. Prep table (note our homemade peanut sauce!)
Spring roll fillins:
Lettuce, carrot, bean sprouts, cashews, sesame seeds, homemade peanut sauce!
Rolled up (note how SMALL!)
Next we made
Yes, as amazing as it sounds.
Grind up cashews and sesame seeds (gets to the consistency of nut butter- but it takes awhile! My arm hurt!)
Add the tomater, fresh steamed pumpkin (theirs looked a lot like kabocha), lotttttttts of cilantro, soy sauce.
Topped with more sesame seeds, it was perfection!
You could serve it with veggies or rice crackers, for sure, but we had it with more sticky rice and it was awesome!
Next green papaya salad (I ate this more than anything else in Thailand! It’s so good! I had it like three times!). You actually do most of it in a mortar and pestle.
And finally, the luscious dessert: red sticky rice (Mai said it had the same nutritional benefits as brown, although admittedly it was then cooked in sugar and coconut milk…) with more coconut milk, banana, and PERFECT mango:
Aaaaand then the cooking song and Thai dance lessons. Note the hilarious hippies (Eavesdropping on their conversation was a riot-“Man, my goal in life is just to be PRESENT”) clapping and singing along in the background.
We tried (tried!) to finish off our leftovers. I had a heavenly mango smoothie to accompany.
And then we made our way back, stopping to admire this totally awesome fort:
And I let some Thai high schoolers interview me for their English class. They were adorable.
A bit more street scenery (I love all the flags over the street in Thailand!)
And back to our boatsie!
The tires on the side of the dock and the boat make getting off very gentle!
WAY more Thailand posts to come! I’ve missed y’all!