30 August 2008

La Vie Boheme

Since our arrival in Thailand, we've been missing our routine visit to a weekend farmer's market and decided to fill the void by heading to Bangkok's famous Chatuchak Market. Covering 35 acres, Chatuchak is one of the world's largest weekend markets and a little slice of bohemian life with artists, alongside the requisite t-shirt stall and faux MAC cosmetics vendor, selling their handicrafts. 

We rose early last Sunday and prepared for a morning of exploration, crowds and heat. With our son in the backpack and our daughter at hand we walked to the Skytrain and after a short ride (and a one-stop journey on Bangkok's subway system), we arrived smack dab in the middle of a cornucopia of color, sound, scent and activity. 

Like markets we've visited in different parts of the world before and ones that we've grown to love in the many places we've called home, Chatuchak did not disappoint. This will be a place that we visit often and happily refer to as our local market.

It's easy to see why the market receives over 200,000 visitors per day. With more than 15,000 shops, everything you could imagine wanting to buy (and probably not wanting to buy, as well) existed there. We barely skimmed the surface of what the market had to offer, lasting only about 2 hours, but we were all enchanted by different aspects. T loved the overall thrill of being in a foreign market, comparing aspects of it to other markets he's visited in Asia. I loved the overwhelming amount of items that I haven't yet seen elsewhere in Bangkok (and the possibilities they brought for continued home decor!). C found bright globe lights strung together that I have a feeling will be coming home with us on a future trip to the market. And, F enjoyed taking in the musicians and all the cuddles that the vendors offered as he sat perched on mama's back.

In our short visit we saw clothing, custom made sandals, housewares, silks, exotic plants, food from every corner of Thailand, fabric, lanterns, sculpture, incense and the list goes on. Wide open air "roads" were only the start. Once you went inside the non air-conditioned buildings, narrow row after row after row featured vendors proudly displaying their goods from ceiling to floor. 

If it weren't for T's attention to direction, we may have spent another day and night inside the market. I had NO idea how to get out or where I was in relation to transportation that would ultimately take us home, but in some ways that perfectly describes the excitement that a market like Chatuchak brings. The ability to wander for hours, to negotiate prices, to become enchanted by the things that people make or the way they choose to display their goods, to wonder why someone would buy that!, and to let your mind wander a little further into an exotic land.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 7:
Green Chicken Curry
A perfect dish to build in the morning and let simmer in a crock pot (or on the stove) until you're ready for dinner. It's also a dish that tastes even better the second day, so don't worry if you have leftovers!

1 chicken breast, on the bone
1 cup of water
salt and pepper
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup of chicken stock
approximately 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
approximately 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
red chili flakes, to taste
green curry paste, amount will differ depending on the brand you use and your taste (begin with 1 tablespoon and add more as desired)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 cup of bamboo shoots
3 green onions, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1 cup bean sprouts
1 carrot, sliced into rounds
1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
1 cup of roughly chopped broccoli
2 cups of greens (we use the local chrysanthemum greens, but any good wilting green, such as chard or spinach, will work)
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves

In a shallow pan, place 1/2 of the onion, the chicken, a generous grind of black pepper, several pinches of salt and 1 cup of water. Cover and simmer over medium heat until the chicken is cooked through. Then remove the chicken, allow to cool to the touch and shred the meat. (Discard the liquid or save it in the freezer for future stock making.)

Meanwhile, in a large pot, saute the remaining onion in 1/2 tablespoon of oil until golden. Add stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar and curry paste. Stir until well combined and warmed through. Taste. You are trying to strike a balance on your taste buds of sweet, salty and spicy. Determine if you would like to add more curry and/or the red pepper flakes (for more spiciness), more fish sauce (for more saltiness) or more brown sugar (for more sweetness). Once you are satisfied with your curry base add the bamboo shoots and the chicken. From here, you can keep the mixture it in a crock pot on low, let is simmer lightly on the stove or place in the fridge until you are ready for dinner. 

About 15 minutes before serving, add all the remaining ingredients and cook over medium until veggies are tender. Serve hot over rice.

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