17 March 2010

The wrath of the leprechauns

Our life in the city has been abnormal these last six days as Thailand's Red Shirt protesters have blocked traffic, thrown blood and paraded through the city streets chanting and waving banners. And, as I write this, the protest continues, continuing to grind traffic to a standstill. Perhaps, I'll have more to say in the upcoming days about this mess, but for now... I declare a break from Red Shirt discussions. Today a far more important event, at least in our home, took place. The leprechauns struck their annual magic.

When we woke, our clothing was plastered with shamrock stickers. During breakfast, soda water magically turned sparkling emerald. At mid-morning, a trip to our art studio revealed that the usual crazy rainbow cacophony of crayon colors was replaced with an array of green. And, dinner was a fiasco... with a table full of lime-tinted croque monsieur sandwiches, stalks of asparagus, green gelatin sea horses and mango "shamrock" smoothies.

I raise a glass of green Beer Sing in honor of those pesky St. Patrick's Day mischief makers and wish you the luck o' the Irish. Here's hoping your house fares better when the leprechauns strike....

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 82:
Mango Shamrock Smoothies
Delightful on March 17 or any day after. If you don't have fresh mangoes readily available, substitute a freshly sliced orange.

1/2 cup of whole milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 whole mango, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup of ice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 drop of green food coloring

Add all ingredients into a blender, and swirl until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and serve.

07 March 2010

What I love about Bangkok right now

In Bangkok, right now, this is what I LOVE:

1... the bathroom signs at Siam Center. Adorable.

2... that even though there's political turmoil brewing, the satay is still grilling. The main topic of conversation seems to be related to when the red shirts will begin their promised protests. However, the streets are currently peaceful and full of the usual vendors. The street economy is booming in every way: MBK is still packed with bootlegged movie buyers and the fried dough vendor had a line of 18 patiently waiting customers this morning. (Yes, my son yelled "Alloy Mak Mak" as we attempted to walk past our beloved fried dough. Knowing it was a losing battle, I took my place and waited for our turn... which is exactly how I know that there were 18 people ahead of us since my three year old did a bang up job of counting them all out.)

3... Loft at Siam Discovery. Where else can you be greeted by an 8 foot tall yellow gorilla batting at hanging bananas overhead? And, if that isn't good enough, they put an 8 foot tall waving good luck cat nearby. Once you make it past the entrance of this eclectic store, you are in a two story wonderland of hip, crazy Thai goods that fit into the gift, stationary, home decor and accessory categories. This is where you should come if you're looking for a mini godzilla that screams 'I love Pad Thai!'

4... the MAMA aisle at Tokyu Department Store. (Yes, there is an entire aisle dedicated to the popular brand of noodles. But, I'm taking it as a personal compliment that they decided to name a grocery aisle after me.)

5... Somtum restaurant. If you're lucky, you have one too. You know, that little neighborhood joint that you happily go to over and over again. Somtum is a fabulous little hole in the wall of a place in the Ari neighborhood of Bangkok. You wander up to the front porch and mosey on over to a table where they immediately saddle you up with your Beer Sing. Serving simple, fresh Isaan cooking, my husband and I love to kick back on their porch (with strategically aimed electric fans so that we survive our meal in Bangkok's humidity). You're welcomed in, served an amazing meal and left to chat the night away over endlessly flowing drinks. I have never left with anything less than a big goofy grin on my face. Located at Ari Soi 3.

6... Somtum's bamboo salad. I'm going out on a limb here and naming this dish my absolute favorite Thai food dish ever. I would order this fabulously earthy, warm, bamboo concoction again and again and again... breakfast, lunch and dinner.

7... that it's not "summer" quite yet here. Just at the cusp of the hottest season of the year, I'm already planning to go into hibernation in front of my air conditioners (or, spend endless hours eating ice cream in CentralWorld's deep freeze air conditioning system!).

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 81:
Bamboo Salad
It would be far too embarrassing to visit Somtum for every meal-- heaven knows my husband and I are there frequently enough for them to wonder if we ever cook for ourselves anymore! So, an attempt to replicate their amazing bamboo salad at home began. I've gotten pretty close with this tribute.

1/4 cup white rice
2 packed cups of sliced bamboo*
1/8 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup lime juice
1 packed cup of fresh mint leaves
3 dried red peppers, whole
7 shallots, sliced in fourths
Dried red chili pepper flakes, to taste

Place the white rice in a saute pan and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat. Cook just until the rice becomes fragrant and lightly golden. Be careful-- the rice will burn quickly. This should take just a couple of minutes. Allow to cool and then place in a spice grinder. Grind until the rice turns into a coarse powder. In a large saute pan, add the fish sauce, oil and lime juice. Mix well and heat until bubbling around edges. Add bamboo, shallots, dried red peppers and cook until bamboo turns tender. Approximately five minutes. Remove from heat and add mint, peppers and dried chili pepper flakes to desired spiciness. Add toasted rice powder and stir quickly. Transfer to serving plate. Enjoy with jasmine rice and fresh fruit.

*Buy fresh bamboo if possible. If you must use canned, then rinse it very well in cold water, drain and set aside.

01 March 2010

I ate a NON organic strawberry and survived

Almost two years without strawberries is purgatory.* Especially when I walk by fruit vendor after fruit vendor after fruit vendor selling in-season, local strawberries by the bag full. The little red wonders have been quietly whispering my name each time I pass by.

Last week, I splurged on a box of organic strawberries flown in from California-- selling for $18 US and slightly shriveled. Tears filled my eyes and the next strawberry vendor got my money,** regardless of the fact that strawberries appear on the USDA's dirty dozen-- products you should only consume if they are organic. I'm fairly certain my street vendor's strawberries are not organic and completely confident that Bangkok's traffic whizzing by within inches of the berry bags polluted them either further. But, man oh man, did they taste good to a tongue craving juicy in-season fresh berries.

*Okay, I'm being a tad bit dramatic. I've had several gorgeous berries on a summer trip to the States last year.

**WARNING: Do not try this at home unless you are desperate for strawberries.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 80
Lime Strawberry Shortcake
This recipe includes two things that I ADORE: freshly made lime curd and beautiful strawberries. I always feel like I'm tasting a bite of sunshine when I make this!

Lime Curd:
1 cup sugar
the zest of 3 limes
1 cup fresh lime juice
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter
2 cup of fresh strawberries, sliced

Shortcake Biscuits:
2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

1 cup of freshly whipped cream

In a saucepan, combine sugar, 3/4 of the lime zest and lime juice. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and slowly add a few tablespoons to the yolks. Stir well and add the egg yolk mixture to the larger pot of boiled sugar, zest and lime juice. Whisk well and return to heat. Over low heat whisk until mixture thickens, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter. Stir until melted and well combined. Transfer to a bowl, place a piece of parchment paper on the surface of the mixture and place into fridge.

Next, make the shortcake biscuits. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add the butter and mix until it resembles sand. Add the egg and milk. Mix just until combined. Grease muffin tins and fill half full. Place into hot oven and cook for 25 minutes or until lightly golden.

Add the remaining lime zest to the freshly whipped cream and begin to assemble the shortcakes. Slice the biscuits in half. Place one half on a plate. Add a generous dollop of lime curd, cover with berries and add the other half of the biscuit. Top with freshly whipped cream.