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.


  1. You make me want to fly there immediately, although I'm not sure about the bamboo salad. However, I'll keep an open mind!

  2. That bathroom sign is so funny! Great blog!

  3. Sigh. You are making me miss Bangkok even though it's been less than a year since we were last there. There's something that just keeps bringing me back.
    Love that sign.
    Next time I see fresh bamboo in my local asian market I'm going to buy some and try this salad!

  4. a mini godzilla which screams "i love pad thai" ... seriously?! hillarious!

  5. You write about the things that the average tourist would miss and the average expat wouldn't care to look for. I'm not sure how you do it, but your reporting is genius. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I love your blog!


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