15 January 2011


While walking through the neighborhood this morning, I picked up two bags of cotton candy for 20 baht each and threw them into my Whole Foods sack. Sweet irony.

And, while we're on the subject of cotton candy... One thing I love about interacting with the expat population occurs in the moments that require a pause in conversation. The moments, that although a friend and I are both speaking English, we don't understand what the other is saying. Such moments have occurred regularly over the communication of 'cotton candy'. Apparently, the sweet (fave of mine!) confection goes by the terms 'fairy floss' and 'candy floss' as well! Who knew?!

After throwing the fairy floss (forget cotton candy... I'm loving the new term!) in my bag, he and I continued on to discover a few treasures and partake in the atmosphere of the giant outdoor extravaganza. My seven-week-old enjoyed his third trip to Chatuchak's Weekend Market this morning. I carry him everywhere in a baby sling and his usual habit is to nestle in and fall deep asleep. So, per usual, he slept for the entire (short) commute on the skytrain. As we zipped into our destination's station, he woke. Honestly, my first thought was not and excited 'He can enjoy the market with me now!' Instead, I thought 'Bummer-- this is not going to be easy! He's going to want to do the things newborns like to do when they are not sleeping... eat, diaper change, eat, diaper change, and repeat, repeat, repeat.' But, he popped those little eyes wide open, grabbed hold of the sling material and wrapped it a bit tighter around his face. Then, proceeded to enjoy the sights and sounds of Chatuchak with me. In fact, he politely peered from the folds of material at every person who acknowledged him and even carried on in a few newborn squawks as he watched a vendor string twinkle lights in front of his face. I smiled, wandered the market and chatted with my slinged companion for the duration of the trip. Sweet moments.

After Chatuchak, it was lunch time and I was anxious to get home to spend the afternoon with my other kids. So, I stopped by a Pad Thai stand on a street near our home. I had never taken the time to stop at this particular stand before. It's usually packed around the lunch hour and I got lucky with a very short line. The vendor was so enthusiastic that there was a baby to stare at. She made the noodles to order and was happy to allow me to watch closely. In contrast to the other versions of Pad Thai I've eaten before, this one prominently featured caramelized onions, creating a very unique taste. Sweet mouthful.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no.
Sweet Street Pad Thai
The trick, as I learned from my mini street side cooking lesson today, to this version of Pad Thai is to slice everything to mimic the shape of the noodles. This version has a very unique sweet flavor-- thanks in large part to the generous amount of caramelized onions, the addition of toasted coconut and a sprinkling of brown sugar. 

Rice noodles, about 8 ounces
1 tablespoon veggie oil
2 onions
A pitcher of water
1/2 of a carrot, cut into match sticks
1/2 block of firm tofu, cut into match sticks
1/4 cup lightly toasted coconut
1 hand full of cilantro
4 green onions
1 cup of bean sprouts
5 tablespoons ketchup
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons brown sugar
crushed red chili pepper, as desired

In a large mixing bowl, submerge the noodles in warm water. Set aside.

Peel the onions. Cut them in half and then chop finely into strips. In a wok, heat the veggie oil and add the onions. Keep the pitcher of water nearby. As the onions cook, add a bit of water and allow to evaporate. Continue this way and cook the onions until they are a dark rich caramel color. Add approximately 1/2 cup of water and add the tofu, ketchup, soy sauce, black pepper and a bit of chili pepper if desired. Toss the tofu and cook for approximately 2 minutes. Add the carrots. Drain the noodles, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the noodles to the wok. Toss to coat and add a cup of cooking liquid at a time. Allow the liquid to coat the noodles and evaporate before adding more. The noodles should be al dente. When the noodles are the desired texture, add the sugar, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro and coconut. Toss to coat. Add more red chili peppers as desired.

11 January 2011

Traumatic confessions

I am finally going to confess. It has been two and a half years since 'the incident.' I thought I had buried the memory deep in my subconscious until a traumatic moment of three days ago sent it soaring back to the forefront of my brain.

Let's go back to July of 2008. We had been in Bangkok for just a couple of days, suffering through the worst jet lag of my life. We were in our new, unfamiliar home that felt cavernous and echo-ey. All of our possessions were on a boat somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. We had two kids (2 and 4 at the time) waking at odd hours of the night, falling asleep at inconvenient times (Ever tried carrying a child on your back while navigating Bangkok's skytrain for the first time? I don't advise it.). I was overwhelmed with the heat and really wishing we had crammed more toys in our few suitcases. And, my eyes were blazing with the wonderful sights, sounds and scents that we spent our early days seeing, hearing and smelling. I was simultaneously exhausted and falling in love with our new home. So, just remember all of that when I finally bring myself to confess. (Yes, these are excuses and I am attempting to sway your understanding when I reveal my confession).

Here goes. Confession.

9 o'clock at night. I walked into our kitchen. A small gecko (even small in size by gecko standards) ran across the kitchen floor. I started hyperventilating. I shook. And, then, I cried. (And, while I'm embarrassing myself, let us go a true step further. I cried those ugly sobbing 'what-have-I-gotten-myself-into' tears.) Oh, the relief of finally putting it in writing. Confession over.

Fast forward to three days ago. 9 o'clock at night. Needing some clean diapers for our 6-week-old son, I walked out to our back balcony to check on the laundry. Three steps outside and I felt a sharp, clinging sensation on my bare forearm. A large gecko (large by gecko standards) fell from the ceiling onto my arm. All in one move, I looked, inhaled sharply and brushed the creature rapidly off my arm. I picked up the freshly laundered diapers and smiled (side note: Let's be brutally honest. It wasn't a content, 'wow-look-how-well-I-handled-that' smile. It was more a demented 'oh-I-just-survived-a-nightmare' smile.) No hyperventilating. No tears.

Look how far I've come.

07 January 2011

In the land of smiles

Little moments in life this week that made me smile...

1: Krispy Kreme opened their first Thailand-based store in September. It's now January and Krispy Kreme fanaticism is going strong. Located at Siam Paragon, the luxury shopping complex in the center of the city, the lines still wind and snake in a maze of people before extending outside. I sat at a nearby Starbucks recently and watched as people gratefully 'made it' to the portion of the line where they could enter the air conditioning. Once at the counter, several dozen donuts were purchased by each person. My husband recently saw the 'Krispy Kreme' stand across the street from Siam Paragon-- an enterprising Thai vendor reselling donuts he had previously stood in line for. Watching the length of the lines at Siam Paragon, I'm sure his venture is a money maker!

2: I took my newborn in for his 6 week check-up (the first official appointment since we left the hospital after his birth). He's doing really well, with the exception that he has the same severe dry, chapped, irritated skin that his older brother and sister had as newborns. So, when the doctor offered a solution to the problem,  I was more than happy to listen. She began by saying, "I prefer a very natural approach." My eyes lit up and I thought, "Hooray! Someone on the same wave length as me. Natural. YES!!!!" and did a quick little mental dance for joy over the fact that in prescription-drug-crazed-Bangkok, a doctor might actually support my natural method desires. She then proceeded to lay a thick layer of petroleum jelly over his face(!).

3: New Year's is a BIG deal in Bangkok, with neighbors, friends, familiar faces wishing each other a Happy New Year (or 'Sawadee Pi Mai') upon seeing each other for the first several times after the New Year begins. And, part of the tradition is to purchase and give out New Year's baskets for those in your life. I recently walked into a doctor's appointment to see my doctor's office filled with baskets (and by filled, I mean, stacked one on top of another, covering the floor space-- I had to walk around baskets in order to sit at her desk!). Patients came in to interrupt doctors between their appointments to drop off baskets filled fruit, jams, coffees and candies. DANG! I should have thought to bring a basket!

4: So, in line with observation number three... perhaps the funnier thing is what is contained in the baskets. Sure, there are fruit baskets, but the majority sold at the grocery stores are filled with random, disconnected imported items. How 'bout a basket brimming with instant coffee, laundry detergent, Pringles and panko bread crumbs? Oh, and did I mention, said baskets are ridiculously expensive!

5: Pringles. This country seems to be in love with them lately. And, Pringles has responded with a trillion (okay, I'm exaggerating...) new flavor choices. Crispy shrimp anyone? Hazelnut and blueberry sound like a yummy chip combination? Nori seaweed float your boat? Just a few of the many offerings available on your nearest Bangkok grocer's shelves.