|A steaming bowl of tart Tom Yum Soup!|
As we’ve traveled from country to country, eating local foods is always a large part of our experience. But I can’t say we’ve looked forward to each culinary culture, particularly the fruit-bat-on-a-stick available in the Papua New Guinea markets. However, each one of us are emphatic Thai food fans. Ever since finding our favorite Thai restaurant in Denver (Thai Flavor off Mississippi Blvd in Aurora) we have been expanding our Thai palates and could not wait to actually eat Thai food in Thailand!!
During our time here, the kids have become Pad Thai conisseurs while Mark and I have tried a few new dishes and delighted in our old favorites. I think our first learned Thai words must’ve been menu-related! (kai = chicken, moo = pork) Prices for local food vary widely based on where we are. In tourist areas, you pay tourist prices generally, unless you can find that little stall in an alleyway where the fishermen eat! Luckily, our guts survived the local fare and we made it through three months trouble-free! Phew!
|Mark and the kids enjoying good food and even better company with our friends on SV Perry|
Phuket Night Market: A Streetful of Flavors
One of our most memorable foodie experiences was the night market in Old Phuket Town. The street is shut down and hundreds of tables are set up, creating a variety of food stalls - dumplings, korean bbq, papaya salad, satay, curries, vietnamese sausages, smoked bacon, pad thai, fish soup, fried chicken, coconut bread, donuts, and a thousand other things to try. Crowds carried us along as we nabbed a little bit of anything that looked tasty and watched as the street chefs whipped up their specialties in minutes. Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, of course, and we left over-stuffed and happy. For the first time in a long time we are eating out more than we’re eating in, and I think we might be SAVING money!
It’s no wonder that the food is so delicious in Thailand. The variety of fresh produce available in the markets here is astounding. We haven’t seen this availabiity of fruits and veggies since New Zealand! It is hard for me to go to the huge fresh markets and supermarkets, though, and not overbuy! Fresh herbs, zucchini, and even brocolli! Oh my!
During one of our island excursions in Phang Nga Bay, some fishermen came by holding up a handful of fresh shrimp. We had guests aboard, and I figured it would be a fun experience for them to eat local shrimp and see how we communicate with just a smidge of the local language. After much charading and finally some writing down of numbers, we had bought about 15 fresh Thai shrimp. Now we just had to figure out how to prepare and cook it! I knew just the thing I needed, my Boat Galley cookbook! Sure enough, a quick look in the index led me to a page of instructions on how to ‘de-head’ and cook fresh shrimp!
We sat out on the stern steps with our bowl of googly-eyed critters and began the somewhat gruesome task of twisting and pulling the heads off. Then we peeled them and attempted to de-vein them without making too big of a mess. Into a bowl they went along with some olive oil and a few sprinkles of my treasured Goya brand ’Adobo’ seasoning, then popped on the grill for a few minutes each side and - Voila! Instant appetizers! Thanks Boat Galley!
|Mark grillin' fresh shrimp-on-a-stick!|
All this eating required something to wash it down, and even in the drinks department, Thailand impressed us. Usually, with meals, we’d simply order a soda water, but in between meals, we found that drinks in Thailand made great snacks that would tide us over ’til our next chow session. It has been said that you must be very careful when dealing with iced drinks in SE Asia. Again, we escaped unscathed somehow. Maybe our travels have built up inpenetrable bellies of stone! Who knows. The insider tip we received at one restaurant was to make sure to only ingest the ice that was tube-shaped. This has been specifically processed for consumption. Any other type of ice will be an intestinal risk. That being said, I always sipped more confidently when tubular ice was floating in my glass, but it wasn’t always available and we drank anyway. Two drinks stick out in my mind as I think back on our time there - thai iced bubble tea and fresh fruit slushes (called ‘shakes’ locally).
|Ah - the spicy, sweet globular goodness of Thai Iced Tea|
I hope that you have had the pleasure to drink a glass of creamy thai iced tea at some point in your life. If you haven’t, find your local Thai restaurant on Google maps right now and get one. I can’t describe the taste and haven’t a clue what tea leaf they use, but it is divine. (A quick google search told me it is black tea infused with star anise and clove) Along the roadsides in Thailand, stands are set up to serve out the bright orange-colored refreshment, sometimes even with bubbles! Now, if you’ve been to a Smart Cow or other self-serve yogurt place, you might have seen these perfectly round, marble-sized gelatinous bubbles (usually in some neon pink hue). Have you tried one? They’re made of tapioca and don’t really taste like anything, but they do add an interesting texture to the iced tea. The straws they serve with this drink are not your average straws either. They’re wider in diameter so that the bubbles can slide up one at a time to surprise you while you’re drinking! Due to the tapioca bubbles and the rich condensed milk that is added, I find it too rich and filling to have WITH a meal, but it makes a perfect midday snack when the tropical heat has nearly knocked me over.
|Our favorite shake stand in Naiharn Bay near Phuket!|
Another icy drink we discovered was the fruit shake. Don’t get too excited, there’s no ice cream to make this the shake of American standards. Instead, it is simply a flurry of ice, sugar, and fresh fruit. We decided that watermelon and passion fruit were the two best kinds, but mango and lime come in as a close third and fourth. Again, we’d happen upon these shake stands when walking to the grocery store or along crowded tourist beaches in the afternoons and just couldn’t resist! We enjoyed them so much, in fact, that we were inspired to pull our Vitamix from the cupboard, use precious battery power to fire up the blender and icemaker, and make them ourselves! Often, we omit the sugar altogether, but the results when using Thailand’s tropical fruits are almost just as sweet!
|Watermelon, Mango, and Passion Fruit! Our top three!|
With all the fantastic foods and drinks to enjoy in Thailand, I’m not sure we’ll ever want to leave! And I surely will find it hard to get back into cooking in the galley again! Anyone up for some take out??
|More Night Market goodies!|