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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Thai’s are not accustomed to cold weather. During the two-week “winter” in December, the temperature drops no lower than 60 degrees.

Sean and I traveled to Nan, seven hours north east of Chiang Mai, in hopes of signing up for a three day/two night trek. March and April are the hottest months in Thailand, temperatures well into the 90’s and high humidity; you can imagine why we would plan to be in the coolest part of the country.

In the late afternoon on Wednesday, Nan welcomed us with below 50 degree weather and freezing rain. We checked into a guesthouse and decided to wait out the weather, hoping to make it on a trek the next day. The freezing rain continued for three days straight, never stopping, and only getting colder. Restaurants and food stalls closed up shop. For the first two days, we  hardly left the guesthouse, spending our time playing backgammon, eating cashews, and drinking red wine.

We were starving by dinner time and decided to make one last attempt to find a real meal. We stumbled across Just Jazz, a small restaurant, no more than ten tables, with an extensive Thai and Western menu. We placed our order, curry for me and lasagna for Sean. We both could tell that this meal would help turn around our dreary days in Nan.

The food was unbelievably good. The lasagna was creamy, the cheese and béchamel sauce oozing from the layers of pasta, and the curry was homemade, thick and rich. We ended up joining a party of regulars; two brits and a guy originally from Boston. As a St. Patty’s Day celebration, one of the regulars ordered the Chef’s Gourmet Beef Burger for the group to split. It was by far the best burger I have had in Thailand. Using local beef, the chef creates a flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth patty, using almost no fat. She then top the burger with home-cured bacon, spicy pickles and melted parmesan cheese.

The five of us sat around the table for hours, sharing various dishes from the menu and drinking whiskey. One of the chef’s realized that I wasn’t drinking whiskey and brought me a complimentary glass of red wine.

In a town with few restaurants and no Western options, Just Jazz is an absolute gem. The quality of the ingredients and the time and care that goes into each dish is not something you will find anywhere else in Nan. We had such a good time that we decided to push our bus back and enjoy brunch the next morning. As it turns out, the bus was full and we ended up eating dinner there as well and sampled some of the Thai dishes. Unsurprisingly,  they were delicious!

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Last spring, Sean and I woke up Saturday morning and decided to make a not-so-typical breakfast. We headed to Treasure Island in the pouring rain, picked out our ingredients, and came home ready for a feast.  On the menu: Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pesto scrambled eggs on ciabatta.

The key to the bacon wrapped dates is to make sure your dates are not pre-pitted and big enough to stuff. I would recommend medjool dates. The first step is to slice them lengthwise until you hit the pit. Open the date, take out the pit, and spread a good amount of goat cheese into the crevice, then close the date. Wrap one piece of bacon around the date, using a toothpick to help secure the package. Cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until the bacon begins to get crispy. Take off the heat and set on a paper towel to soak up any extra bacon grease. If you want to taste test bacon wrapped dates before trying to make them on your own, check out a Spanish or tapas restaurant, they are bound to have them on the menu!

 

Now, it is time to start your scrambled eggs. In a bowl mix 4 eggs, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of cream cheese. I learned this trick from a friend’s Italian mom after having the best homemade scrambled eggs on the planet. The cream cheese helps make the eggs fluffy and creamy. Beat the mixture and add the pesto. Cook the scrambled eggs on medium heat. While eggs are cooking, cut a ciabatta bun in half, butter, and lightly toast. Now it is time to prepare the sandwich. Spread some extra pesto on one side of the bun and spoon on the scrambled eggs. I like to add a slice of ripe tomato and a few slices of avocado; Sean also likes to add another piece of bacon.  For those who like a little heat, dash a bit of Tabasco on your eggs and enjoy.

If you are getting sick of the traditional eggs and pancakes, these two recipes will makes for an upscale and delicious Sunday morning brunch.

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This post is a bit out of the ordinary for me, as the main focus is not food, but rather my lifestyle in Ayutthaya, Thailand. I have been traveling Thailand and SE Asia for six months and working as a primary English teacher for three. Working and living in a foreign country has been truly eye opening, as adapting to the local culture and way of doing business has been crucial for my success and sanity.

Here are a few of the reasons why I decided to leave Chicago and spend close to nine months traveling and teaching on the other side of the world.

Known as K 3/5 (5 and 6 year olds) at my school, here are some pictures of my favorite class. Now, as you can tell by some of their mischievous smiles, they are not the best behaved class, but they are by far the most fun!

Ekaput- He head butts me once a class, but I like to think of it as a big hug.

Modem- She is my little helper. She quiets the class for me and helps the other kids write their name in English... Love her!

 

BM- The only one of my students who can read. He is even more mischievous than he looks.

 

M.O.- She and Modem are two peas in a pod. She is obsessed with the word LOVE (as seen on her worksheet).

Nam Tan (Thai for sugar)- She always has a new and improved hairdo.

Here are some of my other students, ranging in age from K2 (4 and 5 year olds) to P1 (1st graders).

 

 


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Before moving to Thailand, I considered myself a curry lover, and still do. I grew up eating Panang curry at home and love every variation of this Indian delicacy. Back home I head to Mt. Everest in Evanston with my family to indulge in Indian food. Even though I smell like an Indian restaurant for days it is worth it every time.

It is undeniable that Kaeng khiao wan (literally translated to sweet green curry) is a staple at every Thai restaurant and green curry paste is as prevalent in the market as fresh coconuts. The first time I tried green curry I was surprised by the sweetness of the sauce. Something was not right. How could I not like a dish made with Keffir lime leaves, coconut milk and Thai basil?

The only conclusion I made is that I am not a fan of Thai eggplant and pea aubergine (I will admit, I was not familiar with this vegetable the first time I tried it). Both vegetables are slightly bitter and when cooked keep their coarse, crunchy texture. I guess I am used to eggplant that melts in your mouth.

Even though I don’t love green curry, the entire country of Thailand swears by it. So, if you have a fantastic recipe for green curry, send it my way, I will always give something another try. Or better yet, next time you’re out for Thai, order the green curry and make your own conclusions about this famous Thai dish!

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Railroad Market

One of the highlights of my parents visit was the railway market, located about 70 km outside Bangkok. It would be a lie to say that I was overly excited to visit a market. Sean and I go to the Ayutthaya market at least once a week to buy our cooking ingredients, so my initial feeling was “been there, done that”.

Every morning, vegetable, fruit, meat and fish vendors set up  shop, flanking the sides of a popular railroad track. The market begins in the early morning and continues until about noon (give or take an hour or two- Thai time). Sometime around 9am, the vendors hear the roaring sounds of the incoming train and quickly roll their stalls no more than three feet away from the tracks, leaving inches between their produce and the rushing train. After the train passes, the stalls are put back into place, and the shopping continues.

We left the hotel at 7am sharp, all four of us piling into a minivan that would normally carry 15-20 Thais. We arrived at the market and Nang, our Thai guide, led us through the various stalls, helping us decipher between pig stomach and intestines. We made our way to the railroad. The only place to walk is on the actual railroad track, so you can imagine how crowded the small passageway was. Thai’s were everywhere; fighting to get the still flopping red snapper they had their eye on before the person behind them.

This market had everything you could imagine, and a lot that you would not want to think about.  We were a bit unlucky, there was flooding and the daily train had been cancelled that day- but the site of this controlled chaos made me realize how crazy and backwards this country can be, and made my parents realize how lucky they are to have Grand Foods Grocery just a few blocks away.

Here are some pictures from the market. Enjoy!

A HUGE piece of swordfish

Thai Eggplant


 

 

 

Fresh Catfish

Pumpkin

 

 

 

 

Railroad Market

Thai Vegetables

Pig Stomach

Blue Crab

Red Snapper and Sea Bass

Scallops

 

Thai Green Mussels

Fish Roe

Fermented Shrimp and Shrimp Paste

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