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Posts Tagged ‘Asian food’

For the past few months, I have been eating lunch Monday–Friday at the school where I teach kindergarten. The food started off mediocre and has gotten progressively worse throughout the semester. I told myself that I would only eat out once a week, in an attempt to save money. However, for someone who loves food as much as I do, having four awful meals a week just wasn’t working out.

Thankfully, I discovered a som tam lady. I have had som tam many times in Thailand so it would be more accurate to say I discovered my latest som tam lady.  While taking a short motorbike drive to grab a diet coke from the local convenience store, I spotted her. The piles of shredded papaya and limes were a dead give away.

Som tam is a classic spicy Thai salad. Unlike most western dishes, som tam’s flavors are multi-dimensional; sweet, sour, spicy and salty. The dish is made by pulverizing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. The process begins with a handful of small Thai garlic and fresh red chilies (I have to ask for, “neung prik kha”, one pepper please). Then comes the sauce: a mixture of fish sauce, palm sugar, freshly squeezed limejuice, and salt.  A large handful of shredded papaya, plum tomatoes, green long beans and peanuts mak mak (lots) are added to the mortar to finish the dish. The concoction is tossed in the sauce and served alongside sticky rice.

Som tam is a great alternative when I get to the point where I just can’t eat another rice dish. Needless to say, my som tam lady is a lifesaver, or at least my lunch saver. By now she knows to leave out the fermented shrimp and raw crab and gives me extra peanuts to compensate. Already, I have had som tam for lunch four times this week (and it is Thursday). Can you guess what my lunch will be tomorrow?

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Tonight, we headed to Malakor for dinner. This seems to be a trend when we are unsure on our dinner plans. Malakor is a very modest Thai style restaurant. There are never more than 8 diners  sitting cross-legged on the floor, and yet they serve the best Thai food in Ayutthaya. Malakor was our first meal in Ayutthaya and has been a weekly occurrence ever since.

One dish that has become a staple for me in Thailand is Pad Med Ma Muang, or Stir-fry chicken with cashew nuts. It seems that the more I order the dish, the better it is. Either each restaurant I go to makes it better than the last, or I just cannot go a week without the combination of warm crunchy cashew nuts with caramelized onions. I’m going to go with the latter.

Malakor’s take on the dish uses dried red chilies instead of fresh, giving the dish a smoky flavor. The stir-fry also includes sweet green peppers (similar to banana peppers), carrots, green onion, baby corn, and local mushrooms. Ma Muang, meaning mango in Thai, could be one of the reasons the sauce is so flavorful, but with the communication barrier, I am not even sure if mango is used. Even if can’t figure out the exact ingredients, mai bpen rai, I know my fix is just a five minute motorbike away.

I am aware that my blog must look like an advertisement for Malakor, but if you ever find yourself in Ayutthaya, it would be worth it to eat multiple meals in this hole-in-the-wall spot.

I am the opposite of a picky eater. I’m no Andrew Zimmern, but I’ll basically try anything. Soup, however, has just never been my cup of tea. I like foods with multiple textures and soup tends to get boring. Or so I thought until I had my first bowl of Tom Kha at Malakor.

On our first trip to Malakor, Sean and I split Tom Kha and another main dish. By the time the second course came out, we had both our spoons in the Tom Kha bowl, fighting over the last few sips. We were more than tempted to order a second bowl.

Tom Kha is a coconut milk-based soup and has similar flavors to Tom Yum (a popular spicy Thai soup). The coconut milk is slowly cooked with large pieces of galangal (Thai ginger), lemongrass, red chilies and bay leaves. The mushroom, tomato, onion and shrimp are added with a few minutes left to cook, allowing the liquid to reduce and for the flavors to come alive.

Another Malakor crowd favorite: red curry with shrimp (featured below).

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