Spicy Thai Salad with Minced Pork (Larb) Recipe from Everyday Thai Cooking

The first time I had Thai food was in Thailand.
That seems a little strange to me considering I was 30 years old. (I actually celebrated my 30th in Thailand. Great birthday.) Most people would probably also try a few of the dishes that hail from the country they are about to spend a few weeks exploring, but not me.
It was more of an access issue than anything else. There wasn’t much Thai food in central Kentucky the few years before that, and I also wasn’t an adventurous eater. I was more of a count your calories, eat whole grains and enjoy your fat-free yogurt kind of eater. (I know. I shutter when I think about it, too.) Then we moved to Brazil and there was good food, but no Thai.
So I learned about Thai food, including the infamous Pad Thai, in its home. That is not a bad situation to be in. Although it will leave you constantly comparing every dish you have after that to your original experience. For that reason, even though we took a cooking class while there, I haven’t made much Thai food at home. I play with Pad Thai and curry, but that is about it.
I think that is soon going to change. See, now I have this wonderful cookbook called Everyday Thai Cooking, Quick and Easy Family Style Recipes by Katie Chin. Just flipping through its pages, I feel empowered to bring Thai into my kitchen.
In addition to gorgeous food photography (and scenic photos from Thailand that make me want to go back), the book starts with three sections that I love to see in a cookbook – techniques, ingredients and the basics (all those pastes and sauces that make Thai food so amazing.) Trust me, this section will have you feeling empowered, too.
The book is split into appetizers, soups and salads, entrees based on the meat selection (and vegetarian), followed up by a hefty dessert section. Some things I have on my list include Fragrant Coconut Fish in Banana Leaves, Thai Garlicky Eggplant and Coconut Thai Basil Ice Cream. It’s page after page of both familiar and different Thai recipes that are simply explained for the home cook. 
 
The Spicy Thai Salad with Minced Pork is what caught my eye when I first flipped through the book. It is light and healthy with all the familiar flavors of Thai cuisine. Katie and the publishers graciously gave me permission to share this delicious recipe with you.
The thing I found most interesting about this dish was the roasted rice powder. I’m now going to be making this nutty, slightly crunchy powder to top other dishes. It adds a special touch. You’ll love this recipe. It’s all the tease you’ll need to get your hands on a copy of the book. 

Spicy Thai Salad with Minced Pork (Larb)

©Katie Chin 2013. Reprinted with permission from Tuttle Publishing
Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal or for lunch
Preparation time: 20 minutes + cooling time
Cooking time: 30 minutes
1 tablespoon long-grain rice
1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small shallot, finely sliced
1 teaspoon minced lemongrass
1 fresh hot red or green chili, preferably Thai (deseeded if you prefer less heat)
½ lb (250 g) ground pork
3 tablespoons Basic Chicken Stock or store-bought
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
4 cups (350 g) mixed baby greens
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
½ cup (52 g) peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
12–14 fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Thai or Italian basil
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish
Mint leaves for garnish
Lime wedges
Make the roasted rice powder: Heat the rice in a small dry skillet over medium heat, stirring and tossing for 3–4 minutes, until it turns golden brown. Transfer to a small plate and allow to cool. Use a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder and grind the rice into a coarse powder.
Heat the oil in a wok or skillet on medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and chili; stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry, while breaking it up with a wooden spoon until cooked through, about 5–6 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock, fish sauce, lime juice, and palm sugar and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the rice powder, baby greens, mint leaves, fresh coriander leaves, basil, and red onions. Add the warm pork mixture and toss with the greens. Sprinkle crushed peanuts on top. Garnish with fresh coriander and mint leaves. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
COOK’S NOTE: Feel free to substitute the fish sauce with soy sauce, the pork with soy protein crumbles and the chicken stock with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version of this salad.
Disclosure:  This book was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and I received no compensation for doing so.

Spicy Pickled Long Beans Recipe

 

I see them on every menu. On the appetizer page for restaurants that proudly serve housemade specialties. On the snack menus of every pub that serves craft beer. And as a half price small plate at happy hour.

Pickled vegetables.

In case you missed it, they are all the rage. I have to say that I’m fully embracing the trend. I absolutely love pickled foods.

I finally tried pickled ginger a few weeks ago because I had a great cookbook to review. But experimenting with other pickled veggies is something I just couldn’t seem to get around to.

I’d buy a head of cauliflower or some carrots and I’d think — I should try pickling those. It happened over and over again and each time I’d end up using the vegetables for something else.

It wasn’t until I picked up a pound of long beans from the Farmer’s Market that I finally found my motivation to get pickling.

I associate long beans with Asian food (as I think most others do, too). More specifically, I associate them with Thai food because the first time I ever used them was in the green papaya salad we made while taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai.

I’m not that big of a fan of green beans, and since long beans are similar, I haven’t branched out to buy any since that class.

But as you know, I’ve been jumping in head first with buying new and different ingredients in the East Bay. So after seeing piles and piles of them on tables at the market for the outrageous price of $1 per pound, I grabbed some.

That was sarcasm, by the way. There are few vegetables that are not worth $1 per pound to me. You wave a sign saying that over produce and I’ll buy just about anything.

So after the long beans sat in the fridge for a few days a familiar thought popped in my head — I should pickle those. This time I followed through.

I am so glad I did. They turned out so well! We finished an entire jar the second I opened them! Knowing the season is quickly coming to an end, I bought 3 pounds last Friday to make a few more jars to enjoy later in the year.

I used a modified version of Marisa McClellan’s (Food in Jars) recipe that was featured on Serious Eats. She recommends water bath processing the beans to soften their slightly tough exterior. The texture was perfect and I love that this makes them more shelf stable as well.

I modified the recipe by using ginger and a Thai chile as seasoning. The Thai chile was what made them. They were spicy and tangy at the same time. I knew I would want smaller pieces of the bean so I went ahead and cut them into small pieces before I packed them.

We’ve eaten them straight out of the jar and I’ve also been chopping them up to eat over Asian noodle dishes. It’s going to take some serious self control not to finish all the jars in a few weeks!

Spicy Pickled Long Beans

Modified from Pickled Chinese Long Beans by Marisa McClellan

Makes: 2 pint jars

1 lb. Chinese long beans (green or purple), cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4, ¼ to ½  inch pieces fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 Thai chiles
2 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cups water
2 tbsp pickling salt

Pack the long beans into each of two sterilized pint jars. Add two cloves of garlic, two pieces of ginger, and ½ teaspoon of peppercorns to each jar. Cut a slit in the side of each of the chiles and place one in each jar.

Bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Pour half of the hot brine into each of the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp towel. Seal with a new lid and a band. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove from the water bath and set jars on a cooling rack. After one hour, check to make sure the jars have sealed. Let rest for 12 hours before labeling and storing. Let sit for at least 2 weeks before eating.

If you need help with safe canning practices, please check out the resources from National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia.

Shrimp and Asparagus with Coconut Sticky Rice

I didn’t know sticky rice existed until 2009. Even after I discovered it in Thailand, we got back to Kentucky and I couldn’t find it anywhere. When I did finally locate it, first in Chicago, then eventually in Lexington, I went a little overboard. Looking back I think I was making up for lost time since I spent the majority of my life without it.
There are two large bags of white sticky rice sitting in my pantry accompanied by a small bag of purple sticky rice.  My new found access has taught me that it takes two people a long time to use up that much rice.
So my thought process in meal planning tends to be – what can I make that would go with sticky rice?
This time I threw together a little stir fry using up some asparagus from the garden, some cabbage and shrimp. I recently learned that you can freeze lemongrass so I was able to preserve my last purchase before it went bad. That went into the mix as well. I love coconut sticky rice, and it is easy to get the flavor by stirring in a small amount of coconut milk before serving. 
This dinner could not be easier. Soak your rice the night before, and then let it steam while you chop everything and toss it in the wok. A bamboo steamer is ideal, but a metal vegetable steamer works fine too.

Shrimp and Asparagus with Coconut Sticky Rice

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch piece lemongrass, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp dark sesame oil
½ lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
10 to 15 shrimp, cleaned
2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 ½ cups sticky rice, steamed
3 tbsp coconut milk
Dried, unsweetened coconut for garnish
In a wok, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, lemongrass, and ginger. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the sesame oil. Add the asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the pieces begin to turn bright green. Add the shrimp and continue to cook.
When the shrimp are almost opaque add the cabbage and cook just until it wilts slightly. Add the soy sauce and toss to coat the vegetables and shrimp. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and chives. Set aside.
Gently stir the coconut milk in to the rice and divide into 2 or 3 servings. Sprinkle with the dried coconut. Serve with the shrimp and vegetables on the side. Serves 2 to 3 people.

Do you use sticky rice? I’d love to have more ideas for cooking with it. There is still a bag waiting to be used in my pantry! 

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

It all changed the night we ordered green papaya salad in Bangkok during our trip to Thailand a few years ago. Up until this dinner I had learned that when you ordered foods spicy they were served to you – tourist spicy. This means that there was barely a chili to be found in the dish. Disappointing, because while I knew I didn’t necessarily want Thai-spicy, I still like spicy food. 
That night in Bangkok my husband and I both ordered Som Tam, and I asked for it spicy. The waitress replied, “You want it spicy?” I think I remember saying – a little spicy – but looking back I’m pretty sure she didn’t hear me. 
After delivering our order I watched the waitress walk away and sit down at another table with others. Then I looked over at the bar and realized all the staff was watching us. 
Once we tasted the green papaya salad we knew why. They wanted to see our reaction. It was by far the hottest thing I have eaten. In our cooking class earlier that week, we had added about three Thai chilies to our Som Tam. I’d say there were no fewer than 10-12 in this version. 
I tried coaching my husband, telling him – You can’t stop. You have to keep eating it so you don’t feel the burn! A few bites later for me, and about a half a bite for him, we admitted defeat. When the waitress returned to the table to clear our plates, she gave a smirk and said, “It was too spicy?”
We knew then that there was a bit of a joke being played on us. We’re good sports though; glad we could give them a show. 
Fortunately this experience didn’t ruin my preference for Som Tam. It remains one of my favorite meals. I’ve always wished I could make it at home, but green papayas are non-existent around here.
Well, almost non-existent. 
I made it up to Jungle Jim’s International Market in Cincinnati this past weekend, and just about squealed out loud when I saw green papaya in the produce section. 
This is a modified version of Som Tam. To be honest, I forgot exactly what was in it and failed to pick up some long beans at the market. I also refuse to by supermarket tomatoes this time of year. So this version is without the beans, tomatoes and dried shrimp, but the flavor of the sauce with the garlic, lime and fish sauce was perfect. Even without these ingredients it still tasted just like what we had in Thailand.
This dish can be made with shredded carrot too, but it’s worth the wait if you can find a green papaya. And in those pictures, the chopsticks are just for show. This is a dish most often eaten with your hands accompanied by sticky rice. 
I still remember our cooking instructor telling us that foreigners always took too much rice and salad in their fingers when eating. “Just take a little bit,” she said. 
Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 – 2 Thai birds eye chilies, sliced
1 green papaya, peeled and shredded
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp mascavo sugar (palm sugar is used in Thailand)
¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
If you have a mortar and pestle, use it. But you can still make this if you don’t. A bowl and a heavy kitchen tool such as a meat tenderizer worked for me. 
Start by mashing the garlic and chilies together. Continue to work them until they are completely smashed and start to form a bit of a paste. Stir in the green papaya. Begin to smash it gently with the garlic and peppers to bruise it slightly.
Next add the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the peanuts, reserving a few to sprinkle on top. Serve with steamed sticky rice. Makes 3-4 servings. 
Here are some other recipes for Som Tam around the web. 

Birthdays 29, 30, 31 and 32

If you would have asked me in my early 20s where I would spend birthdays 29 through 32, I probably would have told you at home. As it turns out, I spent (and am spending) those birthdays in 4 different cities, in 3 different countries.

Today I can’t help, but look back and marvel at how incredible life is. Someone recently asked me how my expat experience changed my outlook on life. After a little thought, I came up with an abbreviated version of this.

Our whole lives people tell us to set goals and work toward them, to dream and achieve it. I fully agree with setting goals and dreams, but I also encourage people to be flexible. As much as you think you know exactly what you want out of life at this very moment, don’t forget to let life happen.

Don’t let your goals and dreams get in the way of where life wants to take you. Work with life and allow it happen to you while constantly re-evaluating those goals and dreams.

You just might find that it takes you someplace amazing, exactly where you were meant to be at any given time. Someplace like 4 birthdays spent in 4 different cities in 3 different countries…

Number 29 – My first sushi experience in Maringa-PR, Brasil

Number 30 – Hiking Ilha do Mel (Island of Honey) off the state of Parana, Brasil

Number 31 – A cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand followed by Happy Birthday sung to me in our room with a cake from those working at the hotel where we stayed.

Number 32 – Celebrating the fact that this is the first time in 3 years that I’ve been with my extended family around my birthday. Complete with a birthday week with my husband, one of my mom’s cakes, sweet potatoes from my dad’s garden, foodie gifts from my in-laws, and playtime with my pug.

Travel Secrets eBook for Charity:Water

A few months ago I participated in a game of blog tag over on The 3 Star Traveler which allowed me to share some of my best kept travel secrets. This fun project was initiated by Katie of Tripbase and after the huge response from travel bloggers it was decided that the tips would be turned into an ebook published by Tripbase and used as a way to raise money for charity.

The Travel Secrets ebooks launched today! They are full of helpful travel tips from experienced travelers and cover just about every continent around the world. My tips for the morning journey in Ubud, Bali and the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand were included in the Travel Tips book, and my tip for Ilha do Mel in Brazil is featured in the Worldwide Beaches book. However, you all might be interested to know that there is a Foodie Travel book as well!

The ebooks are free and for each download Tripbase will donate $1 to Charity:Water, an organization that works to bring freshwater wells and clean drinking water to people in developing nations. One hundred percent of public funds donated to this organization go directly to water projects.

I’m thrilled to be a part of this exciting project! Please take a moment and click on the badge below to download a Travel Secrets eBook. It costs you nothing, but a little space on your hard drive. As a result, not only will you have an excellent travel resource at your fingertips, but you will be helping to support a great cause.

I helpedpeople get clean water
led by Tripbase

Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School

As I sorted through pictures for this post, I was reminded just how much I miss the outdoor markets of other countries. While I enjoy the markets of large cities in the US with their gourmet cheeses and mixed greens displayed beautifully in a decorative crate, and the markets of small cities offering local honeys and eggs gathered that very morning, I still have not found a site here that excites me the way the markets of Brazil and Thailand do.
There is something about that rustic feel, the atmosphere that most foreigners would consider dirty with flip-flopped feet slapping through puddles as fish are cleaned, noodles are bagged, heart of palm is carved and coconut is shredded. There is nothing like finding yourself surrounded by fruits and vegetables that you’ve never seen before. You know they have to be good for you, but you haven’t the slightest idea how to eat them or how to cook them. It is my very favorite learning opportunity.
My experience with the market in Chiang Mai, Thailand all began when we were trying to decide what to do for my birthday which just happened to fall in the middle of our month long trip around Southeast Asia last October. Once I learned a little more about the cooking classes in the area, the decision was easy. We signed up for a class at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. Not just any class; it was Course 3, one that began the morning with a trip to the local market.
We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the school office where they then drove us to the market. I knew it was going to the perfect day for me as soon as we pulled up. I mean, there was a pug sitting at the market for goodness sake! Our first pug sighting of the trip!

Our guide took us to a table in the middle of the market where she began to explain the ingredients we would be using that day. It was a short session overflowing with discovery. For example, until that point we hadn’t been able to identify the flavor and smell of the Kaffir lime. Within minutes I was holding one in my hand, as well as some Thai bird, or birdseye, chiles responsible for all that heat in the curry. In addition, there was pre-made packs of lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, and palm sugar.


After the explanation, we were invited to look around the market and we took off right away. It was a small market, but the variety of foods, especially those foods that I was witnessing for the first time, was incredible. There was Thai eggplant, noodles, tofu and baskets overflowing with rice. We got a nice shot of a local chef buying some ingredients for the day. I was tempted to hop on the back of the moped he was driving and find out where his restaurant was located!


As if the morning wasn’t exciting and informational enough, we left the market to begin our efforts to become experts at cooking the foods of Thailand. We were greeted with a beautiful open air kitchen and given our own cooking station. Considering how leisurely it felt when we arrived, we weren’t at all prepared for how quickly the day would progress.


This is how it went. We were led into the class room where we watched a demo of how the dish was made. We were then instructed to go back to our cooking stations where our ingredients were set out for us. There was a little chopping involved, but not much. We quickly cooked the dish. And I mean quickly – turned up the heat, threw in the oil and ingredients, cooked it up and plated it. Then the group headed over to the dining room where we ate our dishes which were usually served with rice. We didn’t eat every course as soon as we cooked it. For a few of them, we prepared two and ate both courses together.


There was a very international crowd taking the class. There were people from France, England and Australia along with a few other places that I can’t remember now. There was a major discussion about how much garlic was going into each dish. Apparently this was overwhelming for some, which led to some giggles around the room each time the guide added garlic during the demonstrations.
Another fun part of cooking Thai food was guessing how many bird chiles to use. We asked one of our guides how many chiles he would use in a single serving dish and he said six. There were some pretty loud gasps of horror across the room, but we were up for it. We added this amount to our Papaya Salad, Som Tam. It was definitely spicy, but nothing like another papaya salad we had later in our trip. That experience is a post in and of itself.
We made a total of six dishes throughout the day. All the foods below were made by me or my husband and I’ve added a little description about each. Overall, it was an incredible experience; not only to see all the foods, but to cook with them too gave me a much better understand of Thai cuisine. The simplicity of the cooking methods makes one feel guilty for every saying you don’t have time to cook, and fresh produce has never tasted better than when prepared in a Thai dish.
Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup, Tom Kha Gai, is a combination of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chiles mushrooms, coconut water and milk. This dish ties the papaya salad for my favorite.


Red Curry with Fish, Gaeng Phed Plaa, was a traditional Thai curry with Thai eggplant and bamboo shoots. We didn’t get to make the curry paste ourselves, but it was explained to us. I prefer my curry with chicken, but this was a nice change.


One of the best things about Thai cuisine is all the produce that is used. Fruits and vegetables are everywhere, in almost every dish. So of course, we made a veggie dish, Fried Mixed Mushrooms with Baby Corn, Phad Hed Ruam Khao Pod Orn. The vegetables were great, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the sauce which combined fish, soy and oyster sauces. I’d much rather have curry.


Fried Big Noodles with Thick Sauce and Pork, Raad Nah Muu, was full of mushrooms, cauliflower and carrots. This was good, but those large, paper-thin rice noodles are interesting to cook with.


My favorite Thai dish, next to Mango Sticky Rice, is Papaya Salad, Som Tam. It combines grated green papaya with garlic, birdseye chiles, long beans, tomatoes, dried shrimp, lime, palm sugar and peanuts. It’s made with a mortar and pestle and all the delicious ingredients are slightly mashed together. Best. Salad. Ever. Although, I can live without the dried shrimp, a bit salty for me.


We made a Steamed Banana Cake, Khanom Kluay, in a banana leaf for dessert. What a delicious combo made with simple ingredients. It contains only bananas, rice and tapioca flours, sugar, coconut and coconut milk. Notice the “L” in my flag for the cake. We had to mark our cake because they were all cooked together in one steamer.


Needless to say we left the class stuffed, but as I sit here writing this I would give anything for one more bite of any of those dishes, especially the papaya salad! Now the challenge is to figure out how to get all these ingredients in Kentucky, or at least something that tastes similar.

Searching for Mango Sticky Rice

“You have to try the mango sticky rice.”
We heard this numerous times before traveling to Thailand. I knew right away that I would like. Rice turned into a dessert with fresh mangoes. What’s not to like?
What I didn’t know was how different it would be than my expectations, nor just how much I would love it. Add to that just how much we would eat of it during our time in Thailand.
Our first night in Chiang Mai, Thailand we made our way to the Sunday Night Bazaar. It was an outdoor market filled with handmade goods from the people who traveled in from surrounding villages. Along with all the incredible arts and crafts were plenty of foods.
Here are a few shots of table after table filled with noodles, dumplings and other Asian creations. They all smelled amazing!

Despite how good all this looks we didn’t eat much that night. We ended up finding a restaurant a few hours earlier for our first Thai meal of Spicy Green Papaya Salad and Green Curry which I will talk about more when I tell you about my cooking course.

Yes, I know we should have waited for the street food, but we were still very much getting our bearings for Thailand and weren’t sure what to expect at this particular market.
As we walked through the rows of food vendors it took a while to spot the Mango Sticky Rice, Kao Niow Ma-muang (I’ve seen it spelled several ways), but finally all the fresh mangos on the front of one cart gave it away.
We ordered one and the flavor experience began.


It was nothing like what I expected. Firstly, I had never had sticky rice before. My goodness I have been missing out for the past 31 years! Secondly, because the dish is often described as sticky rice pudding, I was expecting something much more like a sweet rice pudding such as what I tasted and made in Brazil.

Well, the sticky rice is just that – sticky. Yet, it remains firm and is somewhat dry, meaning it isn’t wet or pudding-like. It has the most wonderful sweet and nutty flavor. Next to it is a ripe, sweet, fresh mango cut into slices.
These are a different variety than the Palmer and Tommy mangoes I was getting in Brazil. The mangoes in Thailand are all yellow and not the red blending into green colors I was familiar with. I also thought they were a lot less fibrous. I’ve learned they are called Naam Dok Maai which means flower nectar mango.


To top off an already delicious combination, coconut milk is drizzled over the top. Then there is a sprinkle with these sweet, crunchy bits that I have recently learned are stir-fried mung beans. I noticed in the cookbook we received from our cooking course that they substituted sesame seeds. They wouldn’t be quite the same. I’d probably just leave them off all together.

We ate A LOT of mango sticky rice!


We later learned that mangoes weren’t actually in season while we were there. This didn’t surprise me because they have a very distinct season in Brazil as well. In fact, there is a huge mango tree near where we lived there. I passed it just a few days before we left and the mangoes were all over it, but still very tiny and very green. Perhaps they have similar seasons with Thailand.


Some vendors and restaurants still managed to provide it though and the mangoes were still delicious. Much better than any mango you could get in the central U.S. any time of year.

I haven’t made it myself yet, but once I get my hands on some sticky rice I will be giving it a try. Maybe even withough mango until the summer. Did I mention I love sticky rice?

I searched around for a few recipes and found some that appeared more authentic. I like to put twists on things, but for this dish I want it in the original form.

Travel Snacks

The trip seemed to pick up pace towards the end and left very little time for photo managing and post writing. Here I sit in San Francisco geared up for the Foodbuzz Fest and finding it hard to believe our Southeast Asia trip is behind us.

What an amazing trip it was. Honestly we could have not asked for anything better. We have no complaints and we had more good travel luck than I think any one person is entitled to. Flights were smooth, we have our luggage (hopefully I’m not speaking too soon as I do still have to get back to KY), and no missed reservations. Pretty incredible.

I still have so much to share with you so as I get back into a kitchen next week and return to recipes I will also be continuing recaps of our foodie adventures.

I’ve been struggling a bit with how to organize it all. I didn’t want to simply provide a number of breakdowns for each location so you’ll be finding some of our favorite meals from specific places as well as combinations of food favorites from our entire trip.

As you can imagine there was quite a bit of snacking going on. In fact, I’m so full I’m beginning to worry how much room I have for this upcoming fest. We find it very difficult not to pick up an item that looks intriguing while we are out and about. Good for interesting blog material and trying new flavors, but it felt like we didn’t stop eating the whole trip!

There were so many great snacks throughout the places we visited in Southeast Asia from breads, to desserts to drinks. Some flavors were familiar such coconut others were new to us such as red bean and black sesame.

Looking back there was only one flavor I didn’t like. Those of you that know that area of the world can probably guess what it was. Yep, Durian, but I’ll explain more about that in an upcoming post.

Here were a few of the snacks that got us through the day, as if our unbelievable meals wouldn’t have tide us over.

We loved the bread shops, especially in Hong Kong. You pick up your tray and tongs and choose until your hearts content. My favorite was the green tea bun with red bean paste, soft and sweet with only a mild beany texture. My husband’s was the peanut waffle. You just can’t go wrong with waffles regardless of what culture you are in.



I had my share of drinks that could be more accurately called meals. The ice fruit shakes in Thailand were so simple, yet so tasty. I absolutely loved the jackfruit shake – a cup full of jackfruit, ice and some sugar syrup.


A fresh mango juice with sagu, or tapioca pearls, in Hong Kong. Very similar to a bubble tea, but much thicker and more filling with chunks of mango.


A coffee drink with soy bean curds in the bottom from the weekend market/walking street in Krabi, Thailand. Again, like a bubble tea. I love those chewy bites.


Avocado Coffee at the Greenfield Bungalows in Ubud-Bail, Indonesia. Catch that? Avocado coffee. Yep, I was intrigued too. They told me it was a bit of avocado blended with coffee, slightly sweetened with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It was served cool, not exactly cold. I could get hooked on them for sure.

An item that seemed very popular in the area was squid balls and we got these at the night market/walking street in Krabi, Thailand. Basically like a baked corn fritter with pieces of squid then garnished with some sweet soy sauce and another white sauce that was like mayonnaise. These were fun to try, but not something I’d go for often.


At that same market we also picked up some steamed buns filled with a savory mix of chicken.


A real highlight was the ice cream and I think we tried it all in Singapore. I find the way they serve them on the street to be pure genius. They use two wafer cookies and slice the ice cream off in a thick rectangle. So simple, but so much better than scooped in a cone.


The first is red bean and the second, yam. Both had a flavor that I would almost assimilate with the strawberry. Kind of odd, I know, but that is what it tasted like a first bite. As different as they are from our standard ice cream flavors in the US, I found them both to my liking. You just have to get over the pieces of bean in the red bean.

We found this Azabu Sabo Hokkaido ice cream several places around Singapore. It was smooth and creamy like gelato, but in lots of traditional Asian flavors. The first wasn’t so specific to Asia I guess, but had that wonderful balance of salty and sweet – sea salt and caramel. The next day we tried the black sesame. It was nutty and sweet with a slightly grainy texture. At first I didn’t think I liked it, but it is a flavor that grows on you.

Pad Thai from the street vendors in Thailand is a snack I could eat every day for a long time before tiring of it. The noodles, sprouts and egg, not to mention the peanuts and red chili are such a delicious combination. We got this one from a cart about half way down Khao San Road in Bangkok.



Not far from that, I spotted this Roti stand and watched as the hardworking lady behind the cart rolled it out then fried it up with a very generous amount of butter. We ordered the lemon sugar and it was fantastic. Sweet and tart, it wasn’t overpowering and allowed the flavor of the bread to come through.

Thailand might be one of the best places in the world for the after midnight snack. We had the awesome experience of being shown around by some friends – expats from Australia who live and work in Bangkok. After hanging out at a street bar on Halloween night and then making a stop at the Aussie expat hangout we took a short cab ride for food. Tucked in the corner of a side street was this little place, or cart rather.

He was incredibly busy and the area was packed with locals. We enjoyed fresh noodles with pork wontons floating in a savory broth and then topped with sliced pork and crab. It was delicious, the best pork of the trip in fact. Did I mention it was a whopping $2? The price of Thai food almost makes you feel guilty for enjoying such wonderful dishes at such a low cost.


See what I mean. I’m not sure we ever stopped eating. And you would think after all that I would no longer be hungry, but just looking at these photos makes we wish we were back there enjoying it all over again.

Lunch on the Elephant Trail


Last Monday I spent my day with an elephant. It certainly isn’t something I ever imagined I would do in my life. There are lots of elephant excursions in Thailand, but this one was a bit different. My husband and I enjoyed a full day at Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand, an organization the works to prevent the extinction of the Asian elephant and also operates as a rescue for the elephants as well as breeding them to preserve their existence.

The elephant trainer for a day program involved each of us, there were 5 in our group, be assigned to one elephant for the whole day. We bathed them, fed them, swam with them and rode them bareback for almost two hours throughout the country side, up steep hills and through creek beds. Simply unbelievable.

What does this have to do with food?


Our day with the elephants included what is probably one of the tastiest, not to mention most beautiful, picnics I’ve ever had. Laid out atop a banana leaf tablecloth, along the rocky path next to the water, were all kinds of Thai foods which had been prepared for us by a woman in a nearby village.


First, each person had three portions or rice. The one on the right was savory sticky rice to eat with the crispy fried chicken show in the photos below. The middle was purple sticky rice with coconut and then sweet sticky rice with egg custard. My favorite was the purple sticky riced with it’s incredibly nutty flavor and the pieces of coconut on top.


The small round cakes included one made of coconut that was a lot like a coconut gel. The yellow one was palm cake. The small yellow blobs (for lack of a better term) were sweetened egg yolks. Such a delicious combination of ingredients. The palm cake was our favorite.



Then, of course, there was fruit, every bit as fresh and delicious as the varieties we enjoyed in Brazil. Believe it or not, this was my first opportunity to try the red/pink dragon fruit. I found it to be much more flavorful than the white variety, very sweet with seeds similar to a kiwi. Just the beautiful color alone makes it exciting to eat.


Next was a huge selection of sweets steamed in leaves. Some were very similar to the sticky rices we’d already tried. One was a steamed banana cake that I failed to get a photo of. It was brown in color and had a very dense, gel-like texture. The most interesting was the rice and red bean steamed in the bamboo with palm sugar. This dessert exists in several Asian cultures I believe, but this was my first opportunity to have it.





No need to be worried about hungry elephants. They had a nice basket of bananas and sugarcane when we first arrived. Then they got all the vegetarian leftovers from our lunch, including the banana leaf we used as a tablecloth.


And this was no zoomed picture with the camera. My husband’s elephant, Say Thong, was munching some sugar cane right next to me.

I thought I would mention that, unfortunately, I’m having some major problems with the hosting account for my new blog, The 3 Star Traveler. I’m not sure that I will have the computer time to resolve it before the trip’s end so I will be sure to continue posting here when time allows.

Also, I just want to extend a big thank you for reading. Obviously my schedule is keeping me from staying up to date with everyone’s blogs and I truly appreciate that you are still reading mine. You’ll find me commenting again in a few weeks.