Thai green curry

While I was in the middle of writing about the best vegetarian green curry of all time, Alex and I boarded a plane and then a ferry, trading Bangkok for Koh Phi Phi.

In Koh Phi Phi, my blog plans were thwarted.  Our hotel didn’t really have internet.  So, we focused on SCUBA diving, hiking  and a bit of lounging on the beach…

One of the fun things about going to the beach in Thailand is that the beach-side restaurants sell Thai food (shocker!).  After a snorkel, we’d crawl out of the water, land on some chairs in the sand, and order up soups and curries. Continue reading

Thai spring roll wrappers

Back at home, Alex and I go out for Thai food pretty regularly. We don’t order spring rolls as often, but when we do, they’ve always come in a thin, transparent rice wrapper. Yesterday I learned that the rice wrapper is a Vietnamese-style spring roll and Thais traditionally use a wheat-based wrapper. Who knew?

Our first order of business in cooking school was to stop by the local store that makes spring roll wrappers for all the neighboring restaurants. Actually, “store” is a bit of an overstatement. It’s a one-woman show that includes a big vat of a flour-water-salt dough mixture and a heavy cast-iron griddle over propane. She steadily cranks out spring roll wrappers from sun up until sun down to meet the local demand. I really like this short video Alex took of the action (I couldn’t sit in that position all day…and I would definitely burn myself!):

Our incredible instructor, May, wrapped spun sugar in the still-warm , crepe-like wrappers and passed them around for us to munch on.

Alex and I debated whether or not the wheat ones are better than the rice wrappers. He prefers them. I like them better for sweet dishes (like, with bananas), but I think I prefer the rice wrappers for spring rolls. One thing that’s nice about the wheat wrappers, though, is that when they’re fresh they’re very easy to work with.

Regardless, it was fun to learn about a new type of spring roll and see them being made! The outside of the shop is so understated that I would have never wandered in on my own. It was fantastic that May brought us by. Loved cooking school so much — more tomorrow!

Tropical fruit

During the day, it’s about 90 degrees and 90% humidity in Bangkok. While loads of Thai people seem comfortable lounging around in jeans (I’ve even seen a few sweatshirts), Alex and I are wilting. I think it’s going to be a little while longer until we get used to the steam room-esque conditions.

In the mean time, as we wander the streets we’ve been stopping by fruit vendors and juice shops to keep us going. The array of fruit is amazing! There are plenty of fruits that we’re accustomed to seeing (mango, pineapple and carrots) and some that I’ve seen a few times before (dragonfruit, mangosteen and rambutan — Trader Joe’s carried those last two dried). But, there are some that are new to me, like the green one below.

The guy selling the green fruit told me it’s called something like wu wu. We haven’t tried it yet, but it looks like we’re going to have to pick up a bunch of these different fruits and cut into them before the trip is over. I’m so intrigued!

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From Tennessee to Bangkok (via Beijing)

Bubbling over with inspiration after our trip to Blackberry Farm, not only did I order their cookbook, but I ordered two others:  Good to the Grain (which just got a Beard award) and Plenty.  Cookbook shopping spree!  For weeks now, all I’ve been doing is thinking about cooking.  Why?  Probably because I haven’t gotten to spend much time in the kitchen over the last couple months.

But, beyond it being a little excessive to order three cookbooks at once, it was especially ridiculous because I’m not going to be able to use them for a while.  As soon as those cookbooks came in the mail, Alex and I jumped on a plane.

And we landed in Bangkok (after a quick stopover in Beijing)!  We ate banana pancakes for breakfast and are off for a walk soon.  We’re going to be in Thailand and Laos (possibly Cambodia — our plans are really loose) for the next three and a half weeks.

So, I wanted to let you know that while we’re traveling, I’m going to try to do frequent, short posts with pictures of some of the food and markets we see along the way.  I’m hoping we’ll go to cooking school, too, and I’ll have some recipes to share.  When we get back in June, I’ll spend a lot of time in the kitchen and we’ll make loads of amazing meals from the new cookbooks, old cookbooks and inspiration in-between.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy traveling and eating around Southeast Asia with us.  If you’d rather read recipes, though, we’ll be back to more of that in June.

And we’re off!

A weekend at Blackberry Farm

Last weekend, two close friends got married in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  The wedding was gorgeous, but we were also so, so lucky to have a chance to spend the weekend relaxing and eating at their wedding venue, Blackberry Farm.

Blackberry Farm is an exquisitely run Relais & Chateau hotel known for their food.  They have a strong farm-to-table ethic and  grow a good amount of their produce on site.  They also have chickens and a dairy.  Most everything served was in season and, if not from the farm, locally sourced.  The nicest thing, though, was that Blackberry Farm never hit us over the head with their approach.  On the menus I never read any words like house-made or foraged.  Instead everything was just fresh and brilliant tasting.

So, we ate.  We ate and ate and ate – formal dinners and casual BBQ lunches.  And we loved every minute of it.

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Cheladas

Cheladas are the best non-margarita Cinco de Mayo drink. Without a doubt. They’re super easy, cheap and fun.

What is a chelada? Well, there’s not one answer. At its simplest, a chelada is beer mixed with lime juice, served over ice with a salted rim. But, I’ve asked a few Mexican friends and it seems that the contents of a chelada are very regional. In some places, a chelada also has tomato juice, Worstershire or hot sauce. In other places, the term michelada is reserved for the hot sauce version and chelada refers to the lime-only version. Regardless, in Mexico, cheladas and micheladas are very common. As far as I know, though, they haven’t really caught on in the States (minus the Budwieser michelada-type clamato drink). And they should!

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Rhubarb ice cream

I went to the farmer’s market yesterday morning hell-bent on finding some rhubarb.  At the grocery store I’ve only seen pitiful little green stems from Oregon and Washington (where they’re apparently grown in a hot house), but it’s Spring and it’s rhubarb time!  Right?  I thought so, until I tore around the farmer’s market and couldn’t find any.  I finally gave up my rhubarb jam aspirations for the week and went about buying some other fruits and veggies (including a full flat of strawberries!).  Then, lo and behold, behind some chard I spied two beaten up, squat little stalks of pink rhubarb.  It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for (I was picturing bushels of long and perky stalks), but it was my very first rhubarb of the season.  Yay!

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