Archive for the 'Bangkok' Category

Vegetation Profile: Marian Plum

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The Marian Plum or Map-Rang is a cousin of the mango in miniature. Marian Plums ripen in March to May. It has an oval shape, with green skin, and ripen to a bright yellow or orange skin. Mak Phang has two species: sweet and sour. Sweet Mak Phang is eaten when ripe, while sour Ma Phang is used for making chili dip or eaten with a sweet-and-salty sauce.

My traveling companions and I enjoyed the sweet variety of marian plums during our recent trip to Bangkok. We purchased half a kilogram for 60 baht, which is quite pricey by South East Asian standards. Just like its cousin the mango, the fruit contains an almond-shaped seed and is simultaneously sweet and sour. Unlike the mango, the fruit’s outer skin is edible.

My favorite characteristic of the marian plum is its incredibly taut skin. The feeling of my teeth piercing through the peel to reach the fruit’s flesh was unlike any other fruit I’ve eaten.

Eating in Bangkok V

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We only had a few hours in Bangkok before flying back to Saigon on our final day. The Astronomer and I skipped out on our usual morning run to maximize the short time we had left in the city. We enjoyed the hostel’s complimentary breakfast of bread and fruit before heading out to Sukhumvit and Central World for the last time.

A couple paces from our hostel, I saw a man selling sticky rice from the back of his bike.

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The grilled bamboo sticky rice came in two varieties—black bean and plain. I purchased one of each for 10 baht and ate them while we walked. Unlike the ones I ate in Siem Reap where the bamboo served as a container and utensil, the vendor removed the exterior from these. The sticky rice with black beans was the softest and most tender sticky rice I have ever eaten.

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The Astronomer couldn’t pass up the opportunity to indulge in some deep-fried corn fritters and egg rolls and bought one of each (10 baht). He said that the egg roll paled in comparison to cha gio, but the corn fritter was a fine treat.

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These sauces and fixins came with the egg roll and corn fritter.

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I couldn’t leave Bangkok without one last Thai iced tea (12 baht). Even in a touristy part of town, I encountered difficulties with not knowing the language. The vendor had a hard time understanding what I wanted, but with some persistence and creativity, I received the desired product. The tea was creamy, sweet and washed down the sticky rice nicely.

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Liana couldn’t leave Bangkok without two more meats on a stick. And yes, that is a hat made from old 333 beer cans she’s sporting.

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Perhaps the most ubiquitous street food sold in Bangkok is freshly squeezed orange juice. It seemed like every other vendor was hawking OJ during our stay. The Astronomer decided that we had to taste Bangkok orange juice (20 baht) at least once before leaving the city. Accustomed to Bangkok’s tooth achingly sweet beverages, I found the juice rather sour, but it’s probably because my taste buds were warped at this point.

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Nearing the original Central, The Astronomer and Lush each procured a swan-shaped cream puff (3 baht). These ridiculously adorable puffs tasted just like banh kem su back in Saigon, which the French introduced during colonization. I wonder who introduced the cream puff to Thailand…

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By the time we reached the food court at Central World, The Astronomer and I had reached our early morning food limit. Lush, on the other hand, was game for some Hainese chicken rice (40 baht). She said that the chicken rice was better than the one we ate at The Red Dot earlier that week. I was impressed by the variety of sauces available.

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From Central World, we boarded the sky train to our hostel to grab our luggage and to catch our flight. In the sky train station, we purchased a sesame salt waffle (18 baht) and an almond waffle (18 baht). We fell in love with these crisp, yet flaky treats during our stay in Bangkok and it was a wonderful final bite.

Whatta trip.

Eating in Bangkok IV

Unlike our previous days in Bangkok, we didn’t have much of a game plan for our final full day in the city. All we knew was that we wanted to eat and walk around a bit to feel less guilty for stuffing our faces every half hour.

We eventually settled on visiting Wat Arun, a temple located on the west side of the Chao Phraya River, and exploring more of Chinatown. We once again boarded two skytrains and a water taxi to arrive at our destination. The transportation system in Bangkok is fast and efficient.

The water taxi dropped us off at an outdoor market similar to the one before, but smaller in scale and variety. Before making our way to the temple, The Astronomer and I shared a green papaya salad (25 baht). The salad was assembled to order and contained tomatoes, peanuts and green beans in addition to green papaya. The ingredients were coated in a vinaigrette of fish sauce and lime juice. I think the vendor intentionally left out all the spices because she knows our type a little too well. As a result, the salad tasted fresh, but dull.

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Following the salad, The Astronomer and I shared a plate of Pad Thai (30 baht) made by the hefty and sweaty gentleman above.

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The Pad Thai tasted sour and contained tomatoes and leafy greens. Clearly, N.A.R.P.T.—not a real Pad Thai.

The Astronomer concluded breakfast with a stick of quail eggs wrapped in crispy wonton wrappers (10 baht). The eggs were served with a sweet and sour sauce that paired nicely with the wonton wrappers. The use of quail eggs in South East Asia is deliciously widespread.

After our three course breakfast, we finally headed to Wat Arun, which boasted a spectacular view of the city and vertigo-inducing climbs that reminded us of Angkor.

Following our temple excursion, we made our way toward Chinatown. On our walk, I purchased a bag of fresh cantaloupe. The fruit was served up rare, which is customary in these here parts, so it was light on sweetness and heavy on crunch.

Lush and The Astronomer couldn’t pass up an opportunity for protein and grabbed some pork on a stick dipped in a peppery sauce.

As we walked through an outdoor market of sorts in Chinatown, I ducked into a stall selling duck noodle soup (30 baht). The eatery was packed with locals slurping down noodles, so I knew we were in for a treat. The noodles were served in a dark brown duck broth deeply infused with star anise and celery, and topped with pieces of shredded duck. The dish reminded me of mi vit, a Chinese-inspired Vietnamese noodle soup that I often eat at home in San Diego. The Astronomer and I were immensely impressed with this noodle soup.

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As I scanned the small dining room, I noticed that many of the local patrons were digging into some “spring rolls” (25 baht) along with their soups, so I decided to do the same. The rolls contained tofu, Chinese sausage, bean sprouts and cucumber. Scrambled eggs, cuttlefish, chilies and a sweet hoisin sauce were served on top of the rolls. The texture and taste of the roll’s wrapper was similar to the pancakes served with Chinese moo shu. This dish was really different from anything we had eaten prior in Bangkok and we were once again quite impressed.

The Astronomer ordered a dried shrimp dumpling (7 baht) from a different stall and had it delivered to our table. While we generally like greasy dim sum, eating this dumpling alongside the noodle soup and spring rolls made for a lesser experience.

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Before saying goodbye to Chinatown, Lush and I each purchased a tall cup of Thai iced tea (10 baht), which tasted a bit like an icy because of the ice’s texture.

Meanwhile, the Astronomer picked up a beautiful, golden drumstick (15 baht)—looks like someone on the street got a hold of the Colonel’s Original Recipe… and his steroid-juiced chickens! The flavor was rather one dimensional; the Astronomer declared that the fried chicken he ate near our hostel was better.

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Who has no thumbs and was sad to see us leave Chinatown? This guy.

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Sadness! This sign was posted in the metro station.

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For our final dinner in the city, we headed to Baan Khanitha (36/1 Sukhumvit, Soi 23, Phone: 0-2258-4128). My high school cross country and track coach, who has traveled extensively throughout Thailand, recommended this eatery, which has been voted Bangkok’s best for a number of years.

I think one of the strangest experiences of my trip to Bangkok was constantly eating and enjoying food even though I wasn’t hungry. This sort of behavior wasn’t sustainable, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted.

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We started off our meal at Baan Khanitha with a complimentary appetizer called “mieng kham.” We were instructed by our waiter to make a funnel using a single leaf and to fill it with the sauce and the ingredients in the little dishes, which included dried shrimps, shallots, chilies, diced limes, ginger and peanuts. Although no singular ingredient was spectacular, when combined together the flavors melded into a satisfying bite. Awesome.

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Next, we shared a serving of “yam woon sen,” a glass noodle salad with squid, shrimp, pork, tomatoes, shallots, spring onions and peanuts in a vinaigrette (180 baht). Light and refreshing, the salad was just what we wanted this evening.

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For our main course, we shared “gaeng phed ped yang a ngun,” a roasted duck curry with grapes and pineapples (280 baht). The duck was pleasingly sweet and meaty, while the fruits eased the spiciness and brought bursts of sunshine to the curry.

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After dinner at Baan Khanitha, we paid a visit to the roti vendor that we had spotted prior.

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Liana and I shared a roti with bananas, sugar and condensed milk (20 baht).

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The Astronomer had one without bananas (7 baht). Man, those things are so bad for you, but they taste so good! I’m pretty sure that if I lived in Bangkok I’d gain a few kilos from eating too much roti.

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Our final stop of the evening was at a night market The Astronomer read about in the Lonely Planet. The market turned out to be a lot smaller than we expected and mostly catered to tourists. Boo.

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Lush and I passed on the offerings, but The Astronomer went for a plate of BBQ pork over rice (40 baht). The pork looked delicious, but I was too stuffed to try.

Eating in Bangkok III

We started off our third full day in Bangkok much like the one before—The Astronomer and I went on a run, while Lush got some extra shut eye. We departed from our hostel around noon and headed to the Chatuchak Weekend Market.

Just a few steps from home base, I was wooed by a vendor with a wok frying up all sorts of good stuff. I had no clue what she was making, but it looked mighty tasty, so I pointed to an attractive plate she had just served up and asked for an identical one.

What arrived at our table was “larp moo” (30 baht), a dish of minced pork seasoned with herbs and lots of chilies. The Astronomer ate the majority of this dish because I am a wuss when it comes to spicy.

The man sitting across from us ordered the “cal pad peek” which came with a gorgeous fried egg on top (40 baht). I once again pointed and requested an identical plate. Thin slices of beef were stir-fried with white and green onions in soy sauce. The results were simple and good. The egg could’ve been runnier, but I have no idea how to say that in Thai.

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Two skytrains later, we arrived at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Prior to exiting the station, The Astronomer purchased a maple waffle (15 baht). The waffle was freshly made and still warm from the iron. With crisped edges, moist innards and caramelized topping, it was the most delicious waffle we ate in Bangkok.

The Chatuchak Weekend Market is a huge affair. In fact, it took us a couple of hours just to complete a loop around it. Lush was the first to succumb to the plethora of goodies on sale. She purchased a stick of cocktail wieners wrapped in wonton paper (10 baht).

Although they looked adorable, I passed on the Thai-style pigs in a blanket because there’s something about a collection of unknown meats that is unsettling. Lush and The Astronomer liked them well enough, but not as much as grilled meats on a stick.

After spending a good hour or so shuffling through racks of vintage clothes and contemplating America’s influence on global trends, we were all ready to eat. The Astronomer ordered up a shallow bowl of curry with fish balls served over vermicelli rice noodles (25 baht).

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Shredded cabbage, cucumbers and herbs were available tableside for diners to garnish their noodles to taste. The coconut milk within the curry cut some of its intrinsic spiciness, but not enough for my sad excuse of a palate. I wonder if it is possible to train oneself to embrace spicy foods.

Lush purchased some Thai iced tea-flavored ice cream topped with condensed milk (15 baht). Although the texture was slightly icy, the flavor was definitely right on. My friend’s penchant for sweets is unparalleled.

Next, The Astronomer purchased a couple fried fish cakes (10 baht).

We’re not exactly sure what these things are made of, but they expand quite a bit when submerged in hot oil. Although the fish cakes looked impressive, they tasted like basic seafood forcemeat seasoned with fish sauce.

A collection of sushi, including a variety in the shape of Asia’s #1 sensation Hello Kitty, caught my eye.

I chose three pieces: tomago, seaweed and octopus (15 baht). The sweet egg, seaweed and octopus were not rolled within the rice like traditional sushi. Instead, they were placed atop a roll made of solid rice and seaweed like toppings. The rice was too densely packed, but I had no complaints about the tomago, seaweed and octopus.

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While The Astronomer and I tasted various savories, Lush craved more sweets and procured a Thai milk shake (20 baht). The Astronomer hit the nail on the head when he said it tasted like artificial bubblegum flavoring. It was pretty, but not tasty.

After a brief shopping intermission, The Astronomer sampled a fried vegetable “samosa” (20 baht). He said it tasted like the type of Chinese eggroll that comes free with a combo meal. There was a lot of cabbage, and not much else.

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Still not satisfied in the sweets department, Lush went for a stick of pandan-flavored ice cream (10 baht). It tasted similar to The Astronomer’s rainbow ice cream from the day before—sweet, cold, and not the least bit pandan-like.

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Some of the best noodles we enjoyed in Bangkok were sold at the weekend market. The Astronomer’s soy sauce noodles with greens (10 baht) were texturally terrific and well-seasoned. I love wide noodles with all of my heart.

In the mood for something other than refined sugars, Lush picked up a portion of barbecued pork pieces (35 baht). The pork was prepared in the classic style of Chinese barbecue complete with a beautiful pink glaze. The meat was moist, not too fatty and just sweet enough.

As we left the market and headed back to the Sukhumvit area, I grabbed a mixed fruit waffle (18 baht) to munch on. The waffle wasn’t warm off the iron like the maple one from earlier, but still excellent. This chain needs to come to Vietnam pronto.

For dinner, we checked out the sixth floor food court at Mah Boon Khrong, better known as MBK.

Craving something fresh and healthy to counterbalance the caloric-fest from earlier, I settled on a crispy catfish salad (30 baht). The barely recognizable catfish was served over a bed of romaine lettuce and topped with salted peanuts, carrots and green papaya. The fish-sauce based dressing was so spicy that my eyes watered profusely. Albeit being too fiery, I still found the salad quite enjoyable and ate every last bit. Bangkok really does know how to deep-fry its fishes.

The Astronomer chose noodles with greens and pork served in thick gravy (35 baht) for his dinner. Similar to Vietnamese mi xao don, the dish’s crunchy noodles softened in the pool of sauce. The flavors in this dish were delicate and familiar, but the abundance of gravy was too much.

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The Astronomer and I shared some pork rolls (30 baht) for our final dinner course. Thin sheets of rice paper wrapped around pieces of marinated pork and fresh romaine lettuce. It was a strong finish to our food court dinner.

Walking back to the hostel, we purchased two roti with sugar and condensed milk (5 baht) because a day without roti is a day without sunshine. Not nearly as big and fluffy as the one before, this one still hit the spot.

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