Archive for September, 2013

Thailand eats Part 2: Terminal 21

September 15th, 2013


Coconut candy on the ground floor of Terminal 21, one of the major malls along the Sky Train route, Asoke station. Nadine Kam photos

BANGKOK, THAILAND — At Terminal 21, one of the major malls in Bangkok, one of the food courts is set up like a marketplace for individual street-style vendors. It's cool that the cost of food is also no more than street cost so that you can get a full plate for about USD$1 to $1.50. One day I splurged and got a plate and a fresh fruit smoothie for a whopping $3!

You put money on a food court card before ordering at the various vendors so they don't have to deal with cash or make change to keep traffic flowing.

Which made it sad to come home and go back to paying $12 for a sandwich and smoothie here.

On the ground floor there's another area for confection sellers, ranging from Dairy Queen to locals hawking coconut and jelly candies and other treats.


Someone who saw this photo when I posted it to Facebook said he wouldn't eat this. I looked at it and said, "I have to eat that!" Various forms of pork with hard-boiled eggs stewing together. Below, the pork plate for 45 baht, about USD$1.50 with rice, egg, pickled vegetables. I added the chili peppers from a condiment tray.

pork plate




Jelly candies.


Looks more like a street marketplace than mall food court setup.


People on lunch break await smoothies.


Cups are filled with fresh fruit awaiting blending into all-fruit smoothies. They do add a bit of sugar, but you can request no sugar.


The Terminal 21 mall is loosely set up to duplicate airline terminals around the world. On the "Paris" level, there are macarons and Western-style desserts like the chocolate mousse cakes below.


Thailand eats Part I: Open air

September 15th, 2013


This chicken, coated with a light, sweet barbecue sauce was delicious. I negotiated 20 baht, about .65 cents, for two pieces, at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. — Nadine Kam photos

The mobile food vendor has made a comeback in the West, but the Thais are experts, hawking everything from noodle soups to grilled meat to dessert on land and on dirty water.

I knew I wanted to eat the street food so it's recommended that those traveling to Thailand get immunized against hepatitis A. I also got tetanus and typhoid injections, but the hep A hurt the most and I was left with a big bruise! What we go through for a taste of authenticity.

What is also authentic is getting ripped off. I was warned to watch out for the taxi drivers, but you never know what's going to happen when you get into a cab. I caught a cab outside the royal palace, a good place to scoop up tourists. I was heading for the Jim Thompson house, and the cab driver seemed friendly enough. Then, the scam starts. First, he says he's going to make one stop for gas. So I goes, "Fine. Just one stop."

Then as we're moving along, he says he's going to take me to a jewelry gallery and if I look around, they'll give him a free liter of gas. "You just have to look 10 minutes," he said.

Sigh. "All right, but no more than that. I have to meet someone for dinner," I said.

Later on, he says it's not good enough to look for 10 minutes. I have to make it look good, 20 minutes before they'll give him gas. And if I buy, they'll fill his tank!

I actually did have to buy a gift for someone, but later he asked, hopefully, if I had spent $10,000 baht, about $350. "Forget it," I said.

Nevertheless, I booked him to take me to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market the following day. And he cheated me again, taking me to the tourist entry area, where I had to pay $2,500 baht, about $80, to get on a boat to get to the market, instead of the walk-in entry. I actually did want to get on the water, and probably would have ended up paying around that anyway, but I just didn't like the way it was done. (It's basically the same cost for one person as a couple, because the boat operator's time cost is the same.)

They have the tourist thing down, snapping my photo on the boat so that a plate bearing my image was waiting for me on my return, about $7. I bought it because I didn't want a picture of me circulating around Thailand!

A lot of times the drivers will also turn off their meters. One did that when I went to the airport and I caught him midway through, so I asked him how much he would charge me. He said $600 baht, about $21. The real cost is about $400 baht, or $14, so I told him that's all I was paying. Arguing with taxi drivers became tiresome, so at the airport I converted all my baht to dollars. I didin't feel like going back to Thailand.


Two of these tourists ran their hands through the dirty water. Why they would do that, I don't know.


Market vendor of bananas and mangosteen. Sure, the market is touristy, but the boats also provide a service to the community,  making their way from home to home to hawk their fare. The women trade with each other, and as you can see below, socialize while eating their own cooking.


street cook

Fish, chicken and pork on the grill in Sukhumvit.


Waiting for the hungry in Sukhumvit.


The plastic to go bags at left contain sauce.

Meatballs and sausages being offered on the streets of Lumphini.


Fish and skewered, barbecued frog (they looked like toads) were offered by this Lumphini vendor.


This bag of cockles being sold in the Lumphini district was 35 baht, roughly USD$1.12.


There was construction and a lot of dust flying going on behind these Sukhumvit vendors.

Eating Bali Part II: The warung way

September 15th, 2013


Staffers grill chicken and ribs in the open air at Naughty Nuri's in Ubud, Bali. Nadine Kam photos

UBUD, BALI, INDONESIA — If you are meat-inclined in Bali, chances are you will be eating pork or chicken. Beef is too costly to raise, and even in non-resort areas you will pay Western prices of about $14 a plate for it, whereas a pork or chicken plate can be had for about $30,000 to $35,000 rupiah. Before you get scare, that's about $2.60 to $3. Yeah, I went over with about $2 million in rupiah, about $200.

The Balinese people are very entrepreneurial because they still live the kind of sensible village lifestyle in which every home had its specialty, and every family compound—typically with several cottages to house everyone in the family—has a shop, or warung, in front, to peddle its wares, whether food, clothing, jewelry, laundry service, baskets or sundries. You could just walk from neighbor to neighbor to pick up everything you need.

So, many of the restaurants are still in family compounds, such as Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka is known for its pork, but you'd think it was chicken from all the clucking and crowing going on here, a result of another money-making family  enterprise, raising fighting cocks. ("Ibu" means "woman" or "matriarch" and "oka" is the first son.)

If Naughty Nuri's Warung seems more Westernized than most, it was started by New Yorker Brian Aldinger and his Javanese wife Isnuri Suryatmi, and  evolved along with the Australian tourist market to offer "Wicked Ribs" and  "Brutal Martinis." Aldinger died last September, but was a fixture at the Ubud restaurant, and chalkboard messages at the restaurant still read, "We love U Brian."

Nuri's  specializes in barbecue, with a delicious sweet sauce utilizing the regional palm sugar, which is less sweet and mellower than the cane sugar we use. I think it's great and wish it were used here.

In the U.S., we don't like to think of where our food comes from, but at Nuri's, the pig farm is still in the back of the original Nuri's and they go through about 300 pounds of pork a day.


In tribute to late owner Brian Aldinger.


These ribs are about $3 at Naughty Nuri's in Ubud, Bali.

nuri sign

Part of the menu at Naughty Nuri's.


Signs around Naughty Nuri's in Ubud look like they come from an old-fashioned 1950's American diner.


Chickens destined for someone's plate. (more…)

Eating Bali: Part 1

September 1st, 2013


At Villa Bodhi, just outside Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Nadine Kam photos

It's always great to travel and taste the regional cuisine, vs. cuisine as translated for a Hawaii audience. In Bali, food is fairly mild, though spice flavors like turmeric, cumin and cardamom abound. Most of the spice we associate with Indonesian cuisine comes with the addition of sambal, traditionally a fiery condiment that was eaten with rice when meat was less a part of the Balinese diet. Today, sambal compliments both meat and rice, and for those who can't take the sting of chilis, there are mild sambals of tomato or fried onion. There are also wet and dry versions.

Here are some typical Balinese dishes served up by Wayan Nanti at Villa Bodhi, where I am staying.

villa breakfast

This is a breakfast of egg and turmeric-colored yellow rice, with the real coconut water served with a dash of lime, and tangerine juice. Every morning I can request a different juice, from coconut to soursop, lime, apple and banana.


My favorite breakfast of bubur ayam, a chicken porridge—like jook but fancier—topped with curried chicken, salted chicken egg, fried tempeh, rice, rice noodles, tomatoes, and tomato sambal at the top left.

villa fruit

Every morning there is a different assortment of fruit for breakfast.


Roadside fruit stand at Mt. Batur.


I am hard at work poolside, just before breakfast.

villa fruit2

More breakfast fruit, including mangosteen, in front, and snake fruit just behind it. The snakefruit, below, looks like an oversized garlic bulb on the inside, but is reminiscent of a crisp Japanese pear.


black rice

Another breakfast specialty of black rice, which has a firm texture, topped with mango in coconut milk. We would consider this more like a dessert at home. In the background is fresh coconut juice with milk.


Kolak is one of the desserts, boiled tapioca and jackfruit, topped with grated coconut.

lemongrass chick

Lemongrass chicken with web of rice noodles.

jukut urab

Jukut urab is a Balinese mixed vegetable dish. This one includes tapioca leaves, bean sprouts, grated coconut meat and crispy onions. So delicious. I might try making this at home with kale or spinach. They incorporate a lot of plant parts here that I didn't know are edible.


A blessing ceremony took place Aug. 31 at Villa Bodhi, with many offerings, including this table setting below:


villa satay

After the ceremony, all guests sat down for a lunch of spicy cardamom satay with two kinds of sambal, and lawar, a salad of young starfruit leaves, grated coconut and minced pork.


This is a soup of young banana shoots, sort of like squash except stringier, and duck meat.


I went native for the ceremonial occasion, with host and owner of Villa Bodhi, Hawaii designer/stylist Amos Kotomori.

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