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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nadine Kam photos One of the entries in the "Anything Goes" category of Fresh Catch's "Hogs Gone Wild" Up in Smoke cook-off. Crab-stuffed red and yellow bell peppers were wrapped with smoked bacon.
One of the food events I look forward to each year is Fresh Catch's "Up in Smoke" cook-off, with this year's 5th annual themed "Hogs Gone Wild" and taking place at Cycle City & JN Automotive Group, at 600 Puuloa Road and Nimitz Highway.
It's because those who don't live with—as I don't anymore—or know any hunters, don't have much access to the result of the hunt, the smoked meat that is the reward for a day's labor and uncertainty over whether one will be able find and track a worthwhile target.
The annual event is a labor of love hosted by Fresh Catch's Reno Henriques, and made possible by the participating teams, who work year 'round to perfect their smoked dishes for the annual competition.
Event host Reno Henriques, of Fresh Catch, left, invited judges' victor Lisa Dejournett of VRM Pit Crew, and People's Choice winners Shawn, second from left, and Curtis Bautista, representing Always Smok'n Sum'n, to the event's throwdown competition, which resulted in a grand prize win for Always Smok'n Sum'n.
In keeping with the hog theme, many a spectator pulled up on a Harley, and a few classic cars also made their way through the parking lot in a mini parade.
Of course the highlight of the day is the opportunity to taste the myriad assortment of smoked meat, that ranged from the top-billed pork, various seafood, Molokai axis deer, and most unusual for me, Capt. Smokey's Alaska black bear, which, coated in a teriyaki-style marinade, simply tasted like beef jerky! It was the work of Henriques' brother Dominic.
Fresh Catch Hawaii locations are at 3109 Waialae Ave. (808.735.POKE) and 45-1118 Kamehameha Highway in Kaneohe (808.235.POKE).
Alaska black bear jerky was one of the offerings, courtesy of the Capt. Smokey team, led by Dominic Henriques, brother of Fresh Catch's Reno Henriques.
Dishes were judged on smoked taste, tenderness and appearance. Judges selection count as 75 percent of a contestant’s overall score. People’s Choice selection will count for 25 percent.
The grand prize victor, winning over both judges and the people's choice voters, was Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, which placed in all five of the competition categories: pork, fish, chicken, beef and anything goes.
VRM Pit Crew, which came in 4th place last year in the smoked pork category, and 2nd in the smoked beef category, moved to the top of the heap in both contests this year. In the pork category, the crew traded places with Guava Smoked, who came in first last year. But don't cry for the Guava Smoked crew, which moved from second place last year to first position this year in both the smoked chicken and anything goes categories.
Here's one guy lucky to have avoided being a main course. Cesar, rescued as a young boar in the Waiahole-Waikane valley, is now a beloved 3-year-old pet who likes eating smoked pork and McDonald's french fries but rejects Jack in the Box fries, according to his owner. Cesar was the only living boar at the event. Others were splayed out on the back of trucks.
GRAND PRIZE and PEOPLE'S CHOICE OVERALL
Alwayz Smok'n Sum'n, $1,000
Nadine Kam photos A dessert flan bears the Y. Hata & Co. logo in white chocolate. The company is marking its centennial.
Y. Hata & Co. is marking its 100th anniversary as a wholesaler of dry, chilled and frozen food products, supplying Hawaii's food industry. As they put it, "Every time you quench your thirst at Jamba Juice of sit down to a meal at Zippy's, a burger at Teddy's or a sumptuous spread at Aulani, you're enjoying Y. Hata products."
Additionally, Y. Hata also supplies schools and military personnel daily.
To mark the occasion and in looking forward to the next 100 years, Y. Hata has undergone a 100th birthday renovation and refresh, with restyling by Cathy Lee Style, and held an open house April 3 with pau hana pupu and drinks showcasing some of the company's products.
Included in the revamp is third-generation chairman and CEO Russel Hata's gift to the company's 200 employees, a Google-inspired employee lounge constructed from a pair of shipping containers, and furnished with flat-screen television, game table, dart board and foosball table.
A peek into the new Lounge @ Y. Hata, an employee lounge constructed from two shipping containers and styled by Cathy Lee Designs.
Also foremost in the renovation is the prominent display of the company's core values: Partners first, continuous improvement, ohana empowerment, ohana pride, candid communications, and live aloha, give aloha.
It was nice to see a business with a philosophy of putting people first, and I'm sure a lot of companies could learn from the example. Quite a few guests, after getting the workplace tour, were ready to fill out job applications!
Y. Hata & Co. had humble Hilo origins, starting in Yoichi and Naeko Hata's garage, after the couple immigrated from Japan. The company continues to be run by family. Russell is the son of chairman emeritus Frank Hata, the youngest of Yoichi and Naeko's 10 children.
And the company continues to look forward in ways beneficial to the aina and community, as a supporter of Kapiolani Culinary Institute of the Pacific, sponsor of culinary scholarships and CIP's national teams, and as home to a green, rooftop photovoltaic system.
Also of interest to many people will be the fact that they operate a retail store where anyone can shop for bulk food items, catering-size pans for parties and events, professional knives and cookware.
Among the most popular items are bags of McCormick chicken seasoning ($11.99) for deep-fry chicken and pork, and marinated kalbi, great considerations for your next big back-yard celebration. The shop is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays at 285 Sand Island Access Road.
Congratulations for 100 years of success and the next 100 to come!
Y. Hata's third-generation chairman and CEO Russell Hata, with interior designer Cathy Lee.
Cathy said both genders were thrilled with the lounge, with the female employees immediately seeing it as a place for bridal and baby showers, and the men looking at it as a place to enjoy the Superbowl and other televised sports events.
A table for lunch or board games. All areas reflect Y. Hata corporate colors.
Employees can take a break for darts and board games, but they are never far from posters reflecting the company's mission and core values.
A dry erase board in the lounge provides a place for messages and brainstorming ideas. Outlets provide a place to plug in computers and other personal electronic devices.
A visitor entry also puts core values up front with retro and shoji-like touches reflecting Y. Hata's history and Japanese heritage.
Sitting area in one of the employee lunchrooms. Most of us wished we could live in such an environment.
A stairwell wallpaper poster offers encouragement in striving for the next 100 years of success.
On the menu prepared by Y. Hata executive chef Ernest Limcaco:
Braised Sterling Silver chuck flat jardiniere with roast baby potatoes. There was also seared Russian scallops in shellfish oil on mesclun, but I guess I was so anxious to try it I forgot to snap a photo.
Confit of Sterling Silver pork belly with lilikoi-mango glaze on foccaccia. The pork was so delicious. In spite of all the TV commercials, I never tried it at Times Supermarket but will be looking for it now! The chuck was also amazingly tender.
Pil pil shrimp on sourdough crostini. It didn't start out spicy, but when someone else told the chef it wasn't spicy enough, they seemed to double up on the chili pepper flakes, so mine turned out to be extra spicy.
The company is also committed to bringing up the next generation of chefs, and among its interns from Assets School are Louie Coronado, left, and Croix Koenig.
I missed these desserts made from Albert Uster Imports mixes when Y. Hata participated in the recent Hawaii Foodbank "Great Chefs" event. At the time I was too full to sample, so was happy for this second chance. Included were a chocolate pots de creme topped with cubed haupia and toasted coconut, and panna cotta topped with champagne jelly.