My trip began with a 24 hour delay at New York's JFK airport and a miserable night in an airport hotel in Queens. With the generous $6.00 dinner voucher that Delta provided I bought myself half of a cheeseburger in the hotel restaurant (supplemented by a few of my own dollars of course.) While I truly enjoyed this cheeseburger and sleeping in the DoubleTree hotel on the BQE there was a part of me that really wished I was eating a curry in Bangkok like I was supposed to be.
Anyway, I landed at 11pm one day late in Bangkok and after one night and no days there Charlie and I flew to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Northern Thailand is known for its spicy curries that are made without coconut milk, and we became completely addicted.
Shown here are green and yellow curries from our guesthouse restaurant in Chiang Mai. The green was made with deliciously sweet and distinctive Thai basil and had little green baby aubergines, carrots, beans, and LOTS of chili. The chili provided a big kick to the back of the throat but I found that the more curry I ate the more my tolerance for spiciness went up. The yellow curry was not spicy at all and was made with potatoes, carrots, beans and chicken. It had more of a sweet taste to it. As you can see, both curries were of a very thin consistency and had no coconut milk. This green curry was our favorite of the entire trip.
At the same guesthouse I also had a dish of wide noodles with vegetables and a fried egg in a brown sauce, which was very similar to the Pad See Yoo dish available in many Thai restaurants here in the states. It had cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, carrots, onions and cabbage. This dish had lots of fish sauce, which we learned basically goes into all of the food in Thailand and subsequently got soooo tired of.
Later on our trip while on the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand we had some delicious noodles at a little shop off the main road in Hat Sai Ree called Noodle T. Charlie had roasted duck over noodles and I had a roasted pork and dumpling noodle soup. I preferred Charlie's dish-- the duck was sweet and tender and it was nice that there was no broth because the climate there is so hot that sometimes soup is too much! The pork soup in the first photo below had fish balls and fish cakes similar to those that I always eat around in ramen in NYC. I wasn't too crazy about them in Thailand either.
Our other memorable meal in Thailand was that on our last night in Bangkok before leaving for home. We went to Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao in the basement of the Erawan Bangkok Hotel. I had heard that this Singapore based chain has great dim sum and noodle dishes. We had the xiao long bao (soupy pork dumplings which the restaurant is known specifically for and named after,) and two noodle dishes including a roasted pork la mian and a stewed beef with wide noodles.
The xiao long bao (in the basket on the left) were absolutely delicious. The thin dumpling skins were just thick enough to hold in the enormous amount of juice that saturated the pork filling and exploded in your mouth. The beef and noodles on the right was also great-- the noodles were obviously homemade and the beef was very tender and sweet. We racked up about a 900 baht or $30 bill on this meal but that was our most expensive meal of the entire trip! Everything was super cheap. For perspective: the curries at the top of this post in Chiang Mai were about 45 baht each. There are 30 baht to $1, making each of those curry dishes only a little bit over $1 each.
One thing I did not expect to see in Thailand: 7-eleven, but they were everywhere! It was interesting to see the differences of the store in another part of the world. Instead of a slurpee station, they had a spot where you could add hot water to your recently bought cup of noodles. They also had a glass case of steamed buns and other little Asian snacks. I bought this package of dried vegetable tempura with sweet chili sauce:
Thailand is also obviously known for its street food vendors. Bangkok was swarming with street carts selling everything from sausages to dried pressed full squid and a lot of stuff that wasn't even recognizable! We found ourselves nibbling on sausage sticks while walking through the congested streets and being hawked by people selling pad thai or fried fish. I wish I had more time in Bangkok so I could have explored its culinary scene much further, but I got a great taste for the city in the little time that I was there.
OK so I realize this was a lot but there was so much great food in Thailand. I'll post about Laos next and soon!