As I mentioned in my last post, Thailand is seeming more and more like a distant memory, especially now that our friends Kylie and Walt have left Chiang Mai for the next leg of their adventure. But there are some things that have faded less than others, and Wee’s delicious food and her megawatt smile. You can read more about how we met Wee and our cooking class with her in this post (and make some pumpkin curry soup, while you’re at it.)
These fish cakes were a dish that Wee surprised us with at our cooking class. She wanted us to make an appetizer, and one that was a little more challenging and involved than a Thai style omelette, so she picked this. We hadn’t eaten them at any of our previous meals at her restaurant, and I instantly regretted that when we tasted them during our cooking class. The fish is subtle, tender, but the cakes themselves are airy and crispy. But really the star of this dish for me was the dipping sauce. We made our own sweet chili sauce – a simple task that I plan on doing a lot more when I get home – and then poured it over cucumbers and shallots and topped it with ground peanuts. This fruity sauce was light and crunchy, matching so well with the fish cakes. But it also lent a refreshing acidity to the fried fish cakes. I can easily imagine using the dipping sauce at many a summer BBQ to top grilled chicken or salmon. But first, try it with these fish cakes.
Continue reading “Fish Cakes with Cucumber Sauce”
I can’t believe it was almost four weeks ago that Jonah and I left Thailand. I became much more attached to Chiang Mai than I thought I would be by the time we left. While the motorbike rides ended up killing my back, I miss puttering around the city, holding on to Jonah as we wove between cars. I miss leaving all the windows open at night and having the sounds of dogs and motorbikes rise up to remind us where we were. I miss the friends we quickly made and that I briefly got to know. I almost miss wearing sandals every day and that shorts were in regular rotation for me.
The past three and a half weeks have been a blur, to say the least. Jonah and I flew into Cologne, Germany where we spent a few days freezing our buns off, getting over jet lag, and starting to assimilate to our new diet (switching from spicy street food and rice to mild flavors, lots of meat, and holy moly so much bread). From there we went to Brussels for two nights, where we were supposed to meet our friends Dylan & Caitlyn, though their plans were sadly foiled by weather around the world. They ended up meeting us a day later in Bruges, where we walked and drank beer and biked and drank beer and played games and enjoyed each others’ brief company. From Bruges it was onto Oberboihingen, a town outside of Stuttgart, Germany, where Jonah’s aunt, uncle, and cousins live. They kindly let us stay with them for almost a week for Christmas, and we enjoyed the German holiday celebrations. We left Oberboihingen for a quick two night stop in Paris (more on that in a later post) and then on to Lisbon, where our Airbnb hosts greeted us with glasses of champagne and a full traditional Ukrainian New Years Eve meal (they are Ukrainian and New Years is a big holiday for them). We’ve been in Lisbon for a few short days, and we are slowly catching up on work and taking in the city. We’ve done a little bit of walking around the quaint cobblestone streets, taking in the beautiful, old buildings in pinks and yellows, or covered with beautiful tiles.
Culinary highlights from our two weeks hopping around Europe included: various versions of wieners, mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, and mustard; all of the rich, sweet, spiced Belgian beer (especially at De Garre); a Christmas market lunch of reibekuchen with applesauce and glühwein; giant pots of moules frites; home cooked meals (finally!) by Jonah’s aunt Rachel including a delicious and beautiful roasted turkey and stuffing and plum chutney, and then the most delicious turkey lemon soup made from the leftover turkey carcass; snails in butter, garlic, and herbs for lunch at a restaurant recommended by my mom in Paris.
P.S. There are still more recipes coming from my time in Thailand. Keep your eyes on this space.
I should be working. You see, in about 10 hours I’ll be getting on a plane to Bangkok, sleeping in a hotel, and then getting on a 12 hour flight to Cologne, Germany. And I have a few items to cross of my checklist before I hop that flight. Instead, I want to tell you about Wee.
We discovered Wee’s Restaurant thanks to friends Zita and Jeremy, who found it via Trip Advisor (oh man do I have a love/hate relationship with that site, but that is for another time). We first ate at Wee’s in early November, and then we kept returning, and returning. My dad was the one who observed that she had a cooking class, and so I handed Wee my phone, she found herself on Facebook for me, and we started messaging about when we could do the class and what dishes to make. A few days later, we ate our Thanksgiving dinner at her place, and then a couple of days later Kylie, Walt, Jonah, and I spent 9 hours in her kitchen cranking out her amazing dishes.
What won me over was Wee’s wing bean salad with shrimp. But as I tried more and more of her dishes, I fell deeper and deeper. They were unique, unlike dishes that we had at other restaurants in Chiang Mai. They tasted more complex, more interesting. You know when you can taste that something has been made with care and, dare I say it, love? That’s how Wee’s food tasted to me. Between that and Wee’s sense of humor and her infectious smile, I knew we would get along.
It felt like we made a majority of Wee’s menu in the kitchen that day, but we truly only scratched the surface. This pumpkin soup that we had on Thanksgiving was one dish that kept me coming back. The pumpkin is sweet, the coconut broth a little spicy from the curry paste, and herby from the kaffir lime and lemongrass. And the best thing about it that just as I was eating it in warm Chiang Mai, I could imagine my friends back at home making it to warm themselves up.
Continue reading “Pumpkin Curry Soup”
Well, it has happened. This morning I woke up, and almost immediately started crying. It could have been attributed to the fact that my health has been going through ups and downs lately (indigestion is just part of the game here in Thailand, I suppose), or the fact that a neighborhood dog kept me up most of the night. But it could also have been a combination of our visitors leaving, the fact that my friend Mac texted us that he was at my favorite Portland holiday event the Holiday Ale Fest, and that we are leaving Thailand soon.
It seems odd that a bout of homesickness would be spurred by the fact that you’re leaving a a place that is not your home. Perhaps it is, in a way, the same anxiety though. While there is still plenty that we have not done in Chiang Mai, plenty of food we haven’t eaten and sites we have not seen, it feels familiar in so many ways. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that I was no longer phased by the no fewer than seven wats we pass every day on our way from our apartment to the co-working space. There are a handful of restaurants where we eat that I know exactly what I’m going to get before we go, and I look forward to seeing the same servers and to being recognized by them in return. I feel so comfortable on the back of our motorbike, in my pink helmet, daydreaming as Jonah zips us through the city.
Continue reading “Homesick: Thailand #4”
When you think of Thai food, do you think of pad thai? Of rice noodles with a slightly ketchup-y sauce topped with too many bean sprouts? Or mild curries, full of almost mushy vegetables? Or do you think of fresh noodles with a tart and savory flavor, created by a mixture of tamarind and oyster sauce? Or curry paste pounded by hand, spicy and complex?
Since I have been in Thailand, I have mostly enjoyed the latter kind of Thai food. Food that is packed with flavor, that has depth to it, layers of ingredients that have been combined with care, with knowledge. One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to take a cooking class, to learn these recipes and techniques. And, in the end, they aren’t as time consuming or confusing as you might think. The ingredients may be hard to find back home, but I can make do.
The day before Thanksgiving, I booked a cooking class for us and our visitors. There were eight of us total, and I thought it would be a good way to all spend a day together, doing something that we really enjoyed. Plus, it would almost be like Thanksgiving what with the hours in the kitchen and the overeating. We went with a company called AsiaScenic, and (after a little confusion) they picked us all up in a van and drove us to a market on the way to their farm north of the city.
Continue reading “Tom Yum Koong (Hot & Sour Prawn Soup)”