Tuesday, August 16

food for thought: bangkok

First things first, I apologize for the insane amount of tense and other grammatical errors in that last post… I was obviously writing in a heat of emotion…oops! 

Thai food has definitely always been a favorite of mine, though as a creature of habit I usually only order vegetable fried rice and spring rolls and maybe, when I'm feeling really adventurous, pad thai. Senior year of college, my friends and I probably ordered Thai take-out on a weekly    basis (and then on a bi-weekly basis when we discovered one of our favorite places delivered... Ra-Ka-De-Ka in Pacific Beach... you gotta try it). I didn't think that Thai food could get much better than this, until, of course, I reached Thailand. My first "real" Thai food experience was from our hotel's room service menu: chicken satay and, shockingly, vegetable fried rice. It was good, but it wasn't until our dinner and a show experience at our hotel's Thai restaurant, Maya, where we were served 13 courses (and even for the bottomless pit that is my stomach, it was a lot of food) and the cooking class my mother and I took at the Silom Thai Cooking School, that I really understood and appreciated all that Thai food had to offer.

At Maya, we were served 13 courses (and even for the bottomless pit that is my stomach, it was a lot of food). To be fair, they were in tapas portions, but all of those tapas added up and my parents and I were bursting through our pants by the end of this meal. A few of my favorite courses during this feast included the following:

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The first course, a shrimp surrounded by crispy, fried noodles (despite my adversity to shrimp, this one was good).

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The tenth course, braised pork belly (my former vegetarian self wanted to gag, but it was just too good) in the most amazing sauce that was both sweet and savory at the same time and perhaps containing hints of cinnamon.

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Finally, the eleventh course, a classic green curry with chicken.

For 1000 bahts per person ($33), we enjoyed all of these courses in a laid back and relaxing atmosphere, while Thai performers danced around us, showing off different dances and music from all the different cities in Thailand. Besides being way too full, it was an unforgettable evening.

The most impressive Thai meal, however, is surprisingly one I cooked myself (with instruction from the Silom Thai Cooking School). Our morning started with a tour of a typical Thai market, where our instructor explained the ingredients we would be using to create our four course meal. My mom was a little grossed out by the market, but after being in India for the past two months, to me, the market seemed more than sanitary, you know, minus the puppy hanging out amidst the different curry powders. After the market tour, we headed back to the school and were split into two groups. Lucky Mom was in the group enlisted to devein the shrimp, while I was on vegetable washing and chopping duty. After this, we all sat down and made coconut milk, using coconut meat and warm water to extract the milk. Finally, we were shown to our stoves and began our first dish: tom kha yum. I wasn't thrilled to be making a soup, first off because of the brutal heat outside and second because the soup's base was the coconut milk. I had seen this dish on almost every Thai menu and always passed it up, the milk part just didn't sound good to me. But after melding all the spices together and adding the vegetables and chicken, I realized I had been missing out for quite some time. This soup instantly became my new favorite food. It was the perfect amount of spicy, which was complemented by the coconut milk and turned out pretty excellent, if I do say so myself.

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Tom Kha Yum

The rest of the dishes were equally amazing and included:

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 Pad Thai

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Chicken Salad

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Green Curry with Chicken

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Fabulous day with Mom!

The last notable meal we had was not Thai, but was way too good to not discuss. After diligently searching Trip Advisor for a good Italian restaurant in Bangkok, I settled on Opus Italian Wine Bar and Restaurant, first because "wine bar" was in the name and second because of the reviews.

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Our first attempt to get to Opus was unfortunately not successful. We set out by cab (which is the most inefficient way to get anywhere in Bangkok) and were stuck in traffic so bad that we opted to walk and ultimately gave up when we unable to find the restaurant after an hour of searching. Determined to get my Italian food fix, we attempted again the next day, only this time MapQuesting detailed directions from our hotel to the restaurant...which was a success. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a friendly Thai hostess and sat at a quiet table in the back. The restaurant wasn't too busy yet, so the chef, Christian, came over to chat with us and offered us some complimentary champagne (which of course we graciously accepted). He went over some of his favorites on the menu (in his precious Italian accent) and since they weren't busy, offered to make us an appetizer platter, with samples of all of the best starters. As soon as I heard the word "burrata" as one of the items, I quickly answered for all of us and said an appetizer platter would be just lovely. It arrived and we were not disappointed. The burrata in the middle was just as good as the burrata at my favorite restaurant in San Diego (maybe in the world), the steak skewers (my first steak in three years) were tender and cut like butter and the bruschetta was garlicy and delicious, just as it should be.

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We complimented his amazing skills and asked him how he ended up in Bangkok. He told us his story about how he had been a chef in Paris, but a woman broke his heart and a friend wanted to open up a restaurant in Bangkok, so he decided to give it a try and is now the executive chef at Opus. He said that his dream, though, is to own a restaurant in New York City... I told him I had a similar dream (although probably on the west coast) and he said we could do it together (“blush”).

After being just slightly distracted by his good looks and perfect accent, we finally ordered our main courses: tenderloin, four cheese gnocchi and truffle oil risotto.

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The tenderloin was cooked in a merlot reduction sauce that seemed to seep into the entire piece of meat. Let’s just say my first steak in three years did not let me down.

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The four cheese gnocchi (still not as good as Enoteca Adriano) was really good and the sauce was cheesy and creamy, but not too heavy.

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The truffle oil risotto, holy cow. Incredibly rich but nonetheless, perfect.

All in all, this was a meal I will remember for a long time. The service at the restaurant was unbeatable, Christian even ended the evening with complimentary glasses of lemoncello, which he made himself, and the food…oh the food…could not have been better.

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