Thailand, Thailand, Thailand
Thailand for me is absolutely one of, if not THE
food mecca. I love Thai food. The way everything is fresh, nothing pre-prepped here, the history back to days if the Courts of Siam, and the influence from so many countries that had some say or other in its history, the immigrant population and their influence and of course its neighbours of many of its borders. How can such complexity not deliver a truly exciting outcome?
The hot, sweet,
sour, salty ethos. The burn. I find the best way to enjoy it to its fullest capacity is sitting on a beach with toes in sand, supping a cold Singha ( beer) to wash down the delicious food – and give some respite to the burn of course.
You just have to love the people. I remember a trip once to Kata Beach back in 2006. Ollie was a little boy. We requested Ska Bar there for the amazing variety on the menu, the price (so low), the quality, the friendliness of the staff, the bar next door and of course the amazing views down the beach and out to
sea. Sounds truly incredible doesn’t it. OK try this. Go back 6 years later. We go back to Ska Bar and the girl comes running out; “Wow Ollie has grown. How are you all? Here is my baby girl now.” I have to admit I was truly blown away by that experience and again the truly incredible people of Thailand.
Do you kind of get the point? It is truly one of my life-time favourite destinations.
Oh did I forget the views?
I mean come on. This is from atop the ‘big Buddah’ statue look out point. Just beautiful. And if you take a trip down the hill to the beach where all those little boats are you can find just sublime restaurants and beach bars, for very few $ with that view sat straight in front of you.
Its not just the restaurants as there are usually a plethora of
street food sellers, little carts on wheels they plop on the street side. Usually firing up little burners and getting a wok or hot plate going and then banging out morsels like you may never have tasted before at home, wherever that is. You have to stop and stare as you have no idea what is on sale, because usually it is all in Thai writing. Peer in to the cart, get engulfed in the wafting smells of the delights being prepared, and yes go on, I dare you, try the stuff!
One such cart. No they are not bottles full of pop. These are all the ingredients. The lemon and lime juices, fish sauces, vinegars, soy sauces, rice wines etc. Shows you how complex some of these dishes are that these one guy line cook is preparing on such a tiny prep area. But they do and they do with such finesse and then charge you something like $1 – and that is tourist price.
So this is about food so lets get to it and make it specific. One of my all-time favourite Asian dishes is
Laab Gai, the famous Thai meat salad usually with pork or chicken mince, loads of chilli, fish sauce, lime juice, coriander, mint, toasted rice – or is it? Back to what I said before about loving Thailand for the food. There are so many influences that you tend to get many different varieties of the very same dish – and that could be literally be within yards of each other, as I will explain.
Ohlala’s in Kamala, Phuket. Just round the corner from our chosen hotel this trip. Nearer the airport so a short hop to here. Meeting with our mates Gordon and partner who were here few days earlier than us. Staying at Royal Embassy hotel, in little apartments which were just bloody awesome and a few minutes walk to the beach. Heaven is a place on earth as Belinda Carlisle states – yep here it is! Oglala’s is Swiss French but cooks up incredible Thai food too, but has a bakery and delicatessen and also whacks out damn good pizzas! A must try!
Now their Laab is gonna burn a hole in your pants. Man this puppy is spicy, mind you you can see that from the colour of the sauce ad the flecks of chili in that bad boy. Just look at it. Holy crap spicy – but also so so good. A really really nice Laab, just have some yoghurt on standby to get down your throat and maybe even wipe a little round your bum.
Next up is Popeye’s, also in Kamala. A suggestion from my mate Kev McCormick who used to have a holiday home around the corner. This did not disappoint. Amazing array of foods, both Thai and Western – but of course we are here for the Thai. A group of about 4 ladies crammed in to the kitchen with pestle and mortars the size of a house – churning out quality and cheap foods. Delicious. We’ll be back here for sure!
And here is their version of the Laab. As you can see not so spicy like Ohlala’s. Much more mint within. Now don’t get me wrong it was absolutely delicious, but just look how different it is to Ohlala’s – looks like a completely different dish.
Here we come to Ska Bar on Kata Beach in Phuket. Like a treehouse that has dropped to the beach from the tree tops. Run by Thai Rastas, yep dreadlocks and all. Quality reggae pumping hard, rooftop bar, cheap booze, great views and next door a restaurant that you can eat at or order food from to eat at the bar. Incredible place. We love this place so so much!
You have to excuse the photo quality here, as I think taken some time ago and taken on my Blackberry so not ideal. Loads of mint in this version of Laab. Loads. Delicious! And washed down with a $1 Singha, looking over the beach and topaz sea. Not bad eh!!!
Up the big steep hill now from Kata Beach to another reggae bar, Small ViewPoint. This is the outside decking area, with me and the kids and luckily for this trip with my brother and sister-in-law. There is also an inside bar. This place is uber cool. Reggae pumping out again. Chilled beers and food a flowing. And then as the night sets in you can watch the most incredible of sunsets – it literally is amazing as you can see the sun moving down to hit the horizon almost expecting a hiss and steam to come up. It moves so fact its quite weird actually, but then the orange and red colours explode. As it gets dark the squid and shrimp boats head out to see with lights flashing, and there we sit watching this with beer in hand, and food in mouth, with Bob Marley a pumping – does it get any better, I find that a challenge if you say yes.
Salad garnish now kicks in – a little cucumber, carrot and cabbage plus check out the big dump of coriander/Chinese parsley. Toned down on the mint, chili padi not chili flakes (so yep up on the bum burner scale this one). A belter, truly a belter!!!
Here is the secluded restaurant of Nikitas, right at the Southern tip of Phuket. I have been here a few times, sadly once with Nina and Ollie some 6 years earlier. Now with Mary, Ollie and Amy plus my brother and sister-in-law. Truly it had not changed much, in fact two of the serving staff were there the first time I had come. We sat on the beach, eating with sand between toes. The food was the same quality.
Here are back in 2006 when still living in Australia. No Amy at this time, and still here with my beloved Nina.
Some 7 years later and here is Ollie and I, sat at the same seat. Sadly no Nina now, but sat opposite us is Mary and Amy, my brother and sister-in-law. Nikita’s has not changed at all – only we have.
Nikita’s do themselves proud with this one. Maybe its the sand in between toes, the amazing scenery, the lovely staff, the memories, the beer – who knows – but absolutely it is indeed the food. This Laab was just incredible. Flipping hot, seriously hot. Sadly the one shared toilet was not the best companion. Mind you the raw red cabbage was a God send as it takes the burn away from your wee lips.
Extending now to to the theme of local markets. This is literally the night market, 5 minutes walk away from the hotel we stayed at in Kamala. I loved this place. Wet market, vegetable market, bits and pieces market, even selling live tropical fish from little bowls fed with air pipes aerating the water. Breaks on as we reach a certain stall, as Mary and the kids love their dried fish. Me, well I personally think it smells like something has crawled up a drain pipe a good few months ago and died. Each to their own, and this is certainly NOT my own. I even espy some angry birds. Not as angry as the chickens just down this aisle that are getting their heads lopped off hey!!!
Plus the very hotel we were staying at, Royal Embassy Resort, turned up the gas when offering a BYO BBQ. The off we went to Patong wet market to shop for fish, prawns, pork and the like to bring back to the hotel for BBQ’ing there and then with the most amazing Thai dips and sauces to accompany. Thanks to Phil and Ari of Royal Embassy for a great suggestion and allowing us to have this 121 BBQ experience, a wonderful experience of the markets of Phuket and boy oh boy some quality cooking that night by the house chef – delicious. What you are not getting here is the smells, sounds and sights of the experience. Pictures paint a thousand words and all that, but fall far short from the actual experience we were having on this day. This place was wonderful. But a tad stinky, as you’d imagine with 35 degree temperatures outside and only fans to keep the place cool. Poor Amy even had a burst of tears because “it’s so smelly Daddy”. We had to exit the building. I have to admit I was not too disappointed with that decision!
Here’s another great example of the diversity of foods. Not hawker. Not street cart. Not market. Its a roaming beach vendor, and not just any vendor. One end is a BBQ with hot coals and eggs, the other end condiments. Now the eggs he has blown, you know pop a hole at either end and blow the egg out, then whisk with soy, fish sauce and some salt and pepper then squeeze it back in to the shell. I kid you not, this is this dish. Then he BBQ’s that over the hot coals and hey presto there’s you beach food – whist sat listening to reggae at Ska Bar with a beer of course.
Here it is peeled. Simply delicious. Salty and eggy all in one. Pour over a little fish sauce to up the ante and tuck in. Man oh man. This smoky little morsel, sat on beach, beer in hand, sea view, and Bob Marley – I am in heaven!
And just to finish of my little tour of Thailand. Have you ever seen untying like this? We’re in our bus just leaving Nakita’s and on our way for some more site seeing and we spot this blue van driving up behind us. What can that be in the back? Can’t quite make it out yet. Getting closer, closer, closer. F@ck me it’s a baby elephant!!! WTF. Check this out. Only in Thailand. The country that keeps making you want to go back for more and more and more!!! We love you Thailand!!!
Make sure you check out the post Khao Soi from Northern Thailand Thailand, Thailand, Thailand – where on earth would I rather be!!