Kway Teow Tom Yam

December 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

kway teow tom yam

Half-eaten bowl, taken with my phone

Soi Convent, near the offices of BK Magazine, is choked with street stalls on both sides, many with full table-and-stool setups for office workers to sit down to lunch at. It makes for difficult walking, especially when you’re in a hurry and especially when crowds are waiting around the popular stalls, eyeing tables about to vacate (but take their own sweet time).

But when you’re on the other side, one of the impatient and the hungry privately clamoring for your bowl of something good at a disastrously popular stall—well, it’s equally frustrating. This was the plight of my co-workers and I couple of days ago. We had decided to finally brave the crazy-busy noodle stall we’d always been fighting to move past in weeks past, secretly eyeing their extra-large bowls of noodles, one and a half times the size of the usual ones. Also impressive has been the giant pile of lime rinds collecting beside their makeshift operation. Nothing like fresh lime in your tom yam broth. This time, we waited under the canopy of mismatched parasols, which created a sort of greenhouse effect on an already hot and humid day, shirts sticking to our backs.

But oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!  Once we got a bite of this kway teow tom yam, there was no looking back. For those unfamiliar with this dish, kway teow tom yam is not just noodles in tom yam soup. The broth here is a lot lighter (though some places give you a creamier option), but has similar elements: a lot of sweet, a lot of lime-sour, a lot of spice and a bit of savory. (If you like a bit of creamy, ask for a boiled egg and, seriously, stir the yolk into your broth.  It’s umami up the whazoo.)

Of course, you have your choice of noodles. I went for the bamee (Chinese wheat and egg based) because I like that extra bit of body and egginess. This place, called Kway Teow Khae, also offers a wide range of meat balls: look chin moo (pork), look chin tauhoo (fishy tofu), look chin koong (shrimp with herbs, pre-fried with deep-brown crust—mmm!).  The balance of sweet, freshly-sour (as opposed to vinegary sour) and the earthy meatiness of the balls is a lovely combination. I love that when I’m done eating, there’s still the (now extra-seasoned) soup to get through.

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Homemade Granola

December 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

It was hard to find a mixing bowl large enough.

For over a month now, almost every morning, I’ve been tirelessly pouring myself breakfast out of a gallon-sized Ziploc bag.  I’ve grown to love the tinkling sound of the crispy-toasted oats falling into the bowl, along with seeds, crushed nuts and the occasional raisin, the latter a sweet, chewy treasure that I ration out, one in each bite.  Then, towards the end of the bowl, when there is still plenty of granola left, but only a last, lone raisin, I play a game in delaying gratification, where I eat the excess granola first, and then compose the last, shining bite with the right ratio of granola to raisin.

And while I only had a gallon-sized bag, I actually made two gallons with the help of S., who is the proud owner of the other bag.  We went crazy one weekend, spent nearly a week’s worth of a paycheck on vast quantities of good ingredients and nearly two hours in front of the little oven at my parents’ house, toasting the honey-sticky concoction just right, taking it out every few minutes to turn it before sticking it back in.

The recipe came from my friend Robert S. of Vermont, joyful cook and crackerjack Scrabble player, whose granola used to arrive in the mail for two of the years I lived in New York.  Many a winter morning were spent sitting on a Brooklyn kitchen floor, eating the filling and fulfilling granola out of shabby-chic ceramic mugs with broken handles.  When I moved back to Bangkok, it was the other thing, in addition to good bagels, that I missed the most and took upon myself to recreate.  My hope is that when Robert retires, he’ll incorporate himself—too bad The Green Mountain Gringo is already taken—and supply his unparalleled, healthy granola to food cooperatives around the world, and supermarkets whose shelves sag with boxes of miserable industrial cereals full of sugar and corn syrup and nary a fresh ingredient to be found. « Read the rest of this entry »

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