Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dessert at Sam Chuk Market


The friends are dessert fiends and we had to round over to the many dessert stalls at Sam Chuk Market (ตลาดสามชุก). I wasn't going to eat them all. Most stalls offered tasting portions, and samples. Since the friends were buying, those were sufficient for me to take a bite just to see how the different desserts tasted.

Spotted intriguing flower crackers/cookies at Baan Mae Noi (บ้านแม่น้อย). Most crackers are made of flour, coconut milk, egg yolk, butter, salt and sugar made into different shapes. This one was intriguing- khanom dok jok (ขนมดอกจอก, lotus flower cookie). Freshly deep fried in a pot of oil, each piece was draped over tiny tea cups to dry and form its shape of a bouncy flower.

Khanom Dok Jok (ขนมดอกจอก).

One cannot do without water in this heat. My water bottle is of no help as it's not chilled. Ice cubes are awesome. Bought drinks instead. Easily downed a bottle of cold water. That certainly felt good. There're also chilled sugar cane drinks. You could choose to have them in a plastic cup, or pay a little for the 'novelty' of drinking it from a cup made from sugarcane. Oof. But all their drinks are wayy too sweet. What's up with this crazily sweet tooth Thais have??!! Had to dilute the sugarcane juice with water.

Stopped by Khun Aor Khanom Khay Plaa (ขนมไทยไข่ปลาคุณอ้อ). The stall sells a rarely seen Thai dessert- khanom khay plaa (ขนมไก่ปลา, fish egg sweets). It looks like golden fish eggs, but it's blobs of sugar palm fruit or taro with shredded coconut. Khun Aor herself only tends to the stall on weekends. It's surprisingly not too sweet! I suppose it's closer to a savory snack. I liked it! We bought quite a few boxes to-go and ate two boxes on-the-spot.

Khun Aor Khanom Khay Plaa (ขนมไทยไข่ปลาคุณอ้อ)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ตลาดสามชุก :: Sam Chuk Old Market

ตลาดสามชุก | Sam Chuk Market | 三烹百年老噠叻.
The signboard is a mix of Thai and Mandarin, especially the last two words ‘噠叻’,
which sounds out to 'talaat', i.e 'market' in Thai. 

Drove two hours out northwest to Suphan Buri's Sam Chuk Market (ตลาดสามชุก) that sits on the banks of Tha Chin River (แม่น้ำท่าจีน). It was a trading post for the Central Region back in 1800s. Today, it's a UNESCO acknowledged day market that closes by 5pm. It's a century-old Chinese riverside community that has been preserved for both local and foreign tourists.

The market is made up of four main street and slightly less than 200 two-storey wooden shophouses. There're private houses turned museums that one could wander in for a look. What's most interesting is that most of the stalls' owners live right there. It's their houses and shopfront all at the same time.

Despite the blistering heat and crazy perspiration, it was a very pleasant stroll because there weren't heavy crowds! The small market is known for its meatballs, fishballs, roasted and braised duck, as well as roasted and barbecued pork. There're many stalls selling dried fish too.  LOTS OF FLIES BUZZING AROUND. It's also known for its many traditional Thai desserts that other provinces don't have. Those desserts will have to be talked about in a separate post.


There're a few shops selling fishballs and porkballs, and of course with noodles and prawns or pork or both. But they also have those in a packet or on a stick as snacks. Sizes of balls come in small, big and gigantic! The gigantic ones are bigger than my face!!! Ask the stallholders which ones contain pork and which ones are fish. The fishballs were quite amazing! Lightly grilled and drizzled with chilli, I inhaled three sticks at a go. I have a weakness for nicely kneaded balls. Ate another three sticks five minutes later. No regrets.

We meandered through the tiny streets looking at the old school shops and old-style wooden houses. Because of the Chinese heritage, these houses, decor and random stuff are really familiar, and honestly, identical to those in Vietnam's Huế and Hội An. Looked at the old maps of the area, and the layout of the godowns and such are pretty similar to what Singapore's Boat Quay and Clarke Quay used to be.

Avoided all the stalls selling stupid t-shirts and clothes, stuffed toys and silly accessories. These things totally kill the vibes. Those selling colorful tiffin carriers and kitchenware aren't too bad. There were glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in lotus leaves. Heh. Passed on those too.

Then we spied steamed bamboo shoots. One of my favorite snacks! I like savory snacks leh. Happily bought a packet to munch. Dip them in the various choices of chilli paste available. Perfect. The store sold plenty of that. I bought a few bottles of those chilli paste. I want to taste them, then re-create them at home.


We even managed to find stomach space for like a sit-down lunch from the street stalls in front of an old-fashioned kopitiam Raan Café Tarue Song (ร้านกาแฟท่าเรือส่ง, literally translated into 'the coffeeshop by the pier'). It was stifling hot but I couldn't resist having a hot Thai coffee. Not into iced coffees or cold brews at all. This is properly kopi-o kosong. Mmmm.

At the duck stall Ped Yang Ja Cherd (เป็ดย่างจ่าเฉิด), the grandmother chopping up ducks was fantastic. She did it for hours and probably day after day after day. Wow. That arm strength needed to do so... o.O Two types of duck- roasted and braised, and from the other stall that sells pork and roast meats, two types of pork- barbecued and roasted. Washed them down with shared plates of rice and soda water. Happiness.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Layers of Humans


I really like Rebecca Lee's 'Bobcat and Other Stories'. The seven short stories pack a punch, and she fills so many emotions in such a limited space. Nuanced and layered, the author also managed to weave history and politics into these stories that revolve around college, and references to Saskatchewan and Canada. (Reviews here, here and here.)

The very first story is titled 'Bobcat'. Full of strange malice within a Manhattan dinner party. In it, the bobcat is both metaphorical and physical for the pregnant protagonist of the story who as host, is privy to the undercurrents of the relationships at her dinner party of seven included herself and her husband John, and at the end, her own marriage crumbles.

Then there's the oddly riveting story 'Min'. It tells of American girl Sarah Johnson whose best friend is a Hong Kong guy, Min Leung. She goes with him to Hong Kong in the summer of 1989. Min's father Albert Leung, has tasked her to sift through profiles and arrange for interviews in order to find a wife for Min. Said potential wife and Min would marry the following summer. Somehow, the Vietnamese refugee crisis is mentioned along Albert Leung's job and political appointment to manage this crisis. Then there's the present day South China Sea crisis.

A few women I could write off immediately. Some seemed too passive, others had a hostile edge, and a fair number actually asked me not to choose them, because they were doing this only to please their mothers and fathers. Most of the women I genuinely liked. One woman was so lovely that my heart skipped the moment she entered the room. One woman was unbearably funny; I met her twice, and both times I was reduced to tears of laughter. A few were such extreme overachievers at such a young age that I interviewed them very carefully, with my own motives, looking for clues, secrets of personality. But usually my personality sketches, compared with the grandmother's, were vague and dull—"Seems nice, dignified, beautiful, articulate." 
The only time I was able even to approach the grandmother's divination and intuition was when I described my new friend Rapti to myself. Not Chinese, I thought, but Filipino. Possesses strong heart. Loves a just God, and children. Industrious. Lives in apricot light.

The other story I really enjoyed is 'World Party'. In this story, a World Party is a "Quaker alternative to Halloween; all the children dressed up as characters from history or books or their own imagination, while the parents laid out food before them in a great banquet, the theme being that everyone, every last person, is invited to the banquet." The protagonist Justine's seven-year-old son Teddy is part of the World Party. In the adult's parallel universe, it means such a different thing. Justine is a professor of Roman Antiquity at the university and sits on a Faculty Hearings Committee this fall of 1981 where protests run rampant, and she and her colleagues need to decide (through a vote) whether to let the economics professor Stewart Applebaum continue as the advisor of protest group Harvest especially when they are starting a hunger strike.

The one sermon I'd never heard and needed now, needed every day of Teddy's life, was regarding Abraham and Isaac. But who can bear it? Who could bear to speak of it —Abraham, one of the kindest, most soulful characters in the Bible, being asked to carry his beloved only child, Isaac, up Moriah, where the child would be sacrificed. The story is made doubly terrifying because of Isaac's innocence and trust in his father. But the Bible is clear; children will have a destiny, and they will have a mountain, and all you can do is accompany them with the terrible knowledge of all the difficulties they will encounter. They skip beside you, or in Teddy's was, they walk carefully through the wildflowers, dreaming of infinity.  
So at the end of the day, with Teddy beside me, I slipped a little yes vote into the mailbox. Everybody would just have to live with that.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Two Thai Patriotic Ballads

So we know that Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha wrote two songs to kinda uhh stir unity within the country. Apparently there's an unspoken rule to play these songs on television and on air once every top of the hour.

Being in a car going in and out of Bangkok means sometimes we switch to radio for the news, traffic updates and stuff. That means, we all heard the two songs for like five times a day. -_- The first song written in 2014 'Returning Happiness to the People' is so similar to this super popular Thai love ballad back in the day.

Unwittingly, even I can sing them now, especially the recently released second patriotic ballad titled "เพราะเธอคือประเทศไทย"(The song title translates into 'Because You Are Thailand'link to youtube.) The Thai PM penned this too. The fact that it's written into a pop melody and being 'forced' to listen to it so many times mean that the tune and lyrics are stuck in my head now.

I was gonna embed the videos in this post. But you know what, I'll just leave this here. :P

Saturday, July 23, 2016

ส้มตำเด้อ

I rarely bother with recommendations of restaurants unless they're made by friends who know my tastebuds. There're enough food blogs and reviews around to make a judgment call on which restaurant to try and which to pass. Hopped out to Somtum Der (ส้มตำเด้อ) at L's recommendation. A few other friends sang its praises too. Loved it! I'd return again and again to this branch at Silom. It's only a 10-minute walk from Saladaeng BTS station, making it a great lunch venue when I want to eat at somewhere slightly off crazy Sukhumvit Road.

The menu is wide enough with lots of yummy things. Grilled pork collar, cockles topped with chilli and lime, and the sorts Well, som tam is basically a spicy salad of anything. The base doesn't have to be papaya or mango. It can be string beans or coconut shoots; go nuts with the toppings. And Somtum Der has many delicious choices. They also have those with seeds of phak krathin (ผักกระถิน, from the pods of white lead trees). One should definitely eat som tam with sticky rice. Mmm. It's what I'd define as a 'light lunch'. Heh.

I managed to come by twice to slurp up awesome som tam. On the first visit, the servers asked if we wanted Thai-spicy. The man said no in English. Grrr. The second visit, I put in the orders in Thai and specifically requested it to be Thai-spicy. The servers were very tickled.

The man finally caved and ordered a dessert- ลอดช่อง, lod chong naam kati. Somtum Der does a good one! It's pandan flavored rice noodles in coconut milk. I suppose it's a chendol of sorts. Same rationale as good pandan chiffon cakes. The good ones are always made with pandan leaves, not flavoring or coloring. Avoid the neon green ones.

Friday, July 22, 2016

นี่คือสถานแห่งภาพข้างหลัง


The friends gleefully went, "Let's watch this! No English surtitles!" Win lor. I'd only understand about three-quarters of it; that's fine. The friends would help me out with the rest. Directed by Parnrut Kritchanchai (ปานรัตน กริชชาญชัย), 'The Place of the Hidden Painting' (นี่คือสถานแห่งภาพข้างหลัง) is every bit as entertaining all through its two hours.

The play is inspired by Thai author and human rights activist Sri Burapha's (ศรีบูรพา, real name Kulap Saipradit, March 1905 to June 1974) 1937 novel 'Behind the Painting' ('Khang Lang Phap', ข้างหลังภาพ). Of course I read the novel, both in Thai and its English translation. Had to do it for Thai literature classes. The original in is a little painful to plough through. Heeeee. Although it's set in the 1930s in pre-war Japan, it's a classic Thai romance. Love, love lost, time, angst, honor, duty, family, obligations.

Luckily this play is happier than the book it drew inspiration from. Revolving around three siblings (an eldest brother and two sisters) who struggle with the younger generation's different perspectives and perceptions. The elder brother and one depressed sister basically do nothing and stay at home in the crumbling family mansion with the family maidservant, stuck in the past. They don't understand cellphones. Their house and lifestyle are supported by their superstar (model and actress) 41y.o sister. This sister comes back for a visit with her 25y.o boyfriend. The script even wrote in the most popular Thai magazine that people buy to read its horoscope and predictions. That set the pace of the play for the superstar sister to beware of the letter 'M', and all the comical juxtaposition of old and new ensued.

I didn't fully understand the characters' names that are intentional references to protagonists in Thai classical literature, but the friends patiently explained it to me. The acting was campy, fun, over-the-top and excellent. Very enjoyable! Glad I understood most of the dialogue, although some snark and jokes flew over my head. :P The play is a quiet critique of Thai society, its overt emphasis on traditions, etiquette and politeness, reflecting the conundrums within.

Yes, the play allowed no-flash photography during the performance.
But the audience (we) were polite and tried to be unobtrusive. :D

Thursday, July 21, 2016

ยำถั่วพู :: อยุธยา


Luckily the friends indulged me. We went in search of my favorite style of winged bean salad (ยำถั่วพู, yum tua plu) all the way three hours out in Ayutthaya at Baan Watcharachai (บ้านวัชราชัย). It's the Buddhist Lent after all, so once we're in Ayuthaya, a temple stop was made before dinner for the friends to light candles.

Spotted ma haw (ม้าห้อ) on the menu and ordered that too. I like the appetizer very much. It's not exactly sweet. It's sour, spicy and delightful altogether. The name literally means 'galloping horse'. Dunno why. It's an appetizer made of a thick sautéed paste of ground pork and shrimp (with toasted peanuts, red pepper, cilantro roots, garlic, shallots, white peppercorn, palm sugar and fish sauce) on a base of pineapple. This restaurant did it nicely piquant.


P wanted steamed prawns, and none of us had any objections. Figured one prawn for each should do since river prawns are rather big here. I had the idea that it would be the usual river prawns. When the plate arrived, we gasped. The critters were huge! Bigger than the usual! I've clearly forgotten how big river prawns get up north. The flesh was sweet, firm and crunchy.

Baan Watcharachai serves up good food, but somehow, its winged bean salad is stuck in my head. I haven't quite found a more convenient rendition that can replace it. So tonight, I'm so pleased that I got my winged bean salad cravings out of the way for the year. :P


บ้านวัชราชัย
เลขที่ 9 หมู่ 7 ถนน เสนา-สุพรรณบุรี ต. บ้านป้อม อ.พระนครศรีอยุธยา 13000

Baan Watcharachai
9 Moo 7, Baan Pom, Phra Nakon, Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand
T: 035-801333
Hours: 10am till 9pm.

โรตีสายไหม :: Roti Sai Mai

Since we were in Ayutthaya, we might as well hit up a roti sai mai (โรตีสายไหม) stall. Stopped by this row of stalls that lined the road (U Thong Road and Si Sanphet Road junction) across from Ayutthaya Hospital. All of them sell roti sai mai. Heh. I honestly can't tell which is good. It's only a matter of which stall adds more or less sugar to their product.

There's this one just in front of the Tesco Lotus Express that the friends go to. Uhhh, the name kinda translates into Bang Ari Roti Sai Mai (บังอารีย์ โรตีสายไหม). Apparently the stall has been around for 47 years. It used to be a shop/eatery, but now it's a roadside stall. Okay, whatever. But the friends swear that taste hasn't changed since their parents took them there decades ago as children.

I'm not a super big fan. I won't bother hunting it down in Bangkok. But we're in Ayutthaya, so I don't mind eating a few rolls. It's effectively candy floss. Spun sugar. LIKE PURE SUGAR. EMPTY CALORIES. The roti is just thin pieces of wheat flour. Crêpes. Luckily those aren't sweet. It balances out the sugar, somewhat. Once you place a bunch of 'floss' or silk threads onto the roti, roll it up. Either roll it up randomly or fold the sides into a popiah so that the ends don't stick out. Chomp. Eat. Repeat till candy floss runs out.

We still like the usual white/beige/brown silk threads in its natural colors, or the green ones properly infused with pandan leaves. Not fond of the rest of the rainbow colors for the candy floss or crêpe.