Monday, October 26, 2015

Cambodia

A tuktuk taxi picked me up at the airport and as we bumbled along the air feels softer, water buffalo, soccer games and road side restaurants emerge into view then fall away.


My first day I spend wandering. I peer down a shop and see it opens up on a hidden market where women are buying and selling. They sit atop low platforms that showcase their offerings, wether animal or vegetable.



Small stands with tiny plastic stools offer up food to take away or eat in. I opt to eat at a stand where the gal makes me a panzanella-like salad. She spreads a fish paste on 1\2 a demi baguette then fries it and green colored seitan rolls. She chops this fried mass of flavor and serves it all up on a plastic bag covered plate accompanied by cabbage, cucumber and a sweet chili dipping sauce. And it all cost .50¢!

The next 3 days are spent riding a rental bike to explore the temples of Angor Wat and its neighbors. Elephants are lumbering by, monkeys wandering about and chickens literally crossing the road. The temples do not disappoint. 
The freedom the bike gives me to wander where I will is exhilarating. I've taken to wrapping my head in a scarf as I rode to block the sun and absorb some of sweat running off me in gallons.

My last day here, & I ride another rental bike, this time a mountain bike, along the Siem Reap River.  Men and boys toss nets into the river where it isn't clogged by garbage. 
Temples and mosques fill the air with calls to prayer, bells and music. Small boys, much too small for the bikes they ride, peddle along on spindly legs. Even smaller children yell Hello! and wave as I ride by. I send a hello right back and return their smiles.
There is so much to see and absorb that I don't take pictures and I won't write about it. I just want to take it all in. Cambodia is a beautiful heartbreaking dream.
                          
My final roadside meal here. Tomorrow I fly to Singapore, the bookend of my SE Asia wanderings.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Thai It Up!

Thailand was a "well I'm in the area anyway" kind of decision. And when I mentioned to Denise from Perth (who lived in Bangkok for several years with her family) that I was headed there she was up for meeting me. We hooked up with her friend Meg who suggested we go to an island off of Phuket called Kao Yao Noi for a few days of beach, biking and taking a cooking class ...

... So we did!

Mina's Thai Cookery is fantastic! She is a sassy bit of a thing who teaches small groups traditional techniques and flavors so that you can develop a true appreciation for the recipes. Her kitchen is small but well appointed and she has several ladies who assisted so the class flows along smoothly.
This was our favorite thing, a coconut grater that you sit on. The coconut is ripe and used to make coconut cream and milk once it is shaved. Meg jumped right in when Mina asked if we wanted to try.
Then you add a bit of water to the shredded coconut, knead it and then squeeze out the coconut cream. Easy peasy! ... If you have an elephant shaped, sittable coconut shredder as one does ...
The different flavor profiles for the dishes we were making were arranged (mise en place) as we prepared them to show us how they worked within the dish. Here is the set for the Massaman curry. The mix brings out the color (orange), sweet, spicy and sour notes that are the hallmark of Thai cuisine.
Some of the mix was sauteed in oil then mashed up in the mortar and pestle with the rest to make the curry paste. So damm fragrant.
The ingredients for the Sweet and Sour sauce for the fish. Not at all the cartoon / ketchup nonsense you see in the states. And we used cucumber here as Mina likes the texture it adds, I do to.
Here are the ingredients for the Tom Yum Gun soup. Notice the Kaffir Lime Leaves.
Oyster mushrooms, cilantro and chiles were also put into the soup.

The fish was fried up whole, after being liberally seasoned with salt. It was ridiculously good.
Especially once the sauce was poured over.
I seriously could not stop picking at the salty crunchy bits.
 
We finished with Sticky Rice with Mango. Mina likes to use black rice in with the white to lend color and nutrients. She's a smarty that one.
Here is her motley crew of students. We had a blast and were so stinking happy and full afterwards as we headed off to catch our boat, to our taxi, to our plane and back to Bangkok.
Yesterday I got to get my wander on in Bangkok with Denise, before she headed back to Australia, today with Meg, as they are both experts on where to go and what to eat. I am off to Cambodia tomorrow!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bye George(Town)!

I'm being seduced by this place.
Glimpes of tattered alleys, vibrant temples appear out of the haze, hawker stalls filling the air with tempting smells and yells, mind boggling food choices, captivating Muslim calls to prayer throughout the day....














...whatever these two are up to...
but the haze....
Damm you haze why you gotta harsh my mellow?
I'm off to Thailand tomorrow!