Free dinner Withlocals

Just a quick post for my Bangkok readers: Withlocals, the company that I reviewed on the blog a few weeks ago, is giving away FREE dinners in Asia as part of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day. The offer is only good until the end of May 16th (Whoops! Yes, I am a leeeetle behind in posting this link). Definitely worth checking if they have any free meals left – it was a great experience! Here’s the link:

 http://www.withlocals.com/food-revolution-day/

Slurrrrp! A delicious lunch WithLocals

This past Saturday, T-bone and I had a very unique experience. We stuffed Hunca Munca into her sausage casing carrier, went for a ride on the BTS, and ate an obscene amount of food. None of that is unique – it pretty much describes every single weekend of our Thailand existence. The unique part is that we got to eat the obscene amount of food in the home of a lovely Thai family.

I was recently contacted by WithLocals, a company that connects travellers and locals through the power of chow. Basically, locals with a passion for Thai cooking invite travellers to come to their homes for a meal. WithLocals vets the host families, and then posts their profiles on-line so that travellers can choose a dining/cultural experience from a variety of options and price points. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and when the company invited me to enjoy a meal with one of their host families, I was pumped. It doesn’t get much better than a mound of tasty calories cooked by friendly people who don’t mind if Hunca Munca tags along.

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Or more accurately, they didn’t mind that we tagged along with Hunca Munca

On Saturday morning we made our way to the conglomeration of shopping malls next to the Siam BTS. Depending on how much you like to shop, this neighbourhood is either utter paradise, or pure, unmitigated horror. Fortunately, we weren’t there to shop. A friend of our host family met us at Siam Center, and drove us across the river to the lovely home of Meaw and Eiad.

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The two friendly faces in the back row other than Todd (I wouldn’t call my face friendly in this photo)

Our hosts were extremely welcoming, and they had prepared a MOTHERLOAD of Thai food for us to try. I had to use my full powers of introversion to contain my excitement when I saw the delicious spread on the table.

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Mmmmmmm…… Where to start……

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Two friendly fellas just begging to be eaten

 

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Som Tam (green papaya salad)

 

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Spicy beef salad. They grilled the beef over charcoal, and it was deeeeelicious.

 

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I didn’t get close-ups, but the feast also included pad Thai, pork omelette, rice, french fries, and spring rolls

 

While we ate, Hunca Munca alternated between sitting on our laps, taking selfies with the helpers in the kitchen, growling with our hosts’ friend,

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and writhing around on the floor. Todd’s pretty good at eating with Zoe on his lap, but I’m a terrible multi-tasker, so when it’s my turn to hold’n’eat, I usually set up a little “play center” on the floor. Oops. Did I just admit that publicly…

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Just chillin’ with her multi-coloured cow/giraffe thingey

As we ate, we got acquainted with our hosts. It was neat to learn about their backgrounds, and they were interested to hear about our experiences in Thailand.

By the time dessert rolled around, the “play center’s” entertainment value had worn off, and Hunca Munca was asleep on my chest. I didn’t think I could hold any more food, but you will be relieved to know that I girded my loins and gave it my best shot. It’s a good thing that I am so determined, because there were at least 4 desserts to sample.

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Mango sticky rice and some interesting rice flour flowers

 

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After dessert, our hosts showed us a display case with photos of all the travellers they had hosted in their home, and told us that they would add our photo to the shelf. I’m not sure that our sweaty mugs will improve the look of their home, but we were touched by the sentiment.

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Before we left, Meaw presented us with scarves made out of traditional fabric, and invited us to visit again. We were really overwhelmed by their generosity, and I do hope we’ll have a chance to take them up on their offer.

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I would definitely recommend this experience, especially to travellers. It can be difficult to meet “real” locals when you’re a tourist, and WithLocals provides a great opportunity. If you want to enjoy a meal with cute Meaw and Eiad, select “Dine in a homely setting.” Your heart and your stomach will both be full when you leave 🙂

The Antique Cafe

If you had told me a few months ago that my new home away from home would be a cute’n’sleepy cafe located near Phrom Pong BTS and staffed almost entirely by lady boys, I would probably have believed you. I mean, I needed something to fill the void left by Samitivej Hospital – now that Zoe is four months old, even my friend the cardiologist couldn’t manufacture a reason for me to visit on a weekly basis any more. Plus, it turns out that my caffeine needs have increased significantly since giving birth, AND the cafe hosts my favourite estrogen-scented group. So really, there was no chance that I wouldn’t end up at Antique Cafe.

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One of the “top heavy” groups that meets at the Antique Cafe is a club called “The Breastfeeding Cafe.” You cannot accuse them of false advertising: it really is a heaping pile of mewling, suckling infants, and their female herders parents. Every Tuesday morning, the (Breastfeeding) Cafe meets at the (Antique) Cafe, which graciously allows us to cover every square inch of the space with baby paraphernalia. Before I joined the group, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be allowed to enjoy a coffee before I pledged to publicly expose myself at every opportunity, but fortunately, the group’s founders are more relaxed than that. Basically, it is just a group of haggard, haggard women drinking coffee and quizzing each other about how much they slept last night. Sleep is a drug to this group: “Where did you get yours? Oh yeah? What did it cost? Where can I get some? What?! You grow your own?!?!” If you haven’t spawned, this probably sounds hideous, but to new mothers, it is the Balm of Gilead.

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My friends Kelley and Rina getting (em)Balm(ed).

 

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Poorly photographed heap of breastfeeders.

My friend Laura is the group’s current lactation consultant, and she is a great person to talk to if you are a) a breastfeeding mother with questions, or b) a dairy farmer looking to increase your cows’ milk yield.

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Or if you just want to hang out with her extremely cute munchkin

The cafe also serves awesome cupcakes. After visiting the cafe 5 or 6 times, it hit me that maybe I didn’t need to order a cupcake every single time I was there. But I quickly banished that thought from my mind as soon as I saw my favourite chai tea cupcake in the display case, and fortunately, it hasn’t resurfaced since.

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Sluuuuuurp.

The cafe gets its beans from Yindee Coffee – a Rayong-based ministry that buys directly from Thai coffee farmers. It also supports a variety of other good causes and ministries.

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Like Second Chance Bangkok, the organization that produced these adorable items.

If you have bags under your eyes and estrogen in your veins, you should definitely come check out the Antique Cafe on Tuesday mornings, and enjoy the feeding frenzy. If you have the bags but not the estrogen, you should visit the Cafe any time other than Tuesday morning.

No, wait! I should be attempting to normalize public nursing! COME ONE, COME ALL!!!!!

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Like these two unsuspecting gents who are doing their best to look “normal”

But seriously, if you enjoy a great coffee at half the price of what Starbucks charges, check out the Antique Cafe. It is open Monday-Friday from 8:30am – 5:30pm, and it’s a great place to hang out even if you’re not lactating. It is located on the first subsoi off Sukhumvit Soi 31.

Although there are days when I miss being poked and prodded at the hospital, or receiving a good EKG, I am quite happy to have a new hangout. When lactators refuel with fair trade coffee’n’calories served by elegant lady boys, there are no losers.

Foodie Friday: Rotee!

Not even going to pretend that it’s Friday.

One of my favourite parts of Bangkok’s food scene is its variety. You can find a meal at almost any price point – from a dollar for a bowl of soup on the street to obscene amounts for an al fresco dining experience at a rooftop restaurant. The Thais just know how to do calories. This even extends to the usually revolting mess that is the mall food court.* While Thai malls offer yer average bland, calorie-bomb chains (ie: KFC, McDonalds, etc.), some also contain real gems. This is the case with Paradise Mall, one of the approximately fifty thousand shopping destinations located in our corner of southern Bangkok. While it should be noted that “Paradise” is not actually “Paradise” in the literal sense, the distinction gets a little blurry after you experience the joys of Rotee.

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I get excited every time I see this sign

Rotee is an amazing little stall that serves curry and Thai (not Indian) roti. This is an important distinction: Indian roti is a plain, unleavened, whole wheat bread. It tastes fine, but it’s pretty pedestrian. Thai roti, on the other hand, is a yummy lump of white flour-and-egg-dough fried in a good slather of grease.

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So shiny. So perfect.

At Rotee, after frying the roti, the staff then wrap the bread in a cloth and beat it within an inch of its life. I’ve never seen this done anywhere else, but it yields an an amazing pile of dough that is simultaneously fluffy and greasy.

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Couldn’t get close enough for a photo of this process, but you can see the results.

The curry is also excellent. Lately, I have a thing for Massaman curry, a mixture of chicken, potatoes, and peanuts in a spicy sweet sauce, and Rotee does a good one. They add enough sugar that it tastes like dessert and a guilt trip mixed together.

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The food is what keeps me coming back – it isn’t the staff. The ladies behind the counter are not your stereotypical smiling Thais. I’m convinced they think I’m a complete idiot no matter which language I use. Usually when I feel this way, I tell myself that I’m being neurotic, but in this case, I think I’m actually correct.

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A random photo of a nearby stall that was too good not to use. Something about the artwork makes me feel extremely exposed.

Paradise Mall is located near King Rama IX park, which means that after a stroll through the gardens, we can replenish the massive number of calories that we burned.

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Sneaking photos of a group fitness class. At least my eyes were getting a workout.

Also, it means that usually Zoe is asleep when we’re eating dinner, leading to many situations like this one:

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I once saw a post on BuzzFeed, or some other mindless time-wasting site, that included a bunch of photos of “bad parents.” One of the photos was a dad eating dinner while wearing his child on his chest. Either we’re so far gone as parents that we don’t even realize how bad we are, or whoever wrote the post isn’t a parent, because unless you want to ruin a nap or never eat again, there are many, many times when this scenario is necessary. I may have had to pick an olive out of one of Zoe’s neck folds once, and a certain unnamed family member** may have left a small smear of mayonnaise on her eyebrow on another occasion, but other than that, she is pretty much intact.

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Although she thinks her hand will provide nourishment if she sucks hard enough, so maybe I’m wrong.

If you live in Bangkok, do yourself a favour, and make a trip to Paradise. If the cashiers at Rotee make you nervous, remind yourself that your mother probably thinks you’re great, and place your order. All the intangible parts of you will be in paradise while all the tangible parts of you are simultaneously also in Paradise.

* Not that I’m dissing revolting messes. I enjoy burying my head in the food court feeding trough now and again.

** Not Todd, but someone related to him

Foodie Friday: 57th Street and Govinda’s

Haven’t written one of these posts in a while! I have, however, been chowing down pretty good’n’often recently. It suddenly hit me that once little Bannock is here, she is also going to be chowing down pretty good’n’often, which will probably lead to a slight reduction in my mobility. So, I am making a valiant attempt to eat my way around Bangkok before she arrives. Here are two of the restaurants that I hit up this week:

57th Street at the Marriott

One of the best parts about working for a magazine is the random invites that get sent my way. On Wednesday, I received an invitation to a celebration of Indian and Indian-Chinese food at the 57th Street restaurant at the Marriott, which would take place that evening. It was accompanied by an apology for the short notice. No apologies necessary: any time I’m invited to scarf curry for no charge, I’m a pretty happy camper. Todd made the supreme sacrifice of swapping his volleyball game for a night full of binge eating, and accompanied me.

The evening began with wine and Indian/Chinese fusion appetizers.

This photo demonstrates neither wine nor Indian-Chinese foods. But it does show TODD who likes to EAT.

After an hour of chit-chats and calories, the Indian ambassador to Thailand gave a brief speech – I’m sure the content was great, but my brain is drawing a complete blank – and we stormed the restaurant.

Part of the Indian selection.

Part of the Indian-Chinese fusion table

Aloo Gobhi, Kadhai Paneer, and Goan Prawn Curry

Wee gems from the ocean

The spread of food was pretty impressive. Sadly, these days my stomach’s capacity is pretty pathetic (compared to my glory days, at least), so I limited myself to Indian food.

But don’t worry about me! I still managed to find a few calories.

When I noticed that everyone around me was drinking wine, though, I decided to drown my sorrows in the dessert room.

Pretty decent, as distractions go.

I couldn’t fully capture everything Todd ate in one photo: let’s just say he got his money’s worth.

I can’t believe you didn’t at least TRY to capture my meal on film. So betrayed.

All in all, it was a delicious evening, and we will happily return any time the Marriott wants to celebrate Indian food.

Govinda’s

I barely had time to digest before it was time to waddle out for another meal. While the name may suggest otherwise, Govinda’s is actually an Italian restaurant. It has been quite a while since I’ve eaten Italian food, and I wanted to order everything on the menu. Decisions of any kind have never been my strong suit, but they are especially difficult now that I have to account for the cravings of both myself and Bannock. I haven’t been too impressed with her impulse control just yet. I started off with a Caprese Salad, and then ploughed through a plate of pesto gnocchi.

The gnocchi was great. My facial expression on the other hand…

Drowning in an amazing pool of oil/garlic/basil.

I ditched T-bone in favour of some more estrogen-filled comrades.

Who tried to pretend that I wasn’t taking awkward photos of them in the middle of their dinners/intense, estrogen-fuelled conversation.

I have to ask: is it a female thing to share meals? I’ve often seen women do this, but do men do it, too? I can’t speak for myself, because I am extremely territorial about food, and the thought of splitting dishes makes me break into a cold sweat. Maybe this is due to the fact that I grew up with four ravening wolves siblings.

Jacqueline, on the other hand, has no problem sharing meals.

The night ended with ice cream at one of the many, many conveniently placed McDonald’s outlets in this fine city. And now, I think I need to go sleep off this food hangover…