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 🙂

Butter Beef and Other Treats

Well, the blog has been a little mother-centric lately, and I’m sure she’s starting to feel just like Todd sometimes does (“why does it feel like YOUR blog is always about ME?”), but I had to do one last post on Momalot. Actually, it’s more about the food that she cooked while she was in Bangkok than it is about the gal herself. Homecookin’ is no mean feat when you are operating in an Elfin Kitchen in a strange land, but she rose to the challenge. Momalot has never been one to let a few minor roadblocks like emergency hospital trips prevent her from feedin’ her chilluns. Here are a few of the gems she produced:

1. Butter Beef

Butter Beef is one of my favourite things in the world. It’s exactly what it sounds like: beef cooked in butter. Momalot learned this handy trick from her Dutch mother-in-law: buy some meat (any kind will do), and huck it in a pan with a bunch of butter. Let it simmer for a few hours, then serve it alongside a pile of carbs. You cannot go wrong. This was one of my favourite dishes growing up, and due to its fat-bomb consistency, Momalot would only make it on birthdays. Remembering the few times that I chose something other than Butter Beef for my birthday supper leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

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First, simmer the butter. Don’t skimp.

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Make sure you’re wearing a cute apron when you add the meat.

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Let it cook…

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And cook some more. 6-10 hours should do it. A Canadian potholder will greatly enhance the flavour

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Momalot wishes to state that the meat shouldn’t be quite this black – our stove didn’t offer a low enough temperature to properly cook it. The blackness tastes amazing, though.

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Get yer carbs ready (Yorkshire pudding in this case)

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And mow down. I apologize for the lack of artistry in this shot, but if you knew how hard it was for me to resist eating while I took a photo, you’d forgive me.

I am salivating as I write this. Fortunately for us, Momalot was not content to rest on her laurels. Once we’d digested the Butter Beef (this took a few days), she got to work baking

2. Bread and Cinnamon Buns

My parents are basically the original hippies, minus the drugs and free love – they had a manual push mower long before it was trendy. When I had to mow the lawn as a child, I wished that they were a little less “progressive,” but now that I have no lawn to speak of, I have fond memories. They also bake their own bread from scratch on a weekly basis. It was no problem at all for Momalot to bake bread in our little oven. She hucked some flour and some yeast into a pot, let it rise in the Bangkok heat, and bob’s your uncle: ready to bake.

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“Are you dissing Uncle Bob again?!”

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And apparently we consumed the finished product so quickly that I didn’t even get a photo. Dang.

Finally, Momalot repeated the steps for making bread dough, but this time she also made her own sauce, lined one of our wire mesh racks with aluminum foil, and voila, cranked out a

3. Pizza

This was probably my second favourite meal as a child (after Butter Beef). Unlike Butter Beef, we would often eat this on weekends, as apparently it was not as rough on the ol’ arteries as fat-drenched animal protein. I often wished that we could order takeout pizza instead, but now that I am an adult and have eaten my share of truly dire pizza topped with mysterious meats, I see the error in my ways. There’s just something about knowing where all the ingredients come from that allows you to stuff your face with far more panache.

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Momalot also stocked our cupboards and made us numerous salads, but sadly, I did not document this with my camera. If you want more specific instructions on how to make Butter Beef, let me know, or ask any Dutch Oma who lived through the war. Just like Momalot, she’ll probably have some buttery tricks up her sleeve.

Thailand is a Cowboy’s Paradise

You may not have known it, but Thailand is a cowboy’s paradise. I, too, was unaware of this fact until I visited Khao Yai National Park and its surrounding environs. I naively assumed that Wranglers’n’saloons’n’country music were a North American phenomenon, but Khao Yai has proven me wrong. Everywhere we went there were traces of Thailand’s glorious/unknown history of cattle ranching – I couldn’t decide if it was all for the benefit of tourists, or if bootleggin’ and ranchin’ are actually an important way of life in these here parts.

Angry Bird fish balls: another important way of life

My first encounter with cowboy culture happened at the race. There was a special area cordoned off for elite athletes/VIPs, and it was tastefully decorated with a makeshift saloon and some good-quality plastic chairs. Because nothing screams “North Face” like a few hay bales and a tipple of the local brew.

Only real elites get to mingle with the hay bales

While we waited for our drivers to pick us up from the race, it quickly became apparent that a li’l pit stop was necessary. Somethin’ about waitin’ on a dusty road surrounded by ploughed fields makes a person need to whiz like a racehoss.  Not a problem: the parking lot was equipped with this beaut.

Possibly the most elaborate port-a-potty that I have ever peed in

The fun continued when we headed into the park that afternoon. Our driver was reluctant to actually enter the park (and pay the admission fee), so he dumped us at the gate. Unless we wanted to spend an exorbitant amount of money, our only option was to hitchhike. Considering that there were six of us, I thought this might be a problem, but before I could even consider throwing in the towel, Meagan had charmed our way into the back of a pick-up truck.

She also charms puppies

Oddly enough, the park was crawlin’ with trucks, and we caught rides with no fewer than three.  I’m not convinced that any of them have seen much off-road action, but it was mighty kind of them to haul such a large and sweaty mass of farang around.

Jus’ a couple of down home gals

We took a break from cattle’n’such, and spent a few hours tracking wild elephants. Our guide began by encouraging us to climb on ancient root systems.

Todd brings a special li’l y chromosome to the mix

And then got out her machete and began pointing out the various signs of wild elephant in the area.

That ain’t no cowpie

Sadly, we never saw any wild elephants. While some members of our group were disappointed, I was sorta relieved. I mean, if I bumped into a bear, I’d be terrified, but at least I’d have some idea of what to do. I have no clue how to deal with a marauding, tusked, brainy beast with a fifth limb.

Don’t let the fancy fabric fool you – this ain’t no walkin’ sofa

We hiked back to the road…

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Just a few of the activities that are prohibited in the park. Apparently climbing trees is not one of them…

…and hitched another ride to the park gate, where we were greeted with a plethora of cowboy gear.

Fur coats for those darned cold Thai nights

I don’t even know where to begin with this one

And some bun-huggers: preventing chafing since 1943

And then we had dinner at this fun joint….

…where I found this gem of a photo next to the bathrooms.

The King models cowboy chic.

I still have my doubts about the authenticity of Thailand’s cowboy scene, but we ate beef for the first time in a  long time –  I’m guessin’ someone must be puttin’ those Wranglers to good use.

And one last photo: a Buddhist shrine in front of a saloon. A tasteful juxtaposition of culture

Never thought that Khao Yai would make me feel so close to home. Or so very, very far away.