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.

A Week of Indian Food: Day 5 – Trekking grub

When we were in Jaisalmer (our first destination, after Delhi), T-bone and I had the opportunity to go on an overnight camel trek. I’d gone on one years ago, and the romance of it was still emblazoned on my brain. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten how painful it was (like riding a horse x 10), and we spent the trip gimping around bow-leg style. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful trip, and included some interesting food.

No, not these camels. Wouldn’t eat these garbage sacks if I was starving to death.

We were served 4 meals on the trip – two breakfasts, one lunch, and one dinner. The breakfasts were identical, and the lunch and dinner were variations on a theme. Our first breakfast was served in our camel driver’s hut.

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The second was served in the dunes.

Feelin’ a little groggy before the massive sugar hit kicked in.

Anything tastes good when you’re out in the cold, but I have to confess that the breakfast combo was a little biased towards the carbohydrate end of the spectrum. On both days, we received no less than an entire loaf of toasted white bread, a package of cookies, fruit, fake jam, and sugar-bomb chai. Oh, and cracked-wheat porridge. Good thing I’m a pretty lazy soul to begin with, or this combo would have had me bouncing off the walls/dunes.

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Bam!

Lunch included chappatis, a cauliflower/cabbage curry, and pickle (a spicy chutney).

This was the first plate. Our camel driver apparently forgot that he only had two clients, and cooked enough to feed six people. He force-fed us the leftovers.

Dinner was a beefed up (oops – shouldn’t mention beef and India in the same sentence) version of lunch. We had chappatis, vegetable curry, dhal, rice, and pickle. Our camel drivers cooked the meal over an open fire, where we all huddled against the cold.

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Todd demonstrating a facial huddle.

The camels also had some tasty treats, including a sack of grain, twigs, and, when their buddies got too close, camel butt. Apparently, there’s nothing like a mouth full of filthy hair and faeces.

Camel butt? Where?!

When we left the dessert, protein was the first thing on the agenda.

Stuff Thai People Like: Makro!

It’s time for another addition of stuff Thai people like! I’m going to apologize in advance for the photos in this one – they contain neither me nor my more studly other half. I’m sure you’re all deeply disappointed.

For some reason,* when I moved to Bangkok, I expected that most people would do the bulk of their grocery shopping in cute’n’tiny markets. While markets are popular (see, for example, this post), massive North American-style grocery stores are ubiquitous. I have easy access to the Thai equivalents of Safeway, Superstore, and Walmart. Sometimes their offerings are a little different than in the west (an entire aisle of fish balls, for example), but the concept is the same.

In spite of the massive stores right in front of my eyes, my brain still harboured doubt – “They may have duplicated Safeway, but surely Thailand does not contain a Costco clone.” Costco was our dear friend and neighbour in Calgary – there’s some part of me that always wants to prepare for a potential famine. By now, though, you know where this tale is going. I was forced to abandon my doubts when I was introduced to the joys of Makro (thanks, Tut and Erin), Asia’s answer to Costco. When a new location was built directly across the street from our local grocery store, we knew that we would never again have to go without enough food to feed an army in wartime. While they operate on the same principle of largesse, Makro is uniquely Asian, so I thought I’d give you a tour.

Starting off with the outside: Makro is built right next to a massive temple. I feel that this is particularly appropriate for Thailand, because shopping is pretty much its national religion.

The orange roof in the background is part of the temple, but really, it could be part of the store.

And the inside. Concrete is de rigueur, as in all Costco-esque stores. It just screams “bulk!” It also has an appliance section that is pretty straightforward, although it’s heavy on the rice cookers and electric food steamers.

And washing machines and salespeople and bad lighting.

It starts to get a little more intriguing when you head to the meat section. Thais are less squeamish than Canucks when it comes to acknowledging the deadness of their animal protein sources.

“Pick me! Pick me!”

“Pick us! Pick us!”

And in true Thai style, multiple freezers full of tentacles.

Because who doesn’t like a good frozen brick of suction cups?

The fruit and veggie aisle is fairly similar to Costco, although you won’t find these in Costco:

The bland-but-beautiful dragon fruit. Sort of like a pretty girl with no brain.

Plus the produce workers wear nifty rubber boots and enjoy hacking up fruit with large cleavers.

They also like wearing hats.

The spice centre is full of fun. It’s here that you can finally buy enough powdered chillies to satisfy your family’s needs. Nothing but options and choices, folks.

The most important section in the store.

You can also pick up a heapin’ helpin’ of goji berries, which are apparently a super food. You’d never guess that based on the price – $5 for a couple of pounds.

The alcohol section is smaller than Costco’s, and demonstrates the Thai penchant for random bluntness:

Apparently they want you to chug the sickly sweet wine coolers on the spot?

And finally we come to the bakery, which I have to say, contains a lot of pretty mediocre baking. Thailand does a lot of foodie things incredibly well, but the baked goods still need work.

White, white, white, blah, blah, blah….

And that sums up the highlights. The rest of the store is an interesting mix of ingredients that I find exciting and useful (20lb bags of peanuts for homemade peanut butter), and stuff that I just don’t get (how does anyone need an entire aisle of oyster sauce or instant coffee?).

Either way, I’m relieved that Makro has arrived, because the one thing that was really missing from my new Thai life was massive massive quantities of random food items that I do not necessarily need.

*ignorance/stereotypes/being dumb

Cooking for 20

The older I get, the more I realize that I am deeply impulsive. This affects many areas of my life, with mixed results: “Yes, I will eat that doughnut. Yes, I will learn to motorbike on an Indian highway. Yes, I will give a ride to the little old man that I found in the University parking lot. Yes, I will (attempt to) eat nothing but rice and daal for the entirety of Lent.” My most recent impulsive decision was to invite our entire apartment building over for supper on Monday night.* Todd gave me his best wizened math teacher look – “are you sure you understand what you’re doing?”, but he knows better than to get between me and my impulses.

These eyes have seen things

I have hosted large-ish groups of people before, but 20 was a little more ambitious than usual. No problem, I thought. We’ll just do bread/chicken/salad. Nothing could be simpler. I started off with the shopping. First stop, the deli, where I found already cooked, whole chickens. “You want it cut?” asked the lady behind the counter. Except she didn’t speak English, so our conversation went something like this:

“Khaaaa khaaa na-kaa sawadeee-kaaaahhhh??”

“Give ‘er.”

“Khaa. Na-kha. Ok-kha. Khaaaaaaaaa.”

She proceeded to cut the chicken in a way that is unique and special to Thailand. Take a cleaver and just start whacking that chicken. Don’t worry about things like “carving” or “slicing.” Just hack it until your arm gets tired, then huck the pieces onto a Styrofoam tray.

Sorta like swinging a golf club

I dumped the chicken into a cart, and headed for the bread and veggies. Hmmm. 8 heads of lettuce should be enough…

I finally finished shopping,  heaved everything into a taxi, prayed that the driver didn’t take off with my groceries, and hopped in. Hard part is done, I thought.

Until I remembered that I had to wash and prepare veggies in a kitchen built for an elf. The counter space is smaller than that of a child’s Fisher Price play house, and it was completely taken up with the dish rack. So I improvised.

This is the entire counter

Yes, I did sterilize the sink before I filled it with food

After all the vegetables were clean, I realized that I had a second problem – my elfin refrigerator. It is just about big enough to hold a carton of milk and a few ice cubes. There was no way that it was going to hold multiple salad bowls.

Bursting with plastic-wrapped goodness

So I improvised again:

HomePro offers the best all-purpose bags

And then I headed off to Thai class. Todd and I assembled the salads and other food when we got home. I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be enough food, that people wouldn’t fit into our apartment, that… But everyone squished in, and there were even enough random chicken parts left over for supper the next day.

A blurry shot of the bread. Served on our desk

An even blurrier shot of the salad table. My arm needs a tripod

The lovely Americans (with a smattering of Taiwanese) that share our apartment building

The night ended with birthday cake. With 20+ people in the building, the birthday celebrations are never-ending.

Sometimes, adjusting to life here is challenging, and I miss people at home. At dinner, though, I was reminded that we live in an apartment building full of truly nice people – I am grateful to be experiencing life in Thailand with them. Inviting everyone over for dinner was one of my better impulsive decisions.

* Dear Teacher Friends – I promise that I did not invite you over for dinner just so that I could blog about it!