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 🙂

Thai Cooking School

Last Saturday, Toddy and I toddled off to cooking school. For Christmas, Todd gave me a gift certificate for a Thai cooking class – Todd is aware that his wife digs calories, and this gift was spot on. After 2 weeks of Indian curry, we were ready for a bit of the Thai variety.

Before the cooking school photos, though, I have to show you one of the more bizarre houses in Bangkok – a replica of the White House. We visited the presidential grounds on Friday night.

Complete with a Statue of Liberty fountain

Our friends rent the former servants’ quarters behind the house, and we hung out on their roof on Friday night. The roof offers a good place to view the replicas of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower on the roof of the White House.

You’d never guess that the owner was influenced by Western culture…

Anyway, on with the food. The cooking course began on Saturday afternoon when the cooking instructors met us at the BTS (sky train) station, and escorted us to a local market. They spent half an hour describing the varieties of vegetables that were for sale.

Showing us a kaffir lime

Taken shortly after the biggest rat that I have ever seen ran/stumbled across the floor

Then it was time to head to the school to start our afternoon of coconut cream bliss. The menu for the afternoon included Massaman curry paste, Massaman curry, Tom Yum soup, chicken with cashews, and mango sticky rice. I was already hungry when we began cooking, and it required a lot of discipline not to eat the raw ingredients.

First up was the Massaman curry paste. It included a laundry list of ingredients: chilli, garlic, onion, ginger, coriander, lemon grass, shrimp paste, salt, and many more. We had to pound it until it resembled a paste. Apparently, it doesn’t taste the same if you use a food processor. Not sure if this farang could taste the difference, but I went with it.

Trying to work up a calorie deficit to compensate for what he’s about to eat

Next up was the Massaman curry itself. As with Indian food, I am always surprised to see the raw ingredients that go into Thai dishes – they seem so basic, but taste so sublime in curry. We simply prepped the ingredients, as we were going to cook all the dishes at the same time.

We then prepped the ingredients for the Tom Yum soup. The instructors passed us dishes of beautifully arranged ingredients, and our “prepping” consisted of chopping several of the ingredients into smaller pieces – “look, Mommy! I helping!” I hadn’t realized how simple the ingredients for Tom Yum are – no complex curry paste as used for the Massaman curry. It is seasoned with fresh herbs, sugar, chilli, and fish sauce.

Prepping for the cashews and chicken also involved cutting already cut vegetables into smaller pieces. Whatever – we got the gist of it. Far more entertaining was trying to decide whether one of our instructors was a ladyboy (Todd’s not sure, but I am 100% positive).

Ready to re-prep ingredients

Then it was time to cook! This part of the class was most informative for me. Now I know why I end up with blobs of curry paste in my vegetables when I try to make curry; how much coconut cream actually goes into curries; what the vague stench of Thai food comes from (fish sauce and shrimp paste); and that Thai cooking really does contain as much sugar and oil as I thought. The instructors were almost too helpful – please let me add my own ingredients to the pot!

I warned you! 

But I put such thoughts out of my mind when I saw this trio (plus rice!) of goodness in front of me. I’m such a good cook! And an even better eater…

Clockwise from left: Tom Yum soup, Massaman curry, cashews and chicken

Feeling simultaneously accomplished and ravenous

Last but not least was the mango sticky rice. It would have been too complicated to make our own rice, so the instructors demonstrated the process for us. Nothing like a good mixture of sugar and fat! So tasty.

So tasty that I forgot to snap a photo before I started eating

I was holding my stomach when we finally left. Good present, T-bone!