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

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!