My Japanese Life

My subbing job as a Japanese teacher is now entering its fourth week. I’m basically fluent by now. I’ve also been eating loads of Japanese food, so me’n’my gut are pretty much ready to immigrate to the land of raw, dead fish. When I go out for Japanese food, I normally get fixated on the idea of sushi before I even consider other options, but recently, Todd and I decided to give teppanyaki(food cooked on an iron grill) a shot. We were at the mall, and were looking for a quick nosh before we went to watch Oz: The Great and Powerful.* Fortunately, Thais are obsessed with all things Japanese, and there was a teppanyaki fast food joint within plain view of the theatre. It was meant to be.

Clearly, this meal will be Xtra fast.

I went for the salmon set, while T-bone got the beef and scallops set. The set meal comes with rice, vegetables, soup, and a mound of garlic. It started off with this:

Seaweed in clear broth

And a mound of rice

And was followed by a plate of bland-looking but super-tasty bean sprouts.

Just glistening with delicious fat.

Then the animal protein hit the grill, and the chef began throwing around the butter/oil/garlic. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but whenever I see chefs use huge quantities of fat, I feel slightly horrified, but simultaneously extremely excited.

Ready to shovel that fat onto a plate. I think Todd looks like an anxious dog waiting to chow down.

And this beauty is what ended up in front of me:

I could almost lick the screen

Todd also had some tasty treats, although I think my butter soaked salmon definitely won.

Butter beef and butter scallops. Mmmmmmm.

Based on their enthusiastic chopsticking, the couple across from us also really dug their meal.

And I’m sure they’d be super pumped if they knew they were on my blog.

Best of all, the meal happened so fast that we still had enough time to catch our slightly mediocre movie.

The anxious dog is 100% satisfied.

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Just like these puppies on our street.

The teppanyaki was pretty darned tasty, and now I can’t decide whether I prefer fish raw or cooked. Maybe I should get my Japanese students to vote.

*A more fitting title would have been Oz: The bland and pitiful

My Life Lately: Editing and Eating

I was about to write another post about eating, but I realized that this blog has been a little too calorific lately. I mean, I love reading about food as much as the next person, but it’s not a good thing when words on a screen make you want to go on a cleanse. I’ll try to tone it down in the future, but to be frank, my recent life has involved a lot of food, a lot of editing, a lot of subbing, and not a whole lot else – hence the over-abundance of gastronomy. I’ve been doing some work for a women’s magazine – writing, editing, etc. – and several of the articles have involved restaurant reviews. The next issue is about to go to the printers, so life has been a little crazy lately. I go from this:

Calamari with truffle

to this:

My “A is for Angry” Birds shirt helps me destroy writers’ hopes and dreams.

to this:

This is a candid photo: subbing for lower school sports day is quite possibly the most heroic thing I’ve ever done in my life. 

Certain basic life details – such as grocery shopping – have fallen by the wayside, so when we do end up eating at home, it’s pretty sad. This morning, we had essentially no breakfast foods in the house. No bread, no cereal, no oatmeal, no eggs, no fruit. Fortunately, T “MacGyver” Bone whipped up a tasty treat: flour and water, stirred together and fried in a pan. Eaten with butter. I now understand the difference between “full” and “satiated.”

Butter. And flour. And water.

Eaten with maple syrup and a side of sugar.

It’s a life. And after the magazine is printed, I promise you’ll see more of the blistering pursuit of intellectualism that you’ve come to expect from this blog. Or at least a little variety.

Gastro-bomb, Part 2: Cocktails’n’Calories at Gossip

Do not think that the konspicuous konsumption stopped at 5pm on Saturday. In fact, it continued, unabated, for several more hours. Because we live so far out in the stix, I like to make my visits to the city really count, which is why I chose to slap on a visit to Gossip in Thong Lo on top of our raw food/sugar binge. This is organization at its finest, folks.

The owner of Gossip – a cocktail bar and eatery – very kindly invited the magazine that I write for to review the cocktails and menu at the restaurant. I always like to be altruistic in these situations, so I volunteered T-bone and myself for this daunting mission.*

Karol, the quirky/passionate bar manager, whipped up a dizzying array of cocktails for us to try. I don’t have much experience drinking cocktails – whenever I see them on a menu, I usually cheap out and order “one glass of house red, please,” but I may be a new convert. The presentation and flavour combinations were artistry in a glass. Karol’s explanation of the drinks also enhanced the experience – he tries to balance his artistic vision with local tastes. For example, Thais apparently do not enjoy cucumbers in their drinks, so Karol has to content himself with hiding them amidst other, bolder flavours.

The Flower Fields Spritzer: Lavender bitter, rose and elderflower, Prosecco

The Aurelia – basil, thyme, limoncello. This was my favourite – a very unique mix of fruity and savoury flavours.

Fresh Step Cooler: artfully concealed cucumber, grape, and shiso leaf.

Mangosteen and Elderflower Sour: fresh mangosteen, elderflower, and lychee liquor

Racyrose: vanilla, chilli, and lemongrass. Topped with nitrogen foam.

Tender Love: bourbon with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, and tonka. Yum.

Once we had been thoroughly bombarded with cocktails, Julien, the restaurant owner, wafted in on the evening breeze, and offered us food. We really couldn’t say no: following Newton’s First Law of Motion, once we’d started eating, there was no stopping. We sampled calamari and chorizo salad, shrimp satay, and steamed cod with ratatouille. I was lost in food paradise at this point, so I only managed to capture the chorizo and calamari.

Todd was excited by this writing assignment.

And then the desserts: very blurry photos of  the Marshmallow Chocolate Fondant and the Mascarpone Cheesecake.

This is supposed to be eaten in a very specific order: first, a slurp of the chilli infused chocolate; then a bite of the marshmallow fondant; then a sip of cherry juice.

Fluffy mascarpone cheese topped with pistachio macaron, gooseberry, and strawberry.

As we ate, I asked Julien loads of questions about his experience working in restaurants, and establishing Gossip. It was a neat opportunity – it’s always interesting to hear someone talk about their life passion, and Julien is clearly passionate about food.

After several hours, we realized that we had reached a heretofore undiscovered apex of fullness, and heaved our heaving stomachs onto the BTS. The things I do in the name of duty…

*This post is not sponsored by the restaurant

Gastro-bomb, Part 1: Rasayana and After You

Sorry for the gap between posts, friends. The truth is that I spent so much time eating this past weekend that I didn’t have time to post. And the truth is that I ate so much that I really can’t cram it all into one post. So, today, I’m going to present what I ate between the hours of 1pm and 5pm on Saturday, and on Wednesday, you’ll get to read about what I ate/drank between the hours of 5pm and 7:30pm. And just so you don’t think I’m an appalling glutton, let me offer the disclaimer that most of this consumption was done in the name of research – I had to review a few restaurants for a magazine. And as I learned in school, research legitimises anything.

On with the food!

First up was lunch with Kirk and Gi. This Cultured Couple just reeks* of good health, and when they invited us to their favourite raw food restaurant, we couldn’t say no. Rasayana is an organic oasis located next to a dog physiotherapy pool** on a quiet street in Thong Lo. The moment we set foot on the porch, we were enveloped in waves of hippy goodwill.

Like wallowing in pure rainforest essence. Whatever that means.

We all started off with fresh-pressed juice. If I was a better food writer, I’d be able to tell you what each contained, but let’s just say that Kirk and Gi’s juices were green, mine was purple, and Todd’s was puce. And they were loaded with health.

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Because all the food at Rasayana is raw (can’t be heated or cooled beyond certain points), the restaurant has to be really creative in its recipes and ingredients – we were really impressed by its interpretation of popular dishes. We sampled the mushroom burger, the pizza, and the pesto pasta.

The “bun” was a sunflower seed crisp.

A tomato-carrot filling covered in cashew cream and fresh basil.

Zucchini noodles with fresh basil pesto.

And going raw doesn’t mean going without dessert. We ordered the key lime pie, the doughnuts, and the carrot cake.

Carrot “cake” with strawberry sauce.

Dee-licious Key Lime pie

Date coconut “doughnuts” with a side of Todd’s hairy knee

All of them were tasty, but the lime pie was the clear winner in my books.

The meal finished with room temperature water, and warm tea. I could feel pure health radiating out of my pores.

But Gi’s pore-radiating was much prettier, so here’s a picture of her.

Unfortunately, I then chose to undo all the benefits of raw food by visiting After You, a popular Thong Lo dessert destination.

No, no. After YOU.

In my defence, I had to review it, but the timing was poor. I scooped up Hanna, a little buddy from my years working at summer camp, and forced her to eat cake while I snapped photos. She ordered the sticky toffee toast, while I had the mocha-toffee cake.

EAT IT NOW, HANNA!!! But not before I get a good photo.

My cake was good – an appealing slab of chocolate cake with toffee-nut topping, but Hanna’s toast was the winner. I couldn’t keep my fork off her plate. Something about a butter-drenched slab of white bread covered in toffee and ice cream just does it for me.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Sorry, buddy. You just don’t measure up to the toast monstrosity.

Hanna tried to fend off my fork while simultaneously pretending that she didn’t know the crazy person bumping into waitresses and snapping awkward photos.

And coveting other desserts.

As the toffee and butter wrestled with the raw food in my gut, I grabbed T-bone, and we headed to the day’s next culinary destination. Coming up on Wednesday: cocktails at Gossip!

*See, Mom: I learned how to spell “reek.” You can stop mocking me in the comments section.

**I am not joking.

A Week of Indian Food: Day 3 – Lassi

The lassi is a simple drink, but like many things in life, sometimes simple is best. Basically, it is a glass of puréed yogurt. That isn’t a great description, though, because Indian yogurt (known as curd) is quite different from Western yogurt. In the words of my Thai friends: “same same but different.” It isn’t as smooth or uniform as western yogurt, and it has a mild, sweet’n’sour flavour.

Our favourite lassis on the trip came from Lassiwalla in Jaipur.

This operation needs a lotta staff

Lassiwalla is the top-ranked restaurant in Jaipur on Tripadvisor, and it’s not hard to see why. For 17 rupees (33 cents), you get a cup full of bliss.

Ignore my grotty fingernail, and focus on the beauty in the cup.

Lassiwalla is so popular that no fewer than three knock-offs have popped up next-door. One night when Lassiwalla was closed, we tried the neighbouring lassiwalla, and it was also quite good, though maybe not quite as epic.

Same type of operation, but without the panache.

Both lassi shops begin by filling a clay cup with puréed curd, and then adding a piece of firmer curd to the mix. They serve it to customers with a spoon.

This is one happy customer.

When you’re finished, you huck the clay cup in the trash receptacle (an unusual feature for India), and bob’s your uncle. On to round two.