katsu kare night

I totally made a huge pot of Japanese curry and deep fried some fresh tonkatsu as well. The occasion? Today is the midpoint between Nam’s birthday (Nov. 9) and her little sister Noon’s (Nov. 6), so we celebrated them together as they have done since they were little. The food was so good, none of the nine people at the table spoke much until the meal was done. I was very proud of stuffing everyone full of so much garlic and curry goodness, and forgot to take photos.
For some reason, I never actually made tonkatsu myself before tonight, but it was easy and turned out very well.

Nam Nuong

Nam Nuong are the little grilled sausages on sticks shown below, but it’s also the name of this dish. It’s Vietnamese in origin, but I don’t know what it’s called there.

All of the ingredients are laid out on a rice wrapper and rolled up before eating, like a fajita.

The sauce is sweet and spicy, and full of roasted peanuts – the combination of all the fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs (including lettuce, cukes, green bananas, starfruit, mint, kaffir lime leaves, green chilies, and everything else in the photo that I don’t know the names for yet) is something that cannot be described, but must be experienced.

fruit sacrilege

Thai farmers dumped a ton of mangosteens on the street in front of city hall to protest the low selling price. I’m pretty sure all the government workers rushed out to scoop up their share.
3 baht per kilo does sound pretty low, though. They retail for 18-20 baht/kilo up here in the northeast; the best quality ones at their peak went as high as 25 baht/kilo a couple months ago.
I do have to say that if you’ve never had a fresh mangosteen, you are missing out on one of life’s real pleasures.

On the Road 2007 (Part 6) – The Animatronic Chicken Roasters of Rayong, Thailand

On a previous trip to Thailand, I wrote about the most delicious roast chicken I have ever eaten. I have many special memories of Rayong, and the awesome roast chicken stands by the roadside are certainly counted among them. I had been looking forward to reevaluating the chicken itself since the last time I visited, to be sure it hadn’t been a fluke, or just how hungry I had been at the time.
The chicken stands to which I refer are concentrated along a half-kilometer stretch of a long road into town, from the east end of Mae Ramphueng beach. We scoped out the whole stretch a couple times and stopped at the one that caught my eye.

This stand had the best chicken illustration on their sign (important!), as well as the freshest-looking birds.

Aloha shirt, ski goggles and mask, and a straw hat! What’s not to like?

Grinding away in the heat – this guy’s job really sucks

The entire setup is powered by an electric motor drawing power from the lines directly above the stand.

If shirts could talk…

My man here is styling, too.
As it turns out, this wasn’t the only stand with animatrons, but it was the only one with multiple animatrons. I saw other stands that already were, or were in the process of being semi-automated with motorized spits, and most had the automatrons as well, so I figure the same man or crew may be creating them for everybody on that strip – whoever he is, the guy’s a genius.
The non-automated spits actually require a person to turn them, which is just torture in the midday heat amplifying the heat of the coals. The stands still of course require humans for all the other tasks, and this one was manned by a mother/daughter team:

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I came for chicken and by god, I got chicken (and sticky rice, biooootches!):

The sauce from this stand was good, but not great. The funny thing is, this chicken is so good, it doesn’t need sauce.
Mandatory “glistening fat” closeup:

That bottom right part is the neck – mmm, mmm good.
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All links for the On the Road 2007 series:
On the Road 2007 (Part 1)
On the Road 2007 (Part 2)
On the Road 2007 (Part 3) – Koh Chang
On the Road 2007 (Part 4) – Overloaded
On the Road 2007 (Part 5) – Tamnanpar
On the Road 2007 (Part 6) – The Animatronic Chicken Roasters of Rayong, Thailand

Mangosteens and Rambutans

…are in season!

They sell for around 40 cents per pound each at the market; this is apparently a good year.

Probably my favorite fruit in the world. In fact, I can’t think of a close second.

Such an alien-looking fruit. Delicious, though.

Fr007 pr0n!
Bonus trivia (via Wikipedia):

  • The mangosteen is known as the “Queen of Fruits” in Asia. (The “King of Fruits” is the durian. If the king and queen ever bear children, I’ll be the first in line to eat them.)
  • The exocarp (purple outer layer) of the mangosteen is rich in both nutrients and antioxidants, however, this is generally not the edible part. The inner white fruit is known as the aril and seems to contain, well, uh, delicious juices that aren’t proven to be beneficial in any way, thus proving that anything that’s really healthy for you probably doesn’t taste very good.
  • “There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about Queen Victoria offering a cash reward to anyone who could deliver to her the fabled fruit (mangosteen).”
  • Thailand is now the world’s largest producer of rambutans.
  • Rambutan seeds are poisonous to humans.

Thai New Years Food

Let me be honest with you: As much as I love Japanese food, I hate osechi ryori. It is – oh, how diplomatically can I put this – really boring and expensive (if you buy it rather than have it made for you by your grandmother/aunt/mother-in-law), which I’m sure you’ll agree is a horrible combination of traits for food. This is why I was so happy to wake up to what I found on our table this morning:

The makings for “khanom chin”
That’s a bowl of sliced pineapple in the middle (think of it as the center of a compass). To it’s West: Ground shrimp meal. NW: Limes. Further NW: Sauce for the steamed fish (shown in photos below). N/NE (at top of table): A fully prepared bowl of khanom chin. NE: The “soup” base, coconut milk with pork bits submerged and out of sight. E/NE: A ladle on a plate, yo. E: Sliced ginger. Further E: Rice noodles. S/SE: A bowl of sliced garlic and chilies soaked in nampla. SW: Another fully prepared bowl of khanom chin.
So how does the fusion of all those flavors taste? Do they work together, or move awkwardly in opposing directions?
Well, let me explain it like this:

Khanom chin: Like toshikoshi soba on steroids
It was sooooooooooooo good. It’s like sweet, savory fire sliding down your throat and warming your entire body from the inside out. Seriously. It’s so good, I thought up a new year’s resolution on the spot: More foodblogging. I’ve even started a new category in its honor: Food.
Oh, by the way, khanom chin is served room temperature, and it wouldn’t taste good any other way, I suspect. Chilling it would suppress the (delicious) funk, and warming it would overstate the spicy and sweet components.

Steamed Nile Tilapia
The other main dish on the menu today was steamed fish, simple and sweet.

All dressed up!
The sauce was sweet and peanut-based. The sweetness of the Chinese cabbage and lettuce brought out the meaty taste of the fish and was nicely accented with fresh mint and coriander leaves.

It tasted just as good as it looks.
I guess I was somewhat disappointed to find out that this isn’t typical new year’s fare, and that in fact there really is no such thing here. I guess I’m just going to have to insist on it being a tradition in this household!