March 30, 2012

Chiang Mai, Thailand Meals - Part Two

Continuing on from Part One of what I ate during my brief trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, here's the second (and last) installment!

The dish above was actually one that I built myself at my hotel's buffet lunch - and I did a pretty nice job if I do say so myself! The broth was a really spicy chicken curry soup, then I added cooked egg noodles, a squeeze of lime juice, fried noodles, and cilantro. It was super spicy and definitely got my nose running, but I really loved it!

I didn't eat a lot of desserts on my trip, but the dessert spread at the buffet was too hard to resist!

Pictured above is a blueberry mousse cup, which I got just because it was so pretty, and a pandan cake, which I had to try because pandan desserts were everywhere in Thailand! From what I understand, pandan desserts are made with pandan leaves, which are used to flavour and colour desserts in several Asian countries much like we would use vanilla here. The taste of pandan desserts is pretty unique and very hard to describe - the cake I ate it in was very sweet and coconutty, but my sister also tried pandan popsicles and jam while she was there. I'm going to have to keep pandan in mind for next St. Patrick's Day, if I can manage to find it here!

The day after we rode the elephants (see previous post), my whole body was super sore, so my sister and I decided to book Thai massages at the spa in our hotel. The massage was definitely a unique experience - lots of pulling, twisting, squeezing, and even punching - and I'm not sure I'd ever get one again, but it did feel nice after the pain subsided! After our massages, they brought us a lovely tray of tea and snacks:

I wanted to share this because the snack was so simple but really tasty! It was just plain rice cakes that were served alongside bowls of honey, white sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds. We figured out that we were supposed to dip the surface of the rice cake in honey, then dip it in the sesame seeds, which stuck to the honey. It was a really nice snack that would be easy to replicate at home (and is not too bad for you either!)

After our massages, we sat by the pool for a while, then relaxed with some Thai beer and chips:

I don't normally buy potato chips at home (mostly because I would eat the whole bag in one sitting), but as I mentioned earlier, chips are one of my favourite things to look at and buy in other countries because I love discovering new crazy flavours that we don't see at home! I couldn't read the writing on the chips I bought, but from the picture and taste, I believe they were barbeque chicken. They were pretty tasty, but I'm not too upset that we don't have them here :)

For our last dinner in Thailand, we went to Dash! Restaurant & Bar because it was rated #1 on Trip Advisor. It was in a beautifully designed building and the staff there were so welcoming and friendly. My pictures of the food aren't going to do it justice because it was really dark out, but the food was delicious!

To start, Gen and I split a papaya salad, which we'd been dying to try the whole trip:

We both absolutely loved it - it was fresh, crunchy, and full of flavour with just the right amount of spice. For my main course, I had to order pad thai because it was my last chance to order it in Thailand!

Again, my picture doesn't do it justice, but it was so good! They gave me a gigantic plateful which I sadly couldn't finish. I really wish I could have brought it back home with me!

On our last day, we only had time for lunch at our hotel before we left for the airport. To start, I had some veggies, sushi, and an iced coffee:

All were good, but I especially loved the iced coffee - it was so much better than any similar drinks I've had in Canada! For my main course I had pad thai again (I couldn't resist!), and for dessert I tried mango sticky rice:

Mango sticky rice was everywhere in Chiang Mai, especially at street vendors, but on the last day I realized I hadn't tried any yet so I grabbed the little dessert from the buffet. The sweet rice and ripe mango were delicious, but the coconut cream drizzle on top was to die for! I think I may have to try to make my own mango sticky rice at home some time - hopefully it's not too hard!

Sadly, we had less than four days in Chiang Mai before we had to head back home. The trip home was too long to count: we flew from Chiang Mai to Singapore, then spent the night at the airport there (about 9 hours), flew from Singapore to Tokyo for a brief layover, then flew the longest portion of our flight home to Toronto. During our long night at the Singapore airport I decided to try kaya toast, which is really popular in Singapore, but I'd somehow missed trying it when I was there earlier.

Kaya is like a jam, but is made of eggs, sugar, coconut milk, and pandan, giving it that familiar green colour. It's really sweet but is quite tasty - I actually had it twice in the airport, the other time it came with an embarrassing amount of butter which I won't post the picture of!

While we were waiting to board our plane early in the morning, I ordered one last fruit smoothie, this one a "mango green tea mantra":

It contained mango, mango nectar, green tea, vanilla yogurt, sorbet, ice, and an "immunity booster" made with zinc, echinacea, vitamins A & C, and more green tea. It was really, really good, and I think the immunity boost worked because I was seated next to two people with colds on the plane and so far I don't show any signs of having caught it!

When we stopped in Tokyo on the way home, I wasn't very hungry but felt like I would regret it if I didn't take the opportunity to try sushi in Japan! Unfortunately, airport prices are a little ridiculous (a California roll was about 20 bucks), so I ordered the cheapest one I could see: avocado. I was hoping Japan's sushi would somehow taste infinitely better than what we get at home, but this tasted about the same - I guess it's pretty hard to make basic avocado sushi taste special! It was still good though!

Now I'm home safe and sound and trying to get back into my regular routine, which will include getting back to regular recipes on the blog soon! I had a wonderful trip and really hope to be able to return soon to see a lot more, but for now I'm happy to be home to my boyfriend, family, bed, and kitchen!

In case you missed my other recaps of what I ate on my trip, here they are:
Singapore - Part One
Singapore - Part Two
Thailand - Part One
And if you're interested to see more, check out my sister's posts of what she ate in Singapore and Thailand too!

Chiang Mai, Thailand Meals - Part One

After my conference in Singapore, my sister Genevieve and I traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for four days of "real" vacation time. We didn't want to take too much time off because of all the schoolwork that would be waiting for us when we got home. But after experiencing a taste of Thailand, we wish we could have stayed much longer and seen a lot more of what the country has to offer - I'll have to go back one day!

As I did with Singapore, I wanted to share with you some of the delicious food and drinks I enjoyed during my short trip to Chiang Mai.

Since we arrived after midnight on Saturday, our first meal was breakfast at the hotel the next morning. I was thrilled to see that pad thai was one of the buffet offerings, so I grabbed some, along with some glass noodles with cabbage, roasted potatoes, coconut yogurt, muesli, and fresh carrot juice. An odd breakfast, but everything was so good (except for the carrot juice, which I switched to pineapple or watermelon for the rest of my breakfasts)!

On our first morning, we walked around to explore the beautiful old city and lots of temples. We were sweating buckets (it was over 30°C every day and we had to be fairly covered up for going into temples) so we stopped in a cafe for some air conditioning and cool drinks:

I ordered two drinks because I couldn't decide between the two, but I didn't realize how big they would be! The first was an iced coffee frappe, which was so much better than the usual Starbucks frappucinos I get here in the summer, and the second was a pineapple shake that was also amazing. It took me a while to finish them but I savoured every sip and every second of air conditioning!

I think I've already mentioned how in Singapore, freshly squeezed fruit juices and smoothies were everywhere, and the same seemed to be the case in Chiang Mai. I couldn't help ordering a different fruit drink every time I passed by a stall because they're all so fresh and delicious, and in Thailand the prices were WAY better (30 THB is about 1 Canadian dollar):

The drink above was the pineapple, papaya, and coconut smoothie, which was good but was a little too heavy on the papaya, which I realized I'm not a big fan of.

After a long and hot afternoon of walking around, we took a tuk tuk (so fun!) back to our hotel to sit by the pool for a couple hours. It felt so nice to rest our feet in the water, and when happy hour began, we ordered some Mai Tais to celebrate our first day in Thailand!

I realize Mai Tais are more of a Caribbean drink, but since they sound like "Thai", we thought they were appropriate! Regardless of their origin, they were still quite tasty!

That night, we went to the Sunday walking market, which is a long street that closes down to traffic and is filled with entertainers, street food, and vendors selling handicraft products like jewelry, clothes, bags, and various souvenirs. It was insanely busy but such a great experience, and we got some great deals on things like clothes, spices, natural bug spray, rings, and food!

Above and below are just a couple pictures showing some food stalls in the market. Everything looked so good, except for the fried crickets!

We didn't want to eat too much because we were going to a restaurant later, but I couldn't resist trying a couple things. First was a simple stir-fried noodle dish with chilis, scallions, and peanuts, served in a banana leaf:

For a simple dish, it still had lots of flavour, and you really can't go wrong with food that's under a dollar!

At another stall, my sister and I decided to split some Thai pancakes:

We expected them to be like a dessert, but they were actually savoury, with a gooey center filled with onions (and possibly a couple other things I can't remember). The sugar on top seemed odd once we realized what was inside, but it actually worked together in a strange way. I'm not sure I loved the texture enough to say I'd get them again, but they were still a good snack!

After walking around for a while, we stopped at a restaurant and stared out at all the shoppers while enjoying a refreshing Singha beer (which is produced in Thailand).

The meal we had that night (at a place called Hot Chilli, for anyone that's ever going there) was the best thing I ate on the whole trip. I had a Thai green curry with chicken, pumpkin, and coconut milk:

It was served in a beautifully carved pumpkin (notice the detail on the top), and though it was pretty spicy, every spoonful of the rich soup was just bursting with flavour. The restaurant had a really nice atmosphere (my sister got to sit in a big basket chair with pillows) so I tried to eat my curry as slowly as possible to enjoy the setting as long as we could (and because I didn't want my food to end!)

The next day was the day we'd been looking forward to the whole trip - going to Patara Elephant Farm to be elephant owners for a day! Patara is classified as a learning experience in Thailand Guide books, compared to the 55 other elephant places there that are classified under places to ride elephants. Patara is all about caring for elephants and breeding them to help restore the rapidly diminishing elephant population in Thailand. In their 11 years of operation, they've had zero mortalities, 15 babies born, and another 5 are on the way. The elephants are all happy and healthy, compared to other places where they are forced to do tricks, or places that only take in abused elephants (which is also nice but just a different goal because they won't live long or help restore the population). They have less visitors per day than number of elephants, and visitors learn how to care for an elephant for a day, and ride them barebacked so no harmful equipment is put on them (and elephants need to do lots of walking around to file their nails to prevent infection). I'd highly, highly recommend them if you ever go to Thailand, the people there are amazing and treat the elephants so well, and the experience itself was absolutely incredible and one I'll remember for the rest of my life!

Above is me meeting my elephant, Me Kwan, and her baby, "Bad Boy". I learned how to check to see if she was healthy, then fed her, brushed her, bathed her in the river, rode her through the beautiful surrounding land and forest, and played in the water with her for a bit. It was amazing!

Below is a picture of the lunch they gave us:

We were given a huge array of food all made by local people, and all wrapped in banana leafs, which we got to feed to our elephants after! We each received four packages of different sticky rice, then shared a wide assortment of other treats that were all delicious - I wish I'd had enough room in my stomach to try it all!

Even though Gen and I were exhausted at the end of the day, we still returned to the night market for more shopping and dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant. I ordered khao soi, which I'd read is a popular dish in Northern Thailand:

If I can borrow Wikipedia's description of the dish, Khao soi is "a soup-like dish made with deep fried crispy egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, ground chillies fried in oil ... in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk". It would typically contain meat, but mine had tofu as it was served in a vegetarian restaurant. It was really spicy but really good, and different from any other dish I'd tried recently.

I wanted to fit this all into one post so you guys wouldn't get sick of these travel posts, but I realize that this is getting really long, so I'll have to finish Part Two in a couple days. Then I promise I'll be back to regular recipes soon! Hopefully you can at least find some inspiration for your own home cooking in the pictures I've been sharing, and if you know any recipes for the dishes I mentioned, feel free to let me know!

March 27, 2012

Singapore Meals - Part Two

Continuing off my last post about the food I ate during my week-long trip to Singapore, here's part two with the rest of my meals!

The picture above is a Singapore Sling, which I drank in Raffles Hotel. If you're not familiar with the story (which I'll admit that I wasn't before I went), the Singapore Sling was invented in Raffles Hotel, so lots of tourists now go to the original hotel to enjoy the drink in the place where it was first made. It's ridiculously expensive there (25 Singapore dollars, or about 20 Canadian), but was really good and worth it for the experience!

The picture below is from a Japanese restaurant that we went to in Clarke Quay, an area with lots of bars and restaurants down by the water:

I ordered a bowl of edamame (good, but not nearly as salty as I'm used to!) and some California maki which was also delicious.

As odd as it may seem, one of my favourite things about travelling is looking at the different flavours of chips that are available in each country! I'm always amazed at some of the flavours that exist out there, especially in Europe - I remember a trip to Ireland where there was a voting contest on a new set of chip flavours which included Chili & Chocolate, Crispy Duck & Hoisin, and even Cajun Squirrel - I didn't want to know what was in that last one!

For a snack by the pool one day, I grabbed this bag of baked seaweed chips. They had little green flakes all over them which stuck all to my teeth, but they were quite tasty!

I only had one Chinese meal while in Singapore, mostly because I'm not really a big fan of Chinese food (and yes I've tried the real Chinese food in China, I'm not referring to Western chicken balls, although I don't like those either!). But one night a group was going to a Chinese restaurant on the roof of our hotel so I went along for the view!

I ordered what was probably the only vegetarian item on the menu: a stir-fried asparagus with deep fried enoki mushrooms and chilis. The mushrooms were not what I was expecting, but they added a nice crunch, and the whole dish was actually quite tasty, though really spicy!

On a night that we went to a night safari, I only had time to grab a quick meal from the food court - but the food courts are amazing in Singapore, so that's not a bad thing!

I got three items from three different stalls in the food court: Indian paratha filled with cheese and mushrooms (loved the paratha part but not the filling), some sort of pastry filled with coffee paste (so good!), and a banana milk shake (not the type we're used to, but just banana blended with some milk and ice). It made for a quick and tasty meal in my hotel room!

I drank a lot of Tiger beer in Singapore, which as I mentioned before, is a beer brewed in Singapore. This picture was from another night with friends in Clarke Quay (though that was the only beer I drank - alcohol is ridiculously expensive in Singapore!)

And this was the dinner I had that night at a Thai restaurant:

I actually can't remember the name of it now, but it was a type of glass noodle dish with chicken and vegetables. I've learned here that I'm not too crazy about glass noodles because they're a lot mushier than other noodles, but this dish was still really good!

I thought I should include a picture of the lunches we got during the conference, because they were really great for conference food:

Each day there was a choice of Western food, Chinese or local food, and Indian vegetarian. I chose the latter each day, and it was always delicious. The meal above included rice with raisins and cashews, paneer, cabbage, and potato (along with a mango pudding and juice). Each lunch dish I had during the conference included paneer and I never knew how much I loved it until now - I'll definitely be trying to find some when I get home!

On our third night at Clarke Quay, we chose an IndoChine restaurant, which had Cambodian, Thai, and Vietnamese food. For my appetizer I chose fresh rolls:

Sorry for the horrible pictures of these dishes, but when you're eating outside at night, the lighting is not that kind to photo-taking! The fresh rolls were okay, but had a bit too much mint for my taste.

My main course, however, was the best thing I ate during my whole time in Singapore:

It was a green curry with vegetables and a spicy coconut broth that was just amazing! I was so impressed by how much flavour was in the broth alone, but the vegetables were delicious too. I especially loved that they used grapes in the curry - I would have never thought of that myself, but they added a really pleasant burst of sweetness.

And here's one more picture of a Tiger beer from that night, just because I love the glowing drink in the background!

I only ordered a half pint that night because it was still about ten dollars just for that!

After the conference ended, we went to a Japanese restaurant for lunch, where I had a ton of food!

For what I thought was an appetizer, I ordered a soba noodle salad, but it was huge! The noodles and lettuce alone were obviously pretty plain, but they were served with a sesame peanut dressing that was probably the best salad dressing I've ever tasted - I wish I could have asked for a bottle to take home! Of all the dishes I tried in Singapore, this is probably the easiest one to replicate at home, so I think I'll be trying it soon after I return!

For my second dish I ordered more sushi, this time an avocado tempura roll:

It was good, but had a bit too much mayonnaise sauce at the bottom which was pretty overpowering. I wish I'd just ordered a bigger soba noodle salad instead!

On my last day in Singapore I ordered a fresh fruit juice from a stand near our hotel, because fruit juice is so popular here and is so, so good! They have such a wide variety of fruits available that juice stalls will just blend/juice right in front of you. This was an apple aloe drink:

The lady in the stand threw what looked like four apples into a juicer, then mixed it with some ice and chunks of aloe. Aloe is really popular here - I'd never really thought of using it for anything other than sunburns before, but it's in a lot of drinks and even yogurt, which I had for breakfast many mornings and quite enjoyed!

For my last dinner in Singapore, I actually didn't even eat Asian food! We went to a market-type restaurant nearby which had stations from multiple countries like France, Italy, Turkey, and Morocco, and you could choose whichever country you wanted (or multiple ones) to order food from. I chose Morocco because the head chef of that station is actually from Morocco, so I knew it'd be good!

The big juice in the picture was an "antioxidant juice" they made at the juice bar for me, which included a lot of fruits that I can't remember now! All I remember is that it had beets, which is what attracted me to it .. I don't know if I could taste the beets in the drink, but it was really good regardless!

Here's a (dark and blurry) close-up of my Moroccan meal, which was a vegetable tagine with couscous:

It was amazing! The vegetables were cooked to perfection and served with a really tasty broth, to which I added a bit of chili paste to spice it up a bit. It was such a great last dinner and definitely filled me up for the plane ride to Thailand that night!

I haven't shared a lot about the activities I did in Singapore, mostly because this is a food blog and I assume people don't come here to read about travel, but if you're interested, here's a brief summary! Singapore is a great city that's clean and safe, with a mix of cultures that are reflected in the wide variety of food available there. I enjoyed many activities and sightseeing experiences there, including exploring China town and Little India, strolling through the Botanic Gardens, watching a light show at night, doing a reverse bungee (crazy!), and eating lots of great food .. oh yeah, and I attended a conference, but I'm sure you don't care about that! I'd highly recommend a visit here, though you should be sure to visit at least one other country in Asia while you're over there, as there's so much else to see and do here! I'm currently enjoying my last night in Thailand before I begin the long trek home, but I'll do another post of the even more delicious food I've been eating in Chiang Mai soon, before finally being back to regular posting!

March 23, 2012

Singapore Meals - Part One

If you follow my blog then you already know that I'm currently enjoying a week in Singapore for a conference (and a bit of free time too!). I was hoping to still post a couple recipes while away but I feel like I haven't had a spare minute to sit at my computer, and when i do, I've been trying to stay up to date with emails or skyping with my boyfriend, so I apologize for the lack of posts! I'm having a great time here though; Singapore is a beautiful city (or city-state, technically) and I've had some wonderful experiences here, the most memorable of which so far probably being a "fish spa", where you dangle your feet in a tank of little fish that eat away at all the dead skin on your feet - I'm not sure if my feet look any different now but it was definitely a fun experience!

I've also been enjoying some great food here from a range of cuisines. One of the things I love about Singapore is that the people come from many different cultures, and that's reflected in the food that's available. I've mostly been eating Indian and Thai food because those are my favorites, but I've also had a few delicious Chinese and local meals. And with my bit of free time this evening, I thought I'd share some pictures of the food I've been eating. Sorry that I don't have recipes for any of these dishes, but if you know of any great recipes for them, please leave me a comment to let me know!

The picture above is a dish called "carrot cake", which is obviously not what we would think of as carrot cake, but is rather a fried mixture of daikon, rice flour, egg, garlic, and spices. Apparently it's a classic Singapore hawker dish, so I made sure to try it when I was here. It was a tad eggy for my tastes, but I loved the soft pieces of daikon and when I mixed it with some spicy chili sauce it was really good!

The picture below isn't from Singapore but I included it because it's the only food/drink I've ever bought in Japan! We stopped in Tokyo on our flight over here and I felt the need to try at least one thing while I was there. Since I wasn't hungry at the time, I just bought a green tea drink:

It was pretty strong so I wasn't a huge fan of it, but at least I can now say I tried something in Japan! We're stopping there on the way home too, so I'm going to try to get some sushi next time!

Going back to what I've been eating in Singapore, I thought I'd start by showing you what I've been eating for breakfast every day at the hotel:

My breakfast usually consists of some sort of noodles, a dal, an Indian bread-like thing (it varies every day), a big plate of fruit (the one with the black spots is dragon fruit), some yogurt, and fruit juice. It's way more than I would normally eat at home but I can't control myself at buffets and the food is just so good!!

My first dinner here was at an Indian restaurant:

I can't remember what all I ate because it was a buffet, but pictured above is some palak paneer, chicken tikka, and some other things that I can't remember. The food wasn't that great, but the view was lovely, so I was happy!

On Day 2 we went to Singapore's botanical gardens (really nice) and then shopping. We were super hot and tired, so when we passed by a place offering jugs of margaritas we decided to stop in for a drink:

Even though a margarita isn't something you'd think of drinking in Asia, it was very tasty and refreshing, and just what I needed at the time!

For dinner the third night, we went to a Thai restaurant in a mall. A lot of the food here is in a food court or mall because it seems like every other building is a shopping mall. I ordered a pad thai with chicken:

It was really good, though not that different from pad thais at home, as I was expecting. I'll try one again when I get to Thailand next to see if there's a difference!

On another of our free days, we went to Chinatown for a bit of shopping. Once again, we got hot and sweaty and decided to stop for a drink. Chinatown had unusually cheap beer for Singapore (it's quite expensive here) so we all shared some big bottles of Tiger beer (Singapore's beer):

I've been trying to drink only Tiger beer while I've been here because it's made in Singapore and it's pretty tasty, especially on a really hot day (which is every day)!

We didn't have a lot of time to walk around Chinatown but there were some interesting items for sale, like what appeared to be a bag of dried octopus:

That same day we also stopped in Little India, where we ate lunch. I had to order one of my favourite drinks, a mango lassi (which was delicious):

We all shared some onion pakora as an appetizer, which is like a fried onion:

I dipped it in a green chutney which was so good! For my meal I ordered some sort of chicken platter that came with rice, vegetables, chicken, and a sauce, all of which were really good:

This is all the photos I've been able to go through so far so I'll stop there and continue the rest in another post later!

And at the risk of making you lose your appetite now, I just wanted to share a picture of the fish spa that I mentioned earlier just so you get an idea of what it was like. If fish gross you out, don't scroll down!

Tomorrow I'm off to Thailand and will update you again as soon as I get a chance!

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