Known variously as "Thai salad", "spicy salad" or "traditional salad", "Papaya salad" is one of the few Thai foods that I'd never tried and never heard of, prior to coming to Thailand. And now I know why. Tonight in Mae Hat — just before leaving Ko Tao — I sampled a plate of this infamous dish for the first time. I'd been warned that this is "the spiciest dish in Thailand": and as such, I naturally went ahead and asked them to prepare it pet pet ("very spicy") for me. Big mistake: it really is the spiciest dish in Thailand, and perhaps in the entire world. The stuff probably isn't even legal back home. It's a delicious salad: but brace yourself before trying it, because it will blow you away.
It's been a while since I last took a cooking class on this trip; but today, the great tradition was finally revived. And revived Thai style, no less. This morning I was picked up from my new guesthouse (Yourhouse — better than the original dump that I stayed in), and taken to meet my 10 fellow classmates for today's lesson. The cooking school that I signed up with is run by two brothers: I was picked up by one brother; but he's taking a break today, and the lesson was conducted by his bigger, funnier second brother. We commenced with an eyebrow-raising tour of one of Chiang Mai's food markets, and then drove over to the school's private kitchen for the main event.
Green Curry Chicken (in Thai: "Gang Kiew Wan Gai") is the classic Thai curry dish, and it remains my favourite of the nation's many curries, due to its rich coconut taste and its refreshing spice. The preparation for this dish can be quite long — especially if you need to prepare the curry paste yourself — however, as with most Thai dishes, actually cooking it is both quick and simple. "Gang Kiew" ("green curry") is generally cooked with "Gai" ("chicken"), but alternatives are fine as well. This was the main course of today's cooking class.
Tom Yum Gai is a delicious hot and spicy chicken soup, and is one of the classic dishes of Thailand. "Tom Yum" ("hot soup") consists of a watery broth, as opposed to "Tom Kha" ("coconut soup") whose liquidy substance consists mainly of coconut milk. Either can be prepared with "Gai" ("chicken"), or with various other meats / seafoods, such as "Goong" ("shrimp" / "prawns"). The dish is amazingly quick and easy to prepare, and it tastes divine — especially when you add lots of chili! This was the first dish that I cooked during today's cooking class.
Patatas bravas is a simple dish of boiled potatoes, chopped into pieces and covered in a hot chili sauce called salsa brava. This evening, patatas bravas became the first tapas dish that I've ever tried in my life — it may be one of the more common and ordinary of tapas, but boy do them potatoes taste good! I tried the dish at a place in central Madrid called Las Bravas, which is a crazy tapas bar that's crowded to the hilt, and where the only way to order is to push your way to the front, and to scream the name of your dish out over the cacophony. Highly recommended as an introduction to Spain.
If you think Alpine Austria, and you don't think enchiladas, then think again. This evening, Jake and Mitch showed Kade, Margaret and myself a Mexican restaurant here in Kitzbühel, called "La Fonda" (no, all you Napoleon Dynamite fans, not LaFawnduh :P). They serve up a mean portion of enchiladas here: the best I've eaten outside of Mexico. Next time you're in Kitzbühel, don't miss out on the famous Austrian tradition of Kitzbühelerenchiladen — chorizo ist gut, ja!
After three weeks in Italy, I would like to officially announce that — despite its being delicious — I am getting kinda sick of all the pizza and pasta. Tonight, I decided it was time for a break. I walked past a kebab restaurant in town, and I simply couldn't resist a meaty, spicy banquet of doner, bread and salad. As well as serving a delicious plate of kebab, the place I found was also nice and relaxed and informal: take-away-ish, fast-food-ish restaurants seem to be rather hard to find, here in Sicily (it's either pure take-away, or a super-formal super-pricey trattoria). I followed up the kebab by stopping by at a pasticceria, and indulging myself in a truly decadent cream- and strawberry-filled pastry for dessert. Sometimes you just gotta indulge.
While I was in the quirky village of Erice today, I stopped in one of the mountaintop cafes there, for a quick slurp of some much-needed hot liquid. The place I entered was serving something called "spicy coffee": a shot of espresso, infused with what I think was a bit of chili. Very bizarre drink — but it actually didn't taste too bad. I never expected to find coffee beans and chili peppers floating round inside a cup hand-in-hand; but then again, in Mexico they live on strong chili and strong coffee, so why not combine the two simultaneously?
I'm making no secret about it: I didn't come to England to see the Queen, I didn't come to watch the theatre, and I certainly didn't come to enjoy the weather. I came for the curry! Found an excellent Indian take-away joint, a fair way down the main street of Bath, that does some Mutton Vindaloo to die for. England, thankyou for imposing your unfair colonial rule on India all those years ago: because India is now getting its revenge, by invading England back; and they're bringing their curry with them. Best dinner I've had in months.
My dad and I returned to the Goldsteins this evening, where the 6 of us went down the road to the Main St of Newton Center, and where we observed Erev Shabbat at one of the area's fine Chinese noodle restaurants. The Chicken Laksa was superb. No better way to honour G-d's creations, and to observe his commandment of rest on the seventh day, than over a big bowl of Malaysian curry soup. That's my interpretation, anyway. So, as they say at the famous Noodle King of Lane Cove, it was time for some "Number Tertee-Tree, Pleess!"