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.
Back in South America, I lived on the stuff. In "filled with artificial preservatives", "packaged and sealed three months ago and four countries away" Europe, it was nowhere to be seen. But now that I'm in Thailand, ever-present and ever-delicious fresh tropical juice is back! Banana, mango, coconut, orange, papaya and watermelon are just some of the varieties to be found on every street corner around here. Sadly, neither Ecuador's trademark jugo de mora ("blackberry juice") nor Brazil's sumptuous açaí are available — but the selection is nevertheless nothing to complain about. My "fresh juice twice or more daily" diet is once again in full swing, and life couldn't be better.
For my third foray into the delicious world of Spanish tapas, today I decided to try a dish called Pimientos del Padron. It's quite a simple one, really: just baby green peppers (i.e. capsicum) lightly pan-fried, and served with a sprinkling of salt. Reasonably filling, and quite tasty; although not the best value-for-money I've ever come across. But then again, value is a rare find indeed, here in Barcelona.
I've been eating plenty of kebabs here in Europe, and I've been doing so with generally good results. They're cheap, they're filling, they're everywhere, and most of the time they leave you feeling fine. But today, I pushed my luck too far: the kebab platter that I had for lunch clearly contained some questionable meat; because for the rest of the afternoon, I was either asleep in bed or sitting on the toilet. Seems that I've had one kebab too many. Gotta keep a discerning eye on those incredibly dodgy-looking spit-roasts that they use.
My first proper meal for 2008 was about as Spanish as it gets: paella! The classic dish paella is best described as an "everything you can fit in the pan" stir-fry: it generally consists at least of rice, egg, vegetables, numerous seafoods (e.g. prawns, oyster, lobster — sorry G-d), and chicken. For a very late lunch today (late by normal standards, although on-time by Spanish standards), Miguel, Emmanuelle, an Aussie Indian girl and myself found a great-value restaurant: 3 courses (paella was entrée) and wine, for just €8. Filled us up, woke us up, and tasted tip-top.
For my second-ever taste of tapas (after yesterday's patatas bravas), today I tried a little dish called boquerones en vinagre (lit: "anchovies in vinegar"). Very tasty: a plateful of the teeny fish are soaked in vinegar juice, and served to you fresh and cold. Spain is well-known for its good seafood, and I was quite impressed by this little introduction to the world thereof. More fish awaits!
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.
Back in Oz, we feel like Chicken Tonight; but here in Austria, they feel like Uncle Ben's. Tonight's dinner was quick, cheap and easy: with a bit of rice, a bit of vegies, and a bit of Uncle Ben's stir-fry curry mix, I had me a delicious (and enormous) serving of curry, courtesy of the Snowbunnys kitchen. Now that Craig, Sarah and Kade have buggered off, I'm back to my usual big, unoriginal and economical cooking tricks — but hey, it floats my boat. And everyone said that it smelled great, too.
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!
Jägermeister is a strong German liqueur, that for some reason has become wildly popular all over the Western world today. It tastes pretty bad (it was originally invented for medicinal use), but makes up for it with its legendary effect. I haven't gone near any Jäger for most of my trip: but here in Kitzbühel, everyone seems to be drinking an awful lot of the stuff — especially in the form of "Flying Hirsch" or "Jägerbomb" shots (i.e. Jäger and Red Bull together). It sure as hell ain't Aussie — and it's not Austrian either (although Red Bull is) — but Aussies in Austria can't get enough of it. Personally, I can take Jäger or I can leave it; and I don't see what all the fuss is about.