Unless you count pouring hot water over a pack of instant noodles, I haven’t prepared a single meal at home since moving back to Bangkok in February. If you figure a minimum of two meals per day, add a handful of small, snack-sized meals in every few days, multiply by an average of 30 days per month, then subtract… ah, whatever: that’s comes out to helluva lot of eating out.
It’s not just that it’s easier to pick something up, or that it’s easy for one to be as economical (or not) when dining out: there’s just too much good food to waste a meal on my sufficient, but decidedly rudimentary home-cookin’. There are times when we literally have to plan out where we’re going to eat for the next week, like secretaries scheduling doctor appointments.
“Well, if we’re going to do our pad thai guy tonight, sushi sounds good tomorrow… wait, when was the last time we ate sushi?”
“Uhh… shit. Yesterday. Remember, Yaki-Ten? We probably shouldn’t have anymore sushi until at least Thursday. Don’t want to pull a Jeremy Piven…”
“Oh, right, yeah… he is such a douchebag. Anyway, okay, so pad thai and Chang beers tonight, tomorrow… well, I’ll probably go to the food court for lunch, so maybe bimimbab for dinner? Sushi on Thursday, then… Jae On on Friday? Grilled squid sounds amazing.”
“Hmmm… yeah, sounds good. But I thought we said Victory Plaza for sure this week? We haven’t been back there in awhile. Maybe we could have a drink and fish cakes there, then go to Taksura for that disgusting crab and squid curry? Also, I’m kind of craving udon and sesame greens at Ootoya again…”
Yes, we’re spoiled for choice.
For obvious reasons, we tend to eat Thai food more than anything else. Som tam, like this perfectly prepared one that I recently polished off in about three minutes flat, below, is my standard go-to dish for either lunch or dinner, and as one of the bartenders at Hansar Samui said last weekend, “is probably Thailand’s number one food.”
As I’ve said before, the som tam at Jae On is reliably delicious, as is everything else on the menu… plus, they know us well enough by now to believe it when we say phom chap phet phet (“I like it really spicy”) or prik ha met (“put 5 chili peppers in it”). After years of
babies tourists complaining about the spiciness of their food, many restaurants in Thailand, by default, leave the spice out no matter what you say (or in which language you say it).
But our diet here doesn’t strictly consist of Thai. In fact, sometimes we’ll eat it just a few times a week. Bangkok has a number of spots serving excellent sushi at mostly reasonable prices, like one of our favorites, In the Mood for Love, located just off the Thong Lor station on the BTS Skytrain. The vibe here is, as you might guess, romantic, but their fun, innovative list of signature rolls are the main attraction.
Like the popular Sweet 16, below, which is stuffed with eel, avocado, strawberry, and tamago and topped with spicy tuna and more fresh slices of strawberry. Yes, strawberry–gross, right? You’d be surprised. Thais are obsessed with food that strikes the perfect balance between salty and sweet (and spicy), and this one serves that need perfectly.
Lately, we’ve also been fighting, unsuccessfully at times, not to eat Mexican more than once every few weeks. Mmmhmm, that’s right, Mexican food in Bangkok–and some of the tastiest, most authentic Mexican food I’ve ever eaten at that. Owner of the city’s best burrito according to CNNGO Bangkok, La Monita Taqueria has this niche absolutely cornered.
Located down an anonymous soi right off the Phloen Chit BTS Skytrain station, past a number of translation and visa service shops, La Monita has a fish tacos with beans and rice combo that has me practically licking the plate clean; my fiancee can’t stop talking about the double-cali tacos (like Taco Bell’s Double-Decker Taco). So far I’ve not given in to the Nacho Fries temptation (essentially a mound of deliciousness with french fries instead of chips), but I’m not… sure… how much… longer… I can… resist.
Ironic, though, that the best meal I’ve had this time around in Bangkok was home-cooked. It didn’t come from Kitchen de Brian, of course: one of our good friends was kind enough to invite us over to her adorable apartment this week for dinner. Despite the fact that she’d gotten up at 4am that morning for work, and only had a few hours to shop for and prep everything after work, and had to get up at 4am the next day too, we arrived to an elaborately conceived feast, with a table perfectly set on her breezy balcony overlooking the Chao Phraya, a chilled bottle of white wine, cold bottles of Chang, mojitos, Brazilian-flavored jazz on the stereo, and all the ingredients for our indulgent four-course meal prepped and ready to rock. So, so cute.
She put an apron (and slippers) on my fiancee, and together with another Thai friend she turned these final preparations into an impromptu Thai cooking class. First, it was a Thai-style shrimp salad, with finely minced and chopped galanga, lemongrass, Thai basil, coriander, lime, a heaving handful of chili peppers, sugar, fish sauces, and just-boiled shrimp.
Readying the tofu fish cubes, flash-fried in vegetable oil, was a more straightforward process, but served with a side of sweet sauce, they were predictably delicious.
I normally don’t eat clams, but I happily made an exception in this case. Steamed on the stove with Thai basil, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and chili peppers, these fresh clams were unbelievably flavorful.
We’re lucky to have the means and accessibility to try so much great food in Bangkok. We’re even luckier to have good friends to enjoy home-cooked meals with… even if I’m not the one cooking them.
All photos copyright Brian Spencer