Articles in Culinary Travel
The text messages about the bomb blasts come after I conclude that this dry whiter-than-white unbuttered bread with a couple of withered brown tears of lettuce and about eight minute slices of what I presume is chicken and a dry small roll and a wizened small citrus fruit of indistinguishable nature must be the worst brekker ever served in food-loving Thailand. Thanks Nai Yang Beach Resort.
Search and you will find. No need in fact to search. Just take a walk and chances are you’ll find a market. Fresh and local. The equivalent but down-home and just-how-it’s-always-been version of the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Saturday farmer’s market.
I believe home is where the heart is, and we carry our hearts with us, like our breath, so anywhere and everywhere is home. And being “at home” on the move has a sense of adventure while “home” in the conventional sense comes with duties and suchlike.
The strips of texture, it turns out, that I thought might be strips of mushroom, is young bamboo, grated. There are mushrooms. There is onion, red chili and spring onion, a mix of intense and subtle flavors. The rice noodle roll is somehow sensual in texture; the fish plump and decadently fatty and warm. Perhaps another nine on the mouth orgasm scale.
Old Phuket Town is cool to roam and the outdoor market is is a great lunchtime spot. I relish my final days of “freedom,” which is what traveling typically feels like. Not like I am not free at home. But traveling, I am free from most commitments, I guess. And there is freedom of seeing so much and doing so much when it doesn’t feel like doing but like “being” in a novel place.
The next morning, Sunday, we drive right down the island to the family-run Beach Restaurant at Thong Krut fishing village on Koh Samui. It’s a fave or Richard and Barb. And it’s fabulous.
My outsize shibori scarf is the most useful item in my luggage. You can use it to cover your shoulders at the Big Buddha temple in Koh Samui, sit on it on grubby bus seats, keep the sun off your arms and shoulders with it, don it in the evening to add a touch of elegance, dry yourself with it, wipe your hands on it when you’ve eaten, use to to keep you warm when the breeze comes up of an evening and lots more.
“You’re living a fantasy movie-set lifestyle,” I comment. My mind travels to where they could be living. In a village in England. OK. English villages can be charming. But this is exotic and there’s no fog and we’re outdoors and the beer is cold. Tables in the sand. Fire artists on the beach. Warm ocean for paddling. A Tiger beer and sixties music in the background.
It says “traditional Lao stew” on the Mango Garden restaurant menu. They do themselves an injustice saying on the menu that the dish has sweet basil, coriander, spring onion, chili, young eggplant — and I choose the beef for the meat option — period. It is, in fact, a pretty good version of the Lao specialty, Or Lam, which the manager admits to when I ask her and point out the wood ear mushrooms, the twist of lemongrass and the yard-long beans.
The Luang Prabang night handicraft market is good for browsing and bargaining. The Luang Prabang night food market is good for indulging what with all the barbecued meats and fish and sausage and a pigs heads and all manner of meaty bits and bites cooked over fire on grills.