You may find it difficult to believe that we don't actually post on ALL the places we visit. Usually, if the Missus and I have an upscale dinner in San Diego, I usually don't take photos, unless it's happy hour or has some other interesting tie in. There usually are too many people around and I'm a pretty low-key person.....I don't like attention. And then there are those that just "don't make the cut"...it doesn't mean the place was terrible or anything, it could be that I just never got around to doing a post....of course, if it was a stellar meal, you know I'd have done a post.
So anyway, with a minimum of my blabbing, here's a trio that just never made it until I COMC'd (Cleared Out the Memory Card).
Inka Heritage - Madison Wisconsin:
To my disappointment, I got to Mad-town during restaurant week and Inka Heritage had what amounted to a prix fix menu, so I had to go with what they had.
Ceviche 3 Ajies (3 peppers):
Pescado Inka Heritage:
Sooo much cheese...but heck, this is Wisconsin, right? What should I have expected.
Inka Heritage 602 S Park St Madison, WI 53774
The Wok Restaurant - Chiang Mai, Thailand:
The dishes looked so lovely, but just didn't deliver.....very bland, somewhat dumbed down. These folks run a cooking school I was thinking of joining....kind of glad I didn't.
The Wok Restaurant 44 Rajmankha Rd, Chiang Mai 50200 Thailand
Ucyildiz - Antalya, Turkey:
So if MickeyD's, or say ChowKing came to Turkey, I'm thinking this is what the food would look like. Sorta artificial....funny, the photos in the menu looked so lovely.
We still chuckle when we see the photos....you can't win 'em all.
Anyway, thanks for dropping by and reading....or staring, or whatever it is that you do when it;s mostly just photos!
For some reason, I had never finished my posts on Thailand...sheesh. I suddenly realized this tonight as the Missus mentioned something about our stay.
So here's a super-late COMC (Clearing Out the Memory Card) post of mostly photos of the city that always smells like something;s cooking....really, it does. On our way back from Chiang Mai, we stayed in the Silom area of Bangkok, in what was the business district. Silom Road seems to be in constant traffic jam mode. Here if you pull yourself away from all of the food stalls, which by the way are right outside all these major business buildings, you can see the infrastructure of the Skytrain. It's sort of like having main street paved with food vendors...one long food court if you will.
The juxtaposition of skyscrapers to the tons of food carts and stands made this quite an amazing sight.
We entered one of the malls, only to come across a large snack and food stand right by the escalators......
Check out this counter....that's piles of pork sung, one of my least favorite foods......
But this was different. The pork looked like they were candied and as the woman offered me a sample in her gloved hand I couldn't resist! But she stopped me before I put it in my mouth......and handed me a ball of sticky rice! God forbid I forget the sticky rice! It tasted like pork candy...pork candy....need I say more? Pork candy......
Back on the street we passed a couple of duck restaurants......
Roast Duck and Rice for 40 Baht ($1.25/US), are you kidding me??? So follow along kiddies, candied pork sung, nam prik, and roast duck and rice so far.....
Then we hit the motherlode , this little stand right in front of a huge bank was this stand.
It was a mother and son team making what looked like Khai Jeaw Mu Sap - Pork and Egg omelete.....
And at only 20 Baht (65 cents US), are you kidding me? So if you're keeping score....candied pork sung, nam prik, roast duck and rice, corn on the cob(from I dunno where, I was hypnotized by me egg), and Khai Jeaw Mu Sap.
As we headed back around.......
The Missus couldn't help but pick up more sweets......
Now our hands were full, ....candied pork sung, nam prik, roast duck and rice, corn on the cob, Khai Jeaw Mu Sap, and various sweets......
But that wasn't the end of it. As we headed back to the hotel, we noticed that the kanom krok stand in the alley was now making sausages.....so guess what?
Why not, right?
That pork sung tasted mighty fine and ended up being my dessert.....
The nam prik makhua was not bad.....
The corn on the cob was meh....
The sausages were pretty good.....
As was the roast duck on rice.....
Can't tell you about the sweets, but for me, the winna' was the Khai Jeaw Mu Sap.....the photo doesn't do it justice.....man was it good.
In fact, this is what inspired me to ask Koby, who was then still at Sab E Lee 2 to make this for me.
Good thing we only stayed one evening...a week here and I would make Paula Deen look like Twiggy!
We still talk about the abundance and availability of food everywhere, at all hours in Bangkok. Like I've said before, "they say in America, the streets are paved in gold. In Bangkok, the streets are paved in food!"
Because of my recent (and hopefully short-lived) busy schedule, I've been lamenting not having the time to do posts which take a bit more time. When I mentioned this to the Missus, She told me, "you know, you never even finished your posts on Thailand", which we visited along with Laos at the end of 2008. I didn't believe Her, but when I checked my posts, I found that She was right. I need to correct this.....so here's one.
Did you know that Chiang Mai has a Chinatown?
If I recall, the main drag is Chang Klan Road.......
Once you almost hit the River Ping, you'll come across a very busy building.....not much to look at from the outside.
But it's quite packed on the interior........
Unlike the pretty touristy Sunday Market, this is where real food shopping takes place.
As you can tell..... I was fixated on the "aquatic" section. And it's really hard to resist stuff like this:
Though the fragrance dancing through the air in the market was from this:
The Kaep Moo (Deep fried pork rinds) really smelled like heaven to me..... so we ended up buying two bags, which we ate a bit later on.....
On our third day in Chiang Mai, the Missus decided that She wanted to visit Doi Suthep, located about 15 kilometeres from Chiang Mai. So how to get there???? Well, you just flag down a "sawngthaew" one of the innumerable red trucks plying the streets. Bargain, and get on your way.....
We arrived at the 309 steps up to Wat Doi Suthep..... and it seemed like everyone else in Chiang Mai decided to visit as well.
There's quite a bit to see, more than I could possibly cover in a post.
Lest you think just tourists come to Wat Doi Suthep, you'd be mistaken, as there seemed to be many who came to worship.
We spent a nice morning wandering the grounds.
We could only imagine how beautiful the view would be on a clear day.
Walking around sure stirred up my appetite..... so we had the sawngthaew drop us off across the Three Kings Monument, and went lookng for something to eat. I noticed a Khao Soi shop on the corner. I'd already tried Khao Soi twice, and was relatively unimpressed. This place looks busy, so I decided to give it another try. The Missus had already decided that Khao Soi wasn't Her thing, and stuck with just a soda.
I don't know if it's the fried noodles that is rather powdery and could have come from a can. Or if it is the watered down curry flavor that can't be rescued by lime, shallots, or even the only item I enjoy, the pickled vegetable. It could be that I didn't have a good version of this dish. But I really didn't care for the three versions Khao Soi I tried..... maybe next time....
As we walked down the street, we noticed another shop full of people. It looked like satay was the specialty here.
A woman walked down the aisles taking orders. As she took orders she'd bark them out, and the orders would hit the table.
Then things stopped...... the woman announced something, and half the people got up and left! The woman told us that they had run out of chicken, and only had pork left. I guess this place made a mean satay chicken. We decided to stay......
And indeed the pork was fine, but nothing to write home about.
I thought it was strange that each of us got two servings of rice. One on a plate, and the other in a bowl.
No matter, the rice had been cooked in chicken stock, and I would have been happy with just the rice alone.
Even better then the rice was the bowl of chicken broth, rich and vibrant with chicken drippings, great oil, with just the right amount of salt, and a touch of ginger to cleanse the palate.
That was worth the price of admission......
Like the rest of Thailand......... food was everywhere.......
Before I get to the wonderful Sunday Walking Market in Chiang Mai, I thought I'd share what I thought was an odd bit of "safety equipment" found in our room.
For some reason, the thought of placing a plastic bag over "mi cabeza" disturbs me......
Chiang Mai's Sunday Walking Market is something to be seen, stretching from the Tha Phae Gate all the way to Wat Phra Singh, streets in all directions are filled with booths selling all matter of goods.
Unlike the merchandising hell that is the Night Bazaar, the Sunday Market is more relaxed, especially since we got there just when the market started, at about 4pm. Our hotel was located just a half block from the the street the market was on, which made things very convenient for us.
When we arrived folks were still setting up.....
Not many tourists were seen, possibly due to the rain which seemed to fall for a short while every afternoon, scrubbing the sky and the streets clean. Of course the Thai locals took everything in stride....
And since this is Thailand, food stalls are everywhere. You couldn't go but a few steps without running into a food stall.
This is Thailand and snacking is a way of life here. I was more than happy to participate......
If you wanted to give up grazing and get something more substantial, we quickly learned that the courtyard of every Wat along the way was loaded with food booths.
The Wats it seemed, became de facto Food Courts.
And the range of food was amazing......
Bamboo Shoot salad....
And of course things would not be complete without some TFC (Thai Fried Chicken):
And of course, there were scores of "items on a stick". Which got me wondering how many wooden skewers were used on every Sunday?
I wish I took a better photo of this woman. Her beef jerky was fantastic.....
I felt no need to partake in the surprising amount of sushi available from dozens of booths.
The variety was indeed breathtaking. From the "standards".....
To items that were a bit more interesting....
And of course there were the items that were a bit more "challenging".....
Fried silkworm is delici-yoso stuff.....
But there was stuff that I thought was even too strange for me.....
Before you knew it, we arrived at Wat Phra Singh.... and things had gotten pretty crowded.
It was time to turn around and head back to the hotel...but not without a couple of snacks along way......
Arriving back at the Tha Phae Gate we noticed a huge crowd of folks, and young men and women were dancing on a stage.
Apparently, there was some kind of dancing contest going on. We decided to get away from the crowds and head up to our room, where we snacked (yet again), and watched the proceedings.
The Sunday Market was an enjoyable experience for us.....
As much as we enjoyed the Sunday Market, we did have a few regrets. The Missus really wanted the quail eggs from this stand.
We decided to get them on our way back to our room, but couldn't find the stall....
And of course, we regret not being able to bolt on a second stomach.....
I was once told, "you won't have to eat in a restaurant in Thailand, it's all on the side of the road". Never have words rung so true. Though the scents of food doesn't waft down every street and alley in Chiang Mai, there is more than enough to keep you stuffed.
Much like Luang Prabang we quickly developed a routine of sorts. Up early, after a small breakfast, which was free at the hotel. Unlike other folks we didn't load up on the free stuff, saving ourselves for later. We'd get on our way early. On our first morning, we headed off to the Chiang Mai Cultural Center. As we took the turn on Ratwithi an "escort" joined us:
As if he knew that we weren't from around these parts, this mutt walked alongside the Missus making sure we made our way to the Museum.
He guided us almost to the doors of the museum, and seeing that his duty was completed, he looked up at us, with almost a smile on his face, and went on his way. It was pretty remarkable.....
We enjoyed the Museum, and learned a lot, but forgot even more!
There was a good collection of interactive displays.
There was one display that was a bit too realistic. We noticed this display, and kept wondering what part the stuffed cat played in the display. Then the cat sat up and yawned! I almost jumped out of my shoes!!! It seems this cat has found the perfect spot to take a nap......after all, what better than the lap of a (semi-) human????
On the way back we passed a small booth on the side of the road.
It was obvious that they made the classic sticky rice with mango, but the Missus pointed to one of the pots and even though the couple didn't speak any English, they knew what the Missus was asking about. When the young man opened the pot, the fragrance instantly hit me.......
It was the making of Durian Rice! The Missus ordered some Sticky Rice with Mango and Durian and tapioca pearls with sticky rice.
Which we brought back to our room and devoured.......
After our "snack" and quick shower, we'd head off, and grab some lunch (we'll cover that later), and do something like head off and visit a few Wats. The Missus loved the Wats, and She'd take advantage of every opportunity to accost talk to the Monks.
We returned the next afternoon, and while the Missus high-jacked did Her hour and a half "Monk Chat" I walked the grounds.
A Buddhist University is located on the grounds so this was a great chance for students to practice their English, and the Missus to talk to the young men, starting with the inevitable "I thought Monks are vegetarians, and aren't supposed to eat meat, how come monks in Thailand eat meat?" Sigh........
The restored Chedi (Stupa) at Wat Chedi Luang clocks in at about 200 feet and is a good landmark when walking within the "Inner Moat" part of Chiang Mai. It was originally built in 1441 and was restored by UNESCO and the Japanese government. The Chedi lacks a spire because no one is really sure what it looked like. Another interesting tidbit. There are six Elephant sculptures along the Chedi, five of them are restorations. Only the one with no ears and trunk is an original.
After returning to our room, we'd head off for something to eat, often stopping off at Pratu Chiang Mai, or something up the street at one of the other markets.
There's always food in sight, and you will run into something. One night while walking up the Moon Muang we ran smack into a market, and a couple of food carts. One of which featured meat on a stick....who can resist?
These looked a spooky white in color....
OK, all the red specks were the only pieces of meat in this sausage......... it also tasted kinda strange....sour, but a strange sour.
And of course......
We could not pass a Kanom Krok cart without stopping. This Guy was busy, and couldn't keep up with demand. The Konom Krok we got was overcooked and solid in the center......it tasted fine, but was hard through and through. No molten, lip melting center for us this time.
Every evening after dinner, we'd head back to our room. But we'd always end up waiting at this stand a block from our hotel:
I'm walk over to the 7-11 (there's one on every block in Chiang Mai and Thailand) for water and some, uh, liquid refreshment, while the Missus would wait for Her our 35 Baht ($1) Fried Rice.
For those who complain that Sab E Lee puts too much white pepper on their fried rice and Pad See Ew, check this out. This was soooooo good.....
And of course, there's always a Durian story...... On our second night we noticed a pick-up parked alongside the road, loaded with Durian.
The Missus couldn't resist! There was fresh Durian that had been cleaned sold on a folding table next to the pick-up. The Missus bought some, and declared it the best She's had to date. So of course we went back the next night and bought more.
While the Missus enjoyed the Durian, and the Montri did not have any "no Durian" signs posted, I felt bad for the folks cleaning our rooms. I tried to ease my guilt by leaving a bit of a larger tip everyday for the folks having to suffer through cleaning our rooms.
Chiang Mai was an interesting city. On one side quite the tourist town, with a bustling visitor industry. On the other, an ancient walled city........ with a real spirituality that we saw over and over. It was a fascinating balance.
Chiang Mai didn't quite have the constant fragrance of food wafting through the air like Bangkok. In fact, at times you kinda had to work a bit to find something that wasn't tourist, Western style, or Pseudo-Thai Food. After walking around Chiang Mai a bit, we were rather happy we stayed in the Inner Moat area, right across the street from the Tha Phae Gate. The hotel, The Montri was a bit worn, and there was a huge renovation project going on during the day, which didn't bother us much since we were out of our hotel by 8 am. One of the places we visited many times was the area by the South Gate, called Pratu Chiang Mai. The Pratu Chiang Mai Market area really has something going on during all hours.
At night all the food stalls and carts are going strong.
During the day, there are more formal stands within the market area, and more produce vendors lining the street.
The evening carts seem to get started right after the afternoon rains, and get going pretty quickly.
On the day we arrived in Chiang Mai, the Missus decided to do a quick walking tour of various Wats.
And at the end, I was bushed. I remember seeing food stalls on our way in the from the airport, so we took a walk to Pratu Chiang Mai, and had our first dinner here. The only problem is what to get!
The TFC (Thai Fried Chicken) stand was going strong, and you can eat well for less than 2 bucks. At the time of our visit it was 33 Baht to a Dollar. So here I was in Thailand....so why not get some Pad Thai???
Place your order, and things get rolling pretty quickly.
Meat on a stick, just 15 Baht (50 cents):
Which on this day was enough for the Missus and I....a buck-fifty for dinner.....
The Sausage was decent, but had a bit too much rice and was not sour enough for my tastes, but the Missus really enjoyed it. It was garnished with slices of cucumber and galangal.
The Pad Thai was pretty good, a bit greasy, but in a good way.
It was surprisingly filling. We had gotten to appreciate Thai portion sizes, which seemed to be just enough to be satisfy you without taking you over the edge.
I do remember watching in amazement as a Thai Gentleman poured several scoops of what looked to be palm sugar over his Pad Thai before consuming it!
And finishing things off was some Kanom Krok.
This woman made the best we had on the entire trip! It became our "gold standard" for Kanom Krok, wonderful hints of coconut, without being too sweet. A wonderful crisp crust with a tongue melting molten interior. Familiar and simple, but complex in texture and taste at the same time.
It was a nice first meal.
Over the course of our stay in Chiang Mai, we always knew we could stop by for a nice snack. For us, it provided the perfect pace unlike the crazy and tourist saturated Night Bazaar, which we visited once, and decided never again.
Man, I can't believe it's been over 10 months since we returned from our Laos - Thailand trip, and I still haven't finished my vacation posts yet! So to make sure that I get these posts done, I thought I'd deviate from my usual chronologic posts and start with our favorite meal(s) in Chiang Mai.
We kind of regret that we didn't check out Huen Phen until our last day in Chiang Mai, we'd surely have wanted at least another lunch there. Huen Phen is located down Thanon Rachamankha, in a more sedate area of Chiang Mai.
Huen Phen itself is actually two different restaurants. During the evening, it's the crowded antique filled restaurant. During lunch, the area to the front left of the restaurant serves up steam table and noodle dishes.
The lady behind the counter was very nice, and even provided samples. I even sampled the broth for the Khao Soi, which only confirmed (this was third version I tasted) that I didn't care for it. Of course everything we asked about was met with a, "it's good...you try, you try....." Which is kinda what happened, we ended up eating enough to feed a small army. And incredibly we finished everything.
I've suddenly realized that if I went over every single dish, I'd still be writing on Monday, so I'll keep this to mostly photos. Let me just say, that I really enjoyed some of the dishes, especially the various Nahm Prik (dips/pastes) which is one of the signature dishes of Lanna (Northern Thai) cuisine. So without further ado, here are the photos:
We enjoyed lunch so much, that we returned for dinner!
Though we enjoyed lunch more, dinner was no less yummy! Especially the Nam Prik Ong, the classic Chili and Pork dip...think Thai Bolognese sauce. As much as I enjoyed that, the version with crisp pork skin was even better!
So here are the dinner photos:
Just a quick note, wouldn't you know that the only dish we didn't care for was the Morning Glory pictured above! Of course the Northern style Fish Soup was super!
I think there are times when the photos speak for themselves.
Huen Phen 112 Thanon Rachamankha Chiang Mai, Thailand
In the world of food forums and food blogging, you know something or somewhere has pretty much "made it" when it becomes a generally accepted abbreviation. Case in point; Din Tai Fung, is now called....."DTF", and they are well known for their "XLB"...Xiao Long Bao, a double whammy in this case. Back in 2005, Dylan, the mind behind the magic of Eat, Drink, & Be Merry, did a joint post on Niu Rou Mian, which we simply started calling "NRM". Now I'm not going to make any Al Gore-ish claims to have invented anything (it was all Dylan, he-he-he), but I see "NRM" abbreviations everywhere. And so we get to "LOS"........ an abbreviation you'llsee everywhere this restaurant is mentioned.LOS = Lotus of Siam is a "GAA" (generally accepted abbreviation). In many ways for me, Lotus of Siam represents the best of what Chowhoundwas. In fact, I've bookmarked the very first time I read about LOS, in this post from 2000, by Dave Feldman. Over the years, LOS became an interesting case study for me. I believe it was with LOS that I first really noticed "the contrarian", you know them...he in the name of "honesty and truthfulness" who goes to a restaurant that folks love, who orders to the exact weakness of a restaurant, who desires to "balance the scales" and cut through the hype. He who in the end creates his own negative hyperbole, by exaggerating every possible negative thing they can think of about a restaurant. Of course, it didn't help that Jonathan Gold declared Lotus of Siam the "single best Thai restaurant in North America." That's some major real estate........even after our first visit in 2001, where I really enjoyed the food, but still wasn't really sure about the "the best" title. In fact, if you'd like to go back in time, you can check out this post from CH in 2001.
Over the years, I'd been to LOS 4 times. You can find a photo from a visit in 2002 in this post. And I've got to say, even though we encounter 1 sort of clunker of a dish during every visit. LOS is still the, or among the, best Thai Restaurants I've ever been to. But this visit was different, I hadn't been to LOS in five years, the Missus six. During that period of time, we've gone through a heck of a lot of Thai Food...here...and in Thailand. And time has a way of working on you (thank goodness for the food blog), even with such revered bloggers such as Elmo to keep you up to date. But still you tend to wonder........was LOS still that good? Upon our arrival, LOS still looked as it did the first time we visited.......looking just like another restaurant awash in the sea of strip malls in a sort of seedy part of Sahara Avenue.
There were two major changes on our arrival, the crowd of people waiting to get in, and all of the awards, clippings, and magazine covers that now cover almost the entire wall at the entrance of the restaurant. Still, the rest of the restaurant seemed the same...from the stained acoustic tiles on the ceiling, to the tacky lattice work.
We found the familiar surroundings comforting...we even laughed as we ticked off and identified the different tables we've had over the years.
Since I had forgotten our ice chest, the strategy for the evening was to minimize left-overs.....bummer. We also decided to order from three different regions.
We started with the Crispy Duck with Chili Mint Leaves ($19.95):
Crisp duck, mildy sweet, with just the hint of five-spice. Topped with fried Thai Basil leaves, just like Bangkok.
This was a good dish....good crisp skin, not greasy in the least bit. As with many of this type of Thai dishes, the flavors were very familiar.
We also ordered the Issan Sausage ($9.95):
I did mentioned that with every meal there was a "clunker" right? Well this was it. We loved many of the sausages we ate in Thailand, and none of them tasted like this. I love the sour-fermented flavor of Thai Sausages....but these tasted rancid....it was also dry. Not good eats.....
We had considered getting a nice Northern Larb, but in the end decided on the Koi Soi (Spicy Raw Beef Salad - $13.95). LOS was the first place I ever had Koi Soi, and I remember enjoying it, so I was curious to see if my opinion would still hold true. Let me just say that it was even better than I remembered:
First off, the meat used was tenderloin....fresh and tender, and sliced into small cubes like tartar, the beef was of excellent quality. Second, the roasted rice powder, was just that, a very fine powder, that still added texture, but without the the intrusive tooth cracking that the occasional large piece of coarsely ground rice powder would add. Third was balance, the salty-sour-spicy balance was perfect, as were the fine chiffonade of kaffir lime leaf, cilantro, and other herbs, creating a harmonious dish. Ummm, harmonious, in a spicy sort of way.......
I love the Koi Soi at Sab E Lee, but this was in another league...much more refined, much more balanced. It was by far, my favorite dish of the short trip.
Having really enjoyed the various "dips" in Chiang Mai, we went for the Nam Prik Hed (Spicy Mushroom Dip - $9.95):
The earthy tones of the mushrooms, combined with the sharp flavors of the herbs, and the even sharper heat, along with blanched veggies made this a wonderful dish. It was also the spiciest.....just as spicy as the Nam Prik we had in Chiang Mai. We were instantly transported to a restaurant called Huen Phen in Chiang Mai. The flavors were right on.....as was the heat!
The long beans were especially good, young and sweet.
We had 1 order of sticky rice for our Koi Soi and Nam Prik, which was cooked to perfection. And I mean perfect. And 1 order of steamed rice for the crispy duck.
In this rare case, I'd say that our meal had exceeded our expectations....it was better than I recalled. We drew a few stares from the tables around us. Most of those folks ordered stuff like Wor Won Ton Mein, Tempura(???), Tom Yum, Pineapple Fried Rice, and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (contrarians perhaps?). Best Thai Restaurant in North America? I don't think I'll ever be able to answer that. Great Thai food that's worth the trip to Vegas? You bet.....
Some Notes: Times have changed since we first started going to LOS, make reservations. And do yourself a favor, unless you want to be a "contrarian", don't do the buffet, and give something different a shot. Bill Chutima is a well known wine enthusiast, so you might enjoy the wine list.
Lotus of Siam 953 E. Sahara Ave Las Vegas, NV 89104 (702)735-3033
We awoke from a much needed nap, and decided to explore Nong Khai a bit more. This time, we strayed from the normal tourist path of the riverside walkway, Rimkong, and Meechai, and took a stroll down Prajak(Prachak) Sillapakhom. Prajak is Nong Khai's main business strip, with everything from the Esso Gas Station to a Honda Dealership lining the double wide (by Nong Khai standards) roadway.
This is by far the busiest street in Nong Khai, and the speed of the motorbikes and cars made crossing interesting....especially since driving is done on the left side of street in Thailand. One has got to break that rule we learned in the first grade, "when crossing the street, always look left, than right." It's amazing how ingrained those rules become.
Since the streets were wider, it made one's field of vision larger. And we started "looking up", and taking note of the French influenced architecture. Looking at the businesses from street level, you'd never have noticed.....
And this being Thailand, food was only steps away.
While aimlessly wandering down Prajak, we came across a fruit stand, and the Missus was smitten by this fruit.
We had never seen anything like it. The fruit had a threatening...and frankly, a bit of a dangerous look, in the "you wouldn't want to drop it on your foot" kind of way. In fact, I don't think it would look out of place being swung on the end of a chain in battle. The exterior of the fruit looked to have almost an exoskeletan, like that of a crab or a similar crustacean. So of course, the Missus purchased a Kilo, and started peeling as soon as we walked away from the fruit stand.
As threatening as the fruit looked fully dressed in it's armor......once peeled it looked quite harmless, almost silly, and kinda resmebled an....well, you can figure that one out yourself.
This was our first encounter with the Salacca, the fruit of a species of palm. I'm not a big fruit guy, but I enjoyed this; tangy and acidic, with a mild sweetness, it was right up my alley.
Returning from our "little" walk, the Missus decided that She "needed a break" from street food, and desired a proper restaurant, with a real table, real seats, and most of all "real ice, with some real water, in a real glass." We homed in on a large restaurant right off the street.
Food was almost an after thought here, as the Missus savored Her iced water, sipping it as if it was nectar of the Gods. After looking through the huge and exhaustive menu of Chinese and Thai dishes we ordered a few items.
Thai Fermented Sausage (Nam Sohd):
I found the flavor of the sausage to be only mildy sour, and over powered when eaten with the potent raw garlic. The chilies were positively searing hot....the Missus thought the flavor was a bit too "funky" for Her, but scarfed up all the peanuts.
Yum Nuea (Beef Salad):
I thought this version to be nice and beefy in flavor, but much too sweet. The Missus really enjoyed it. The mint added a nice flavor, and the onions were nice and sweet as well.
The main thing we really enjoyed was just sitting back and watching the world go by.
Of course, you know that I couldn't ignore the Kai Yaang (Rotisserie Chicken):
This stand was doing some major business....you could smell the chicken "fumes" from several blocks away. I recall reading that Kai Yaang, Khao Niaw(sticky rice), and Som Tam (papaya salad), make up the "trinity" of classic Issan foods. So you can be sure that we bought a bird, and a bag of sticky rice.
I thought the dark meat and the skin of the chicken was fabulous, a combination of sweet(a nice complex sweet - probably from palm sugar), salty, and savory. The breast was on the dry side. The Missus found the chicken a bit too salty for Her taste. I thought the sticky rice was the best I ate during the whole trip.....perfect and consistent in texture.
We walked back to our room, grabbed a bottle of Chang Beer from the reception area, and than walked out to one of the pavillions overlooking the deceptively languid appearing Mekong river, and watched the sun go down. After several days in which we seemed to be always on the go, it finally set in....we were really in Thailand! Things sometimes take a while to sink in......
Later we settled into our room. Since we're on the subject, a word about Mut Mee Guest House. Mut Mee, is without a doubt, the most well known, and popular Guest House in Nong Khai. And there's some charm to the place. It is very laid back, and has an interesting policy of not blocking out rooms. Folks can stay as long as they wish, so you can't be sure of which rooms are available on any given day. Thus, bookings can never be done for specific rooms. If you read this page on Mut Mee's site, you'll notice the sentence, "You can even stay in our house!" Which is what we did....
It's the room called "JPS" - "Julian and Pao's Suite", and is where Pao's Mum stays when she visits, an enclosed room attached to their home. Please be aware that this is still a Guest House. The windows and doors are a bit warped, so it's a wrestling match to close...you'll have to make sure to use the mosquito netting if you are prone to bites. The floor is also a bit off kilter, which can cause you to sway a bit drunkenly while walking over some of the floorboards...to us, this was just part of the charm. Plus, for $20 a night....what did you expect? The only thing that ever bothered me was when the water seemed to be shut off in the middle of my shower. The bathroom is down some stairs, and looks like it was enclosed just a few years ago...... You can watch the Mekong roll on by from your porch, or walk the mere 10 yards out the gate and sit on one of the pavilions like we did for dinner. When you check in, you are shown a book that is kept out front with your room number on it, you can grab beer and water from the frig, and just log them into the book. This is all done by the honor system, and everything is tallied up when you leave. An added bonus to everything is that since you're attached to his house, you'll undoubtedly meet Julian. We did, and had a nice conversation about Thailand, Issan, Laos, politics, and many other subjects.....
Out your side window, you can see the back of Wat Haisoke:
Which posed no problems as we rose early in the morning.
As we did on the morning of our departure from Nong Khai. We took our usual morning walk, and found the streets to be as still as the Mekong at this hour.
We had not had time the previous day to check out the very large Thasadej Market, which runs parallel to the Mekong for several blocks. So we decided to pop in for a look. At this time of the day, the aisles are mostly dark and silent...
Every so often you hit an open food court area.
Nong Khai may be very laid back, but it is still a border town, and the melting pot of nationalities will always show itself. While walking through the market, the Missus over heard a conversation....."I believe they are from Yunnan, by the accent."
One of the most succesful businesses in town is Daeng Namnuang, you can't miss their signs which seem to posted everywhere.
You can't miss the huge restaurant and large and clean production area which faces the Mekong. We watched in awe, as one car after another stopped in front of the restaurant early in the morning; folks running in to the shop, only to exit with cardboard cartons minutes later.
What does this place sell? They specialize in Namnuang.....Vietnamese Spring Rolls! So popular that folks grab boxes of it when leaving town.
For our breakfast before taking leave of Nong Khai, I selected a little hole-in-the-wall right at the edge of Thasadej.......a dark, cluttered, little place that looked almost like a warehouse with tables.
The Missus selected the Issan Sausage and Rice:
She thought the sausage too hard, gamey, and "porky". I thought it to be fine. The sticky rice was much too hard.
I ordered the Pad See Ew:
I didn't care much for this, the noodles were much to gelatinous and gooey for my tastes...almost like overcooked rice cake. The Missus, on the other hand, loved the egg, and enjoyed the dish. So after trading off our dishes, we each ended up with a decent breakfast!
We returned to our room, picked up our bags, wrestled the front door close, and padlocked it....went to the front desk and checked out. We headed up the path to the street...the one that had been shrouded in darkness when we arrived. It sure looked much more welcoming in day light.
As we hit the main road, we found our Tuk-Tuk Driver who had taken us to Sala Kaew Ku the day before. And we were on our way...the next leg of our trip was coming up fast.
You know which way we turned at this sign, don't you???