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Archive for February, 2010

Krabi Morning Market

Michael Babcock, Saturday, February 27th, 2010

The morning market in Krabi is lively and bustling. It seems that every town and village in Thailand has at least a couple local markets: there will be at least one morning market and another separate market with different vendors in the evening. Wherever we travel in Thailand, on our own or on Kasma’s small-group tours to Thailand, we visit as many markets as possible. The Krabi morning market is definitely on our “to visit” list.

Krabi Market, Outside

Outside of Krabi Market

It must be ten years or more that the morning market in Krabi moved to a new location. Before it was a completely outdoor market; when it moved to its new location, it acquired raised stalls under a large pavilion-type roof. At first I was worried that it would not be as interesting. Thankfully, I worried for nothing.

This is an early morning market located on Thanon Si Sawat, in-between Thanon Maharat and Thanon Utarakit. I’d get there around 7:00 a.m. or so, because even by 8:00 a.m. or so, you may miss out on some of the best treats.

Coconut Custard (Sangkaya)

Coconut custard (sangkaya)

Sticky Rice Snack

Sticky rice snack

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

This large covered market is spread out over two areas. As you approach the market by walking down from the main highway, starting on the stalls to the right you’ll find the prepared food. To the left, towards the street, is an area that mainly has Thai kanom or snacks: we nearly always start out by heading over to the Grilled Coconut-rice Hotcake(Kanom Krok) vendor to get a basket to eat with breakfast. There are numerous other delicious looking treats, from Coconut Custard (Sangkaya) to banana-wrapped sticky rice with various flavorings.

Fried Chicken Stand

Great Fried Chicken!

Although there’s a lot of good-looking dishes, from curries to kanom jeen, we nearly always get fried chicken from a vendor on the outermost aisle: it’s opposite the building that sells pork and beef. Often there’s a bit of a line and you may need to wait for more to be fried. It is worth the wait. I usually get a couple of thigh pieces and Kasma often opts for the wings: more delicious crunchy bits to enjoy.

After eating, we’ll browse the rest of the market, talking with vendors and taking pictures. As with most markets we visit, Kasma brings pictures of vendors from the previous visit so the vendors are often quite happy to have us take their photographs. At this market , a large number (probably the majority) of the vendors are Muslim women. And the vast majority of them return a smile with a smile.

Fish Vendor

Fish vendor

Fresh Fish

Fresh fish

Near the section with the sweets is an extensive section of (very) fresh seafood. It can be a bit slippery under foot from all the water. Browsing through this section I usually regret that we don’t have access to a kitchen so we can get one of the super-fresh looking fish to take home and fry up crispy with a chilli-tamarind sauce.

Towards the front of the market you can find all kinds of fruits. Over to the left-side building are mostly vegetables of all kinds. In the back of the market you’ll find staples such as fish-sauce, rice and coconut milk.

Two vegetable vendors

Two vegetable vendors

Vegetable vendor

Vegetable vendor

When I think of this market, what I most remember are the smiling vendors. The best reason for traveling to Thailand remains the Thai people; all of the beauty and color from the sights is just an added bonus.


More Market Blogs:


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2010

Chaiya Buddha (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Buddha Statue in Chaiya

Buddha statue in Chaiya

Buddha statue in Chaiya

This mind has been deluded now for who knows how many lifetimes. Whatever we don’t like or love, we want to avoid. We just indulge in our fears, and then we say we’re practicing. This can’t be called practice. If it’s real practice, you’ll even risk your life. If you’ve really made up your mind to practice, why would you take an interest in petty concerns?

– Ajahn Chah, in Food for the Heart, p. 263.

From: Food for the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah. Ajahn Chah. Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA, 2002.


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The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Peppercorns

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Peppercorns Spiced Up Asian Foods Before Chiles

Fresh green peppercorns

Fresh green peppercorns

Although we mostly associate chile peppers with Thai food, it was Peppercorns that provide heat for many centuries.

The fiery hot foods of India, western China and Southeast Asia had quite a different character prior to the sixteenth century. Those chile peppers, which today are so inseparable from many of Asia’s cuisines, did not actually arrive until the adventuring Portugese first sailed into the fabled ports of the Far East.

Before then, the main source of the spicy hot flavor came from peppercorns, the berries of a tropical vine indigenous to the region. Indeed, it was peppercorns that led to Columbus’s discovery of America and, along with it, the discovery of chiles, natives of the New World. Black pepper was highly prized in Europe in the Middle Ages and Columbus convinced the Spanish Court that he could find a shorter route to India so that the demands for the spice could be more quickly satisfied.

Greet peppercorns in brine

Green peppercorns in brine

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Instead of India, his voyage west was intercepted by the unexpected land mass later named the American continent. Instead of black pepper, he found chiles (that’s why chiles became known as chile “peppers” and native peoples of the new land were called “Indians.”) He brought chile peppers back to Europe but they did not catch on like black pepper. Later, the Portugese followed after Columbus’s footsteps to America, found chiles to be very effective in preventing scurvy and carried them in their explorations around the world.

In Asia, we use pepper in all its stages of development. Sprigs of very aromatic, young green berries appear in stir-fried dishes, curries, soups and dipping sauces. As pepper berries mature, they change from light green to dark green and then begin to turn red. Picked before fully matured, the peppercorns are dried, the outer peel turning black and shriveled, and this is the form most popular in the west. Fully ripened red berries are allowed to ferment briefly in a warm place, then their peel is rubbed off, revealing irregularly white seeds.

White peppercorns

White peppercorns

Sometimes, white peppercorns are bleached with lime to make them very white, though this process often removes some of the flavor but yields a ground powder preferred by the French for white sauces. In China and many Southeast Asian cultures, unbleached white pepper is preferred and more prevalently used than black pepper, adding punch to all sorts of dishes, from soups and appetizers to meat and seafood dishes.

Pepper and garlic make great companions. In Southeast Asia, we frequently add cilantro root to make a wonderful trio of flavors. They are ground up or chopped and pounded together with a mortar and pestle to a paste, which is then seasoned with fish sauce or soy sauce and a pinch of sugar, rubbed on meats or seafoods and then grilled over hot charcoals, or stir-fried.


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Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, February 2010.

Black-Peppered Crab (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Delicious Thai Food

Black pepper crab

Black-peppered Crab

This photo shows a dish that is as spicy and tasty as it appears – Black-peppered Crab with Roasted Spices (Bpoo Pad Priktai Dtam Gkap Kreuang Tehd). Kasma took this picture on one of her trips to southern Thailand at one of the seafood restaurants on the island of Koh Yaw on Lake Songkla right outside of Songkla town. You’ll need to prepare to get your hands messy to eat this dish!

It would be very easy to pick a photograph of a delectable Thai dish such as this each week for the Wednesday Photo.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Longtail Boat (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Longtail Boat in Krabi

Longtail boat in Krabi

Longtail boat in Krabi

This photo illustrates how you get around on the ocean in Southern Thailand – on “longtail” boats. They are called “longtail” boats because of the long propeller shaft that extends out from the engine at the back of the boat. I like this picture because it’s a reminder that when you travel by longtail boat, you are most likely going to get wet; in this case, wading in the water to climb over the side into the boat. (Many boats do have ladders; many don’t.) If you travel much at all in the south of Thailand and head out to islands you’ll become very familiar with these boats and maybe even learn how to snorkel out of them.


The Wednesday Photo is a new picture each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Takua Pa Food Treats

Michael Babcock, Sunday, February 7th, 2010

This blog is about the discovery of some delicious food in the small village of Takua Pa on the Western coast of Thailand, about 120 kilometers North of Phuket.

Fried Chicken Vendor

Fried Chicken Vendor

Many of my fondest memories of Thailand are food-related. This should not be a surprise given Thailand’s reputation as an open-air food market. Kasma’s trips to Thailand have a heavy food emphasis, from stopping at markets whenever possible to sampling local food specialties wherever we go. Years ago Kasma used to pick up Thai travel magazines to get ideas for her trips. Each article would spend at least some time pointing out where the best food was and often there was an article devoted to a particular regional specialty. The most recent Wednesday Photo was on one of these stops – Ranong Buns.

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Crispy-fried chicken

Crispy-fried chicken

Kasma’s Southern Thailand trip always starts off by snorkeling at Mu Koh Surin National Park and then continues further South on the coastal highway 4. One of my favorite stops on the whole trip is the small town of Takua Pa. I try to eat a very light breakfast that day because I know what awaits us when we reach there later in the morning.

Crispy-fried shrimp treat

Crispy-fried shrimp treat

First stop is the local morning market. As you drive down the coastal highway from the North, the market (actually called talad sohd, or “fresh Market”) is to the right of the road, right behind the bus station. where I can never refrain from eating two delicious treats. The first is Southern-Style Crispy Fried Chicken (Southern Thai, that is). I’ll have to content myself with adding a picture of this delectable treat because there is no way to describe how delicious it is, with it’s very crispy, lightly salted outer skin and succulent meat inside. The other dish is also crispy fried, in this case small, delicious shrimp with a local green of some sort, breaded together and fried up. Yummy. I seldom see it done as well elsewhere. The market is also a good place to stock up on fruit – there are several vendors with beautiful produce and such fruit as rambutan, sala and mangoes.

Sign for roti restaurant

Sign for roti restaurant

Cook flipping a roti

Cook flipping a roti

The market, however, is merely an appetizer for the next stop, which is at a small family-owned restaurant that specializes in roti, the Thai Muslim version of roti, that is. Southern Thailand is a good place to find roti and we take full advantage of this when we travel there.

As you travel down highway 4 from the North, when you reach Takua Pa, keep a sharp eye out the left hand side for the sign here – it’s for the roti restaurant. It’s on the main highway,  just past a traffic light (two doors down) at Thanon Wattana. In addition to roti they have another one of my favorites, Kao Moek Gkai, what Kasma calls (and teaches) as Muslim Yellow Rice with Chicken and Roasted Spices. It’s delicious chicken served over rice that has been cooked with turmeric (hence the yellow color) and various other spices, such as cinnamon, cardamon and cloves) roughly in the style of an Italian Risotto.

Beef curry and roti

Beef curry and roti

Like most roti restaurants in the south, it is owned and operated by cheerful Muslims. We’ve been visiting here for many years and they always greet us with big smiles and words of welcome. After we eat, Kasma functions as unofficial family photographer and takes many individual and group pictures, to be dropped off on our next visit. Perhaps the best thing about Thailand remains the friendly people.

The main event, here, is the roti. Be warned: it’s a breakfast food and can sell out by mid-morning. We order it in at least three different forms: plain roti to be eaten with (very delicious) beef curry, stuffed roti  (roti mataba), and sweet roti, both plain roti sprinkled with sugar and condensed milk and banana-stuffed roti. Sometimes we’ll also get egg roti. They also have Thai tea and coffee, to accompany the meal.

Stuffed roti (Mataba)

Stuffed roti (Mataba)

The roti here is especially good – crispy and delicious. It’s always fun to watch roti being made, as the cook flips out the rotis and then fries it to a golden, crispy perfection.


Like to try your hand at making roti or Muslim yellow rice? Check out Kasma’s recipes:

Muslim yellow rice with chicken

Muslim yellow rice with chicken


Written by Michael Babcock, February 2010