Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tasty Thai

On our first evening in Phi Phi we ran into an overly informative dive instructor that gave us the lay of the land.  He divulged the hidden gems of island to us, telling us the best places to eat and when to go.  Sadly we only made it to one of his suggestions- the un-named Pad Thai shack boasting the best pad thai on the island.

  Set behind a lively wet market, down a small side alley, this hole in the wall establishment was easily identified by the handwritten accolades dripping from the ceiling and walls.  People from every country imaginable had left notes testifying to the quality of these delicious pan fried noodles.


The Land of Enchantment was even represented!

One essential ingredient in this tasty Thai dish... garlic. Loads and loads of garlic. 

as we sat savoring our dinner the owner sat peeling clove after clove of garlic in preparation for future orders.  I wonder how many heads of garlic this place goes through a day... 

I made it a habit to try Pad Thai everywhere we went.  My final assessment of this "Best PadThai ever"... B+.
the robust garlic flavor slightly overpowered the sweetness of its sauce, however the chicken was tender and flavorful and the bean sprouts crisp and earthy.  The noodles were perfectly fried, the lime added a bright citrus burst and the peanuts brought a little somethin'somethin' extra to the consistency!  

Best Pad Thai I encountered... Railay Beach (west), Krabi.  ...simply perfect!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Culture = Food!

Last year I learned a valuable and life changing lesson from fantastic foodie friend.  Culture IS Food! Why stick to the touristy "hot spots" and see a bunch of foreigners when you can sit at a wonderful cafe with the locals and really ingest their culture.  

It's true that food is cultural... but there is a difference between “food=culture” and “culture=food.”  In the first, food is just another aspect of a cultural experience like language or architecture.  In the second, the essence of culture boils down to food.  What people eat, how they eat it, where, with whom, when.  What better way to discover the true lives of people than to enter into their culinary culture.  

Night Food market- great people watching and incredible munching

Eating is more than a means of sustenance...Relationships, politics, social structure, can all be understood around a dinner table (or, in Asia, on stools at outdoor market).  It is for this reason that I now LOVE to search out the best and more traditional tastes of the lands I visit.  I am not to the point of fully abandoning the "big sights" altogether, but eating with the locals holds a lot of weight in my travel itinerary!  

Lok Lok in Penang

Cuddle Fish anyone?

Seafood Laksa- Singapore

My favorite place in Singapore!  Lau Pa Sat food market- everything and anything available to eat!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Conflicted Enjoyment

(the first of many posts on my recent escapades around SouthEast Asia)

I just returned from the wonderful opportunity of traveling around Thailand and Cambodia with one of my best friends. It was an incredible experience: standing in awe of breathtaking nature, savoring unique and tantalizing flavors, being adventurous and crazy... However, mingling with my fascination and wonder was burden and heartache.

The sights of SouthEast Asia revolve around its vibrant culture-intimately tied to its ancient spirituality. I spent days visiting Buddhist temples and shrines. They are beautiful. Ornate. Overwhleming. Glimmering with mirrors and colored glass. Enrobed in Gold Leaf and lavished with intricate engravings. While I can stand and appreciate the artistry of these places and be intrigued by the diversity of cultures around the world, I could not help but sit in the weight of hopelessness embodied by these gilded buddhas.

I found it difficult to enjoy the grandeur of my surroundings when they represented empty promises and powerlessness. My heart broke as I stood in the midst of people purchasing and offering sacrifices, prostrating themselves and praying. I understand cultural differences and love the diversity of this world- but being in so many places of worship to false gods burdened my soul for the Truth to be known and His power and abundant life experienced across culures and borders.