1/10/2018

Things You Must Try: Thailand Part 2, Beyond Bangkok

While I spent most of the trip in Bangkok, I also managed to venture outside of the city as well as visit a few beaches. I certainly ate my fair share and then some. Thailand's beaches were my kind of paradise (i.e. the kind with fantastic fresh food and a lot of it)!

When you're dining at an island resort in Thailand, definitely go for the fish and seafood as much as you can. Even if you do happen to get a little homesick, the resorts tend to have some Western dishes to console you with like toast and eggs, hamburgers, and french fries (not gonna lie, I totally had some fries). 

Pranburi Beach was not too far from the very touristy Hua Hin, but in contrast, it was quieter and still had just as good if not better food offerings!
Pad Phak Ruam (stir-fried mixed vegetables) and Tam Mamuang (fresh julienned green mango salad with fish sauce, carrots, and onions) at Tonto, Pranburi Beach

Pad Kra Phrao (Fried squid and holy basil with rice and fresh cucumber slices) at Tonto, Pranburi Beach

Pla Thot (whole deep-fried fish served with spicy dipping sauce) at Khraw Kheiyng Khlun in Cha-am District near Pranburi Beach

Khao Tom (boiled rice soup with minced pork served with fresh herbs and chilies) at Hua Plee Lazy Beach Resort, Pranburi Beach

I will miss this dearly. Coconut milk ice cream in Canada doesn't have anything on the fresh stuff in Thailand. Durian coconut milk ice cream from a small street market by Pranburi Beach.

Koh-Poo/Koh-Jum is a small island near Krabi that only got electricity 2 years ago. The resorts are a bit quieter, but that wasn't a bad thing. The food is stellar and so is the water and sand that you see every morning and every night that you're there.

Sapaketti Phat Kee Mao (Spaghetti noodles stir-fried with Thai chilies, mixed veggies, and seafood) at Krabi International Airport
Cha Yen (Thai iced milk tea) at Zoo Coffee, Krabi Town

Pla Nueng Manao (steamed whole fish with chilies, cilantro, and lime juice) at Ting Rai Bay Resort, Koh-Poo/Koh-Jum

Khao Pad (fried rice with chicken, eggs, and mixed veggies) at Ting Rai Bay Resort, Koh-Poo/Koh-Jum

Koh-Chang is one of the largest islands in the Gulf of Thailand and has a beautiful beach that doesn't have as many large waves passing through it. As a result, it's great for families, and has numerous resorts to choose from. There are also some great snorkeling tours you can book, which also include lunch.
Kailan Ikan Masin (Stir-fried gai lan with chilies and salted fish) at Iyara Seafood, Koh-Chang

Bu Pad Phong Kari (fried softshell crab with eggs and curry powder) at Iyara Seafood, Koh-Chang

Hoi Kraeng Luak (Fresh boiled sea clams served with a spicy dipping sauce) at Iyara Seafood, Koh-Chang 


Aside from beaches, I spent a day in Thailand's old capital, Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya may not be the capital city anymore, but it carries a lot of rich history and good food to boot. There are definitely tourists seeing as tourism is one of Thailand's most prevalent industries, but it's not the same crowd as you'll see in Bangkok.

Guay Tiew Ruea (Thai "boat noodle soup" with flat rice noodles and pork in a rich broth of spices and pork blood) at Krung Kao Boat Noodles, Ayutthaya

Thot Man Pla (fried patties of minced fish, lime leaves, and curry paste served with sweet chili dipping sauce) at Ayutthaya
Kanom Lod Chong (sweet pandan noodles in coconut milk and ice) at Ayutthaya
Thailand is basically a constant food festival wherever you go. I can't wait to come back to revisit some of my new-found favourites and try more new delicacies! I hope you've enjoyed looking at these food goodies from the other side of the world, but for the next little while, I'm going to back to posting from good ole E-Town :)

-M

1/08/2018

Things You Must Try: Thailand Part 1, Bangkok

Hello, my foodie friends! I hope 2018 has been going well for all of you so far! I can't believe it, but I got to finish off 2017 by celebrating the holidays in Thailand. It was much needed R&R, but more importantly, the food was incredible! I thought I'd share some of my favourite bites from my 2 week long eating tour of Bangkok and surrounding areas, but there's a lot.

Food courts in Bangkok are quite the spectacle. Their fast food is just food that is prepared quickly, but isn't necessarily greasy, junk food. 

Pad See Ew (Fried flat rice noodles fried with gai lan, egg, and pork) at Tops in CentralPlaza LadPrao, Bangkok
Satay (Grilled chicken on a stick served with a spicy peanut sauce and fresh pickled cucumber) at Ortorkor, Bangkok

Kaeng Lueang and Khana Mu Krop (Yellow curry with pork and pumpkin and spicy pork and gai lan) at Platinum Fashion Mall, Bangkok
Lad Na (Fried flat rice noodle sheets with chicken, gai lan, and gravy) at Platinum Fashion Mall, Bangkok

Khao Niao Mamuang (Fresh mango with sticky rice, toasted rice, and coconut milk) at Siam Centre, Bangkok

An amazing feature of Bangkok was the availability of street food every 50 metres or less. I will miss being able to find freshly barbecued meat on a stick at 7:00 in the morning for $0.30 CAD...

Roti (Thai-style roti filled with fresh banana slices and fried in butter) at Tha Phrachan Cross River Ferry Pier, Bangkok

Kuay Teaw Ped Toon (Rich broth with egg noodles, fresh cilantro and green onions, and duck breast) at Tha Phrachan Cross River Ferry Pier, Bangkok

Guay Jap (Rolled rice noodles with fresh pork and roast pork in a white peppery broth) at Yaowarat (Chinatown), Bangkok

Itim Khanom Pang (Taro hot dog bun with scoops of coconut milk icecream, sticky rice, red beans, sweet potato, coconut jelly, and condensed milk drizzle) at Ortorkor, Bangkok

Sai Grok Woon Sen (barbecued pork sausage with glass noodles) at Sanam Luang, Bangkok

Other favourites include familiar "all you can eat" style dinners with a Thai twist!
Thai-style barbecue hot plates allow you to grill food on top and simmer food on the sides. This was at Bar-B-Q Plaza in CentralPlaza Grand Rama IX, Bangkok
Thai-style hot pot is similar to Chinese hotpot where you can have a mixture of raw food to cook and hot food that's ready to eat. It's served with green pandan noodles, which goes really well with the soup! This was at MK Restaurant in Tesco Lotus LadPrao, Bangkok
All in all, Bangkok was filled with all sorts of delicious food available at nearly any time of day.  10/10 would eat again. Look forward to Part 2 for more things you must try in Thailand!

-M

10/14/2017

Love for the Locals: An Chay

An Chay, a new vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese restaurant just opened last week where the very short-lived Pitaghetti used to be. This is an interesting addition to the block considering how Edmonton's first vegan pizzeria, Die Pie (where I also hope to try at some point) started operations not too long ago. Unlike most Vietnamese restaurants in the city, there is no fish sauce or meat in sight. The entire menu consists of vegetarian and vegan options. While it isn't as extensive as the menu of your typical pho shop, there's enough for some variety. The prices are also a little steeper, but I suspect part of that is because of the cost of rent on Jasper Ave. 

An Chay, Vietnamese Vegetarian (11203 Jasper Ave)

Located at the corner of 112 Street and Jasper Avenue, it was clear that the furniture (namely chairs and tables) was purchased together with the space, but they've made good use of both by simply rearranging things to feel cozier and more welcoming. Happy to give An Chay a try, we made a stop for lunch today. We were very promptly welcomed and seated at a table. A nice feature of the location is that 2 of the 4 walls are windows, letting in plenty of natural light. 

A new restaurant with familiar furniture to former patrons of Pitaghetti

I have a spring roll problem in that I have to order them when I'm planning to enjoy a bowl of pho or vermicelli. An Chay's spring rolls do not contain any pork or shrimp, or meat of any sort, but they do have a number of root vegetables including carrots, daikon, and taro. P and I felt that they were a little smaller than we're used to, but they were tasty. The sauce served with the spring rolls was good too, despite lacking the brininess you get from fish sauce.

An Chay's Vegetarian Spring Rolls

While traditional pho broth tends to be made with beef bones, onions, ginger, and star anise among other things, An Chay's vegetarian pho broth is primarily made with carrot, daikon, jicama, and star anise. In place of the more typical steak, flank, tripe, and meatballs, the vegetarian pho offers a plethora of vegetables including bok choy, carrot, black fungus, and king oyster mushrooms, as well as some tofu. The noodles are cooked to a perfect consistency and you are offered the usual side of beansprouts, basil, chili pepper, and lime. In addition, you are provided with a small sauce dish of hoisin and sriracha. It was more like a simple vegetable noodle soup to me, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just wasn't the pho I am used to tasting. I feel like I could have given this bowl of vegetarian pho a fairer trial if I hadn't just come back from a morning workout at the gym.

An Chay's Vegetarian Pho

P opted for the Spicy Noodle Soup (a.k.a. An Chay's Bun Hue). He felt that it was a bit too sweet and not spicy enough, but it did taste good. However, to be totally fair about the spicy thing, P's threshold for heat is a lot higher than most. His bowl of noodles featured tofu in a variety of forms including a "vegan sausage", which was like thin slices of compact tofu. It also came with a side of beansprouts, basil, chili peppers, as well as some shredded red cabbage. 

An Chay's Bun Hue

Overall, the staff are very friendly and the food is good if your diet leans more towards plants or are looking for a refreshing change. I would not recommend doing what I did by coming here right after the gym, especially if you are an omnivore or a meatetarian, as I found my meal a tad too light to be completely satisfying. However, if you are looking for more of a light work lunch, it would be pretty fitting. I look forward to returning for some more spring rolls and to see what their vermicelli is like.

-M

3/24/2017

Downtown Dining Week: A Downtown Dining Day

This year's Downtown Dining Week spanned from March 10-19, 2017. Unfortunately, I was limited as to when I could taste my way through the core. So, I decided to grab both a Downtown Dining Week lunch and dinner on one sunny Friday.

For lunch, I opted for the Free Press Bistro (80, 10014-104 Street). The Free Press Bistro is a great lunch spot for a tasty sandwich and soup or salad sort of deal. It's almost next door to the Red Arrow downtown office - convenient for travelers who need a quick bite! There's a great selection of sandwiches that are pressed to perfection, which you can enjoy with a hearty and creamy tomato soup, light green salad, or home cut potato chips to boot for $15. The menu does delve outside of the sandwich spectrum, but their Downtown Dining Week lunch offerings showcased their pressed sandwiches and supplied home cut potato chips in addition to your choice of soup or salad for the same price of $15.

A Caesar salad may seem like a simple matter, but there is such a bad thing as a poorly executed one. This, however, was not! The pieces of Romaine lettuce were light and crisp, the croutons added a great crunch, there was a solid salad to dressing ratio, and just the right touch of Parmesan to finish it off.
For my second course, I opted for The Club. The sandwich was a generous size, with a great filling to toasted bread ratio. Perfect crunch on the outside to be met with juicy, saucy goodness on the inside, bacon included! That aioli was delish too! I obliterated the pile of home cut potato chips. Can't stop, won't stop.

For dinner, I went out with a friend to Cocoa's (10222-102 Street) in the Delta Hotel at Edmonton City Centre. Cocoa's is a charming little place, located on the top floor of Edmonton City Centre's west side, right by the movie theatre. It's got a slightly older feel to it, which is comforting in that you can enjoy some finer food without an uptight feel in the air around you. For $28, Cocoa's Downtown Dining Week menu offered a 3-course dinner featuring a baby kale salad, a choice of surf or turf, and a custard for dessert.



The first course salad was a good, light start to the meal and while the dressing was served on the side, the salad itself was a little bit dry for my taste - perhaps there just needed to be a little bit more dressing. The vinaigrette was simple and not overpowering, so that you could still taste all the nuances in the variety of vegetables on the plate. Given the amount of salad served, I found it interesting that it was presented on a rectangular plate, necessitating that you take your time eating it so the baby kale wouldn't end up falling onto the table.


For the second course, I opted for the Cajun Flat Iron. The portion was perfect for the 3-course dinner - generous, yet not so generous that you'd feel guilty for not being able to finish it. I always order my steak at a medium-rare, and it was a little closer to medium, but the Cajun rub was great and the steak itself was wonderfully juicy and full of flavour. The Boursin mashed potatoes and demi-sauvignon sauce were amazing, and the fried onion scattered on top were a great touch!
The third course was a lovely finish. I was anticipating the temperature, texture, and viscosity to be something more like a creme brulee, but the custard was a little thicker, topped with the peach and apricot compote, and chilled. Nonetheless, it was delicious and not too far on the sweet side. The fresh cream and fresh berries were great choices to cut the richness. Bravo!

In comparison to my Downtown Dining Week experience last year, this one certainly blew it out of the water - steak included. I always appreciate this festival for highlighting some of the great eateries in Edmonton's downtown core. Looking forward to Downtown Dining Week 2018!

1/29/2017

Love for the Locals: SPUD Edmonton

Yesterday, SPUD Edmonton (7039-68 Avenue) opened up its warehouse doors to the public in a free "Meet Your Farmers" event.
SPUD Edmonton's "Meet the Farmers" event!
Admittedly, neither P nor I knew what SPUD was all about before going to the open house. I honestly anticipated meeting some potato farmers, since spuds are sometimes synonymous with potatoes, and well, I love potatoes. Granted, I didn't read up on SPUD Edmonton more than just what was on their Facebook event.

Screenshot from SPUD.CA, an online grocery shopping service for organic, GMO-free, and locally-sourced goods.
For those of you who are as clueless as I was, SPUD stands for Sustainable Produce Urban Delivery. Essentially, it's an online grocery shopping service where all products offered are sourced locally, organic, and non-GMO. SPUD currently offers its services to Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Victoria. SPUD Edmonton caters to those in Edmonton and surrounding areas including St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Beaumont, and Leduc.

At the "Meet Your Farmers" event, regular and prospective customers were able to self-tour the facility, snack on free samples from from local vendors, and even shop off of the shelves in the warehouse.

Plenty of sampling from local vendors including Honest Dumplings, Noorish, Traditional Hutterite...
Prairie Mills Bread Co., NKD, and Glow Juicery.
The interior of SPUD Edmonton's warehouse is about the size of a smaller grocery store.
Lambtastic lamb shanks from Lambtastic Farms
Reclaim Urban Farm's various microgreens and sprouts
We even got a quick tour of the facility that walked us through the process of filling a grocery order. This was in the walk-in fridge with the dairy and produce.
They use these sturdy boxes to package and deliver their orders, and then collect them to be reused for future orders.
These foil bags are used for the perishable goods and are also cleaned and reused for future orders. Frozen goods are packed with dry ice, and others are packed with gel packs so that everything stays fresh for up to 12 hours.
SPUD is certainly an interesting concept for urbanites who are busy balancing work and home life, and at times, unable to do a full grocery run while also making healthy choices. It takes convenience to another level by having someone else look after gathering your groceries and dropping them off right at your door. Even better, is the sustainability piece where their packaging materials are recycled and reused. Everyone we met at the warehouse was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, which is key for great customer service. I was introduced to some local vendors I was unfamiliar with, which I loved, and went home with some ginger beer and fresh sorrel sprouts.

However, SPUD is definitely targeted more towards the middle and upper class. One must recognize that a service like SPUD is not made to cater to students (especially those with loans and/or other debt), marginalized communities, and other individuals and families with potentially lower income. I'll be even more impressed when SPUD is made more accessible to a broader range of households. I am all for teaching our society to eat healthier and support local businesses, however, I recognize that as things are, indulging in SPUD and the like comes with a fair amount of privilege.

-M