Friday, August 30, 2013

The Cats and the HWBs


I think that cats are a graceful animal. They are nimble and sleek. Only on very few occasions are they forced into indignify position that they cannot help such as when they are cleaning themselves or having hot water bottle (HWB) under their beds - just like Spike and Pipi demonstrate here. Spike like his HWB hot and fat...

But Pipi likes her thin-ish and not too hot – under the sheep skin.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Chicken Tikka and Raita Sauce

This is Bob's favourite and he truly appreciated it the other night when I made this dish - after having to cook for himself for several weeks.

½ cup sour cream
1 spring onion, chopped
½ green chilli
A few sprigs of coriander, chopped
Juice of ½ lime or lemon
½ teaspoon sugar
A pinch of salt

Place all ingredients into food processor and blend until smooth – if it’s too thick, add a little bit of milk. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Chicken Tikka
2 chicken breasts, skin on
1 tablespoon Chicken Tikka Masala Paste (I use Patak’s)
3-4 table spoon coconut cream
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
A tablespoon of chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Slice each chicken breast lengthwise into 2-3 pieces and marinate in Tikka paste, coconut cream and salt. Refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Add oil to the chicken and sear in the oven proof pan on high heat for 1 to 2 minutes each side until nicely brown, then stick the pan into the oven for about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how big your chicken pieces are. Turn the chicken pieces half way through.

Serve warm with roti and raita sauce. I also use my raita as a dressing for my carrot salad (use a peeler to slice carrot into ribbons).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ayudhya Here I Come – Part 2: Iudia On the River Boutique Hotel


One of the inspirations that led me to see Ayudhya is this little hotel by the river: Iudia  . I accidentally stumbled across the pictures of the hotel on the Internet about a year ago and have been fascinated with this charming little place ever since.

Ayudhya is situated in the valley of Chao Praya River and also surrounded by other three rivers. Iudia is on the bank of Chao Praya and from the deck above its swimming pool, you can see the expansive view of the river with the temple of Buddhaisawan on the opposite side (west).

They have only 13 rooms including a petite single. Each room has been named after the famous foreign personality of Ayudhya era and has its own theme according to the name. On the day I visited, they were fully booked so I didn’t have a chance to tour the guestrooms. As it was hot and muggy, after walking around the premises to take in the views of the river and gardens, we retreated to their nice and quiet café and ordered some refreshment – the food was ok-ish, our coffee nice and strong and the service was prompt and excellent. I have promised myself that I will be back here in the foreseeable future and stay a few nights – see you soon Iudia.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Beam Us Up, Scottie

This is the favourite place for our pets to bask in the morning sun where they curl up in line with the beam. This winter both put on a little bit of weight. Good news for Pipi but not very good for the dog. Pipi had some health issues a few months back when she started sneezing frequently and one night she sneezed blood. The vet could not find anything and suspected that there might be some grass seed or grass blade up her nostril and the culprit had already come out with blood and mucous. Apparently, Pipi’s case is not unusual. However, the vet said she was a bit under weight and we should encourage her to eat more. It might be that her nose has not been that brilliant so she could not smell food very well. We try to feed her warm food – putting her bowl 4 or 5 seconds in the microwave normally does the trick.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thai Snack – Stuffed Sago Balls (สาคูไส้หมู)

Whenever I visit home in Bangkok, my darling aunt (my mom’s younger sister) will cook for me my favourite childhood food. One of the dishes she cooked this time is stuffed sago balls (สาคูไส้หมู). Stuffed sago balls are sort of common snack in Thailand but what set my aunts’ apart from street style are quality of the filling (lean pork) and the size. They should be on a smallish side rather than big – they will be morish that way.

The following is not exactly her recipe but sort of similar – it’s adapted from an old, old Thai snack recipe book by Tuangthip Food Institute given to me 20+ years ago.

100 gram Pork mince
1 cup Finely chopped onion
½ cup Ground peanuts
2 tbsp Palm sugar, chopped
2 tbsp Fish sauce
Oil for frying and basting
3 cloves of garlic
2 coriander roots
½ tsp white peppercorns
Garlic flakes

¾ cup Sago pearls (tiny ones)
½ cup very warm water

Lettuce, coriander and chillies for garnish

Pound coriander roots, white peppercorns and garlic together (best using pestle and mortar) to form a paste. Fry the mixture in a little bit of oil over medium heat until fragrant.  Add pork, fish sauce and sugar and fry a little bit further then add onion and peanuts. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Fry until nicely brown then remove from heat and leave to cool. This will be our filling.

For the shell, add warm water to sago bit by bit and knead with your hand until soft. Use teaspoon to scoop the mixture up and roll into a ball, about 1.5 cm. Repeat the process with the rest.

Press each sago ball thinly and place about 1 teaspoon of filing in the middle, wrap and roll tightly. Steam for 15 minutes. Drizzle with oil and garlic flakes when cooked, so they will not stick together.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ayudhya Here I Come – Part 1

I had not been to Ayudhya for ages and I did not remember the last visit before this one. My father used to work in the area when I was young and that’s when we frequented this very interesting province. I remember excellent food, big Buddha and historical ruins of the old Siamese capital.

Ayudhya is about an hour and a bit (of course, on a good day, that is) from Bangkok and as Bangkok is spreading so fast, the border between the two provinces is rather a smudge line. It was the old capital of Thailand, then Siam, from 1350 – 1767. The Kingdom of Ayudhya was once the most powerful kingdoms in its time and formed one of the most important parts of Thai history. The Kingdom had frequent battles and wars with neighbouring Burma. With Burmese invasion in the mid-eighteenth century, it marked the final chapter of the kingdom. The city was looted and sacked, the palaces and temples were set on fire for gold extraction. The capital was left in ruin and King Taksin moved the capital to Thonburi after driving the Burmese out of the kingdom. You can read more about Ayudhya and its rulers from here  and here.

I have to hang my head in shame that I did not appreciate Ayudhya and its history much when I was young. Coming back and seeing it this time, I realise how amazing Ayudhya is. How cool is it to see the evident of civilisation of the old capital everywhere? Just take this Pagoda in the middle of main road – it forms a roundabout at this intersection.

Ayudhya is one of Thailand’s tourists’ attractions. It is different from seaside of beach towns. It is much more genteel and rich in history. It is recommended that you spend a night or two here to allow enough time to see the ancient ruins and learn the history of each place along the way.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bangkok Metro Ride


In Bangkok we have had subway (MRT- Mass Rapid Transit) and skytrain (BTS – Bangkok Mass Transit System) for around a decade. They are an answer to going places in Bangkok for people like me who do not drive in this city. I like metro more than skytrain because it is cooler underground but the latter has wider network (and expanding) and you can take in more views. 

One Monday I had lunch appointment with a few friends and because of their work commitment, we had to meet in town. We picked a restaurant in Chamchuri Square, a newish residential/shopping complex next to my alma mater. My mother’s house is not far from Bangsue Metro Station which is the end of the line so it means you will have empty cars and loads of seats to pick from this station going into town. One thing I like about these mass transit systems is that you can time the trip fairly accurately whilst it is difficult to time if travelling by car through Bangkok traffic. It took me 40 minutes (could be 2 hours by car!) to get to the centre of Bangkok – plenty of time to read a couple chapters of The Game of Thrones on my kindle. Everybody in the car was more or less in their own world with smart phones and tablets, very tiny percentage with actual hard copy books.

You can buy single-usage token (for MRT) or strip (for BTS) or multi-usage loaded cards at the stations, either from one of the vending machines or ticketing counters. It is a shame that you have to buy tickets for metro and skytrain separately as they have not yet combined into one system. Loaded cards are more convenient and time saving if you plan to travel in Bangkok for several days.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sky Garden

I had a nice lunch with my old school mates one Saturday during my stay in Thailand. We spent years together in this all girl school, once well known for its academic fineness and discipline.  Nobody listened to anybody, I can tell you and this was one of my happiest moments in Bangkok this time round. Some of us had not seen each other for 20 years so you can imagine the noises we made.

After lunch, we retreated to one of the girls’ condominium nearby. It is on the 21st floor of the up-market block. The owner (she was our school prefect) bought the unit a decade ago and out of 200 square metres total space, 120 square metres are this garden. Out in the garden, one can believe it is not in the middle of the concrete jungle as the greenery helps foil the harshness of the city skyline and the bonus is the flowers, just like this ixora in full bloom.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Retro Live Café @ Queen Sirikit Convention Centre

If you are in Bangkok you can either drive or catch a subway to Queen Sirikit Convention Centre. The convention centre itself is on Rachadapisek Road in Klontoey side of town so it’s a lot easier for me to go by underground train and the station is right there under the building.

The centre is more than 20 years old with over 60,000 square metre floor space. In my past life, my line of work required me to be here quite often. It used to be modern and awesome in the old days but 20 years on it is a bit worn and tired. However, the ground it is sitting on is still fantastic with lake and gardens.

Retro Live Cafe is on the lake side of the premises but they are not making the most out of this wonderful view. The restaurant offers buffet lunch and a la carte dinner but if you like seafood and value for money, I suggest you come here for Sunday lunch as they have grilled seafood on the menu.

The buffet lunch offers a wide range of good quality food but just don’t go near the pasta bar. I did stick to Thai food selection and was not disappointed. The dessert bar was fabulous with variety of sweet treats. This picture shows some tiny pieces of Thai sweets. The Sunday that I was there, there was going to be a wedding reception in the evening and they were preparing this flower screen to screen off the service door. Simple yet beautiful.

Note: If you go by subway, get off the train at Queen Sirikit Convention Centre Station.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Nakhon Pathom


Nakhon Pathom is a province not very far from Bangkok. If you can get through Bangkok traffic to the motorway, it will take you about an hour to the city centre.

Nakorn Pathom is famous for its 140 years old great pagoda – they say it’s the tallest in the world. This pagoda is called “Pra Pathom Chedi” or “The First Pagoda” and sits in the royal temple of Wat Pra Pathom Chedi. The temple also houses 7 and a half metre tall standing bhudda which attracts people from all over the country to come and pay homage.

When I was there, it was hot and sunny. The pagoda itself was bright and shiny in the sun. My mother was happy to be there and with far from perfect knees, she climbed all those stares to pay homage to the Buddha.

It took us only 40 minutes on the way back to Bangkok and about 1 and a half hour crawling through the infamous Bangkok traffic home!