Shipping Containers, Something Sticky, and Pizza?: Five Bangkok Eats

I’ve been in Bangkok, Thailand for about three weeks, writing and eating, eating and writing, and occasionally going for a dip in one of the rainy season puddles along Sukhumvit.

We’ve already learned that I’m a big fan of one particular Thai dessert; perhaps you would want to see a few more of the meals that I feel deserve a follow-up visit.

Lao Garden

pork larb catfish salad
Lao Garden, Bangkok, Thailand – Pork Laab (Larb), Minced Catfish Salad

Somewhat obscured by a small shopping center and situated in a gated community between Phra Kanong and On Nut BTS stations, Lao Garden  is easy to accidentally skip by.

After the waitress turned the fan on as a nice temporary respite from the humidity, I ordered a minced dried catfish salad, and a pork and friends laab. The catfish salad wasn’t anything like I had expected (I was hoping for chunks of fish with chilies liberally sloshed around), but the pork laab was on point; note: if you’re not a fan of offal (hence, pork and friends), you may want to ask the kitchen to lay off.

Portions for both were a bit small, but the quality was there in the pork laab, that’s for sure.

Flavorful

mixed seafood cashew chicken
Flavorful, Bangkok, Thailand – Mixed Seafood and Chicken with Cashews

With a tacky name like Flavorful, I’m not sure why I tried this place. Close to the On Nut BTS, it just looks like your standard issue casual Bangkok Thai place.

Ever in the mood for spicy, I always pepper (awful pun) the order with “phet phet,” or “very spicy.” This time, I got mixed seafood, and chicken with cashews. It was spicy but not to the point that it overwhelmed anything, and there were no weird or mysteriously chewy bits anywhere.

Ruepoh

mixed seafood salad rock lobster stir-fry
Ruepoh, Bangkok, Thailand – Mixed Seafood Salad, Spicy Rock Lobster Stir-Fry

(Sorry in advance for the photo for this place, I forgot to take a photo until after a couple of bites.)

Ooh, as a major seafood fan, this place was choice. Ruepoh, or Ruepoh Seafood, nowhere near the center of Bangkok, is close to Central Bang Na shopping center. Central Bang Na is a big bus hub, but it’s not near any other transportation. From Sukhumvit, you can take the 48 bus, and then walk to the restaurant. n.b. They’re now in a shipping container, but I understand that they’re moving to a larger location next year.

If credit cards were accepted here, I’d be in trouble. Nearly everything on the menu sounded good — crab this, lobster that, river prawn whatever — almost all joyfully accompanied by chilies, Thai herbs, and garlic.

I had the mixed seafood salad, and rock lobster stir-fry. They may have diluted the mixed seafood salad with fish balls, but I thoroughly enjoyed the just right shrimp, calamari, and fish. And the rock lobster? Bring on a thimble of melted butter, and then we’re really in business.

Peppina

eggplant mint thai sausage pizza
Peppina, Bangkok, Thailand – Chiang Mai (Eggplant Funghetto, Mint, Sai Oua Sausage

Peppina is a small local pizzeria chain, though I only tried the Sukhumvit 33 outlet.

In fairness to readers of this brief review, I’m a bit picky about pizza, having grown up (and outward?) eating it … on the other hand, it’s also about appreciating where one is at the moment. Southeast Asia is not the first place you’d think of when someone quizzed you on world’s best places for a pizza, is it? Last I checked, Thai mozzarella hasn’t quite caught on.

Nevertheless, I ordered the Chiang Mai pie: (from their online menu) “Chiang Mai: Mozzarella fior di latte, San Marzano tomatoes, sai oua sausage, eggplant funghetto & mint.” A lemongrass and kaffir lime pork sausage on a slice? Sure, whatever. And you know what, it worked. The sauce was a bit sweet, and the flavor of the fior di latte wasn’t entirely there, but holistically it worked. The strong lemongrass flavor of the sai oua sausage was quite good, especially when enjoyed in the same bite as the glutinous crust and dried red chili flakes.

I actually returned with a friend for another pie; that time, it had scamorza, pancetta, and black mint as the primary flavor profiles, with mozzarella (but no tomato sauce) to boot. Quite good, but I must try a burrata pie next time!

Chef Ple

mango sticky rice
Chef Ple Sukhumvit 18, Bangkok, Thailand – Mango Sticky Rice

Hmm, something sticky was quite a suggestive post title for a Bangkok write-up; now you know why I went with it.

Another blink and you’ll miss it-type of place, even though it should have been obvious the first time I walked by, given the numerous mangos out front, sirens of the Thai dessert world. Stay on the southern side of Sukhumvit by Soi 18, and you’re golden.

One of those quintessential Thai sweets, khao niao mamuang, or mango sticky rice, is a must every time I’m in Thailand (the joke is on all of us non-Thai speakers, since it’s a tonal language. Have fun trying to pronounce it at a restaurant … I’ve failed many times). You’ve got the mango, so you pretend there’s some health benefit, but then the coconut milk and sticky rice remind you that you shouldn’t be eating it daily. Throw on some dried mung beans, and you’ve got a fun sweet, slightly salty, yet thoroughly Thai meal.


Have you tried any of the above five places in Bangkok? Or, maybe you’ve got a personal recommendation for your fellow readers?

Ruam Mit (รวมมิตร), The Diplomat of Thai Desserts

Maybe it’s unusual to think that today’s post is about one of my favorite desserts in the world.

Sure, when I want something sweet, I mean really sweet, it will be from Türkiye. And if I want something pseudo-healthy, it will be an Indian mango lassi.

But when in Southeast Asia, I can’t get enough of those Frankenstein’s monster’s bowls of goop, slop, and ice.

ruam mit Thai dessert food display
Cheng Sim Ei, Thai Desserts (Ruam Mit), Bangkok, Thailand

Although I didn’t know the name for the dessert until doing a little reading about, I found out that the Thai name, รวมมิตร (ruam mit), means “get together + friends.” Makes sense, because you’ve got your fruit, tubers, roots, gelatin, syrup, beans, legumes, and weird colors you may never have expected to see in a dessert, all coming together for a saccharine dalliance. So, grab some friends, grab some ladles, order a family-style — I just made that up, but try to order something that contains a little of everything — and then walk it all off in the heat.

ruam mit Thai dessert Bangkok
Cheng Sim Ei Menu, Thai Desserts (Ruam Mit), Bangkok, Thailand

Bonus: Cheng Sim Ei, by Bangkok’s City Hall, might spoil you with an English menu. For shame!

It Will Never Expire: Understanding the Thai Calendar

Craving that pad thai or green curry again? Why? Thai food is so common these days, you can find Thai cuisine — or even ready-made meals–  all over the place.

But it’s good, too, right? It’s all subjective, of course … if you like it (as I certainly do), perhaps the mere mention of eating something from Thailand momentarily transports you to an exotic land, where mango sticky rice trucks are on every street corner, Thai iced tea flows out of apartment faucets, and butterfly pea’s coloring and binomial nomenclature never goes out of style.

And where food doesn’t expire.

Caffa Lemon Tea Understanding Thai Calendars
I think time will outlast the package itself

Wow, now there’s an expiration date I can get behind. Not only will it outlast me by a loooong shot, but also most living things, most dead things, and even a French transportation strike, but not term limits in the U.S. Congress. You can’t win ’em all.

Jokes aside, let’s dissect the date of expiry on the Caffa Coffeemaker package.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way for my fellow U.S. folk– January 29th. That’s how the majority of the world does it, day, month, year. OK, I feel very sheepish now (At least we’re making slow progress on the metric system).

Now, the fun part, the year.
Short answer? To calculate the “Western” aka Gregorian year, subtract 543 from the Thai year.
For example, to comprehend the year in the above photo–
2566 – 543 = 2023.
Darn, I thought that lemon tea would’ve had a bit more staying power!

Slightly longer answer? {insert current year here} + 543 dates back to the time when Thai Buddhists consider Buddha to have attained enlightenment, or nirvana.

Fast-forward quite a lot to 1888 or 1889, when King Chulalangkorn (King Rama V) introduced the Gregorian calendar to Siam (the former name of Thailand), but with Buddhist elements. So, from a lunar calendar to solar calendar lite. That is, one with lunar calendar elements.

At the time, New Year’s Day was on 1 April, then 13 April, but that all finally changed in 1941, when King Ananda Mahidol (King Rama VIII) made New Year’s Day 1 January, aligning Thailand’s calendar with the Gregorian.

However, as I eluded to before, there are still some lunar calendar elements in the modern Thai calendar (and no matter which you own, no food — ok, maybe Spam — will last that long). Wan phra, “monk day” in Thai, are roughly four days per month where Thai Buddhists would visit temples to provide food for monks. These days are based on the four principal quarter phases — new moon, 1st quarter, full moon, 3rd/last quarter — of the moon.

And before you ask, yes, I do know that this is a food blog.
So … go get a moon pie or something.


You may now know how to understand Thai calendars, but let’s none of us forget to inspect the expiry dates no matter where in the world we are!

Snow Fungus (East Asia)

Tremella fuciformis, also known as the snow mushroom or snow fungus, is a type of tropical/subtropical jelly fungus found in some forests after intense periods of rain.

Bangkok, Thailand- Snow Mushroom Juice

The polysaccharides of this cloud-like fungus are supposedly used to strengthen the immune system, and assist with radiotherapy/cancer treatment, and perhaps even combat immunodeficiencies brought on by stress, aging, and autoimmune diseases.

Moreover, the snow ear – as it is referred to in various East Asian countries – is a common ingredient in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cosmetics, thought to combat wrinkles and help moisture retention in the skin.

But, let’s remember that this is FindingFoodFluency.  Though the snow fungus is basically tasteless, due to its gelatinous texture, it is popular in both sweet and savory dishes in southern China and Vietnam.  Indeed, I can recall trying it while living in Shenzhen, China, in a dessert porridge with red dates and nameless flotsam.

The Gac (Gấc) Fruit of Vietnam

One of the truly wonderful aspects about traveling is introducing your taste buds to new and/or fresh flavors.  Southeast Asia is no stranger to my passport; consequently, nor is its diverse array of foods nearly unknown outside of the region.

Today’s entry is about the gấc (roughly pronounced “guhk”) melon, also known as a “baby jackfruit.” This fruit is originally from Vietnam – the second part of its Latin name, Momordica cochinchinensis, refers to Cochinchin, or what some foreign countries used to call Central/Southern Vietnam.  However, the gac has also come to be planted in tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia and China; in Chinese, it is called 木鳖果 (mùbiēguǒ), which unusually translates as tree freshwater soft-shelled turtle fruit.

The gac is a tricky one, because it doesn’t ripen off of trees, has a toxic exterior, and only the reddish aril (the extra flesh surrounding the black seeds) is edible.  Not to mention, the orange melon is typically harvested in two months of the year, December and January, thus it’s not always the easiest to find, nor the cheapest to try.

It was in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I first heard about and tried the gac, due to a menu calling my attention to it.

Yet, in order to make the gac fruit palatable – on its own the gac has more of an avocado/cucumber taste – other fruit juices have to be added.

In spite of its nearly unsweetened flavor, the gac has a couple of things going for it.  It is extremely high in beta carotene, good for your vision and immune system, and lycopene, an antioxidant; consequently, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.  Additionally, it’s orange and red, red being a lucky color in its native region.  Thus, you would likely see a plate of xôi gấc, or red gac sticky rice for Tết, the Vietnamese lunar new year.

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