A few years ago, for our first wedding anniversary, Andy and I treated ourselves to a week in Thailand. My brother was living in Bangkok at the time teaching English, so we decided to spend a week in the capital city. Lots of people head to Thailand and spend 2-3 days in Bangkok, before heading out to the islands or beaches. We wanted to stay in Bangkok and really see the city itself (plus… I’d already been to the beaches!)
I have to say, this trip was one of our best. We stayed very close to a SkyTrain station, so the whole city was available to us. We could go from our hot, sweaty, fast-paced train station to a cool, quiet, serene temple in a matter of minutes. We trekked to all of the famous sites and palaces and statues, but our favourite place in the city was a tiny outdoor bar near our hotel on Soi 22.
I am having trouble thinking of a way to describe the little outdoor bars that dot the streets of Bangkok. They aren’t really bars. They are barely even rooms. Basically, when the sun goes down, chairs and tables are set up on street corners. Passers by can grab a table, get a very very cold beer and a little bowl of nuts or rice crackers. There were 2 corner bars on our street. They were directly across a small laneway from one another. You could talk to the people in one bar from the other bar.
Andy enjoying a beer at our local outdoor bar
Almost every night after our journeys for the day, we would stop at our favourite of the two tiny bars and have a few cold Tiger or Singh beers. We would smile and make small talk with the friendly lady-boy tending the bar. We could watch European soccer being played on the tiny, grainy TV nailed to the side of the building. We could smell the food from the street vendors who come out at night… lemongrass and lime and 5 spice and chilis. We could see the men driving motorbikes piled high with deliveries to be made. We could watch the women cook in the little open air restaurants, using just two woks to cook the food for the whole place. After our 2nd night in a row at this bar, we were treated like locals. We didn’t even have to order, they just knew us and brought us our beers and peanuts. The beers were incredibly cheap (most street food in Thailand is outstandingly good and cheap). Some nights it was tempting not to leave the bar at all, but to stay there, being refreshed and watching our own personal showing of the theatre that occured in the streets of this humid and complex city.
In the middle of our trip we spent half a day at a Thai cooking class. This is one of the recipes we learned. It’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t require any difficult to find ingredients. It is also, just so you know, really rather authentic. We had khao pad moo all over Bangkok, for a few reasons. First, we knew how to pronounce it (cow pad moo) and wouldn’t look stupid trying to order it in tiny little places where English is not spoken. Second, it is very good. Of all the recipes we learned in our Thai cooking class, this is the only one I’ve made regularly at home. In fact, I just made it last Thursday again, which is what prompted me to write this post. It reminds us of our wonderful trip to Bangkok and our smiling friends at the corner bar on Soi 22.
Khao Pad Moo
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil
1 small onion, diced
1 chili, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
100g pork, cut into small pieces
1 small carrot, diced
1 handful snow pea pods, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked rice, cooled
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tablespoons seasoning soy sauce*
2 spring onions, diced
juice of 1/2 lime
Cucumber slices, lime wedges and chili sauce to serve.
Put the oil in a wok over medium high heat. Add the onion and the chili and cook for a minute. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
Push the onion mixture to the side and add the pork to the wok. Stir so it doesn’t stick! After about 3 minutes (once the pork is no longer pink), add the carrot and cook for 1 minute. Add the snow peas and cook for 1 more minute.
Push all of the vegetables and pork to the side of the wok and add the eggs. Scramble the egg until it is cooked- about 1 minute.
Add the rice and stir. Add the sugar and seasoning soy sauce and stir until combined. Turn the heat off.
Add the spring onion and the lime juice and stir again until well combined. Taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt? Add more soy. Does it need more tang? Add more lime juice.
Serve this with extra chili and spring onion sprinkled on top and slices of lime, cucumer and chili sauce on the side.