Posts Tagged ‘thailand’
One of the places I’d really like to travel one day (and trust me, there are so many) is Thailand. I’m intrigued by the food, the people, the culture, and of course the geography. From the jungles, to the cities, to the beaches, Thailand is a place I can imagine spending a lot of time exploring. If plane tickets over to Asia weren’t so prohibitively expensive from the East coast of North America, you can bet that I’d have already been there by now.
Alas, ticket prices being what they are, for now I’ll have to slake my desire for Thailand through fiction. Of course, one of thing I’ve found is that it’s not all that easy to find fiction set in Thailand, and certainly not fiction written by native Thais (at least that’s been translated into English). Mostly I’ve resorted to picking up books by farangs (Westerners) set in Thailand when they’ve appealed, which is perhaps less than ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers, after all. A few years ago I read Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski, which took me into the wilds of Thai hillside tribes. Recently on a whim, I picked up Alex Garland’s The Beach, which took me to the Southern reaches of Thailand, allowing me to vicariously visit its lush, tropical beaches.
For those of us who love curries, the extensive range of premade jarred sauces and pastes makes cooking up flavorful, international dishes a breeze. When I first began cooking for myself in earnest about five years ago (note that this time coincides entirely with me moving to a different country from my mother, who I fully admit spoiled me with her cooking up until the age of 23…), I certainly relied extensively on these convenient sauces to provide my home cooked meals with authentic rich flavors that I craved but wasn’t confident or knowledgeable enough to achieve on my own.
Lately, however, I’ve really been trying to up the ante when it comes to curries and the like, and have been branching out to include meals in my repartee that are done entirely from scratch. It may seem intimidating at first to mix and blend all the spices that Asian cooking is known for, but one of the benefits is that you get to tailor everything to your own palate. The more I experiment with blending spices from scratch, the more I find that it really is possible to achieve the flavors you know and love from your favorite Thai or Indian restaurant from the comfort (and relative frugality!) of your own home.
The past week I was craving pineapple curry, and after searching high and low, I managed to find a recipe that did not simply call for one to use a store-bought paste or sauce as the curry base. Below is the version I slightly modified from that on Vazhayila.
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 lb chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 tbsp oil or ghee
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 tbsp of lemongrass paste (can be found alongside most refrigerated herbs in your produce section)
- 2 green chilies, chopped (remove seeds if you like less spicy food)
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp dried coriander
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 5 tbsp fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 1.5 cups of fresh cubed pineapple + 1/8 cup of juice
This is a book I had heard snippets of good things about in the big old book blog world. I was sufficiently intrigued by the good press it had received that when I saw a cheap copy at the local used book store, I decided to give it a whirl.
That being said, I wasn’t entirely sure just what exactly Fieldwork was going to be about exactly. I had garnered from the back cover that it was about a man who moves to Thailand with his girlfriend, and that it would involve the jungle, anthropologists, missionaries, murder, and was supposed to be Spooky. Ultimately, I suppose all of these things are true, although I didn’t find anything all that creepy about the book, and I’m not sure that I would really call it a “thriller” either. Like The Basic Eight, which I read earlier this year, this is another one of those so-called “mysteries” where you know within the first 30 pages who has done the crime (& the time!), and the aim of the rest of the novel is to piece together the back story. It’s not so much a whodunit? as it is a whydunit?. Stephen King wrote a piece in Entertainment Weekly about how he thought the book had been given a really boring cover that belied the book’s true awesomeness. I didn’t have a problem with the cover, but I would be ok if someone thought the cover of Fieldwork was boring and consequently concluded that it was boring, because sometimes it really was!