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Food and Drink in Malaysia

Food and Drink in Malaysia
Food and Drink in Malaysia
Food and Drink in Malaysia

Malaysia is a great place for people who love to eat and experiment with food. There are a wide range of Malay, Chinese and Indian dishes available through the country and some interesting mixtures of culinary styles. As you travel through Malaysia, look out for regional specialities and try to experience the full range of Malay cuisine.
Hawker stalls and coffee shops are good places to find a cheap and tasty meal. Hawker stalls tend to be very clean and open until late in the evening. Curry dishes and other meals in western style restaurants, while seafood restaurants serve fresh fish prepared in the Chinese style. For western food, head to the shopping malls, where you will usually find a large food court with a number of well known fast food restaurants.

Here is a selection of the numerous dishes you will find on your travels in Malaysia:

Nasi lemak – the most common Malaysian breakfast dish consists rice cooked in light coconut milk with anchovies, peanuts, a slice of cucumber and a little chilli.

Rendang – usually made with beef, this dry curry dish consists of stewed meat in a spicy curry paste.  

Chilli crab – a whole crab is covered with a generous amount of sticky, strong chilli sauce.

Laksa – this dish varies from place to place but is basically a coconut both with seafood or chicken.  

Bak chor mee – this noodle dish is cooked in a chilli-based sauce with minced pork, fried anchovies, vegetables and mushrooms.

Popiah – these delicious spring rolls can be either fried or raw. Filled with boiled turnips, fried tofu, fried shallots and garlic, chopped omelette, chopped stir fried long beans, there is usually a sweet chilli sauce to dip them in.  

Hainanese chicken rice – usually found on street stalls, this steamed chicken dish is served with special gently spiced rice and tasty ginger.

Bubur cha-cha – a traditional Malay desert with cubed yam, sweet potato and sago added to coconut milk soup.

Kuih – this sweet desert is made with coconut milk, coconut flesh and either glutinous rice or tapioca. It is often made into cute and colourful designs.

Avoid drinking tap water and drinks with ice in Malaysia. Bottled water is cheap and easy to find.  

Coffee – known as kopi – and tea – teh – are both popular and tasty drinks in Malaysia as well as a local variation known as teh tarik. Tea and coffee usually comes hot, with condensed milk to sweeten it. If you don’t want milk ask for teh o, while teh ais will get you iced milky tea.
Also popular is a drink known as kopi tongkat ali ginseng, which is a mixture of coffee, a local aphrodisiacal root and ginseng served with condensed milk.

Despite being a predominately Muslim country, alcohol is widely available throughout Malaysia. Beer and other alcohol can be bought in bars, restaurants and 7-11 shops. The local brew is tuak, which fermented rice wine that comes in many forms. Usually served lukewarm, tuak is often flavoured with sugar or honey.

Vang Vieng, Laos

Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos
Vang Vieng, Laos

The chilled out traveller’s hot spot of Vang Vieng is situated 120 miles from Vientiane. The journey takes just three of four hours by bus, while it is 150 miles to Luang Prabang. The best way to get around this picturesque village is to walk or hire a bicycle, but mopeds are also available for rent.

The tranquil atmosphere of Vang Vieng is very addictive. The landscape is incredibly serene and picturesque; beyond the sparkling river sheer limestone cliffs rise from a plateau of paddy fields. The river is spanned by a number of wooden bridges, which despite their flimsy appearance compliment the scenery perfectly.

Vang Vieng is a real haven for travellers and you will find a great assortment of cheap guesthouses dotted around the village. Many westerners arrive here and never leave, setting up their own bars and guesthouses alongside the many others owned by Lao people.

Chilling out is the main activity in Vang Vieng. Restaurants show Friends reruns throughout the day and night and there is plenty of good food and drink to go with it. International food is popular here and most restaurants offer a selection of backpack favourites such as pizza, pasta and spicy curry.

Walking through the scenic landscape is also popular and there are some other beautiful caves to explore on the far side of the river. Alternatively, if you fancy something a bit more energetic, why not hire an inner tube and float away down the river? Other popular activities in and around 
Vang Vieng include rafting, trekking and bicycle and motorbike trips.

Many of the families that live in Vang Vieng are self-sufficient and have chickens clucking in the garden in front of the house. As you explore the picturesque dusty lanes you will find puppies running around and fluffy yellow chicks cheep in the long grass, watched over by their clucking mother.

If you are feeling adventurous, take a walk through the village to the Vang Vieng Resort which is a large, picturesque garden with a large cable bridge spanning the river. At the far end of the park is the impressive cave of Tham Jang. Climb the 147 steps for enchanting views of the surrounding countryside and sparkling rocks inside. In the evening, sit beside the river and watch the sun slip behind the horizon with a beer or two.

Food and Drink in Burma

Food and Drink in Burma
Food and Drink in Burma

The people of Myanmar love their food to be hot and spicy, with most dishes liberally dosed with plenty of chilli, garlic and ginger. Local food is actually a blend of traditional dishes with influences of Chinese, Indian and Mon culinary styles. Characteristic dishes are curry-based with chicken, seafood and mutton as pork and beef tend to be avoided. Rice is the staple dish and vegetarian food is widely available throughout the country.

Food in Myanmar tends to be cheap and tasty, making this a great place to experiment. There is plenty of fresh fruit available in the markets and food stalls can be found on practically every corner in the towns.

Although coffee can be hard to find, tea is popular, served with brightly hued spices. Most bars and select restaurants sell locally produced beer, whiskey and gin. Toddy juice is made from fermented palm sugar and tastes a lot like rum.

There are a large number of Chinese and Indian restaurants throughout Myanmar and Western food can be found in most hotels and an increasingly growing number of independent restaurants, although there are no fast food chains in Myanmar, which is probably a very good thing.

It is not safe to drink the tap water in Myanmar, but bottled water is cheap. It is also best to avoid ice as this may be made with tap water.

Here is a selection of the dishes you are likely to discover in Myanmar:

Lethok son – a very spicy salad using rice and vegetables.

Mohinga – filling fish curry soup with thin noodles.

Onnokauswe – a slightly sweet and creamy dish of rice noodles, chicken and coconut milk. This curry is strong and pungent.

Mee swan – noodles in a thick broth served with herbs and meat.

Palata – known as paratha in India, this thin bread is fried and served with sugar for breakfast and curried meat at lunch and dinnertime.

Food and Drink in Cambodia

Food and Drink in Cambodia
Food and Drink in Cambodia
Food and Drink in Cambodia

Travellers who suffer from a chilli intake problem will be pleased to discover that the food in Cambodia is much less hot than in the neighbouring nations of Thailand and Vietnam. However, that doesn’t mean that the dishes here are bland, as they are seasoned instead with herbs such as coriander and lemongrass, giving them a unique tanginess. The main staple here is rice, which is served alongside most curry, soup and stew dishes.
Those with a strong sense of adventure who want to sample authentic local food should check out the food stalls that crop up at Cambodia’s night markets. These are also the cheapest places to dine, while those who are looking for a taste of home will find a wide range of international restaurants in tourist hubs such as Siem Reap, Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh.

Here is a selection of dishes that you will discover as you travel through Cambodia:

Amok trey – one of Cambodia’s signature dishes, featuring fish, pork or chicken in a rich and lightly spiced curry sauce.

Lou – short, thick noodles with added egg and chicken.

Caw – this is a slightly sweet dish of braised chicken or pork and egg stew flavoured with delicious caramelized palm sugar.

Bai cha – a delicious dish of Chinese sausage fried with rice.

Somlah machou khmae – a sweet and sour soup dish that is made with tomatoes, pineapple and fish.

K’dam – a speciality from Kampot, this is a delicious dish of crab cooked in pepper.

Visitors to Cambodia should avoid drinking tap water as well as drinks with ice in them. Bottled water is cheap and easy to find throughout the country and should be used even for brushing your teeth.  

Green tea is popular in Cambodia and served free of charge along with most meals in restaurants. Tea lovers will also want to try the local drink known as dtai grolab, which is created by brewing tealeaves in a glass with a saucer on top. Both Indian tea and coffee are readily available in Cambodia, although they are usually served with plenty of ice.  

Those who like to relax with a beer or two in the evening will find bars located all over the country, while beer also tends to be served in restaurants and at night market stalls. However, the local tipple of choice is a type of rice wine that is extremely strong an should be approached with caution.

Food and Drink in Thailand

Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand
Food and Drink in Thailand

Thai food: colourful, inexpensive, full of flavour, often spicy and always available – you just can’t beat it. There are five flavours which make up every Thai meal – hot (spicy), sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Thai people are very passionate about their food, and love nothing more than sitting down to a huge meal with family or friends. Usually, several dishes will be ordered at one time for people to share. Most visitors quickly become hooked on trying the hundreds of Thai dishes, which can be anything from extremely spicy vegetable salads, rich curries or incredibly sweet deserts.

Although each dish is different there are certain ingredients that are essential for Thai cuisine. Almost all dishes contain nam pla, a pungent and strong tasting fish sauce as well as shrimp paste, a combination of ground shrimp and salt. Most Thai dishes contain a range of chilies and spices as well as curry pastes, soy sauce, dried shrimp, Thai pepper, and roasted chili paste.

Vegetarian food can be found if you know what to ask for. If you tell a waitress you are vegetarian (mung-sawirat), they will usually be able to suggest vegetarian dishes. Fish and seafood is easy to find.

Here are some of the most popular Thai dishes which should not be missed.

Breakfast is very different to what is served in western countries and can take a little getting used to. There are two main breakfast dishes, Jok, a kind of rice porridge with pieces of meat, ginger and herbs and Khao Tom, a Thai style rice soup.

In Thailand, main meals can be eaten at any time of the day and are often enjoyed 3, 4 or even 5 times a day.

Khao Pad literally means friend rice and is very popular. It is usually made with chicken, beef, shrimp or pork.

Pad Thai is pan fried rice noodles with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chopped peanuts, and egg mixed with chicken, seafood, or tofu. Look out for carts selling this incredibly cheaply on Khaosan Road.

Tom yam is rather spicy and sour soup with meat. With shrimp it is called Tom yam goong or Tom yam kung with seafood. Eat this dish with rice to reduce the spiciness.
Tom kha gai is hot sweet soup with chicken and coconut milk.

Rad na is wide rice noodles in a thick gravy-like sauce with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, or seafood.

Khao pad naem is found in the Northeast and is fried rice with fermented sausage.

Pad see ew is noodles stir-fried with thick soi sauce, fish sauce and pork or chicken.

Gai Pad Khing is chicken stir-fried with sliced ginger.

Red curry or gaeng phet meaning ‘hot curry’, is made with large amounts of dried red chillies.

Green curry or gaeng khiew-waan, meaning green curry, is made with fresh green chillies and Thai basil, chicken or fish balls. This dish is spicy, rich and creamy.

Massaman curry is an Indian style curry which is not quite as spicy as the Thai alternatives, containing roasted dried spices, chicken and potato.

Pad pak ruam – stir fried vegetables, great a vegetarian option or side dish.

Som tam is a fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them. Som tam poo is made with salted black crab, Som tam Thai has peanuts, dried shrimp and palm sugar and Som tam plara is from north eastern part of Thailand with salted gourami fish, white eggplants, fish sauce and long bean.

Larb are very spicy sour salads containing meat, onions, chillies, roasted rice powder and garnished with mint.

Yam is the name for any type of sour salad, such as those made with glass noodles.

There are a large selection of deserts available, all sweet and many involving banana or another fruit and coconut cream.

Kao niao ma muang is the world famous sticky rice and ripe mango.

Kao niao Durian is sticky rice and durian in coconut milk.

Gluay buad chee is banana in coconut milk.

Make sure you try Cha Yen – Thai Iced Tea and Kah-Feh Yen – Thai Iced Coffee. Very sweet and creamy, they can be a good way to cool down.

Although beer is widely available, most Thais choose to drink whiskey, sharing a bottle between the group and adding water and ice.

Pomelo Salad

pomelo_saladOne fascinating aspect of Thai cuisine is the liberal use of its many exotic fruits in its dishes. Mango, coconut, papaya and even banana are some famous examples.

Pomelo is a large conical fruit about the size of a small coconut. It has a firm peel which allows the fruit to be peeled neatly, like a mandarin orange. Quite strangely, it tastes very much like grapefruit except it is much sweeter and will not make one cringe. The segments, which may be a pale yellow or even pinkish, are laid out like those of an orange or grapefruit and are easily removed to be eaten.

Yam Som – O is a pomelo salad. This curious dish comprises segments of juicy and plump pomelo teased into small morsels. It is tossed with sliced raw cabbage, cooked shrimp and sprinkled with fried shallots. The dish is moistened with some spicy sauce. To top off the experience, the salad is generously sprinkled with freshly roasted and crushed peanuts, which impart a fragrance to this dish which is otherwise mildly spicy.

Like many Thai dishes, the pomelo salad offers a hybrid of tastes and sensation. The cabbage imparts a crispness which is interrupted by the soft and juicy segments of pomelo whose unique taste, whether sweetish or mildly sour, colours the entire dish. The varied texture of the shallots and the crunchiness of the roasted, crushed peanuts, add to the eating sensation.

Nick Lie

Tropical Fruits

Thai FruitTropical fruits are abundant in Thailand. Some are vaguely familiar; others are curious and worrying even to look at. Have you heard of Bael fruit? Most probably not, let alone taste a juice made out of it.

Bael tree is indigenous to Indochina and South East Asia. The fruits have a firm outer surface that turns yellow when ripe. The inside of the fruit has a hard central core and triangular segments, filled with a pale orange, sweet pulp. Seeds enclosed in a mucoid sac are lodged in the pulp.

Ask for ma-tuum or matoom which is the local name of the fruit. The Bael fruit drink is an effective thirst quencher. It tastes rather bland, with sugar added to taste. It created no remarkable impression when I first tasted it.

I would not suggest having the drink together with food because by nature of its very bland taste, drinking it after a mouthful of curry or any other spicy morsel can actually overpower its taste so much that the bael fruit juice can be rendered tasteless.

The very helpful waiter brought me a little sachet of brown Matoom powder from which the drink was prepared. Just the addition of water and ice! I learnt that it was available at herbal and medicinal shops, since bael fruit, considered as having health giving properties, is used variously for digestive, laxative and tonic properties. Quite useful if you are a backpacker!

Essential Beer Snacks

  It doesn’t take visitors to the Kingdom long to find out that there’s a lot more on the menu here than Tom Yam Gung (Spicy Lemon Grass Prawn Soup) or an often life saving early morning Pad Thai (Thai Noodle Dish) from along KSR. However, while knocking down a few medicinal cold ones on KSR this weekend, I noticed the trouble is that unless it can be seen cooking or there is a picture of some food for visitors to point to, many great Thai beer snacks and dishes are never experienced.
Tom Yam Gung
  It doesn’t take visitors to the Kingdom long to find out that there’s a lot more on the menu here than (Spicy Lemon Grass Prawn Soup) or an often life saving early morning

som_tamHowever, while knocking down a few medicinal cold ones on KSR this weekend, I noticed the trouble is that unless it can be seen cooking or there is a picture of some food for visitors to point to, many great Thai beer snacks and dishes are never experienced.

So what are the Beer Essentials? Well we’ve had a think and have come up with our six of the best most commonly ordered bar food; both veg and non veg, to go with the laughing liquid of your choice.

Som Tam (Spicy Shredded Mango Salad) (veg) is made two ways. Som Tam Boo (with small crabs) and is a little sour or Som Tam Tai (with small dried shrimp) which is sweet.

Both are usually very very spicy (if you don’t ask for non spicy) and served cold with raw vegetables and Khao Neo (Sticky Rice). A truly great tasting Thai snack that goes well with just about anything.

moo_yangYam Moo Yang (Grilled Pork Salad) (non veg) 
A more western looking salad dish again made spicy (if you don’t ask for non spicy – “Mai Pet”), occasionally served warm and eaten on its own. Goes down a treat and can be made with beef or chicken as an alternative.

Gai Pad Med Mar Muang (Chicken & Cashew Nuts) (non veg)
A dish of small deep fried chicken pieces with spring onions, cashews and sun dried chillies (not spicy) served hot. Compliments any of the above salad dishes really well.

nua_thodMoo / Neua / Gai Thod (Deep Fried Pork, Beef or Chicken) (non veg)
A dish as simple as it sounds. Your choice of either deep fried pork, beef of chicken, not spicy at all, served hot and usually with a sweet chilly dip. A quick excellent snack to have with a cold beer and always tastes like more!

Yam Pla Duk FooPla Duk Foo (Deep Fried Shredded Catfish Salad) (Vegish)
Yeah, sounds a little over the top, but believe me once you’ve mixed up the traditional looking salad with the shredded cat fish and sauce, it’s a taste explosion that’s quite unique. It can take a short while to prepare, but its well worth the wait. Usually served cold, in large portions. A great dish to share with a friend.
 
moo_gai_manowMoo/ Gai Manow
(Grilled Pork/ Chicken in Lime, Chilli & Garlic) (non veg)
Commonly ordered with lean cuts of pork, but chicken breast cuts are a great alternative. Served warm with a few raw fresh vegetables, made a little spicy (if you don’t ask for non spicy – “Mai Pet”) and eaten just as it comes. A popular dish found on many Thai tables!

So there you go. The above are just a few Thai delights that you may well be missing out on, and at around 100 Baht a dish they’ll meet anyone’s budget. Enjoy.

And remember…

Keepitreal

Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life

Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life
Pad Thai (Fried Noodles): The Stuff of Life

I first tried Pad Thai several years ago in a restaurant in London. It was my first experience of Thai food and I had no idea what to expect. Shortly after ordering, I was presented with a plate of thin noodles, vegetables and tofu, topped with group peanuts and lime. The dish was beautifully presented and it seemed a shame to demolish it, but I was glad that I did. The food was delicious; full of rich flavours, interesting textures and just a little bit spicy. For me it was love at first bite.

When I first arrived in Thailand I was delighted to discover that the Pad Thai I had enjoyed in London for 5 pounds UK could be bought for as little as 20 Baht – 35 pence! Not only that, but the delicious dish can be sampled right on Khaosan Road, allowing you to soak up the atmosphere while you eat. Of course, the price varies according to the quality of ingredients and where you eat it, but a large serving of Pad Thai made with quality ingredients can be bought for 40 or 50 Baht, which is about 1 pound.

I quickly discovered that the ingredients, flavours and presentation of Pad Thai dishes vary significantly between restaurants and areas. Before long I had sampled the dish at most of the restaurants in my area of Bangkok and found my favourite places to eat.

I have found that the tastiest Pad Thai is located not in fancy restaurants but in small, traditional Thai restaurants or from carts on the street. Eating on the street also provides the opportunity for people watching, always a welcome diversion.

One of my favourite places to eat and watch the world go by is on Soi Rambhutri in the heart of Bangkok’s Banglampu. Here, the blend of Thai people, seasoned travelers and hapless tourists makes interesting and often comical entertainment.

One of the very first people I met in Bangkok was Tip as I was wandering down Khao San Road looking for refreshment. The vibrant Thai woman drew me to her with her bright smile and the mouth-watering aroma coming from wok and told me to sit at one of her folding tables next to the curb. I watched as she tossed noodles, sauce, vegetables, tofu and dried shrimp into her wok, talking animatedly with a friend as she cooked.

Within minutes, Tip had produced a large plate of Pad Thai. It smelt great and was very tasty – slightly spicy with the deliciously contrasting textures of chewy noodles and crisp vegetables. Tip stood watching me eat, smiling broadly when I showed my appreciation.

When I finished eating, Tip told me that she had been cooking Pad Thai at her stall for over 15 years. The stall was given to her by her husband’s parents as a marriage present. Tip gradually bought the tables and chairs from her profits and has gradually been adding little touches to personalise the stall.

“I don’t make much money,” Tip told me. “But I am very happy. I can talk to many foreign people and practice speaking English every day.” Tip told me that the best part of her job is watching people enjoy her food. “Everybody likes to enjoy,” she said with a broad smile.

Noodles were first brought to Thailand by Chinese immigrants. They also brought chopsticks and woks, essential equipment for enjoying Pad Thai. However, Thai people traditionally eat rice three times a day and noodles were overlooked for a long time.

The Prime Minister of Thailand, Luang Phibunsongkhram; introduced Pad Thai and made it a national dish during World War II. Thailand was faced with a rice shortage and budget crises at this time and the Prime Minister promoted the eating of Pad Thai to combat the problem.

Today, Pad Thai is enjoyed all over Thailand and indeed all over the world. It is loved by Westerners because it is not spicy like many other Thai dishes and can be eaten at any time of the day or night.

In Bangkok, many Westerners consume Pad Thai after a few beers. As veteran backpacker Dan states; “You can’t beat Pad Thai. It’s cheap, tasty, and the women who cook it are easy on the eye, too!”

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!