SPICEGASM.COM My travel tales and food hunting

November 5, 2010

Happy Deepavali to all

Filed under: Chit Chat,Singapore — Alex @ 2:48 pm

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody, especially the Hindu around the world a very Happy Deepavali. In English it is known as the festive of lights.

My blog title “Spicegasm” is actually inspired by Indian food. I was exposed to Indian dishes at a tender age of 6 and it was surely love at first bite. In Singapore and Malaysia, this celebration is a public holiday. I get excited as a kid when Deepavali is around the corner even though I’m not a Hindu. I get excited mainly because I get to visit my Indian friends open house during Deepavali. Secondly it is a school holiday.

Some of you might be curious what open house means. Open house is when there’s a celebration like Deepavali, my Indian friends would “open” their house for friends to come visit. Free food will be served during your visit. You do not really need an invitation. As long as you are a close friend to those who are celebrating the auspicious day, you can just drop by with an empty stomach. I remember  I used to make a list of houses to visit during Deepavali. First open house to visit was a good friend of mine whose mom that cooks really well. I can still remember her mom’s chicken and mutton curry eaten with home made dosai. ( rice flour Indian pancake laced with Ghee ). I would normally skipped the cookies and snacks like muruku to save space in my stomach for her mom’s dosai.

Those were the good old days when life is simple and pure. I’m not sure if this open house culture is still practice as much at present. Maybe as an adult, we tend to be more conscious of everything we do. I have to admit I feel a little bit shy to go visit some Indian friends of mine as an adult. There’s so many excuses on my mind to deter me from visiting them. The excuses are like maybe they are not celebrating or worse, maybe they think I am there for the free food. When we were kids young and innocent, my main goal was really to pay my friends a visit. We were trained to be harmonious in a multi racial society. Okay, maybe the dosai and chicken curry did play a role in motivating me to be harmonious but I’m sure you get my point.

Oh how I missed the good old days. I can still remember the TV channel would be airing Deepavali musical specials and also Tamil box office movies. Tamil movies are not to be mistaken with Bollywood films. Tamil movies have their own superstars like MGR, Kamala Hassan, Rajinikhan and Prabhu Deva. My Indian friends used to be very amused with me as my knowledge on Tamil movies were pretty good. I just love to learn other people’s culture. I really make sure I pay attention to what they have to teach me and remembers it really well. I think if you respect other people’s culture and genuinely want to learn, is easy to remember.

I don’t get to watch Tamil movies as much now as I’m always traveling. Some parts of the world does not air Tamil movies. Last 2 months ago I was in Singapore and was flipping through the TV channel as I got bored with the reruns of HBO and Star Movies. I stumbled into this channel call Vasantham. It is a Tamil language channel ( maybe sometimes have Hindi movie ) produced by Mediacorp of Singapore. This channel is specially dedicated for all the Singapore born Indian. Showing on TV that day was a Tamil movie starring Prabhu Deva.

Watching the movie reminds me of my Indian friends who were big fans of his. They swore on their lives that Prabhu Deva dance better than Michael Jackson. I remembered a Tamil movie blockbuster during the late 80’s called Khadalan ( means Love in Tamil ) and one of the songs were a big hit among the Indian communities around the world. We used to get into argument like whether Indian songs would be received by the masses who are non Indian. I told them that is quite impossible for other people to adopt the Indian music. Even for me a guy who loves Indian food and have quite good knowledge on Indian culture like me still preferred the US and UK pop songs.

They told me that the songs in the movie Khadalan was really new and fresh and not the same like those old Tamil movies. The song writer for the movie was a young man named AR Rahman. They forced me to watch the movie and I still gave them the same conclusion. Prabhu Deva and AR Rahman will not be popular outside of the Indian community, period!

So fast forward 20 years later. Scenario number one – AR Rahman is now an award winning composer who wrote the score for the hit movie Slumdog Millionaire. Scenario number two – because of the success of AR Rahman, I decided to “wikipedia” Prabhu Deva to get more information. To my surprised, he did became popular around the world. He is known as Benny Lava to the non Indian communities. I will post a video which made Prabhu Deva famous world wide at the end of my post.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish my Indian friends a Happy Deepavali and admit that I was wrong about the Indian music and film industry. You guys were right and I am actually very happy for them. Now they can say that is not only the Indian food that makes Indian culture recognizable, AR Rahman and Prabhu Deva are way up there too.


November 4, 2010

Moo Kata – favorite Thai past time

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 6:12 pm

Entrance of Family Bar-B-Q Moo Kata

Moo Kata is probably one of the most popular get together meal among the Thai. Moo Kata means pork skillet and some Thai friend’s told me is pork pan. The price is cheap and the value for the meal is just incredible. For those of you who are not familiar with moo kata, it is something similar to hot pot and BBQ at the same time.

I don’t think I can put the cooking device of moo kata in words, so I’m just going to post a picture so that you can see it for yourself.

Okay, this is how the moo kata cooking device looks like. On the center, is like a dome with some space that shaped like long lines. Below the dome is where hot charcoal are burnt to cook the meat. Surrounding the dome is a space where water or broth are stored. It’s not really deep but kind of shallow. A kettle of soup is provided for you to keep adding water.

When the waiter brings you the moo kata pan, a piece of pork lard is provided and it’s normally placed at the center of the dome. The pork lard will then melt and produced oil and drips from the top of the dome down to the broth area. This actually allows the dome to oil up so that when you place meat onto the dome, meat will not stick to it and burn. The oil from the pork lard and drips into the soup and this makes the broth even tastier.

The soup area is good for cooking fish balls, meat balls and vegetables. Initially I found the cooking method of moo kata a little bit odd as the dome area is kinda small for you to put your choice of meat. My meat kept falling into the soup and I have to use my chopstick to put back my fallen meat onto the dome. This will make my meat not so crispy like normal BBQ grill. The shallow area for the broth was also odd to me compared to normal hot pot pan. But after looking at the other table, the Thai people were very skillful in placing the meat on top of the dome. They can stack the meat on a few layers and the meat will not fall.

Looking at our next table, I get the feeling that the meat weren’t supposed to be really crisp like BBQ. I am guessing that the method of cooking the meat is more like making smoke meat. Having good skills with chopstick is definitely an essential aspect of eating moo kata in a large group. Everybody was doing their part in stacking and flipping the meats.

Meat balls, fish ball, vegetables and some sort of sea plants. All this are to be cook in the broth area.

Choice of pork, chicken and beef to be smoked moo kata style

Family Bar-B-Q Moo Kata Ratchada

The moo kata restaurant that we went to was situated near Huang Kwang mrt station. It is known to many as Family Bar-B-Q moo kata in Ratchada. The price for per person is 109 Bht excluding drinks. It is served buffet style and you can eat as much as you want. Besides all the raw food that you need to cook yourself, the restaurant also serves fried noodles, fried rice, fried sausage, green curry vegetable with plain rice, sushi like rice rolls. As for the raw food selection you have chicken, beef, pork, innards ( pork liver ), sausage, fish balls , meat balls, shells and some funky sea plants.

Around the sauce area ( they have a wide selection of sauces for meat and seafood ), they have a Thai device for you to make the famous papaya salad ( som tam ). All the ingredients are there for you to add and mix yourself. This could be quite a task for foreigners who has no idea what are the best mixture to make a tasty som tam.

Food area and there’s also a wide selection of Thai dessert and ice cream

This place is huge and I think it can easily sits 500 of patrons, maybe even more. We went around 10.30 pm that day and most people has already finished eating. If you were to go at 7pm, you will probably be given a number and wait to be seated. Is really packed during dinner time.

Customer looking really satisfied and full or is he just taking a break before continue eating. Is buffet style anyways.

Our bill came to around 400 Baht for the 2 of us. We order few bottles of water and few bucket of ice. In Thailand they normally charge for ice cubes. I still think with the big selection of food, the price is extreme reasonable. The whole process of dining moo kata with a group of large friends normally takes around 2 – 2.30 hours. While cooking the food, friends can catch up with each other. We heard loud laughter all around the tables as friends were joking with each other. Eating moo kata will definitely put you in a very cheerful mood as you know you will never burn a hole in your pocket. I highly recommend moo kata to everyone who will be visiting Thailand.

November 3, 2010

Leng Kee restaurant Pattaya

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 3:00 pm

Leng Kee Restaurant Pattaya

On the day that we are supposed to go to Bangkok, I wanted to try to eat something really nice in Pattaya. Since we have no tour guide and I did not search the Internet for information, I decided to go on a hunt instead. Most of the time, I have the nose for a good restaurant or food stall. I take pride in identifying good food joints in places that are unknown to me. Is really a great feeling when you are spot on, especially when you are with friends. You get to act like a smug and beam with a grin that makes people want to give you a slap. But since you found them a good place to eat, they normally hold back the desire to give you a smack.

While riding on a tuk tuk, I kept my eyes open and look left and right. I finally saw a restaurant and I just had this feeling that this place will be good. One of the easiest way to spot a good place is when you see there’s a lot of people but it is by no means 100% guaranteed. When I spotted this restaurant, it does not have many customers at that time. My instinct just tell me that this place is good, period. I don’t really know how I managed to do it all the time but the best way to explain it is for you to read the book by Malcolm Gladwell, Blink.

After many eating excursions with Zach, he officially made me the food hunter. I can’t recall where there’s a time where my recommendation or instinct failed me when I’m with him or other friends. ( *beaming* ). So there’s no objection from Zach that the restaurant that I spotted will be our destination for lunch. I was so confident with myself that this place will be good that I just snapped the pictures before crossing the road. The name of the restaurant is Leng Kee.

I love restaurant that has no air condition. Some how eating in a natural environment appeals to me. But Leng Kee does have an area with air condition too. Since it is a pretty hot day, Zach suggested that we sit inside. I agreed and since is the afternoon and pretty hot day, natural environment can take a back seat for now. Lol.

Leng Kee air cond section

This is the deep fried crab meat with minced pork wrapped in dried tofu skin. It taste really good when you dip it into some sweet chili sauce. Is best to strike it when it just came out from the wok. Smoke will come out from your mouth and it is a skill to juggle the fried meat ball in your mouth to avoid burning your tongue.

Stir fry shell with chili and spices. I have no idea what is the exact name in English for this type of shell. It is different from cockles or oyster. The Cantonese people call it “lala”.

How can Zach not order his favorite Thai dish, the Panang Moo. Leng Kee style of cooking is different from other panang that I’ve tasted. Is still good but I to admit if someone order this without my knowledge and ask me to name the type of cooking, I will not guess it as panang.

We ordered this sour and spicy Thai soup because we just wanted something different. Is not that we are fed up of Tom Yum ( no one can get fed up with TomYum ) but we just wanted something different on that day. I’ve eaten this soup many times but still don’t know what’s the name of the soup. Most of the time I just point at the picture on the menu. The soup is quite similar to Tom Yum soup but I guess is minus the tom yum paste. It reminded me of some Isaan soup that I’ve eaten before. So if any of you who are knows the name of the soup and reading this post, please leave a comment on what’s the real name of this delicious Thai soup.

Leng Kee really does serve good Thai-Chinese cuisine. The taste of all the dishes are really good. It cost us slightly over 500 baht for 4 dishes. I think Leng Kee is an old establishment and the business wass started by a Chinese migrant with a very small stall. Then it expanded and became a big family run restaurant. Don’t quote me on this as I am only guessing based on what I felt when I dined in that restaurant. I would love to find out if my guesses are correct. But one think I do know, Zach would love to smack me on my face when we took our first bite. I just had that smugness on my face again.

November 2, 2010

Yakuza Burger on Walking Street

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 12:20 pm

Yakuza Burger near Walking Street Pattaya

After taking a quick shower, we discussed on what to eat before meeting up with Dean and a few more friends that are based in Pattaya. Zach told me about this burger joint that he ate before and really liked it. The name of the burger joint is Yakuza Burger. Zach knows very well that I’m not into fast food or fancy restaurant that served Western cuisine. Since we have been eating Asian food all the time, maybe is time to be considerate and let Zach eat some farang(white folks in Thai ) food. After all the burger joint is just a little booth and not a fancy restaurant. So Yakuza Burger it is for tonight.

Four Season Place hotel provide transport for the guest around Pattaya town. We took the free transport that is a special designed tuk tuk to go to Walking Street. The ride was just 10 minutes. Walking Street is a popular destination for many tourist around the world. It is famous for bars and also Thai bargirls. Since this is a PG13 blog, no bars reviews are allowed here.

Yakuza burger operator preparing the burgers

Beef burger patty and fish fillet on the grill

My cheese burger with french fries

I actually kinda glad that we ate burgers for that night. Sometimes is good for the stomach to take a break from all the spiciness. To me, burgers are mild in terms of taste. It lacks the punch like most Asian cuisine which uses a lot of spices. The key to make a good burger lies on the beef patty in my opinion. The meat gotta be juicy with some fats in it. I’ve no idea what is used to marinate the beef patty but my guess is 2-3 different spices. Then you need to serve it with fresh bread that is not dry, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and cucumber. I’m sure getting fresh fresh lettuce, tomatoes and so on is a no brainer. So comparatively, making a good burger is easier than making a good curry or Tom Yum soup. That’s just my opinion anyways. Don’t mind me if you are into burgers and not Asian cuisine. But for the record, I did enjoy Yakuza Burger.

Four Seasons Place Hotel in Pattaya

Filed under: Hotel,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 12:01 pm

We landed in Suvarnabhumi airport around 6 pm. We were traveling with Air Asia and the flight was perfect. Duration of the flight from Phnom Penh to Bangkok was slightly over one hour. We went straight down to the public taxi area and booked a taxi to Pattaya. We managed to negotiate for price of 1200 Baht. We decided to take the taxi as we can share among the 3 of us. We could have taken the bus to Pattaya for 124 Baht each but we just want to get to Pattaya immediately without waiting for the bus. The taxi ride via the toll gate way will be approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Airport to Pattaya bus service

While in Phnom Penh, Zach has already booked a hotel via online. He told me that he got some points for using Agoda to book his hotel rooms all the time. He decided to stay in Four Seasons Place Hotel. The price of the room per night is USD96 and using his discount points he managed to get it at cheaper price. He told me the room is big enough and I can just sleep on the couch if I wanted to save money. I decided to have a look first at the room and decide whether I will sleep on the couch for free or book another room for myself. We dropped Dean at his hotel first before heading to Zach’s hotel. Dean suggested that we should meet up for a drink later and we promised to stay in touch by texting. When we reach Four Seasons Place, checking in was a breeze. We went to our room and this is how the Suite looks like.

As we enter, this is the dining area. It has a big fridge, oven and microwave

The living room with the big couch

Another angle of the living room of Four Seasons Place Pattaya

It also has a small working office area

Four Seasons Place bedroom suite

After seeing the suite that he booked, I decided to crash on the couch for free. After all we are only here for 2 nights. It has free Internet access and I like the idea of chilling at that little office space. The floor area is around 80 square meters and the room has 2 bathrooms. It also has a balcony for you to smoke as the room is non smoking type. You will never find a suite room anywhere else in the world that is less than USD100 except in Asia. This is the reason why I love Asia so much.

For more information on Four Seasons Place Pattaya click here

Note : Based on my experience, booking with Agoda and some other online booking sites will give you a better deal.

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