SPICEGASM.COM My travel tales and food hunting

January 27, 2013

Santichon, the Yunnan Village in Pai, Thailand

Filed under: Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 8:57 am

yunnan-villageI arrived in Pai yesterday evening. The journey from Chiang Mai to Pai by car is around 3 hours. I will blog more about Pai on a later date. This post will however feature more about Santichon, the Yunnan Village. This is not the typical Chinatown you see around the world. Santichon is mostly inhibited by Yunnanese whose grandparents crossed the China-Thai border to escape the Communist Party of China back in the days.


A Chinese gazebo in the middle of a tiny lake

Rows of shops made of mud selling Chinese tea leaves and other Yunnan stuff

Rows of shops made of mud selling Chinese tea leaves and other Yunnan stuff

Mud made houses up close


Feels like in China

The modern generation of these Yunnan people now are Thai citizen and can speak Thai and Chinese fluently. The Thai Government has turned this village into a tourist attraction. There are a few restaurants in the village selling authentic Yunnanese food and lots of tiny shops made of mud selling Chinese tea. A few shops are selling traditional Yunnan dress and if you do not wish to have those dresses in your wardrobe collection, you can have your pictures taken in them for 100 baht.


Wheeeee….the human powered Ferris wheel

I also saw some kids riding donkeys around the village. Another thing that look pretty cool to me is the human powered Ferris wheel. I do not see any safety belt but then again back in the days, maybe most Yunnan kids knows kung fu and safety belt wasn’t an issue. I walked around for a bit and tried speaking Thai to all the Yunnan people there. Everybody is really fluent and I find it really cool.

The restaurant that reminded me of old Kung Fu movies where they drink rice wine from bowls.

The restaurant that reminded me of old Kung Fu movies where they drink rice wine from bowls.


Stew pork leg Yunnan style


Stir fried fresh mushrooms from the mountains

Some sort of mountain vegetables stir fried with garlic

Some sort of mountain vegetables stir fried with garlic

After 30 minutes of walking around the village, I decided to go do what I enjoy most, EAT! Chose a restaurant an ordered some Yunnanese food. We ordered a stew pork leg dish, the meat was very soft and tender and the sauce goes really well with the “mantou”. Another dish was a stir fried fresh mushroom which was pretty tasty too. Lastly we ordered a vegetable dish which they claimed grows in the mountain. I actually don’t really care but I just like the sound of it. Eating wild vegetables that’s organic and all that. Hot Chinese  tea was the choice of our beverage. The total cost was 490 bht. The food tasted pretty good and listening to Chinese New Year songs while eating stir fried mushroom in Thailand is pretty weird but I enjoyed it nevertheless.



January 23, 2013

Midnight Fried Chicken Chiang Mai Thailand

Filed under: Food,Thailand,Travel — Alex @ 1:42 pm

I haven’t been updating my blog for quite a while. One of the main reason is that I’ve been busy with work and also changing my lifestyle for a bit. I will blog about it ( I hope ) in the near future.

Good friends of mine will know that whenever I am living or traveling abroad, visiting famous monuments and buildings are not really my kinda thing. I just prefer to live like the locals and basically do normal stuff daily. My schedule is never hectic and I do not go in and out of a tour bus visiting places after places. Instead I will wake up whenever my eyes opened and just go to some coffee shops or cafes that are popular among the locals.

I would normally order my food and drinks, and just chill in the coffee shop for an hour or two. Most of the time I am alone and I just enjoy observing people. Sometimes some locals who can communicate in English will talk to me and I’ve always enjoyed that. But most of the time I would be approached by locals who can’t speak in English who will still make an effort to talk to me. I enjoyed that too even though most of the time we do not understand each other. It involves a lot of head nodding ( pretending that we understood ) and short sentences in our own language, food being pointed and the famous thumbs up sign with the word “GOOD” being expressed in many different ways. I’ve done that more than a thousand times and it still never gets old for me.


Deep fried chicken, would be nice if juicier.

I am currently back in Chiangmai after an absence of almost 6-7 years. I am staying in a small hotel near the old city. The caretaker of the hotel is one really nice guy and he loves that everybody addresses him as Mr. Man ( pronounce as in He-Man ). I would blog more details about him and his hotel soon. He has brought me out on his truck and motorbike a few times to go eat food that is preferred by the people of Chiangmai. One night, he brought me to a place to eat at 9pm around the night bazaar area. He then told me that few meters down the road where we were having our meal, is a very popular food stall call the “Midnight Fried Chicken”. The stall is also popular for it’s special chili paste that is call “Namprik Num”. It is a special chili paste made of young green chili from the Chiangmai region. It opens only at 11.30pm daily and you have to stand in line to be seated.

Yesterday night at 11.35pm, I felt a little bit hungry and the image of crispy fried chicken was circulating on my mind. Add in the reputation of the stall “Midnight Fried Chicken” told gloriously by Mr Man, I really set my heart on to give it a try. The problem was that I do not know where exactly is the place and Mr Man was already sleeping. But when I set my heart on tasting the food that I am craving for, nothing will deter me from achieving that.

Deep fried pork intestine and special Chiangmai sausage with herbs

Deep fried pork intestine and special Chiangmai sausage with herbs

The weather in Chiangmai now is really cold and yesterday night was 20 C. I decided to look for the place on a bicycle that Mr Man provided for my daily usage. It would be fun cycling around Chiangmai town on a cool night. Equipped with my broken Thai, I was very determine to find the “Midnight Fried Chicken” stall at all cost.

Let me spare out the details of my screw ups in recognizing the roads and buildings and get straight to the point. It took me 1 hour and the half to locate the place, and asking about 7 random people about the location of the food stall. Two out of the seven Thai people never heard of the place and this was pretty encouraging. Finally I found the place and it was exactly like what Mr Man described. The tables were all full and I had to stand in line to either take out or to dine in. After 10 minutes of waiting, I finally got a table.


Pictures I took when the shop is getting ready for business and there’s more seats inside.

Look at the crowd!

Look at the crowd!

This is where I ordered my food by pointing.

This is where I ordered my food by pointing.

Special Chiangmai chili paste Namprik Num

Special Chiangmai chili paste Namprik Num

Sticky rice, boiled egg with Nam Prik Num, love the taste of it.

Sticky rice, boiled egg with Nam Prik Num, love the taste of it.

To order, the customers need to write down what they want. Since I cannot write in Thai, I told one of the workers if I could just go to the counter and point what I wanted. She nodded her head and I went and ordered my food via pointing my fingers, mixed with my broken Thai language. Ordered one big fried chicken leg, some deep fried pork intestines, boiled egg ( according to Mr Man, boiled egg and Nam Prik Num goes really good together ), a plate of boiled vegetables with Nam Prik Num and lastly a plate of sticky rice.

I ate it quickly as they were still many customers waiting to get their seats. It cost me 107 BHT for my meal and I think the price is rather reasonable. If you were to ask me “is the 1 hour 10 minutes bicycle ride worth it and will I ever come back again?” The answer is YES! Besides the ride back to my hotel took me only 15 minutes.

July 17, 2012

Moving Sushi in Japan (AKA Kaiten Sushi)

Filed under: Food,Travel — Tags: — Alex @ 1:26 pm

Kaiten sushi is very popular in Japan and I have the pleasure of eating at one of these sushi restaurants once every few weeks. I like to call it moving sushi because that’s what it does, moves around waiting for you to eat it! Variety differs from place to place and there are even popular restaurants where friends and I travel 1 hour out of the city to find the place.

Kaiten moving sushi restaurant

For those new to this type of food, “kaiten” means “to rotate” and plates are served with sushi and sashimi on different style and colored plates to determine the price.

You don’t have to eat only what’s on display. Customers can also make special orders if they cannot find the sushi they want. A sushi that plate that you order is also placed on the conveyor belt if it’s a small amount and it’s marked with your seat number so other customers know that it is a special order and not up for grabs. However for large orders, an attendant may bring it directly to your table. Unlimited hot matcha green tea is usually available directly at your seat and the average meal time takes about 15 to 30 minutes even with a group of friends.

Matcha green tea at sushi restaurant

The price of each sushi dish is determined according to the colors, patterns, or shapes of the plates and usually ranges from 100 yen to 500 yen. The cost of each plate is shown on posters in the restaurant. The bill of the customer is calculated by counting the number and type of plates of the consumed sushi.

Conveyor Belt Sushi

Here’s a brief history on moving sushi. Kaiten sushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi, was invented by sushi restaurant owner Yoshiaki Shiraishi. He was having a hard time managing his restaurant by himself and having difficulties staffing his small sushi restaurant he had to think of something to keep his business going. After watching beer bottles on a conveyor belt in an Asahi brewery, he got the idea of a kaiten sushi.

When you visit Japan, this type of restaurant should be at the top of your list! It’s a great place for lunch.

This article was contributed by JapanitUP.com where you’ll find news, tips, and info about Japan. Visiting doesn’t have to be expensive, and many great deals are to be found on tasty street food and traditions worth experiencing while you’re there!

March 23, 2012

Seafood orgy in the streets of Ho Chi Minh

Filed under: Food,Travel,Vietnam — Alex @ 10:24 am

I am very pleased with my first trip to Vietnam after getting to eat seafood like the locals do. Now allow me to make you hungry by posting some really awesome pictures of my seafood orgy session. I’ve never seen so many variety of snails and shells being offered at one place. I’ve been to many parts of Sea East Asia where big variety of seafood is considered common. So far I think Vietnam is rank number 1 in my book when it comes to variety. Too bad that our stomach doesn’t allow us to order every damn thing in the menu.

This is the first seafood I patronized. It is located at Pham Ngu Lao area in District 1 and is near to a pub named 17 Saloon that features Filipino band. It is close to midnight and there were still many customers. I simply love the outdoor setting with those low tables and chairs. It some how felt more relax and chill.

I’ve so far been to 2 road side restaurant serving seafood. It is definitely a MUST DO when you come visit Ho Chi Minh. A party of 5-6 person would be the most ideal. The more people in your group, the more you get to order different types of food that are offered in the menu. Drinking the local beer like “333” ( known as in Ba Ba Ba in Vietnamese ) or Saigon beer while enjoying your dishes are highly recommended. When is time to pay, you will be surprise that it will be around USD7-8 per person for a meal fit for the kings!

I have no idea what the shell looks like in it’s original form but I am guessing it must be a big ass shell. The shell is most likely boiled and then the meat is cut to small pieces. Dried chili with oil are being sauteed with salt and probably some other type of seasoning, then poured  top of the boiled shell. Texture is rubbery like calamari and is not tough at all. Super tasty with those fried chili oil.

Some sort of shell that looks like bamboo. Pretty common seafood fare in South East Asia and normally stir fried with chili and minced garlic.

Super big giant cockles with peanuts. I have no idea how it was being prepared but it tasted really good.

Tasty scallops served with peanuts and thinly chopped chives.

Giant snails cooked with lemon grass. I’ve always love to eat food that is being cook and serve to you at the same time. Big flames from the stove heating up the plate of giant snails and getting the flavor from the lemon grass.

Clam soup with lemon grass in hot pot

Grill fish Vietnamese style. The dipping for most seafood in Vietnam is mixture of salt, pepper and lime. But for my own personal preference, dipping it with sambal belacan or Namprik Kapi would suit me better.

Fried chicken wings in fish sauce. A good dish to order to include some meaty texture in a seafood dinner. Those onion are super tasty and so is the deep fried chicken. Crispy on the outside, moist and juicy in the inside. Winning!

Stir fry pork intestine in some sweet and sour sauce.

Plain boiled vegetables that is super healthy if you just eat it by itself, but nobody is going to do that when you can dip into a special kind of dipping sauce which I think is uniquely Vietnamese.

Special dipping sauce that contains bits of crunchy fried pork lard, dried shrimp, fish sauce and some other stuff that I couldn’t figure out with my taste bud. Dipping those boil vegetables into this sauce will surely fire up your appetite for more food whacking obscenity.

Morning glory or kangkung got to be one of the most popular vegetable in South East Asia. Simple stir fry with garlic and no presence of chili and belacan, still tasted super good.

Vietnamese mango salad with dried/salted fish. Pretty close to Thai version of mango salad.

Vietnamese coconut salad. I have no idea which part of the coconut they using, but I know is definitely not from the coconut itself. I am suspecting it is from the branch or young coconut bark.

Lastly, a salted fish fried rice with crab meat to complete the whole seafood orgy outing.

The pictures of this post were taken from my 2 eating session. If you happen to come visit Ho Chi Minh, these are the 2 restaurant that I highly recommend you to go.

Phuc Oc ( Restaurant Name ) – 136, Nguyen Thai Hoc, Pham Ngu Lao


Vy Da ( Restaurant Name ), in the corner of Ly Tu Trong and Nguyen Trung Truc Street. You can never missed it as you will see many people dining in the open air.

I would suggest you download the pictures of the food in this post, that makes it easier for you to order your food if you do not speak or read Vietnamese.

March 20, 2012

I finally know what COM really means

Filed under: Bars & Resto,Food,Travel,Vietnam — Alex @ 10:08 am

Everywhere I walk, the word COM is everywhere in Saigon. I see it on the food stalls and restaurants. Just outside of my hotel, there’s a non air conditioned restaurant bearing a big signboard with the word “COM” on it.  I am smart enough to know that it’s not Internet related though. I decided to eat lunch there as my “FOODAR” told me that this restaurant will be all right. I was eager to find out the meaning of COM once and for all too. For those of you who are wondering what FOODAR means, is just a word I made up. It stands for “Good Food Radar”. Is not an I-Phone aps but is something I developed over the years hunting down the best eating joint.

The Com Tam restaurant located near my hotel

I sat down, the friendly waitress came and gave me the menu. The menu has pictures and it’s in Vietnamese and English language. Sweet! I browsed the menu for a bit and I see the word “COM TAM” a lot. You have the choice of COM TAM with chicken, beef or pork BBQ. I noticed on the menu it has the translation for the word “COM TAM”. It is being described as Broken Rice. Sounds interesting! So I ordered Com Tam with chicken BBQ Vietnamese style.

A few customers enjoying their Com Tam. I love how Vietnam has all this low stools and tables. Just seem more relaxing and not so formal like normal size dining chairs and tables.

This is where your meat is being grilled.

While waiting for my food to arrive, I went to get some pictures of the restaurant and glancing quickly at other customers orders. I love to see what they eat. After I am satisfied with my pictures taking, I went back to my seat and ordered a soup dish, saw someone having having the some what yummy looking soup. From my quick glance, I am guessing the soup would be beef tendon with tomatoes and pickled cabbage soup. Am really excited to see how the rice is being prepared. How often you get to eat broken rice? I then start to guess how the rice will look like, the texture and so on. I was pretty convinced that my rice would come in the form of paste or rice cakes.

Just look at the lovely grilled chicken. After the meal, I read on wikipedia that the rice are broken during the process of cleaning. These broken rice are then separated from the good ones and sold at a lower price. Initially Com Tam is food meant for poor people but some how it became favorite food of many people in Vietnam.

When my Com Tam finally arrived, the rice look like normal rice to me. Nothing broken or beaten about it. Only when I start taking picture of my plate of Com Tam with chicken BBQ, I realized that every single grain of my rice is broken. This seems pretty odd as long grain rice fetch higher price as it always taste better. Along with my Com Tam, there’s a small bowl of dipping sauce that doesn’t look like the normal soya sauce or fish sauce that I am accustomed to. The color of the sauce looked like lemon juice but when I tasted it, it is no where near the taste of lemon juice. I just added finely chopped fresh chili into the sauce.

Tasty beef tendon with tomatoes and picked cabbage soup. Perfect pairing as Com Tam does not have much gravy.

I liked the taste of the chicken BBQ, which has a sweet taste to it. It goes really well with the sauce that I just added chili into it. Everybody will like this food at the first try. It is for sure comfort food for the Vietnamese I am guessing. The steamed broken rice was all right too. To my surprise, it didn’t lack the same texture as the expensive long grain rice like Basmathi or Jasmine. The soup came in a small bowl and tasted really good too. It has a little bit of beef tendon, the portion of the pickled cabbage was just right.

I always take pictures of menu so I can remember the name of the food I’ve eaten. Not really meant to post it in my blog but I guess this particular picture is clear enough for you to check out the prices.

Feeling satisfied after the meal, I asked the waitress what Com means? She told me Com means rice and Tam means broken. I am happy with the information as suddenly all the images of food stalls and restaurant bearing the word Com rushed to my mind. I know now that those stalls are definitely serving dishes that is rice based. I can now avoid looking like an idiot going to the Com food stall and confidently ordering “One Pho Please!”

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