Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I'm Here for the Food

Eric and I are still in Krabi.  The small town is known as a short stop before heading to the islands, but it has proven to be an easy place to stay for a while.  There are many reasons for this, including cheap accommodation and a lively expat community, but I have to admit that the food is a major reason I'm happy to stick around.  I know, I know — the food all over Thailand is delicious, so why should Krabi stand out?  Let me show you.

Noodle soup with sliced pork and dumplings from a woman's street stall
This might be the best noodle soup I've ever had.  I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but the flavorful broth combined with the skinny, easier-to-eat noodles, wilted greens and the dumplings — oh, the dumplings! — make this soup unforgettable.  After our first meal at this lady's stall (she greeted us, asked, "Two?" and then gestured for us to sit down at one of her many folding tables) we have returned three times.  I have considered eating there daily.  I'm probably reaching an unhealthy level of adoration for this soup and this soup lady.

This soup deserves a close-up.
I discussed dim sum in a previous post, but it deserves another mention.  Krabi seems to have a large Chinese population and one of the results of this is several places that offer dim sum, a meal of small dishes often served for breakfast or brunch.  We found one dim sum restaurant where we got delicious coffee with sweetened condensed milk, a couple different steamed buns, and all the dumplings we can eat.  Because it is a morning meal, the dim sum place that we love closes by noon.  Even Eric is willing to wake up before ten for their steamed dumplings.

Steamed buns with pork meat filling
Speaking of mornings, there are several great coffee shops around Krabi.  My favorite is beautifully decorated and run by young woman who makes great cappuccinos.  In addition to a colorful display case, there is a massive fish tank lining one wall. 

I tend to crouch down and watch the fish until my coffee is ready.
This past week, Krabi celebrated its 140th anniversary with a week of parades, festivals, fireworks and night markets.  For several nights in a row, Eric and I cobbled together dinner from multiple market stands.  The chicken satay skewers, fried chicken legs, minced meat on rice, corn pancakes, fried noodles, and fried ice cream filled me up without costing much money.  Plus, the celebration included Thai singers and dancers on the main stage — free entertainment while we dined!

Eric got noodle soup and I got fried noodles with veggies and pork.
Thai dishes are often served with a fork and a spoon. You use the fork to move
the food onto the spoon, then eat off the spoon. It makes eating noodles less of a mess!
A singer/guitarist on the festival stage
We saw a children's dance group and a fire juggler on different nights.
Eric with the girl selling fried ice cream - she kindly put up with my enthusiasm for sprinkles
While the Asian food in Krabi is understandably excellent, the western food is surprisingly well done, too.  It is often more expensive because so many of the ingredients have to be imported, but it can be worth the cost.  At Viva, an Italian restaurant that has been in Krabi since 1999, we found dozens of different types of great pizza.  Most remarkable, however, are its pasta dishes.  While spaghetti is offered on almost any western-aimed menu in Thailand, Viva serves homemade spaghetti, penne, ravioli, tagliatelle and gnocchi in a variety of sauces.  After an inexpensive month of April (thank you Cambodia!), Eric and I decided to treat ourselves to a pasta dinner with some of our budget surplus.  We had spaghetti carbonara and outstanding gnocchi in ragu sauce.  A carafe of house white wine made it an extra special meal, since wine tends to be more expensive than other alcohol out here.

I only took one photo because I couldn't wait to devour these dishes.
For dessert one day, we decided to try what looked like a soft-serve ice cream place.  Their sign advertized something about "snow" and "ice," but I assumed it was just a questionable translation.  Inside, the options looked like those in the yogurt bars that are becoming popular around the US, so I was shocked when our "blueberry snow" choice arrived at our table looking like this:

This purple mountain looked like it could use some mini skiers.
Here's a close up so you can see how snow-like it was.
"Snow" was not an inaccurate translation, but rather exactly what arrived on our table.  I'm not sure how they do it or if this is a widespread dessert option, but flavored snow with a sweet sauce and unidentified beans exists in Krabi.  It was tasty and unique, though I can't say I would order it again.  I'm more of an ice cream kind of girl.

Update: My friend Tim explained that this dessert is popular around Asia and is called Ais kacang or Air Batu Campur.  Here is the article he listed in his comment below.  Thank you Tim!

Many of the places to buy food close early in Krabi, leaving 7-11 as one of the few late-night options in town.  Though I prefer to patronize the locally-owned shops, I have found that Thai 7-11s have better food than I ever expected.  The microwaved noodles, steamed dumplings, and panini-pressed ham and cheese croissants are much better quality than the hot pockets found at the American branch of the international chain.  To be fair, I don't have a lot of experience with American 7-11s, so maybe there are some hidden gems, and there are certainly some foods at Thai 7-11s that I am carefully avoiding.  But still, I hate that I love this fast food.

Eating goyza and fried rice on the ground outside 7-11 —
not classy, not great quality, but better than I want it to be.
Krabi is a great place to be for many reasons, but my stomach is especially happy we're here.  Eric and I took a Thai cooking class on Ko Phi Phi, and my new goal is to learn how to make that noodle soup!

What are your favorite foods that you've found while traveling?
What are your favorite dishes from where you live?

3 comments:

  1. Dim sum, yum! That soup looks pretty good too. :)

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  2. That dessert sounds like ABC

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_batu_campur

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    Replies
    1. Yes, thank you! I was really curious if it was a big thing in this area. So far I've just seen it at one place, but I suppose I wasn't looking for it in Bangkok.

      I hope you're doing well!

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