Menu For Hope 2007

What is Menu for Hope?

It’s when food bloggers from all over the world join together, and take leave from our usual obsession with our own stomachs. Throughout the year, we tend to wank on about food, beer, wine and other such visceral pleasures, but for two weeks every December, we pull together a bunch of excellent prizes and ask you, our readers, to help us support those who are not so lucky, to whom food is not a mere indulgence but a matter of survival. This Menu for Hope is our small way to help. Proceeds go to the World Food Program

Group food blog Gut Feelings and all of our excellent and gracious friends have managed to add to the global prize pool. Prizes as follows:

BANGKOK PRIZES

Bed Supper Club

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Dinner for two at Bangkok’s premier destination restaurant Bed Supperclub Bangkok (value 3500 baht)
Code: AP28


18 year old Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky Gold Signature

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(valued at USD$95) also from the good folks at Bed Supperclub
Code: AP23

A dozen bottles of 42 Below vodka

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12 bottles of 42 Below Vodkas to see you through 2008 courtesy of the kind New Zealanders at 42 Below. I strongly recommend their feijoa flavor. (value 12,000 baht)
Code: AP24

Half a dozen bottles of 42 Below Seven Tiki Rum

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6 bottles of 42 Below Seven Tiki Rum. Also from the Kiwi crew. Makes the ideal New Zealander/Cuban mojito (value 6,000 baht)
Code: AP25

One night at Dream Hotel, Bangkok

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One night accommodation at luxury small hotel Dream Hotel, Bangkok (value $280++ USD). Donate and sleep in peace in their sumptuous DREAM beds.
Code: AP29

A day with LP writer and food photographer, Austin Bush + free Lonely Planet Bangkok

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Free copy of latest edition of the Lonely Planet’s Bangkok Guide + Eating Tour of Bangkok with LP writer and Thai food expert Austin Bush. He really knows Thai food (value $200 USD)
Code: AP30

SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA PRIZES

One night at Hotel De La Paix, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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One night’s accommodation at uber hip hotel Hotel De La Paix, Siem Reap (value $235 USD)
Code: AP31

One night at Be Hotel, Siem Reap, Cambodia

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One night’s accommodation at boutique hotel in the heart of Siem Reap’s charming laneways Be Hotel Angkor subject to availability (value $150 USD)
Code:AP32

Siem Reap Market Tour and Cooking Class with Joannes Riviere

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Market Tour and Cooking Class with Joannes Riviere, Khmer food expert and author of La Cuisine du Cambodge avec les apprentis de Sala Bai. He knows all the women at the market, speaks fluent Khmer and can teach you how to make a mean samlor machu
Code: AP33

Wild Jungle Honey Collecting Tour with Angkor Conservation Centre for Biodiversity Sustainable Bee Program, Siem Reap

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A once in a lifetime experience. Trek into the jungle with experienced guides, collect wild honey and taste the magic that is freshly harvested bee juice (value 200 USD)
Code: AP34

GLOBAL PRIZE

All the advertisements on Lastappetite.com for February 2008

One 336 x 280 pixel advertisement on the footer of my site for the entire month of February, displayed on every page of the site – image, flash or text link – the choice is yours. My site averages 1900 unique visitors per day, who visit 1.7 pages (98,000 monthly page views). The audience is overwhelmingly American (79% of readers), half of which reside in California. Valued at USD$350
Code: AP22

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our choices above or at the global prize list site

2. Go to the donation site at First Giving and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code.
Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 – 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Regional Prizes

Check back here on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Jolly Shandy

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“Brewer”: Carlsberg

Before people had the option of deadening their palate while getting their booze on with a premixed wine cooler, there was shandy, half beer mixed with half lemonade. It is one of those drinks manages to ruin two otherwise perfect drinks when you make it. I’d first heard of the shandy premix from friends’ trips to Indonesia, where it is available everywhere; there were plans afoot to import a case into Australia for me, possibly to horrify anyone who didn’t believe such a daft miscreant could ever exist.

Carlsberg says: “Jolly Shandy now comes in a great new packaging that is energetic and youthful looking. The Lemon flavour packs a tangy great taste as well as added Vitamin C for that refreshing feeling. Jolly Shandy is the perfect drink for today’s young and trendy who live a lifestyle by the adage ‘Refreshingly Different’. ”

I say: Jolly Shandy sounds like the name of a 1980s bubblegum pop outfit or maybe a character from a Pynchon novel. After drinking it, I was not filled with the jollity that the luminous green can suggested, only with carbonated bubbles of gloom. If there is beer in Jolly Shandy, it is not one with a malt flavour that can be discerned over the chemical lemon-lime concoction. With an alcohol by volume of 1%, fruit juice that has been left for a few days past its best-before date will impart more of an alcoholic kick.

If Jolly Shandy recorded an album with Thomas Pynchon, it would be called:
Gravity’s Rainbow Brite

Location:Penang, Malaysia, but available across the whole peninsula.

Pig’s brain tom yam and the morbidly obese dog.

Austin told me that there would be pig’s brain tom yam. An offal and coconut soup aberration buried in Bangkok’s inner suburbs within walking distance of some of the other rarer gems in Thailand’s food scene. A mere taxi ride from the Gut Feelings safehouse where I was holed up beside the pool. We’d conversed earlier, online, transcript as follows:

Austin: Fancy tom yam samong muu
pig brain tom yam?
me: It all looks great
That whole prion thing puts me off pig brain a little
Austin: prion?
me: They’re what causes mad cow disease. They collect in the brains/spinal cords of animals – although I have a feeling that pigs aren’t a problem. At least ones that haven’t been fed a steady diet of pork
Austin: i’m pretty sure the pigs here eat lotsa pork–the left over school lunch (which was mostly pork) is used as pig feed!
me: That’s bad news.
Austin: Yep

He’d somehow got the idea that I’m a massive offal fan. I do believe that if you’re going to eat meat then you may as well do your butcher a favor and eat the whole animal (just like most of the world’s population) but I’m not always seeking out the best pipe and lung dishes. His confusion of my love for innards was the result of me shooting some of the worst shots of Cambodian offal that I could find while he did his professional photographer “work” in Phnom Penh last year. After a while, I can’t take my own food photography with any seriousness.

After rallying Hock from Gut Feelings to form a mini Southeast Asian food blogging conference, we headed towards Chote Chitr.

Chom Chitr

Chote Chitr had gained a reputation as the restaurant that Bangkok food aficionados go when they want to show off the subtler side of Thai food to visiting journalists. The New York Times has previously given the hole-in-wall joint the thumbs up. The mee krob is a standout dish. Crispy and balancing sweet and sour on a knife’s edge without the tinned pineapple acidity and cheap starchy sauce that I associate with Chinese sweet and sour. According to Austin, the sour citrus note comes from the peel of the local som saa fruit. Hock mentioned that this was how he imagined Kylie Kwong would do sweet and sour pork. Older Bangkok cuisine seems to be more focussed on sweetness and balance rather than just the razor-sharp edge of chilli that cuts through more modern Bangkok fare.

Our stop for pig’s brain tom yam, the ostensible reason for swapping the sin of poolside sloth for freestyle gluttony, was fruitless. The store was fresh out of brains.

curry
We regrouped and hit up Udom Pochana, a restaurant doing what Austin imagined was a Chinese chef’s version of an Indian curry, but somehow turned out much more like the Golden Curry-brand that Japanese people seem to love. It is something of a Thai rarity and appealing as a cultural artefact from a nation that otherwise cooks a mean curry but this dish ends up sweet and altogether a bit dull.

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Next, Khanom Beuang Phraeng Nara on Thanon Phraeng Nara for khanom bueang . These sweet crispy taco-like shells are ubiquitous throughout Bangkok, normally filled with a saccharine meringue cream. These were a world apart, redolent with smoke from the charcoal brazier and filled with sweet duck egg paste, coconut meat and dried fruit. This, like Chote Chitr, are worth crossing oceans for. We discussed the possibility of renting a house in this neighbourhood, wondering if each Chinese shophouse had a spare room.

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Pad see ew: the boat noodle. Along with char kway teow, this is my favourite fried noodle dish. The dish promotes the wok hei smoke flavour like few others. I took no notes on it and still have no idea what street it was on. With the tom yam with brains tip off, Austin had in his possession a map indicating that good streetside goat stew could be found at Ko Lun restaurant, near a morbidly obese dog on Thanon Mahanop.

The dog was easy to find; a possible result of its inability to move. Ko Lun’s goat stew in “red sauce” was only average, despite being paired with some piquant shreds of galangal on the side. My thought was that they were fattening up that dog with grim intent.

We ended the impromptu food crawl at a cafe where Austin ordered two of the most lurid Thai foods I’d seen: a glass of milk with red food coloring and toast with viscous tangerine goop. This is what he eats when he’s not trying to show off to the rest of the world that he is a mature adult, somehow a fitting seventh and final course

Locations:

Chote Chitr
146 Thanon Phraeng Phuthon
02 221 4082
10am-10pm

Khanom Beuang Phraeng Nara
Thanon Phraeng Nara

Ko Lun
Thanon Mahanop

The road to Mae Hong Son

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Night market in front of wat at Maehongson

The road to Mae Hong Son in Northwest Thailand is dream trip for motorcyclists. A road of endless switchbacks, freshly paved, glides you through hidden valleys filled with stepped rice paddies, small farms, streams revealing waterfalls, hidden caves and palaces abandoned until the next warm season drives royalty into the highlands. Bamboo arches over the road in the lower reaches of the hills to be replaced by stark pine forest as you snake your way up the summits.

The road runs close enough to Burma for bored Thai military police to be stationed every few kilometres checking for contraband or smuggled people but unconcerned with Westerners on motorbikes. Lookout points stare over the mountain ranges. By all rights there should be no great reward at the end so as to prove a cliché about the intrinsic nature of journeys and destinations. But there is and it’s Baan Phleng Restaurant.

Baan Phleng

If there is one thing that I’ve learnt about dining in Southeast Asia, it is to avoid any restaurant with the words “authentic”, “local”, or “traditional” plastered out the front in English. It is the sign that the restaurant embodies none of those things and most often personifies the opposite. In this case, I was wrong. Contained within the ornate temple-cabinet were five or six dishes, only one of which was entirely familiar, the rest were surprises.

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The great thing about an average firm tofu is that it carries fat and meat flavours so well and thus is wasted on vegetarians. Fatty and chilli-hot carnivore tofu.

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I’d spotted bundled, spiralling fronds of ferns at the northern Thai markets in Pai, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son itself, but resigned myself to not being able to find it on a restaurant menu because I couldn’t find the Thai word for it and was too embarrassed to phone a friend for translation help. I’d mentally consigned it to that group of foods that I believe, rightly or otherwise, only get cooked at home and never see the light of day on a restaurant menu in one of the languages that I can read. Despite the large amount of sesame seeds and deep fried garlic mixed through, the above fronds had a nutty flavour all of their own.

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Nam prik, a tub of ground pork as hot as freshly-dropped napalm, accompanied by eggplant and flowers. Any botanical help on the steamed flowers served alongside the pork would be much appreciated. I snapped what I think is the flower on the plant from which it came, but can’t be sure.

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As an ingredient, they might make for a workable local substitute for zucchini or pumpkin flowers, although much more fragile and slightly bitter.

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Gaeng Kai Mae Hong Son – Chicken curry with lime leaves aplenty and a few local herbs that I can’t readily identify.

Location: Baan Phleng Restaurant, on Khunlumpraphat St, Mae Hong Son

Getting there: Hire a motorbike from Chiang Mai, ride at a leisurely pace out to Pai on day one, Soppong on day two and then onto Mae Hong Son on day three. Repeat in reverse, or complete the “Mae Hong Son loop” through Mae Chaem and then back to Chiang Mai. GT-riders.com sells an excellent map.

Or just catch the bus.

Note: Map link points to Baan Phleng restaurant.

Scraping the bottom of the pork barrel

Making pork floss

Once you’ve seen how pork floss is made, you’ll probably be much less suspicious of it. It seems quite simple: add a huge pile of boiled and shredded meat into a vat, then slowly dry fry, stirring constantly so that the pork doesn’t stick to the bottom of your vat. No weird additives (apart from that full bottle of soy sauce), no strange technique as you’d expect from a meat dish that is as light and fluffy as fibreglass insulation.

making pork skin

As for fried pork skin, a Northern Thai staple, it is a two stage frying process. Pork skin is cut into fine shreds, warmed (and rendered for lard (?)) in a cooler fryer, followed by a few seconds in a hotter fryer to puff up the pork skin shreds en masse.

making pork skin

If you’re keen to make your own pork floss, Umami has a pork floss recipe.