Surprise Your Taste Buds in Thailand – 5 Must-Try Thai Dishes

If you are heading to Thailand in the near future, keep in mind that you are going to have to eat. While there are McDonald’s restaurants and other fast food in Thailand, that’s a terrible way to experience the local culture. The cuisine in Thailand is something that you simply won’t find anywhere else on earth; the Thai food in the United States is often a poor imitation of what actual Thai cuisine tastes like so don’t forget to try these five amazing dishes during your next visit to Thailand.

Red Pork Noodle Soup

First up is Red Pork Noodle Soup, one of the most delicious Thai dishes that you will ever eat. You won’t be able to find this in the restaurants in Bangkok, but you can find it throughout the market at street vendors. The way that it is made might give you pause (the broth sits for a really long time) but it is absolutely delicious. The broth is made of boiled pork bones and onions, and it is combined with noodles, slices of red pork, sprouts and bok coy. You can eat it with sugar, fish sauce or even chili. You definitely need to check it out at least once while you are in Thailand.

Spicy Beef Salad

Beef salad is pretty amazing on its own. You can find it in restaurants throughout Thailand and it is made of succulent strips of beef that is combined with a whole bunch of things to give it a unique flavor like coriander, spearmint, lime, dried chili and onions. This salad can be enjoyed on its own but that’s definitely not the best way to eat it. As your Thai friends will tell you, you must experience spicy beef salad with warm delicious bread and covered in fish sauce. You can even make spicy beef salad at home if you want to fondly remember your time in Thailand.

Som Tam

Som Tam is one of the most prevalent foods in the Thai diet and you will find it being sold everywhere around you among the street vendors. The way that this dish is made is with shaved papaya fruit combined in a mortar and pestle with things like sugar, fish sauce, lots of chilies, peanuts, tomatoes and more. It is really spicy and if you can’t handle it, then get it made without the chilies. Even so, the mortar has a bunch of chili seeds already present when they start making yours, so you will get a little spice regardless.

Banana Pancakes

These aren’t your dad’s banana pancakes and you will be surprised just how prevalent this dish is within the marketplaces that you visit. The Thong Lor market in Bangkok has dozen of stalls selling this stuff. What is actually consists of is friend dough that is much more similar to a scone than a pancake, which is filled with chopped up banana and then topped with chocolate, or sugar mixed with condensed milk.

Krathong Tong

Our fifth dish on this list is the absolutely amazing Krathong Tong. This is an appetizer that you won’t be able to resist once you taste it for the first time. Fried appetizers have become more and more common in Thai cuisine and this is one of the best things to come from the Portuguese cuisine that has introduced them to the area. You probably won’t be able to find them unless you visit one of the nicer restaurants in Bangkok but they are very thin fried shells filled with chicken, corn, carrots, potatoes and a delicious, creamy mystery sauce.

Top 6 things I miss about being away from home

It has been about little more than 10 months since we’ve moved to Belgium from Portland, Oregon in August of 2011. I absolutely fell in love with Belgium, or to say, Europe from the day we moved here. We’ve been to many new cities and countries in the past several months; we had the chance to experience breathtaking nature, ancient history, marvelous structures, religious artifacts, variety of people, mind-boggling cultures, and tried some of the best dishes in our trips. We plan to undertake a lot more places before heading back to The States in summer of 2013 or may be 2014…let’s see how much we can manage. Apart from enjoying almost everything that Belgium or Europe has to offer us, I must confess, there are times when I miss my home really bad. They don’t get to me as much as they used to a few months ago. I am trying to enjoy everything to the fullest, since I know that we eventually will have to go back to The States sometimes in a year or two. So, here we go, these are the things I miss the most about Portland or U.S.A.

6) GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE: This is not to say that customer service in Europe sucks everywhere, but I am totally spoiled by the great customer service we get back in the USA. I have seen some grumpy faces from several sales persons back home too, but the degree of attitude or the lack of professionalism that I receive here sometimes surprises me. I once had a lady in our local bank in Belgium who was pissed because I had to close my account with them and then this lady in a supermarket said to us once something like “you Americans…” (in French) followed by some stereotype phrases. It doesn’t bother me as much now; I figured may be it is in their culture…so I should just learn to live like that.

5) CALLING MY FRIENDS & FAMILIES ANYTIME I WANT: We brought Vonage VOIP service with a local USA number along with us in Belgium, so that we can talk to friends and family for a much cheaper price than using calling card. That’s great news but the problem is that my families in the east coast are 6 hours behind us and the friends in Portland are 9 hours behind us. They are sleeping when I have free time to talk during daytime and when their day start or get off from work at 5 or 6 in the evening I am almost ready to go to bed. This really drives me nuts sometimes when I am very upset or too excited about something and I can’t talk to my sisters or my dad or my friends and relatives about it.

4) KNOWING WHAT I AM BUYING IN THE MARKET: I am not really a big fan of smoked salmon. Few weeks after we moved to Belgium, I bought a pack of salmon, not knowing that they were smoked salmon. After cooking it, I didn’t know what was wrong with the dish and why it smelled weird. Then I realized it was smoked salmon. Oh man, how would I understand those Dutch or French writings on the package? That’s a big problem not knowing the local language and therefore, not knowing what I am actually buying sometimes. Thanks to my iPad language translators that made life little bit easier. But I don’t carry it every time I am in a market. Sometimes some choices of food here look so good from outside, but since I can’t read the package properly, I was fooled couple times. I am trying hard to pick up the local languages, French & Dutch, and it is getting better day by day… I hope.

3) TACO BELL & OLIVE GARDEN: These are two of my most favorite restaurants in America. I can compensate Olive Garden with some of the Italian dishes we tried during our few trips to Italy but Taco Bell… no way. There is no other place in this world like Taco Bell. My heart sometimes cries for their Mexican Pizza (or Chalupa) with “fire” sauce on top…so good, so delicious. I wish to make a trip back to USA soon just to get some bites off of these little pieces of heaven…blahhh, I can’t fantasize anymore.

2) WEEKEND GET TOGETHER WITH FRIENDS: We had a great friend circle where we lived in Portland. Our kids were of similar ages and the friends were with about similar mentality and background. We used to do camping together every year, arrange surprises for each other’s birthday and other special events, eat out, watch movies, have potluck parties, make day trips to nearby places, rent big houses for everyone every now and then to just chill, relax, and cook together. The most that I miss about the friends in Portland is that when we had no actual plans we used to just get together at someone’s house, bring a dish, and just chat till we all were sleepy and tired. We know very few people here in Belgium, but don’t really share that kind of casual friendship with anyone. I very much miss those great moments.

1) MY JOB: I was a science/math teacher in a small private school back in Portland. Although I have worked there only one school-year, this was the most rewarding job in my little career life. I miss every bit of that school… the environment, the staff, to be able to share my thoughts on improving the education level, and most of all… the students.

I guess grass is always greener on the other side. We always envy what we don’t have at the present. May be, when I go back home, I will write a post on “Top 10 things I miss about living in Belgium”. I miss my home in Portland everyday that we bought just about a year before we moved here. But thanks to the almighty who gave us this opportunity to live and experience this wonderful life in Europe…no complaints whatsoever 🙂

A cheesy city – Gouda, The Netherlands

GOUDA, THE NETHERLANDS: The name itself makes my mouth watery instantly. The city is world-wide famous for its Gouda CHEESE. Other than that, Gouda is a typical yet a pleasant Dutch village and a very popular destination for a day trip. Its old buildings, calm canals, big market place were truly entertaining.

The old town of Gouda is adorned with big and yellow cheese-shaped decorations

TIME OF TRAVELLING: My parents came to visit us in Belgium in May 2012. The Netherlands was our first destination and Gouda was our first city to give them some Dutch experiences. Not to mention my dad loves cheese, so he absolutely fell in love with Gouda. Luckily, the weather was incredibly nice that day, I enjoyed every moment of being in the market place in the old town of Gouda.

Beautiful canal of Gouda, The Netherlands

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Holiday Inn in Leiden, which was about half an hour drive from Gouda. It was a very big and spacious place to accommodate you with free parking and huge play areas for children. The location was great, because Leiden is less than half an hour drive from other Dutch cities like Rotterdam, Gouda, The Hague, Utrecht, and Delft. All of these places are perfect to experience real Dutch culture and people.

WHAT TO EAT AND BUY IN GOUDA: What else would you want to eat and buy in Gouda other than eating and buying more and more of Gouda cheese? If you are there on a Saturday, you can buy cheese from the market place for great prices.  They can vacuum seal the cheese, so it doesn’t go bad even if it’s outside for a day or two. Also try out their battered fried fishes and raw herring sandwich…they are so yummy.

Cheese, cheese, and more cheese

PLACES WE VISITED:We spent about half a day in Gouda. Sampling and buying Gouda cheese was our number one priority in this trip, and we did it as much as we could (sampling free cheese that is) 🙂

A puppet show on one side of Stadhuis that takes place every hour in Gouda, The Netherlands

1) STADHUIS (OLD TOWN HALL): This is located in the market square and is the oldest Gothic town hall in the Netherlands. It dates back to 1448. Presently it is a museum. Don’t miss the little puppet show on one side of this building that takes place every hour.

The old town hall of Gouda (Stadhuis)

2) ST. JANSKERK  (ST. JOHN’S CHURCH): This Gothic church is standing there from the 16th century. It’s the longest church in the Netherlands and is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its famous stained glass windows from the 16th century, also known as “Gouda Windows”. These windows depict scenes from the bible and the city itself. The church is pretty big and very beautifully decorated with big chandeliers and lots of paintings. It also houses many graves of Gouda’s well-off citizens, just look at the floor for their tombstones.

The church is open from 10-5 everyday and closed on Sunday. The entry fee is 4.50 euros per person and 10 euros for whole family.

Inside St. Janskerk, Gouda

3) MARKET SQUARE: The market square is the main spot for tourists and a lively place for locals to hang out and shop. There is a big farmer’s market that takes place here every Saturday and is open until 5 pm. You will find fresh produces, clothes, purses, food stalls, and ofcourse cheeses. We saw some Dutch girls in their traditional outfit giving away free samples of cheese (they don’t mind if you go take pictures with them). Old Town Hall adds beauty to this square with its Gothic look and bright red colored windows.

Girls in traditional Dutch outfit offering free cheese to sample in Gouda, The Netherlands

4) DE WAAG (CHEESE WEIGHING HOUSE): This is also located in the market square on the rear side of Stadhuis. This was built in 1668 and has mainly served as a place for weighing cheeses. Presently, it is a museum of…well, CHEESE!!! It also has a big cheese store inside selling variety of Dutch cheeses.

A traditional scale to weigh cheese inside De Waag, Gouda

Next destination Milan, Italy

It’s almost time to go to Milan, Italy. I don’t know what is it about Italy that makes me so excited. Is it the landscape, charming people, “ciao”, gelato, true Italian pizza, ancient history, Italian leather purses… hard to decide. Nevertheless, time to pack for my most favourite country in Europe or may be in the world. Sheesh, no wonder I loved Olive Garden back in The States…

Ti amo l’Italia e ci vediamo presto 🙂

Brussels revisited in Black & White

Everytime I go to Brussels city center, it feels like I am going there for the first time. I look at those guild houses in Grand Place like I have never seen those before. Whenever we have guests from U.S.A or other places, I get so excited that I can go visit Brussels one more time. This time my dearest friend Farida and her husband from The States were with us. It was like the old days in Portland, Oregon to hang out all together, but this time it was in Europe…in Brussels.

The old Town Hall in Grand Place, Brussels

Inside St. Hubert Mall, one of the oldest mall in Europe

My friend Farida with her Belgian waffle

St. Michel & St. Gudula Cathedral in Brussels

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