Sunday, July 25, 2010

I have impeccable timing!

It’s my birthday as you can obviously see* and after I was just getting over the picture birthday card I received from my virtual girlfriend, Lucy Liu, I began to think about the next best things…food and beer. Not necessarily in that order.

I’ve been on a curry kick of late, after stopping off with my friend Rich Ellison to have a beer after work a couple of weekends ago. I’m a lot like Rich in that I love to cook, but sometimes my cooking gets rather boring, so I’ve been thinking about broadening my horizons.

Curry is something Rich loves to prepare. I love curry, but a problem exists. I met Rich after work and he handed me a couple of plastic bags filled with dinner…curries he had prepared at home and gave me a sampling of. I was so thrilled! I could already smell the wonderful scents wafting up from the bags!

When we arrived at our drinking destination (I like that…’Drinking Destination,’ sounds like the title for a book), a store that simply has tables out front for farangs to gather, talk, bitch, and consume mass quantities of beer and spirits (similar to the Coneheads), Rich went inside and came out with a packet of Waugh’s Curry, a brand I’d never seen before. He handed it to me and told me I should try it, which I did.

I usually stay away from curry because although I love it, it does not love me, and I often end up with severe stomach cramps and diarrhea for a day afterwards. But this stuff was different some how. Oh, it wasn’t without any after effects…I had the farts bad for a couple of days, but at least my stomach could hack it.

So, today I got up around five a.m. a free man since I don’t have to be back to work for four days since Tuesday is a holiday here, and while drinking my coffee and reading my e-mails, I began to think about preparing some curry. The thing is though, I’m lazy. I kept putting off getting dressed and heading out on my motorcycle, until somewhere around eleven fifteen…and to explain my opening at the top of this posting, my timing was impeccable since it began raining half way into my shopping excursion to the Thunglung market and surrounding stores.

Aside from the argument I was involved in with an old lady at one of the vegetable stands, who tried to charge me forty baht for a small handful of celery (Celery here is tiny. It’s nothing like the large ribbed versions you get in the West), and a small bunch of fresh coriander, everything else went pretty smooth. I left the wet market having made most of the Thai’s day, since they rarely see me in that market because I do most of my shopping now in Ban Kunine Sang, to the West of my village. So they finally had something to talk about today! I had to be in Thunglung today since I had to pay my electric bill.

By the time I arrived back on the main road to get on my motorcycle, it was raining steady, and on the way home the skies decided to open up. I was soaked once I got home, and to top things off, Chok, my youngest little dog, bounced out of the forest from my blind-side and I dropped the bike in a puddle of mud to avoid hitting her. So I had to spend ten minutes getting cleaned up, then another fifteen to twenty minutes washing my long beans, onions, peppers, celery, coriander, mushrooms, and pork I’d purchased.

I bought a kilo of CP packaged pork to mince for the breakfast sausage I make for myself, a copycat recipe of Jimmy Dean’s sausage…rest his soul. The other kilo is for my curry and some pork fried rice. I wanted to purchase some gung (shrimp in the West…Prawns in the East…Gung in Thailand) but the prices were well out of my spending budget.

So, there you have it. If you’re not a cook, you’re missing out. There’s nothing quite like sitting down and cutting, slicing, dicing, grinding, and mixing, then preparing and cooking…it’s relaxing to me somehow and then there is the finished product! Ummmm. Delicious! Or as they say here in Thailand….

Aloi Maak!

*Please send money and gifts to: Jim Anderson, #134 Moo 2, Tambon Patong, Hatyai, Songkhla 90230 Thailand. Thank you.



What more could a guy like me wish for on his birthday?


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Well, there you have it folks!

The unbridled truth. Western breakfasts in Asia....suck. Unless you want to spend an arm and a leg or two eating a banquet breakfast at a five star hotel that caters to foreigners.

I am writing this since I tried to get a decent breakfast during my trip to Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, and got...well, read on.

I was staying at the Oriental Hotel. I went downstairs to the lobby and simply asked them, "Where can I get a decent American breakfast around here?" The guy smiled at me and pointed out the glass front doors to a restaurant around the corner.

The 78 Cafe...with a "K," thank you.

This place is interesting. The outside perimeter is surrounded with little cooking kiosks, each specializing in different kinds of food. At first I wasn't sure if I could get breakfast at this joint, as after quickly looking around me, the Malay's, Indians, and Chinese sitting around inside were all eating the typical Asian breakfast...i.e., anything and everything. Noodles, rice dishes, etc.

But, a guy came up to me asking, "What you want drink?"

"Coffee please," and in a split second, he turned on his heels and was gone, prompting me to loudly say, "Sir!" and he returned.

"Milk and sugar please," I said smiling, since he looked irritated. Then I said, "Can I have some breakfast?" but he was already gone.

Shortly a woman showed up with a small pad in her hand. Then I had it all figured out. The guy was the drink guy. She was the "food" woman.

"May I please have some breakfast?"

"Yes sir, what you like?"

"I would like two eggs, over easy, some sausage, and toast with some jelly."

I figured this was going to prompt an argument, but she just repeated my order and left. My coffee arrived and I pulled out a newspaper I had saved for the trip and took a sip of my coffee, which didn't have enough milk or sugar in it.

Then, while reading my paper, the woman arrived back in record time and laid my "American Breakfast" down before me....

Two eggs, soaked in oil, and fried HARD.
Two hot dogs, barely warm.
Two squished hamburger buns, slathered in too much butter or margarine, and toasted on only one side.
Oh! I can't forget the garnish! It was the best looking thing on the plate! Three slices of tomato, two slices of cucumber (Asian's love cucumber) and a sprig of parsley.

There you have it! The perfect Amerasian Breakfast!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ah, the American breakfast.

I never looked at the American breakfast as a tradition, just a morning meal. But, in the U.S., unlike Asia and Southeast Asia, the Western breakfast is not so much a tradition as it is a ritual.

Get out of bed in the morning, anywhere in the western world, shower, get dressed and take a walk down the sidewalk past your neighbors houses…as you laugh at the morning newspapers lying in a puddle next to flower beds, and porch roofs, you’ll catch that familiar aroma tickling your nostrils…fresh cooked bacon, sausage and hash browns.

Intoxicating aromas.

Try doing the same thing in Asia, and you won’t see or smell anything different than if you were to walk by at noontime or late afternoon. Fried fish, rice, stir-fried vegetables, and some concoctions you don’t want to know about…or smell.

So, I thought write today about the American Breakfast, or as they say in England, “The Full Monty.”

Let’s start with your basic egg.

Eggs are a big part of a traditional American breakfast, but they often get a bum rap from health nuts. However, I’m not going there today. We all know both the American breakfast and the English Full Monty are cholesterol nightmares. But then, what comfort food isn’t?

Ever try and break open an egg? Remember the first time? The yolk went everywhere. People’s tastes are different, so let’s look at how they like their eggs.

Sunny side up – The yolk is pristine, cooked through just long enough where it’s not too runny.

Sunny side down – You flip the pristine egg over momentarily, cooking the top of the yolk just barely.

Over easy – Flip the pristine egg over for a short time, just so the membrane covering the yolk is lightly cooked.

Over medium - Over medium hardens that yolk just a bit, so it’s thicker than sunny side up. Let’s face it, some breakfast eaters in the west have pretty light stomachs in the morning, so a runny egg is liable to cause everything to come right back up, and out their nose. Over medium is the remedy for those types of people.

Over hard – An egg, yolk intact, cooked well on both sides, leaves the yolk a bit chewy and hard.

Some of these methods are cooked on a hard, greased grill, typically in a restaurant, while others are cooked at home in a frying pan with a shot of vegetable oil, bacon fat, butter or lard.

Scrambled – Crack the egg or eggs into a bowl, and fluff em’ up with a fork. Some people add milk, some add cream. Heat your griddle or pan, add a little grease, oil, bacon fat, butter or lard, and fry em’ up.

Scrambled hard – Rarely heard of, but some people like them this way. The cook throws the scrambled eggs into the pan, and as soon as they begin to congeal, he or she, continues to scramble them in the pan. These eggs resemble popcorn when they are finished and depending on the amount of oil, grease, bacon fat, butter or lard, are usually relatively dry.

Scrambled medium – Again, another type of scrambled eggs that are not commonly heard of, but are scrambled in the pan, but not to the point of popcorn eggs, and still relatively moist.

Omelet – The scrambled eggs are allowed to congeal in the pan and are then carefully folded over into a nice little packet. The omelet can be filled with many different types of ingredients. There is no limit to the imagination, but common fillers are mushrooms, cheese, hot peppers, onions,

Regarding eggs I’d be terribly remiss if I didn’t include the poached egg.

Poached – The poached egg is most likely not going to be found on a Hungry Man’s breakfast menu. Most people who liked poached eggs are either on a diet, or they get grossed out by the other methods of cooking eggs. A poached egg is simply an egg, which is steamed until cooked. The yolk can end up runny or hard, depending on the time it is cooked. For years, my mother who was diabetic, would cook up a poached egg and plop it down on toast, adding a bit of salt and pepper to it. Not bad actually.

Next on the agenda are breakfast meats. From steak to sausage, and everything in-between…let’s discuss these cholesterol bombers!

Steak – A Hungry Man’s breakfast wouldn’t be right unless Steak was included on the menu. From London broil, to filet Mignon, the hearty breakfast typically includes a big slab of beef. London broil or flank steak would be the cheapest cuts and would progress from there. Sirloin, sirloin tips, T-bone, tenderloin, filet Mignon. You just specify the degree of doneness…which would be medium rare of course!

Ham – For the sake of length, I’m going to lump together ham luncheon meat, Canadian bacon, Back bacon, and your regular bacon strips, which are either maple syrup flavored, plain or hickory smoked. Yum, yum. I’m getting hungry just thinking of all this! Bacon lovers range from the kind who likes their bacon still squealing, to cooked crisp. I’m an in-between sort of bacon lover. Canadian bacon and back bacon are just different cuts is all, typically thicker and fattier.

Sausage – Oh boy. Sausage. Hickory smoked, highly seasoned, patties, stuffed into casings, spicy hot, maple syrup flavored. You name it. They are all delicious. As far back as anybody can remember sausage has been experimented with, using different ingredients thrown into ground up pork. Sage is the main ingredient in most cases, but you’ll find rosemary, thyme, marjoram, pepper, red pepper, coriander, fennel, and other highly aromatic spices added to sausage. Jimmy Dean used to be my favorite, and it came in regular, maple syrup flavor and spicy. Spicy was my favorite. There are other sausages, but I’m not going to get into Chorizo or Mexican sausage which is often mixed in scrambled eggs, or longanisa sausage used in the Philippines, which is also delicious.

Right about now we’re building up to one big coronary occlusion. So get out the defibrillator paddles and rack up the joules.

Potatoes – You knew there had to be a vegetable here somewhere, no? Well, potatoes level your Hungry Man breakfast out a bit, but they don’t reduce the chance for that whopping myocardial infarction. The reason why is they are not typically presented baked or boiled. No, potatoes are fried up in a skillet with other goodies….vegetables like green peppers and onions! Delish!

Home Fries – For the sake of argument, I’m going to say it all depends on the cook, as to how home fries are prepared and presented on your plate. Typically the potato is first boiled or baked and left to cool in the fridge. Then, once cold, they are sliced up into mouth sized chunks, seasoned with pepper, salt, and maybe a splash of paprika or oregano, and stir fried with onion and green peppers in oil.

Hash Browns – Using a shredder or a well placed meat cleaver, the cook shreds up a raw potato into thin little strips. Then, he adds some minced onion and possibly some chopped green peppers. Then they are formed into a patty of sorts, flattened with a spatula, and fried in oil until done and crispy. Not much different than home fries, but possibly a bit neater.

Now, there you have it!

Oops! Almost forgot the bread! Darn!

Toast – Likely on a Hungry Man’s menu you’re going to find TEXAS TOAST, cause well…everything’s big in Texas, right? Ha! All Texas toast is is a thicker slice of bread, usually about an inch or inch and a half in diameter, toasted soft, and slathered in butter. Defibrillator please!

Then, toast isn’t toast for breakfast without jam or jelly. Preserves, they call them and they come in a variety of flavors like Strawberry, Cherry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Orange marmalade, Grape, and any other fruit you can think of. Usually the waitress will plop down some condiment tray with extra butter and a large selection of jams and jellies to choose from.

I’m not going to get into bagels since real men don’t eat bagels. And even English muffins are not often seen on a traditional American breakfast menu. But, I’d be hard pressed to turn down a Thomas’s English muffin with all those nooks and crannies to hold all that melted butter and jam or jelly! Ha!

There you have it. Yes, I’ve left out pancakes, Eggs Benedict, Blood pudding, bagels with cream cheese and lox, and waffles….because they just aren’t your common part of a Hungry Man’s breakfast.

I welcome any comments from readers, and would love to hear about other ethnic breakfast items. The Full Monty in England isn’t too far off the mark of the American Breakfast and is well known as a cholesterol nightmare.

So stick that drooling tongue back in your mouth and go get some breakfast! You deserve it!


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