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mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – Roti Chaozhou

The latter part of this past week was an adventure for Brook and I in more ways than one.  We experienced new foods, Thai river life, a coconut grove in the jungle, a camp completely run in Thai with no translators for 3 whole days… it was stretching, exciting, tiring, and wonderful all at the same time!

While off on this adventure with our fellow church members, we visited a couple of old floating markets – Bang Noy and the famous Amphawa.  Our friends took great delight in taking us through the skinny, crowded, boardwalk markets, showing us things that they thought would be of interest to us in learning even more about their culture and who they are.  Now, I know I’ve said this before, Thai people like to eat.  Seriously, I don’t understand how the majority of people are so skinny, considering it seems they are eating something every single time I turn around.  Snacks and treats are a huge part of life and society around here, so I probably don’t even need to tell you, then, that part most of our time in the markets was spent tasting different foods and treats as we walked.  Needless to say, I didn’t eat supper that day.

Of all the little meatballs, sweets, fruits, snacks, and other savory items we sampled, there was really only one that I had time to snap a few photos of before moving on to the next shop.

The sign says “Roti Chaozhou” (or Teochew, as it is commonly spelled on maps) – another example of Thai-Chinese fusion food at its finest.

The Roti Chaozhou may look sort of like a spring roll, but I assure you it is not.  The outside is chewy, stretchy and flavorless, while the inside is crunchy, salty, and sweet.  I honestly don’t even know what to compare it to, for those of you that have never had it (which, I assume is everyone), or how to explain what it feels like in your mouth.  If you are one of those people to whom texture means a lot when deciding whether or not you choose to consume certain foods, I’m not sure what to tell you!  You’ll just have to give it a try for yourself one day.

Okay, so what is it?

The outside begins with a small roti the size of your palm.  (Roti is the term used for all flat pancake/tortilla/crepe-like foods over here.)  This particular type of roti is made using sticky (glutinous) rice flour, which is what gives it its chewy, stretchy texture and translucent appearance.  A small ball of dough is placed on a hot skillet and swirled around with a spatula until it flattens out – no need for flipping.  The whole cooking process, when done by someone familiar with the dough, takes mere seconds.  Once slightly cooled, another person fills the circle with freshly roasted, crushed peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, and a spoonful of either brown or palm sugar.  Once filled, the roti is rolled up burrito-style (tucking in the ends), reinforced with a banana leaf, and is ready to hand over for eating.

I absolutely love the combination of sweet and salty inside the roti.  Add in the flavor of toasted sesame seeds, and you’ve totally won me over.  However, the jury is still out on whether or not I really enjoy the combination of crunch on the inside with the super chewy outside.  As strange as it sounds, it almost felt like my mouth was bouncing open and closed for the first few chews after biting off a piece of my roti.  Because of that, the flavors really didn’t begin to combine or really taste like anything until I’d been munching on it for a few moments.  Once they did, I thought it was quite reminiscent of a Butterfinger candy bar (score!) – though, without the chocolate and with a different texture.

Agh, it’s such a hard thing to describe!  This is just another one of those foods that, if you ever make it to our side of the world, I will have to let you try for yourself.

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October 26, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 2 Comments

Tardy Tasty Tuesday – Pork Chops

I once again have proved the stereotype of blonde air-headedness to be true.  I didn’t even realize yesterday was Tuesday!  It wasn’t until I looked at my calendar today, saw it was Wednesday, and was like “oh, I guess Tuesday already happened this week… wait, Tuesday already happened?!  Ack!”

Thus, the Tardy Tasty Tuesday.  And, the reason why this week’s recipe will be what I’ve made for dinner on Wednesday.  Sorry.  But, at least I didn’t remember on, say, Friday or something.  You will still get your weekly food fix.

So, what is it this week?  Pork chops.  Sweet, smoky, spicy, delicious, glazey, delectable pork chops.  Mmmmmmm…. my house still smells like them, and I do not mind it in the least.

Seriously, these chops are super easy to make, and pretty cheap if you just use what you’ve already got lurking in your spice cabinet.  The basic idea with this recipe is that you take 1/4 C of brown sugar and add 1/2 tsp each of whatever other spices you want to it, rub it on the meat, and toss it in a skillet.  Make them sweet and savory.  Go for sweet and spicy.  Do whatever you like.  Then, let the heat work its magic until… ta-da!  You’ve got yummy glazed chops.

This rub makes enough for about 4 chops (I like center cut, somewhere between 3/4 – 1 inch thick, or a good pork cutlet).  Here’s the combination of spices I used in my rub:

  • 1/4 C brown sugar (dark or light is fine, whatever you like best)
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne powder or chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or a few fresh cloves, minced, if that’s what you have on hand)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (my favorite is smoked, but regular works fine, too!)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • several cranks of fresh cracked black pepper

1.  Go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 F.  Take all of your dry ingredients and mix them well in a bowl – this will be your spice rub.

2.  Get out your pork chops and rub your spice blend over them thoroughly – you want to use up the whole bowl.

3.  Heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on med-high heat.  Once nice and hot, add your pork chops to the pan and cook for roughly 5 minutes each side, until nicely browned and a glaze starts forming.

Less than a minute in the pan...

4.  If your skillet happens to be oven-safe, then go ahead and place it in the oven for another 5 minutes or so, to be sure your chops are cooked all the way through.  (If your skillet isn’t oven-safe – plastic handled or teflon usually are not – just transfer the chops to a baking sheet lined with foil, and place that in the oven.  Make sure you transfer all juices from your skillet as well.)

Turned once, cooked 5 min each side, and ready to be finished off in the oven. Just look at that caramelization!

5.  Remove pork chops from the oven and you’re ready to serve!  And, don’t forget to drag the chops around in the juices and glaze in the bottom of the pan before plating.  It’s the best part!  🙂  (The extra sauce tastes pretty darn good drizzled on top of some mashed potatoes or brussel sprouts, too.)

Ready to eat!

*** If you want to skip the oven step, you can – just cook them in your skillet a bit longer, and check to be sure they’re cooked all the way through.  I’ve done it both ways, and both taste great.  The oven time just helps caramelize the sauce a bit more.  ***

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 3 Comments

Fun Fact #4 – Pachyderm Pals

Have you ever hugged an elephant?

Seriously, have you ever hugged an elephant right around his fat, dry, hairy neck?  Then, gave him a kiss on the nose?

I have.

After I kissed his little trunk, I wrapped my arms right around this baby elephant’s neck and hugged him.  Then, I told him he was cute and that I loved him.  After all, he is an animal, and I love all creatures great and small – as long as they’re not trying to eat me, of course.

Brook didn’t hug the little (BIG) guy, but he did at least pose for a photo.

If you remember back in Fun Fact #3 last March, I told you about the market elephants we saw walking around on a daily basis throughout the city of Lopburi.  Well, we’ve since moved from Lopburi to the North side of Bangkok, and we don’t really get to see them anymore.  *Pouting like a 3 year old who lost his cookie.*  They’re technically illegal in the city and more developed areas, and because of insane traffic, the laws and fines are actually enforced around here.  I suppose it’s all for the better, as I would hate to hear of a poor elephant being injured or hit by a car as a result of them walking the congested, busy, dangerous roads in the city.  But, I do miss seeing them.

So, how is it then, that I got such an opportunity as this to be so close to my giant leathery friends once again?  We took a quick trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya with our guests from the States (did I mention we had 2 visitors last week?  It was a blast!) before they had to head to the airport on their last day.  Ayutthaya is known for its ancient ruins, historic temples, and its elephants.  Our original plan for the day included riding the elephants on a historic tour through the city, but our time was limited.  So, what do you do when you don’t have enough time to ride the elephants, but you’re already there?  You play with them!  And hug them!  And feed them!  And get closer to them than any Zoo in the States would ever let you be!

This sort of practice is yet another thing that sets Thailand apart from the States.  If you want to touch the elephants, you can!

This one walked right toward me and, when told by his trainer to give me a kiss, he proceeded to do so.  He sniffed my head, blew stale trunk air right in my face, “kissed” (tapped) me on the nose with his trunk…

… and then stuck his trunk right down my shirt.  Insert your own clever joke here about how all men are the same, or something like that.  Ha!

See that stuff that looks like just a little smear of dirt that I’m pointing to?  That’s attached to a streak of slime that actually extends a few inches in either direction… and down my shirt.  Elephant kisses can get messy.  Yech.

But…. how many of YOU have ever been kissed by an elephant?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  A little bit o’ slime ain’t no thing.  🙂

Have I mentioned yet how much I love elephants?  They really are magnificent creatures.  So gentle, so majestic, so interesting.  Their skin is unlike anything else I’ve ever touched.  Did you know that they’re actually quite hairy?  They really are very graceful and surprisingly quiet as well.  If you’ve ever watched an elephant’s feet closely as they lumber along, you’ll notice that their feet just seem to float silently up and down as they take each step.  Oh, and, as I’ve come to learn from my Thai friends, tame elephants are actually rather fond of humans.  This just makes me love these creatures even more.

So, who wants to come visit us next?  If you show up, I just may take you to hug an elephant…

Here’s my album on Facebook if you’d like to see a few more pictures from the day.

October 16, 2010 Posted by | Fun Fact, Just for Fun, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Rye

Root canal visit #1 went surprisingly well last week (though I still couldn’t eat = no Tasty Tuesday), and round #2 this evening went just as well.  Yay!  Only 3 more visits now to get fitted for, then be fitted with, a crown for my delinquent molar.

Now that we’ve started off with such great news, onto the food we go!

This past week, we had our very first visitors from the United States, and boy was it a blast!  It was refreshing to be able to “see” Thailand again through their eyes as they asked questions and experienced the world that has now become so normal to us.  Oh yeah, that’s right, everything here is a bit strange compared to home… forgot about that!  We enjoyed taking our friends all around to different food stalls, markets, and historical sites to learn more about the nation in which we now live.  It was even more wonderful that we were able to chat for hours on end, in our own heart language, and not have to explain every single cultural reference we make.  It was great!

Another neat thing about having visitors come from home is that they are able to bring some goodies along that we otherwise would go without over here.  One such thing that came for me was a bottle of Caraway seeds.  Anybody out there like some Rye bread?  I sure do.  And, it’s been 16 months (more than a year!) since I’ve had it.  So… guess what I did within a day of receiving the seeds – I made some fantastic homemade rye!

All that's left of the first loaf after 2 days of me munching away.

Several months ago, while on a short trip into the city, I discovered a tiny bag of stone ground dark rye flour (perhaps only 4 or 5 cups in the bag).  I, however, was unable to find caraway seeds (perhaps my favorite part of the bread) anywhere since then.  To me, you can’t have rye without the caraway, so into the freezer my little bag of flour went… until now.

Rather than reprint the entire recipe here, I’m just going to post the link to the recipe I used – it has great directions as well as photos to help you along in the process of making this fabulous bread.  I got 2 big, puffy loaves out of this recipe, and the crust was wonderful (just like that Beefsteak brand of Rye bread you can find at the store!).  Also, although the name of the recipe says it is “light” rye, I would consider it to be more of a medium rye.  The molasses in the recipe lends the bread a darker color and a heartier flavor.

Enjoy!

Click here to find the recipe.

October 12, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | Leave a comment