It was so nice to see you in Koh Samui, aka ‘The Big Smoke.’ Okay, the Big Smoke bit a relative thing, but when you can only get to the shops once a week, as is the case for those of us staying on remote islands, that weekly shop becomes important.
As the boy who usually goes grocery shopping twice a day (the first time to get the ingredients for a meal, and the second time to get the ingredients that I forgot, usually the main ones: the steak; the pasta; the eggs; anything that cannot be substituted with something from the cupboard) I can only try to describe a day’s shopping in Samui.
Transport is the first challenge – we need to organise a boat for the two-way trip, and a rental car.
Then there’s the list of destinations we need to hit. This week it was (in roughly this order): the nursery; the hardware store; the petrol station; the roadside seafood vendors; the French butchery; the wine shop; lunch with you and your good lady wife; the supermarket that does dry goods and half-way decent bread; the supermarket that does seafood, meat and fresh fruit and veg; the French bakery; the roadside fruit and vegetable vendors. Then all the goodies get piled onto the boat and away we go. Easy, right?
As I write this, the day-trippers have left. I’m breathing fresh air. I can just hear a boat in the distance over the lapping waves. And the colours are so vibrant I have to tear myself away to turn back to the screen. It is definitely worth the effort.
But from a grocery perspective, there are highs and lows…
The highs have to be the seafood. I love the guys on the beachfront strip in Nathon with their fresh crabs. We were about to choose a couple of blue swimmers from the table on ice, when the nice vendor pointed out she had some live ones. Excellent. I suspect she saves the rest for the rude Russians (I’ve watched it happen). A kilo of live crabs for 420 baht – very likely that’s the farang price, but I really don’t care.
We cooked the crabs (about 8 mins each in a big pot of water on a rolling boil), and scoffed down a couple with a crisp chardonnay that night.
The third crab we saved for a spaghetti marinara that went something like this:
8 Tiger prawns, peeled, headed and deveined (reserve shells and heads)
2 medium squid, cleaned and cut into rings
1 cooked crab, smash claws and pick meat (reserve shells)
1 can tomato pulp
1 large pinch of saffron
1 splash white wine
1 splash olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic
250g squid-ink pasta, cooked per instructions
-heat olive oil in a pan, add prawn and crab shells and cook over a high heat until fragrant. Add 2 cups of water and simmer for 15 mins. Strain out shells, and reserve liquid, adding the saffron
-Cook the onions over medium heat until clear, add garlic and cook a minute longer
-Splash in half a glass of white wine.
-Add stock (above) and tomato pulp and reduce.
-When it reaches a saucy consistency, add squid and cook for five minutes.
-Add prawns and cook a further five minutes.
-Add crab and chopped parsley and warm through.
-Stir in the cooked pasta.
It’s rich, seafood-ey, tomato-ey and bloody nice. This much is probably nearly enough to feed four!