Tag Archives: Thailand

Mango Mania


Being on a health kick of late, there’s a lot of fruit on the menu. I’m pretty good with that as a concept, particularly because we have so much good fruit available. Forget the sad cut fruit on your hotel’s breakfast buffet – there’s a world of fantastic fruit available in Thailand.

I don’t know about you, but mangos are pretty much at the top of my list. I know things have changed in Australia, where mangoes were once only a special Christmastime treat, but Thailand takes that extended season further, and we have them pretty much year-round. Thailand apparently produces more than two million tons of mangoes annually, and I’m doing my best to keep that number up.

You’d think that’d make me sick of them, but I am genuinely happy to eat mango every day. There’s a little market in the mornings on the Lumpini corner where our local restaurant sets up for the evenings, and a vendor there usually has two choices of mango – a sweet one, probably the local Nam Dok Mai variety, and a green one for salads.

The supermarket often has a wider choice of the local elongated varieties, some of them more than a kilo each! A smaller one that’s in season now is a hybrid between a Sunset and a local Thai variety that goes by Maha Chanok. They smell so sweet that it is like having a bouquet of flowers in the house, and worth it for that alone, which is good, because the better half reckons the taste is not that great and they’re a little stringy.

Another one with a super sweet aroma led me through the market by my nose to what looked like a Bowen mango, but instead one that goes by the rather romantic name R2E2. You could assume it was cultivated by a Star Wars fan, but apparently it was from Row 2 Experiment 2 at the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Bowen research station.

It’s one of those rounded plump mangoes, with non-stringy, sweet and flavourful flesh. Amazing the difference from the slightly tarter local varieties. When I found a grafted R2E2 tree at a market in Samui last year I snapped it up.

My R2D2. Years before it fruits though…

And there’s another reason to love mangoes: while everything else in the garden is shriveling up after a month without rain, the mangoes are powering ahead. They seriously look as though they’re dormant for most of the year, and then when the conditions get hot and dry, shazam: loads of fresh growth. Love it.

I’m obviously a few years away from picking my own fruit, and am experimenting with sprouting some other seeds in the meantime, but hopefully one day in the near future I’ll have a nice extended home-grown mango season. In the meantime, it’s not as though I’m starving.

Kop gai lai lai


G’day Tony,

Well, it is week 2 of the honeymoon and I am still married, though I am not sure if I should worry about the suggestion that I take a Thai boxing class?!

I must admit I was a little sceptical of Gaggan after our experience at Nahm. Ok, I’ll give it to Nahm that the food was great, but just too many good things on the table at one time kind of made it less special. I’m pretty sure you said you liked Gaggan. Well, I sure did too! Wow. What a shake up of Indian cuisine.

To set ourselves up, and to continue exploring some of the rooftop bars of Bangkok, we took your advice and found our way to Speakeasy at the Muse Hotel. There was a private party happening on the top floor, but the easily found bar was still pretty nice. A cheeky cocktail served by staff taking the flapper theme just a little bit far, but it was still pretty fun.


We lashed out with the full degustation at Gaggan, because I don’t get the opportunity to go that often, unlike you can. I’ll run through some of the highlights below, but I doff my hat to their sommelier for the wine list. There was a healthy selection of approachable aromatic whites and some to challenge. I ended up opting for a Sancerre from Loire. Sauvignon Blanc as only the French seem able to do. I detected a subtle “something” on the nose and the sommelier was gracious in attending and confirmed no cork taint, rather a touch of bretamyacies as the wine maker intended.

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Gaggan, as you know has the ability to surprise. What may look like a conventional dish, ends up being nothing like what you were expecting. Nothing like it. From the “poached egg”, which was instead spiced yoghurt, but with almost precisely the same texture as a poached egg to the sous vide lamb chops which were the standout for me. Oh, not sure if the mini-chocolate degustation for dessert should be counted, as it was mind blowingly good.

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In the same “challenge the expected” theme, the venue is quite the surprise. Finding the place required asking directions of the front of house staff at Muse, then a security guard located near the entrance to the Soi. There is little chance I would explore such a Soi without knowing what lay near the end.


Would I recommend Gaggan to someone visiting Bangkok? In a heart beat.

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We jetted off to Luang Prabang, Laos the next afternoon. I’ve been before, but it was a good 6-8 years ago. I kind of worded Julia up to what we were going to find, but I think it still surprised her somewhat. We stayed at Satri House, which was delightful, but a touch too far out of the middle of the action. The old president’s residence, apparently?! Truly stunning architecture and artwork and a very comfortable room.

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Luang Prabang has changed lots. The demographic of tourists more than anything. The nightmarkets are full of Chinese made stuff, with only a smattering of Lao made wares. The backpackers are still there en-masse, eating buffet street dinners for 10,000 kip (~$A1.30) and sleeping in guest houses for not much more. Then there are those who are “well to do”, e.g. us.

We ate at Apsara on your recommendation. Turns out it is owned by the husband of the owner of Satri House. Food was nice. I really like my slow cooked buffalo cheeks in Lao spices. Didn’t really sing to me otherwise. A spot of rain chased us from alfresco on the banks of the Nam Kahm river to   shelter under the beautiful French colonial veranda.

Our days were filled with strolling the streets, choosing random places to enjoy a Beer Lao, mostly on the Mekong side. A short, early trip was also had to the Kuang Si waterfalls. I’ve seen pics, but its pretty cool! There was nobody else there, which made it special. Then the car from Aman arrived and we left.


We also spent a day doing a Lao cooking course with Tamnak Lao. There were only 3 of us in the class, which started with a trip to the Phousi markets. We cooked, and ate lots. The food is so very different to Thai food, almost no chilli?! Far easier for we softies to deal with! If you get the chance, do the course.

Tamnak Cooking

A visit to LP wouldn’t be complete without a visit to L’Elephant. The food was nice, French, predictable, but the wine list gets me. Classic grand cru French wines for crazy prices. I forked out for a bottle of 2009 Mouton Cadet (white) which, while not overly expensive in Australia, is just unexpected there. Dinner with wine cost a whopping 817,000 kip (~$A120.00) for both of us. Compared with street food, ridiculously expensive.

Only 3 nights in LP, then to our fav, Koh Samui. Hope we get a chance to catch up with you while we are there?!


Better fly. My bride is wondering why I’m on my computer…woops!



The morning after the morning after the night before

Metropolitan Hotel

Hi Tony.

It’s great being in your home city. We always enjoy our visits to Bangkok. A big thanks for treating us to dinner at your “local”. I love that even with 3 large beer Chang and enough food to sustain at least a few extra people, it still only came to ~600B (~A$16) for the four of us.

I still find it hard to believe that people come to Bangkok and hate it?! Friendly people, great food, shopping, cultural highlights that are remarkable and a vibe, just a vibe.

Despite the myriad of new boutique and big name hotels, we really like the Metropolitan. We’ve always been well looked after here and generally have the run of the place. In fact, am looking out on the pool now and there is nobody in it. Might put this on hold and go take a dip.

Given it’s our honeymoon, we’ve stepped things up a little in terms of drinks and meals. I suspect we may actually overdo things some!

We shopped like bandits all day, as we usually do here, then had a much enjoyed foot massage at MBK before braving the rain and heading back to the hotel. Given it is our honeymoon, The Metropolitan was nice enough to spot us a bottle of bubbles and some truffle chocolates. We didn’t need much encouragement to crack into it.


Just to add an extra dimension to the night, we wandered next door to have a drink at Vertigo/Moon Bar (Banyan Tree). A cocktail on the roof at the 60-something floor is pretty special. We like this place as it doesn’t attract the bogan crowd that Sirocco does, curtesy of The Hangover movie.

Moon Bar

As you know, and we have discussed numerous times, it’s hard to resist trying the “extra-special” restaurants in town. So last night we ate at Nahm. As you know, it’s in the hotel, so pretty convenient.

Julia at Nahm

Ok, so how did I enjoy it? Once the parents and the 3 young children left (at 9:30pm), things quietened down. A complimentary glass of bubbles helped (for honeymoon, not the children running around the restaurant screaming). Who allows kids to run around a restaurant like that? Even more so a restaurant ranked # 13 in the world (and best in Asia)?

Nahm Canapes

Alright, that wasn’t Nahm’s fault…the food? The amuse and the canapes were fabulous. I could have easily just kept eating them. What were they you ask? Check out the menu. The mains…this is where we were challenged, and I’m not sure in a good way. Sure the food was nice, but the flavours were all insanely over the top and the heat (chilli) in some of the dishes was simply too much for we mortals. We had: salad of fresh river prawns with pork and Asian pennywort (brilliant dish), kafir lime and smoked fish relish with sweet pork, salted fish dumplings and coconut poached bamboo and vegetables (equally brilliant), grilled duck curry with Bangkok plum leaves (we were told this was very spicy…it wasn’t, it was nicely spiced) and soft shell crab stir fried with chillies, holy basil and green peppercorns (this had the kick to it!). Julia had coconut and chicken soup with deep fried garlic, green mango and chilli and I had squid, pork and prawn soup. I couldn’t taste mine…the chilli had done its best on me by then!

Nahm mains

I think the thing for us was that while every dish was great in its own right, the table full of them was simply overpowering. They each got lost in the power of the others.

Pandanus Noodles Nahm

Dessert was the standout. I tried to distract Julia so I could taste hers, but she has wisened up to me in only 3 days of wedded bliss! Julia had pandanus noodles with black sticky rice, water chestnuts, tapioca and coconut cream. Meanwhile, I was content with custard apple in coconut cream with sesame biscuits.

Custard Apple Nahm

The wine list was a bit of a challenge. I simply wasn’t sure I was happy to fork out 4000B for a bottle of Thai wine? Granted, I know nothing about Thai wine. The balance of the selections was reasonable, but not inspiring. I was hoping a healthy selection of aromatic whites would greet me, a bunch of Gewürztraminers, Pinot Gris, Chenin Blancs and the like, but the choices were few and dare I say it, wanting.

Much more to do over the next little while. We’re off to Gaggan tonight, which I am thoroughly excited about, even if it is only ranked # 17 in the world!

Will let you know my thoughts on that before heading off to Luang Prabang on Friday.

Better head off for some more shopping.

Sawadee kap,