Monday, February 25, 2013

The foods of Koh Phangan

The first meal I had on Koh Phangan was unsurprisingly at our hotel. We had just checked out our digs and were spending a few hours chilling out before getting ready for the Full Moon Party. What better way to fuel up than by eating more Thai food? I can't think of a better way.

We decided to check out our hotel's restaurant because well, not knowing how severe this Full Moon Party situation was, it's possible that the next day this is as far as we were going to make it from our room. And what better way to know how good that food was than to test it the day before? Seems logical, right? Right.

Having still not yet tasted the delightfulness of curry on our trip I decided to go slightly adventurous and order green curry with chicken. I had asked the waiter if he was a fan of the green curry versus the red curry, and of course not really understanding the reasoning behind my question (i.e. which one tasted better) he asked me what I liked more. In the end the green curry was decided on. Just for the hell of it.


It had chicken, carrots, green beans, some veggie resembling very large peas (but sure didn't taste like peas, but I'll get to that), and something else green that looked a lot like round green figs. Moral of the story was: there was a lot of veggie action going on in this curry that I had no knowledge of whatsoever. And that's a little confusing. I mean most veggies I can still at least identify with a little semblance of recognition, but nope, no sir, not today.

The bottomline about this curry was that it was tasty and spicy (surprisingly spicy), but the veggie action got the better of me. Those things that looked like peas? Not peas. Not in the least bit anything like peas. First off, they were really bitter. And they had a decent consistency like peas...but they had a slight resistance (like peas) but then were sort of mushy on the inside. Sort of like the mix between frozen petite peas and canned peas. But again, not really like any peas I had had.

And the green fig things? Not like anything I'd had again, and once again, bitter. I don't know what was going on here - either my taste buds were going haywire (it's possible, I suppose, though not likely) or I'd stumbled upon some vegetation I'd never experienced (very possible). In either case, I left some veggies on the side of my plate...for the first time in decades.

The other thing we ordered was shrimp and baby corn. This was fabulous, and clearly the winner between the two. Just goes to show, sometimes simplicity really is best.


The gravy was incredible and savory and I ended up mixing the rest of it with my curry to add even more flavor (and to cut the spice a little), but the shrimp itself was perfection. Plump, juicy, and cooked to just the right place. No scary unknown veggies here.

I washed the whole thing down with a banana lassi. Much to my surprise lassies are a big thing here - guess they enjoy the yogurt drinks too, to cut the spice. And I'm in total agreement that this is a great idea. Lassies - big win. This banana one was fabulous - creamy, luscious, spice-cutting, and just what I wanted. In my opinion, better than a milkshake (but then again I've never been a huge fan of milkshakes...so perhaps I'm biased).

Our next meal wasn't until the next day, after we rolled out of bed at noon. We walked down the beach a ways and ate at one of the many beachside cafes. It was wonderful - table made out of sea-smoothed driftwood, sitting under an umbrella in the warm sunshine, watching the blue blue sea. What could be better than this? Uhh, the food.


This time I decided to go super Californian and get pad thai. I was also very curious to see how much we'd bastardized it by bringing it over the sea. The general answer: not as much as I'd thought!

It was still generally sweet and fish saucy, had pretty similar noodles...and overall very delicious with peanuts and bean sprouts! High five to California for not changing something beyond recognition!

My sister ordered something visually similar, though taste-wise it was completely different. On the menu it read something like "fried noodles with chicken" but it looked like this:


You're thinking it's the same, right? Wrong! It had thinner noodles and a completely different sauce (well, flavor in this case, no saucy sauce). It was savory instead of sweet, had eggs thrown into the mix and was in essence, totally different. Yes there was still bean sprouts and maybe some of the same veggies, but alas my friends, not the same. And still scrumptious! I don't know how they do it! (Well generally speaking actually I do, but I will claim no such thing because it's genius).

And I washed the whole thing down with fresh coconut juice.


Yes, straight out of a carved coconut. I had several of these on the trip. They really are like this, and yes, they really are blissful. Better than anything you can get out of a tetra pak (though those are awesome too so I'm not going to shut those down).

That night we decided to spoil ourselves with something we'd seen the previous night before heading out: beachside seafood bbq. Several of the resorts (including our own) bring in the day's freshest catch and allow you to pick and choose what you'd like and fresh bbq it for you right on the grill. Then there's an all-you-can-eat salad bar and voila! Dinner on the beach with candlelight and everything. Fabulous? Yes.

We did this at one of the resorts down the beach, not wanting to dine at our own resort again (especially after the unusual veggie fiasco, though that was not particularly the reason we didn't want to eat at our own resort again). Ours seemed a little more touristy than some of the others and well, some of the others just had better locales. So, done and done.

The all-you-can-eat salad bar was pretty tasty, not gonna lie. Simple fare, it just had mixed cabbage, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, and onions with dressing, but it was wonderfully fresh against the day's catch.



(As you can tell I always go a little overzealous with the sauces and dressings...just the way that I am apparently...oh well. ~_~).

Anyway, so the principle of the thing is simple - point at what you want, eat salad and wait at your table and 20 minutes later, it comes to your table grilled to perfection with some side sauces!


Here is what the typical catch bar looks like. Pretty beautiful display of what you can choose from. We decided on sea bass, two of the most jumbo shrimp we'd ever seen in our lives (like almost length of my forearm large), and fresh cobs of corn. Yummers.


The fresh shrimp came out while we were still feasting on our second (small) plates of salad. Beautifully butterflied and grilled with all their accouterments. You know they'd been caught that day as they came straight out of the shell, no problem whatsoever. I love it when that happens.

The sauce, in case you were curious, was a spicy lemongrass citrus of some kind. Very spicy and tasty. They gave us unsalted butter with the corn and I ended up mixing these together for an amazing spread (like a fatass). I spread this mixed sauce on all of my seafood and corn. Yeah, that American at the restaurant. ^_^


Sea bass was next, filleted with most of the bones removed, though the skin (with scales) was still on. Everything was pretty easy to remove though (since it was so fresh) so eating was pretty breezy, despite the little "extras" pile that collected. It was so incredibly fresh, no wonder people eat seafood so often here...I would too.

This, all washed down with an ice cold Chang beer.


Chang beers are pretty refreshing - they remind me a lot of Tiger beer though they're a bit sweeter and leave less of an after taste. All in all a very drinkable beer with not much going against it. Perfect for spicy seafood, that much I'll definitely say. Spicy any food. And fried food. Alright, good all-around beer. I'd vote for it. ;)

And thus ended our culinary adventures on Koh Phangan. Overall I'd vote it pretty high, but then again when does super fresh seafood ever get voted poorly? And when you've had food you love at home reaffirmed positively, well, I think that's just a double-win. :)

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