Songkhla and more ::::
In 2001, my parents moved to the southern part of Thailand. They lived here for a few months, while my dad did sabbatical at Thaksin University in Songkhla. I posted about the noisy frogs outside my parents’ apartment when I posted my coconut black rice pudding recipe. We visited numerous temples and markets on our trip, all with a rainbow of color in food, architecture, and people. We even saw a temple with young boys frocked in the vibrant saffron robes of Buddhist monks. They, however, were not praying or studying when we saw them, but playing video games.
Before we made it to Songkhla, Eat and I spent some time in Phuket. This was by far the most relaxing part of the vacation. The resort was unfortunately (and fortunately) well-catered to tourists but certain aspects (i.e., air conditioning, heated shower) made my stay more at ease. As much as I thought the resort complex was exorbitant in its immensity, its details, housing a pet baby elephant named Ning-Nong, and especially its price, the whole creature worked efficiently, breathing, running, and resting. When we ate at the overwhelming buffets on the resort grounds, I noticed the artistry of the intricate fruit carvings and vegetable twists. Every display would have a watermelon with a rose relief carved into it; or, the carrots were fashioned into finger-sized flowers, leaves made from zucchini and curly-cued scallions. I imagine some elderly woman with deft hands relegated to a back room with rows and vegetables and fruits set in front of her, furiously nipping, slicing, peeling, and twisting all day and all night. She would probably also be responsible for all the flower arrangements. Every nook and cranny, every fountain, every table decorated with a bowl of water, delicately floating small fragrant buds surrounding a larger lotus-like blossom, leaves carefully tucked and folded to give it symmetry. Details, details: they added so much to the experience. Except for the image of the little old lady with tired, gnarled fingers.
Since I am not that talented, and more so mesmerized by new-fangled kitchen toys, I gnarlied up my vegetables in my new vegetable spiralizer to make this tangled Thai salad. After doing some research, the Paderno World Cuisine Vegetable Spiralizer is what I used. I found that this was getting the most for my money. It is a little bulky (my kitchen counter is screaming for space), but it works well with wide vegetables (get the fattest carrots you can find) and produces some lovely salads and tangles of color. The recipe is from Toronto’s vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant’s cookbook Fresh, which can be ordered online. I don’t claim this recipe is truly Thai, but the dressing is spot on to some of the flavors I remember in Songkhla and the colors are reminiscent of the buffets we frequented and the temples we visited, minus the video games.
- FOR THE SALAD: 1 cup chopped napa cabbage
- ⅓ cup sliced jicama, julienned
- ⅔ cup shredded or spiralized raw carrot
- ⅔ cup shredded or spiralized raw golden beet
- 4 tablespoons Peanut Lime Dressing (recipe follows)
- 3 slices cucumber
- 2 teaspoon raw peanuts
- 2 tablespoons Fresh Salad Topper (recipe follows)
- 1 lime wedge
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- FOR THE PEANUT LIME DRESSING:* 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tbsp)
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon peeled and chopped ginger
- 2 teaspoons coconut milk
- 1½ teaspoons organic sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons sambal oelek
- ½ cup sunflower oil
- FOR THE SALAD TOPPER:** 1 cup puffed kamut, or other puffed grain
- ¼ cup goji berries
- ¼ cup currants or wild blueberries
- 2 tablespoons sliced, toasted almonds
- 2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons pistachios
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- TO PREPARE VEGETABLES: Put napa cabbage in a large, shallow serving bowl (or plate). Top with jicama.
- Pile the carrot and beet on top and drizzle with dressing.
- Garnish with the cucumber, peanuts, Salad Topper, lime, and cilantro.
- TO PREPARE DRESSING: In a blender or food processor, puree all ingredients except the sunflower oil.
- With blender running, add sunflower oil in a thin stream until dressing is emulsified.
- TO PREPARE SALAD TOPPER: Put salad topper ingredients into a bowl and mix. Makes about 1¾ cups.