Thursday, 26 August 2010

Thailand (and KL) Gastronome


As I mentioned on the blog in July, Melbourne Gastronome flew the coop in early August for a short holiday in the tropical climes of Thailand and Kuala Lumpur! My travel companion was the gorgeous KT, and we had a whale of a time.

We flew in to Krabi and started out in Railay. We stayed at Railay East, a beach lined with mangroves and dotted with funky little rasta-style bars, but it was only a five minute walk to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Railay West beach. Behold:

Railay West

I thought I'd put up a post here on the blog showing some food/travel highlights. After a morning of swimming at Railay West beach and into limestone caves, a lunch back at our resort of gai yang (BBQ chicken) served with sticky rice, sweet chilli sauce and delicious som tam (papaya salad) went down a treat.

Sticky roast chicken with sticky rice and som tam

Thailand was my first opportunity to try out my new camera! A Canon G11, made possible by a voucher some friends gave me for my birthday and by advertising revenue from Melbourne Gastronome (a big thank you to those of you who've clicked on the ad, on the odd occasion I've had one in the right-hand column). :)

Railay football

This soup was our favourite thing that we ate in Thailand. It was on our last night in Railay, at a restaurant called The Rock. The name of the dish is kang som goong (hot and sour curry soup with prawns), and it came served in a fresh coconut. It was SO sour and SO salty and SO spicy that each mouthful made us cry, but at the same time it was so addictive we couldn't stop consuming it. BEST SOUP EVER.

Hot and sour shrimp soup served in a coconut

Gratuitous Som Tam/Pad Thai food porn.

Som tamPad Thai

After Railay, we headed down to Ko Lanta. The beaches there weren't as pretty, but the island was much more interesting than Railay because not everything there was geared towards supporting the tourism industry...

Tsunami hazard zone

At the eco-friendly resort we stayed at on Lanta, the treehouse villas were set right into the jungle. I really liked the black tiles in the swimming pool.


We bought longanberries, mangosteens and rambutans from a stall just up the road. Love, love, love.

Fruit on Lanta

We met a lovely Kiwi/Californian couple, P&L, and joined them for dinner the following night at a little street stall they'd found in Klong Khong called Lay Sod. Turn out Lay Sod already has a write-up online:
At the polar extreme other end of the market, a typically Thai street stall. It has until recently had no name, just "Food and Drink" and is on the main road right in the centre of Klong Kong, almost opposite Palm Beach Tours. Now it has a sign called LAY SOD. The nice man who cooks has been here for the last two seasons as well as in the off season. He (Kuhn Chairote) doesn't speak a lot of English, but he tries hard and is so friendly. He always hails passers-by with “Hello! Thai food!” Lots of locals get their takeaways from him, so that should tell you something. The menu isn't extensive, but it is written in English and his cooking is quite possibly some of the best roadside stuff you will taste anywhere. He's thorough and professional (he even wears his chef's hat and apron) and honest. Don't try and be clever, ask for discounts or give him a hard time. Just go there and try the food. Delicious and cheap. But take insect repellent if it has been raining.

Lay Sod

He wasn't wearing his chef's hat when we visited, but his yum nuer (beef salad) and tom yum with fresh king prawns, served in a Chinese hotpot, were exceptionally good.

Yam nuerTom yam

We swam in the ocean every day we were in Thailand. I also slept about 8-9 hours per night, went 100% internet-free and read four novels in a week (a rarity these days, given that food blogging has largely replaced reading fiction for me!).

Beach sentinels

One morning we went up to Ban Saladan, the busiest part of the island, to check out the marketplace.

Ban Saladan market

By the time we walked around the marketplace, these fish had been grilled and were smelling sensational.

Ban Saladan market fish

Skewers! We should've tried one of these, but KT was determined to try durian.

Marketplace at Ban Saladan

Don't you just *love* looking around fresh markets when you're travelling overseas? I sure as hell do.

Ban Saladan marketBan Saladan market dragonfruit
Ban Saladan market rambutanBan Saladan market
ButcherBan Saladan market

We bought some durian. I don't find the smell that bad, but I hate that overripe creamy taste.


The population of Ko Lanta is ninety percent Muslim, which gives it a different feel to the rest of Thailand. At the Muslim market in Lanta Old Town, we munched on gai yang skewers that were prepared Muslim-style - the sauce was thicker and tangier. Om nom nom.

Gkai Gkaw Lae YahngGkai Gkaw Lae Yahng

Another great snack at the Muslim market was this parcel of rice wrapped in banana leaves, but I can't for the life of me remember what the pickled red vegetable was. Anyone care to venture an educated guess?


We both lost our hearts to Mayani, the daughter of our tuk tuk driver and our new best friend. What a cutie pie!


On our way home we had just under 24 hours in Kuala Lumpur. We were supposed to rendezvous with an American friend of mine who knows KL well (so I'd booked KT and me a room at the swank-o-rama Mandarin Oriental because that's where he was staying), but we'd got our wires crossed and it turned out he was leaving for the airport just as we were arriving.

View from the Mandarin Oriental

Lucky that several blog readers had given me KL suggestions! In the end it was getting late and we improvised: I figured we may as well just jump into a cab and go to grab some hawker food at Jalan Alor.

Jalan Alor

I was transfixed by this stall. What were these delicious-looking char siu squares?? Many thanks to the twitterfolk who identified these for me as bakkwa, a Chinese salty-sweet dried meat product similar to jerky.


WHY can we not get this in Melbourne?! [edited to add: I should clarify, where can we get this FRESH in Melbourne?] It's brilliant! KT and I each munched on a square.


More skewers than you can shake a stick at. We had one fish (steamed) and one pork belly (fried), with a choice of sauces.


I'd never had bak kut teh ("meat bone tea") before and fell in love with the spiced, rich, slightly sweet broth punctuated with different bits of pork.

Bak kut teh

BBQ stingray! I'd had BBQ stingray during my last visit to KL in 2006, and was determined to try it again. To me it tastes like a cross between white-fleshed fish and chicken. In sambal with a squeeze of fresh lime, it's fabulous.

BBQ stingray

After our meal, we went for a stroll then caught a cab to Traders Hotel for cocktails at Sky Bar on the 33rd floor. And damn good cocktails they were too.

Sky Bar

The window seats had stunning views of the Petronas Twin Towers. I was shameless in playing the "we're only in KL for one night!" card in order to get us a window seat. The lovely, professional staff took great care of us.

Petronas twin towers

We didn't have much time the next day before we needed to head out to the airport, so after an early morning swim in the hotel pool, we asked the concierge to direct us to the nearest mamak stall so we could have a proper mamak breakfast, KL style. Egg thosai and roti canai, awwww yeah.

Nasi Kandar PelitaMamak breakfast

One last watermelon juice! Thanks KT for a wonderful holiday. xox

"Gillard races ahead in Aussie polls"


"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

sounds like an awesome getaway from the cold weather!

now i look fwd to ur melbourne posts, bcos i need to know where to eat!

msihua said...

I miss home =( Looking at all the food.. I MISS HOME!

cloudcontrol said...

There's a new 'jerky shop' that's opened in the old Vilage Arcade. Next to China Red (the place with the touchscreen ordering system) that sells jerky like that stuff in KL.

Though the old shop in the village arcade before the reno used to sell it too. It's always been there, you just need to know where to look! ;)

Jo Fong said...

You can totally get the Chinese beef jerky (and pork jerky too) in Asian grocery stores in Melbourne. They are prepackaged though.
I had fresh ones at a food fair in Queen Vic Markets once so SOMEONE around here is making them fresh too.

I miss the taste (and cheapness!) of street food in Thailand *sigh*

OohLookBel said...

I loved reading about your trip. I've yet to visit Thailand, but when it happens, I'd go to the beach and eat street food just like you did. It's gorgeous!

Green Been Food said...

excellent compilation of your trip...i have never been and would love to go. the mkt shots are great. your new camera got a great workout!

Tresna said...

Your photos make me long for papaya salad and sticky rice!! Looks like you had a great time :)

Matt said...

Pretty sure you can get fresh jerky from the roast shop/bakery/banh mi joint just inside the Springvale Shopping Centre. The name escapes me at the moment but it's in the complex behind the one that exits onto Springvale Road.

Johanna GGG said...

lovely photos - you are doing your new camera proud - or is it the opposite way around

Gourmet Chick said...

Claire love the new camera and super jealous of your Thai getaway - looks AMAZING

Trucey said...

Definitely can get the Beef & Pork Honey Glazed Jerky fresh at Springvale Shopping Centre - Buckingham Avenue Springvale, the shop sells pastries, egg tarts etc. as well has Peking Duck and those fab jerkies fresh daily!


Steph@LittlePotBelly said...

Looks like you had the time of your life! Durian is an acquired taste but good job on at least giving it a go.

Deb said...

Just love your blog!

Trivia: Did you know that Jalan Alor is still considered as KL's number one red light district area?

It's hard to imagine with the amount of amazing food there is on that street. And you missed out on morning 'nasi lemak' and the malaysian traditional ais kacang!

You should head down to Malaysia Hall on Sundays (K4, High St) from 4 to 6 for some crazy Malaysian cuisines. They're having a bazaar every Sunday from 4 to 6 till Eid'il Ad'ha. I went there with a friend of mine and we absolutely loved the food that they had displayed on the table!

Try 'kuih Serimuka' - The top layer is green and is made from coconut milk and rice flour with pandan juice. The bottom later is steamed glutinous rice.

Might be an aquired taste though but do try it!

My Restaurants Melbourne said...

These pictures look fantastic!! I want to go on a holiday too!!

Cath @ Moo-Lolly-Bar said...

This blog brings back so many wonderful memories of the yeear I spent living in Bangkok. Thank you for kickstarting the trip down memory lane!

Ad said...

Hi Claire,

I've been reading your blog for a while now .. it's great!

I spent over 2 weeks in Thailand (mainly south east, including Koh Samui and koh Phangan) on the way back from 4 weeks in Europe 10 years ago and the food was one of the highlights of the whole trip (and totally unexpected!) ... I can still remember the food ... especially the pad thai and Green Curry ... Thai I've had in Melbourne doesn't compare!

As for bbq stingray, I had that at a hawker's market in Singapore ... it was sensational! One of my favourite dishes, along with chilli crab!

By the way, you can often get Durian fruit in Melbourne, from Safeway at QV!

Kat (Spatula, Spoon and Saturday) said...

oh lordy the Sky Bar! I was ever surprised noone fell into the pool that night...

Madame Bonbon said...

Awesome photos! You make me want to jump on a plane and visit right now! I love your blog btw.
Thanks for sharing.
Madame Bonbon

thorax said...

Hi. I think the parcel of 'red vegetable' wrapped in banana leaf could be fermented black glutinous rice (which usually turns out reddish when cooked) called tapai pulut hitam in Malay. If it hasn't fermented enough, it will taste sweetish with a hint of alcohol. If left to ferment further, it will taste sour.

I see the one you had is wrapped in banana leaf. In Malaysia, the leaf of choice for tapai wrapper is the leaf from rubber trees but banana leaves are used as well . Tapais are usually white but the red variant becomes so either by using black glutinous rice or artificial colouring on white glutinous rice or by applying yeast to white glutinous rice before the tapai has been properly cooled.