Monday, May 30, 2011

Rat- The Other White Meat

Last weekend we had another relaxing camping getaway at our top-secret undisclosed location where we spent many hours taking naps outside and playing extreme off-road bocce with some feasting on Thai food thrown in for good measure. 
Playing bocce down a hill- because we can.
On the way back to Bangkok, we noticed signs for small roadside stands that were selling grilled rat. So of course being the adventrous types, we decided to stop and try it out.
I think someone needs to work on their rat drawing skills...
Now before you all start freaking out and retching from disgust, let me explain that these are not the rats that you see scurrying around the city feasting on garbage. These rats are from rice fields where they spend all day getting fat on rice. These roadside stands then grill up the rat and sell them.
Brock exchanging baht for rat
I mentally prepared myself for trying the rat by repeating "This is grain-fed rat, it's a delicacy." and "You'll hate yourself if you don't at least try it." over and over in my head. But my preparation flew out the window as soon as Brock opened the plastic bag that the rat was wrapped in.
Look you can see its tail!
I didn't know if I could eat something that looked SO MUCH like a dead rat. So I let Brock and Guy try it out first and when they didn't immediately spit it out, I decided to go for a taste. 
The verdict- it honestly it didn't taste that bad, but it really didn't taste that good either. For one thing the rat was cold, so it tasted like cold, greasy chicken that was fortified with iron. The metallic taste of the meat did not appeal to me, and I didn't eat anymore after the first taste. But now I can say that I've tried grilled rat, and that was worth it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Good Night for a Fight

One of my favorite sports memories is going to see a University of Wisconsin-Madison hockey game in high school. I didn't really understand the sport or the rules but the thousands of college students in the stands chanting and dancing combined with bone crushing action on the rink created an awesome atmosphere that overrode the fact that I had no idea what was going on on the ice.

I experienced a similar night recently when I attended a night of Muay Thai at the Lumpini Boxing Stadium. This time I REALLY had no idea what was going on because everything was in Thai, but I wasn't about to let that spoil the adventure!

Muay Thai is a combat sport similar to kickboxing except that fighters are also allowed to use their shins, feet, elbows and strike each other both below and above the waist. It is a really intense sport and I wasn't too sure that I wanted to go watch a match. However, I decided that since I was living with in a 10 minute walk from one of the most prestigious Muay Thai stadiums in Thailand, I had to at least watch one match.

Our Muay Thai adventure began with attempting to purchase tickets at the Lumpini Boxing Stadium. As soon as we turned the corner outside the stadium, we were accosted by two ladies who really wanted to sell us discounted tickets. Even after we repeatedly told them we weren't interested, they continued to pressure us all the way to the official ticket office and wouldn't stop until we actually had our tickets in our hands. I am not sure if these women were selling legitimate tickets or not, but I will give them credit for being for being so tenacious.

Outside of the stadium plastered with promotions for upcoming fights
After a quick dinner at one of the many food stalls right outside the stadium, we made our way inside. The fights had already started and we could hear the crowd chanting and yelling as we handed our tickets over and found our seats.

The rest of the night was a blur of fighting, music, shouting crowds and ringing bells. I think my favorite part of each match was when each of the fighters would enter the ring wearing marigold garlands and proceed to stretch and dance around the ring. Each school of Muay Thai has their own style of movement. The two fighters are also wearing a sacred headband which they take off before the fight and sacred rope around their biceps which they keep on during the fight. 

Once they are done stretching and dancing- the fight begins!

Lumpini Boxing Stadium, as well as other Muay Thai boxing stadiums, are the few places in Thailand where gambling is legal. In this final video you can see the crowds frantically making hand gestures. This is how bets are place on the fights. I have no idea how they keep track of all those bets, but I am sure there is a method to the madness.

If you listen closely, you can also hear the band that plays during each round to provide the fighters with timing. Each fight is usually five rounds (it's shorter when there is a knockout) and at the end of the fifth round, the referee collects the votes from three judges sitting around ring and a winner is declared.

All in all it was a great night and I am so glad I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone. I will definitely be going back for another fight night!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Roast Duck Extravaganza!

The very first night that we met our friends Brock and Josh, we were sitting at the beer gardens by CentralWorld asking each other the typical questions that expats ask when meeting a fellow expat for the first time, such as; "How long have you been in Thailand" ,"What do you do","Where do you live" etc. Eventually the discussion came around to eating and cooking (as it usually does) and when we casually mentioned that we had an oven in our apartment, Brock immediately exclaimed " I am going to roast a duck in your oven!"

Fast forward five months, and we finally got our act together for the roast duck extravaganza. The adventure began with a trip to the Klong Toei Market to pick up a duck as well as the ingredients to make the duck sauce.

After wandering through the market for a while, we made our way to the duck section. There we found a booth with duck and duck parts as well as live ducks. I assumed that we would get a duck that was already dead- but boy was I wrong. The adorable girl running the duck booth, after hearing Brock's request for a whole duck, proceeded to pull a live duck from a cage and tried to hand it to us. After some very disturbing pantomime, we finally got the message across that we would prefer the duck to be deceased. We were afraid that she was going to kill the duck right in front of us, but luckily she took it away and came back with it all wrapped up in a plastic bag.

It wasn't until we arrived at our apartment that we discovered that they neglected to gut and clean the duck. Luckily, the internet was there to save the day! It's amazing what you can find on YouTube. Athough watching men say things like "You don't want to rupture the gall bladder cause that will taint the meat." is not really the most enjoyable way to spend a Saturday morning.

After watching a few videos about how to gut a duck, Brock tackled the disgusting task. I don't want to talk about the disgusting details too much, but I was amazed at what came out of that duck! Needless to say I was impressed with how well we were able to keep our gag reflex under control, although I think Brock almost lost it when the metal I.D tag on the duck scraped the cutting board and it sounded just like a duck quack. 

Brock carefully making the first incision

After the disgusting part was done, we worked on prepping the the bird for it's 4 hour roast in the oven.

Removing pin feathers

Cutting strategic slits to make the skin delicious
After hourly flips and basting with an orange tamarind sauce, the duck was ready to be served to the hungry masses who spent hours drooling as the smell of roast duck filled our apartment. I don't really have any details on the recipe used or the specific techniques, but perhaps Brock will write about them on his blog.

After this successful duck roasting, we've already started planning for our next cooking adventure, so stay tuned!

Who wants some duck?