Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Being back

It was such a good rest! Such good time spent with Dad and Eddie and by the pool. I read four books. I had 'forgotten' how much I love reading, how good it feels to have time.
It may be over but I am happy!

You know that feeling when you get back from holiday and launch into a routine so quickly that it seems as though you never really went? Normally I get that but this time everything was so vivid that I don't feelas though it never happened. I can summon the images and the feeling of being there, even from a glass office block far removed from the smells and fumes of Bangkok.

My first day back at work has been stressful. I got in very early to sort through my emails and I couldn't go for lunch until 3.30. I'm the one who gets lunch at 12 normally! Emails, calls, no time to do things, didn't have a moment to answer Lizzie's email (sorry, Liz).

But, the day is over. I may still be at work but when you are alone in the office you feel that the day is over. You can do things at your own pace. When I worry about going into work, when I ascend the escalators in the tube with dread, I am comforted by the thought that, like everything, the day will end.

Now it's 9.22. I know I should stay, file some emails, prepare for tomorrow. But what I really want to do is go home. Go home, make some herbal tea in my new Bangkok Starbucks mug and cosy up in bed. Which shall it be?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Bangkok musings

The days have passed, as ever, and I have omitted to post. I guess I was enjoying myself too much! 

The atmosphere is so different to when I was last here. The economic crisis and the political unrest in Thailand have affected the economy, people's moods, everything. It is so sad to see such majestic hotels with just a 20% occupancy rate. I so hope that things will pick up here soon. The minimum wage here is so very low, and losing jobs really does signify life on the streets.

Here's a grouping of some of the things I have been enjoying  - and thinking - here in Bangkok.


Of course, food is one of the most interesting things about going abroad. But in England at least, there is a plethora of fantastic Thai restaurants. What is harder to find is Thai fruit.

I suppose that, living in a cosmopolitan city like London, it is ultimately quite rare to taste a completely new food. When did you last taste something new?
This trip I tasted my first Mangosteen and I was so excited. This fruit is virtually unknown outside Thailand, and contains delicate sweet white fruit eaten in sections. Mangosteens have a very distinctive flavour much richer than that of lychees. Delicious.

The below fruit is called a Rambutan, derived from the word 'Rambut', meaning hair. Inside the spiky rind is a lychee-like fruit with a white, translucent flesh. 

I have seen and tasted Dragon fruit before, but they are so beautiful I felt compelled to include them here. Unfortunately, their taste is much less exciting than their appearance would suggest: watery, not very sweet and a bit boring, like an unripe watermelon.

There are so many others, but I didn't get the chance to taste them all. Hopefully next time!

Anyone for dried cuttlefish?

Another thing I love to do when I go abroad is visit the local supermarket. It's so fun perusing aisles of food you haven't seen before! One of the things I found the strangest was the huge array of seafood flavoured crisps/chips and of dried fish!


It is amazing that all of this food is prepared on the street and yet I have never heard of a person who has been ill eating in Thailand. It is a testament to how clean people are, which is hard to be on a main street. The smells in the streets are so strong, certainly not what we are used to. But the food is amazing. It's not uncommon to see a businessman or celebrity eating next to a stallholder. I think that's great. 

I can't imagine how people can cook outside, without air conditioning, in this heat. Thais are just really industrious and hard working. This is probably largely due to the fact that there is no social security to pick them up from the streets if they don't have an income. And yet, faced with this harsh reality and a hard life of work, Thais still have a real love and devotion to their King. Photos of him are everywhere and every Monday Thais dress in yellow to honour King Rama. The streets become flooded with yellow. To me all of this is remarkable. I obviously think that more should and can be done for people here. I live in country in which there is no great love for the Queen, even by those who staunchly support the monarchy. Perhaps we are just too spoilt? I can't relate, but I can appreciate.

Israelis in Bangkok

A little background: I was born in Israel to Israeli parents. In our hotel Dad and I met some Israeli friends who also live in London and together, we decided to celebrate Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) at Chabad (a Jewish outreach organisation with centres all over the world). What we found astounded us!

Israelis all have to serve in the army as part of the country's conscription policy. Girls serve for two years and boys for three. People serve in divisions that correlate with their skills or interests. The smartest can serve in a field that is relevant to their vocation: my mum, now a doctor, trained as a nurse. In the army people forge friendships that they will maintain throughout their life; people generally want to serve. Yet at at the end, they feel a certain resentment. They go in huge numbers to places like Thailand and India, often for over a year, rebel, take drugs, let loose. It has seriously become a rite of passage. 

And, at Chabad in Bangkok, we met lots of these travellers. Girls travelling for months on their own. They were really lovely, but they also seemed so lost. What was interesting is that the whole area has been transformed into a mini Tel Aviv. Falaffel, hommous, pitta, Israeli coffee and Jewish food, Thai people selling you things in Hebrew (!). We sat in a cafe with Israeli music blaring out - so very surreal. And it is in such places that Israeli travellers hang out, with other Israelis, where they feel a strong sense of identity: where they feel at home. I found it interesting and poignant that they should want to recreate that so far away.

Eating falaffel in Bangkok - who would have thought!


Don't be fooled: corporations have been here for a long time. I'm currently reading 'Fast Food Nation', so McDonald's is very much on my mind, and for all the wrong reasons. With all the delicious fresh food around I can't think why anyone would eat at McDonald's. I certainly didn't. But I did find this Ronald McDonald quite humorous. In Thailand a curteous greeting includes placing hands together as though in prayer and bowing slightly. Those smarmy corporate heads thought they'd have Ronald adopt this pose. What haven't they thought of to lure in the masses and market McDonald's as a 'trusted friend'? Fast food Nation is appalling me, page by page.

I'm so sad to be leaving tomorrow! It's been great having a break, being away from the stress of everything. I leave you with a beautiful orchid, a Thai flower. See you in London!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bangkok in photos

Just a short post today. Having a great time in Bangkok. Loving the beautiful food even though my kosher-ish diet (no shellfish or pork) is restricting me somewhat. The variety and freshness of the produce amazes me - I have been to Thailand a number of times yet am still seeing things I have never seen before. Check out the vegetables below!

I also had an amazing foot massage today and it felt amazing. If only there were time for such indulgences at home. How are we spending the days? We are just walking around, chilling out and relaxing. Mostly, I love these smiley people. In Thailand you see people who are really below the poverty line. Street vendors, taxi drivers, all struggling to make ends meet. Yet they are happy and smiley and always eager to help. It gives a new meaning to the word perspective - a perfect display of perseverance and gratitude. There is so much to learn from them.

Here are some photos, now that I have a cable...

Fried sea bass in a sweet honey sauce. Stunning.

Spicy fish paste with vegetables I have never seen before.

Tonight's dinner
Foggy Bangkok skyline

Local fruit stall.
Hotel swimming pool = heaven
Tom Yum soup - lemongrass broth with coconut milk and steamed sea bass. 
Interior of one of the restaurants we ate in - so different from home but so delicious
A tired me on the first night here
Rose apples - look how beautiful. They are fragrant and not-to-sweet apples. Yum.e an

Sunday, 10 May 2009


These past few days have sped by so fast... I have been on an advocacy course and have run a million errands, all before going on holiday with my Dad to Thailand. And now I'm here!

Dad 'discovered' Thailand long before it was a trendy tourist destination. He has been coming here for years. His love affair with Thailand began when he was young and trying to make ends meet as a diamond dealer. Let me tell you, it's a tough life. Anyway, at that time he met his friend Eddie. They have been friends for 40 years! It's amazing. Dad gave Eddie his first order, and whilst they are certainly no longer business buddies they are loyal friends. They watched each other raise families (Eddie is married to Moon, and they have four children, who are now grown up). Eddie is the softest spoken, loveliest man who emanates an aura of calm and faith. He is Buddhist and this shines through I think. He has a thirst for life (and food, don't get me started on the food). What wouldn't Eddie do for someone he loves? The sky is the limit. He is just so so good to us. He takes us everywhere, shares his new restaurant discoveries, bends over backwards to give us a good time. A precious friend - there aren't people like that anymore, who are happy to go out of their way for you. 

My trips with Dad to Bangkok are always a great time together. Dad comes alive in the hectic mess of it all - he loves discovering new places to eat, the trolleys of food on the streets, the fact that it is less developed than Europe. It reminds him of growing up in Jerusalem, I think, as it was then. The authenticity. I often think that he could quite happily live here. 

We got here yesterday afternoon and immediately went to our hotel, the Shangri-La. It's beautiful! And around the corner there is a department store for locals. The brands tend to be inexpensive and the whole thing is authentic. We love that. We always start out our trips here. I buy the toiletries I couldn't be bothered to carry and we stock up on soft drinks and snacks for the room. Here's something that irritates me. This is Thailand. A coke can costs 13 baht (about 20p/25-30cents). How can the hotel justify charging £3 ($5) for one can? We refuse!

Then we went to one of our favourite restaurants in the market. The food is so so good, so fresh. Dad had crab and octopus and I had steamed fish and vegetables. The restaurants here are so different from back home! Messy, they are brimming with clutter and they look dilapidated. But the food! Hues of lemongrass and wild mushrooms, tom yum paste and charcoaled egg friend rice. Love. Tomorrow I will buy a camera cable and share photos with you. 

But now it is 4.30 in the morning. I am jet-lagged and can't sleep. So here I am, blogging, with a cup of mango tea and exotic fruit by my side. Don't you just love the beginning of a holiday? All the excitement ahead of you? It's nice to have a moment to basque in that. Can't wait for breakfast!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Dark chocolate-espresso cookies

These cookies are something I came up with in France when I wanted to make cookie bags for colleagues. They are a very dark chocolate biscuit, for real dark chocolate lovers (70% +). In my opinion there is a time for retro sweets, cupcakes with sweet frosting, cake pops, and there is a time when only a true dark chocolate fix will do. These are for those times.

Tomorrow night I will be having dinner with Ryan, Gavin and Mauritz. After dinner we will go to Ryan and Mauritz's new flat on Finchley Road, sip some wine and chatter. Now, Gavin and Mauritz appreciate the finer things in life, and when I was last over they treated me to some beautiful dark chocolate. I wanted to give them something to celebrate the move, and these popped into my mind. They are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and brimming with an intense chocolate flavour. They are just the thing.


200g dark coffee chocolate, melted (Lindt - or if not then add 4tbsp instant coffee)
125g unsalted butter
185g soft brown sugar
1 egg
185g flour
40g unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (180 C). Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

1. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy with electric mixer
2. add egg and beat until just combined
3. add melted chocolate
4. Sift in flour and cocoa, mi with mixer for 5 minutes
5. shape dough into 1 1/4 inch rounds. (you can flatten these, but I prefer them ball shaped)
6. Bake for 6-7 minutes
7. Do not move immediately as they will most likely fall apart - wait a minute or two before transferring to wire rack.
8. Drizzle with chocolate icing and/just with icing sugar for an extra touch of sweetness (optional).

Wanted: the perfect peanut butter biscuit

It's quite strange: I hate peanuts, can tolerate but don't love peanut butter, but LOVE peanut butter biscuits. I discovered this when I made Heather's Santa surprise cookies for my colleagues over Christmas. It was love at first bite. I can't get enough of those cookies (even though I prefer to omit the Snickers surprise). The problem? I'm not a patient baker. This is because I often bake at night, and I don't have two hours to let the dough cool in the fridge. Therefore, ever since, I have tried to find an equally good recipe. I tried one from a cookbook I received as a gift and it was honestly the worst recipe ever. The cookies turned out like salty rocks. Then I tried Dorie Greenspan's cookies. They were good, but didn't have the soft centre that Heather's cookies have. So the floor is open to you: what is your favourite peanut butter biscuit recipe?


Dorie Greenspan: Peanut Butter Criss Crosses
makes about 40 cookies.

Dry Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
pinch of nutmeg (I threw in some cinnamon too)

Wet Ingredients:
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup of peanut butter (I used Smooth)
1 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups of salted peanuts (I left these out.)

Extra 1/2 cup of sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or cooking spray. Whisk the dry ingredients together. Using a handmixer, beat the butter on medium speed in a mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and beat for another minute. Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to fully incorporate the sugar and eggs.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they just disappears.

Mix in chopped peanuts if you are using them.

our the 1/2 cup of rolling sugar into a small bowl. Working with a level tablespoonful of dough for each cookie, roll the dough between your palms into balls and drop the balls, a couple at a time, into the sugar. (My hands are rather warm, so the dough got really sticky when I was making cookie dough balls so cooling my dough in the fridge for a little bit helped to make the dough easier to work with. ) Roll the balls around in the sugar to coat them, then place on the baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between them.

To make the criss crosses, use a fork and press down on top of the sugar crusted cookies.
Bake for about 12 minutes. When done, the cookies will be lightly colored and somewhat soft. Mine puffed up alot, but then deflated once cooled. Let the cookies sit on a wire rack to cool down.

Dorie Greenspan pb cookies

pretty but disappointing peanut butter biscuits