wander process

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The Pad Thai Pros: Thip Samai Pad Thai

There are a great many reasons why I loved living in Bangkok and while I still anticipate every single trip of mine to the City of Angels (the non-LA City of Angels).

A lot of these reasons have to do with food. Talking about how Bangkok is a foodie’s paradise is like beating a dead horse. It’s as if everything that needs to be said about the city’s food scene has already been said.

But I’m going to share my trip to Thip Samai anyway.

Located in the fun, old-school Krung Thep area of Banglamphu, Thip Samai is a behemoth of a pad thai purveyor.

I remembered being totally blown away by my first pad thai. And in comparison to what Thip Samai has to offer, my first pad thai sucked. Pad thai is one of those specialty dishes that most restaurants in the US manage to screw up and make gloopy. And to make the dish at home, with all of the unique, fresh Thai ingredients (tamarind paste?!) is unthinkable. Execution and ingredients are everything, so I believe it’s best to leave pad thai to the pros.

So to the pros I went.

Imagine your plain-old, everyday chicken or tofu pad thai. Now imagine it sliding off the table and having it replaced by the most amazing pad thai topped with sliced green mango, cuttlefish, crab meat, shrimp roe, and the classics – chili, bean sprouts, fish sauce, sugar. Whoa. So good. At THB200 (USD6.30), it’s about as pricy as pad thai comes, but savored among 3 friends, it was more than worth it. Thipsamai’s been around since 1966, so they know what they’re doing.

The restaurant is nicknamed “Ghost Gate Pad Thai” due to its proximity to Bangkok’s Ghost Gate (Pratu Pi), the location of the burial of people who perished during a cholera epidemic.

Luckily, we didn’t get cholera, we didn’t even get indigestion.

Probably because we took a nice little neighborhood walk after our heaps of pad thai. And this nighttime walk was especially great because of the views of nearby Wat Ratchanatdaram.

Thipsamai Pad Thai is located at 313 Mahachai Road, Phra Nakorn, Bangkok.

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going continental: a few hours during my layover in Frankfurt

I went to Paris, I went home, I went to DC.

It was time to go back to Thailand. But I couldn’t get there before a ridiculously long, 10-hour layover in Frankfurt.

While it’s no secret that Paris has a magical reputation (a reputation that it upheld exceptionally well, I have to say), Frankfurt’s reputation was less than stellar.

“The most boring city in Western Europe,” one website offered. They were making it sound so great for me and my layover.

Nevertheless, I was determined to leave the airport during my layover (I had from noon-10pm between flights – prime city time). Unfortunately, as good as I am at figuring out rapid transit systems, I had the hardest time trying to navigate the arteries of the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof.

A scruffy, kindly man took it upon himself to show me how to buy my ticket into the city from the airport. I slowly dug through my wallet to scrounge up leftover Euros from Paris. As soon as I purchased my ticket, he wanted money from me, saying he didn’t have any for himself. Even though I think of myself as a mostly kind person (with feisty tendencies), I never know what to do in situations like this. I had very little money for my time in Frankfurt so I smiled apologetically.

I hopped on the train, feeling more out of place than I had in a very long time. Though a significant part of my family on my mom’s side has German heritage, it’s not anything I’m connected to in any way. My mom’s maiden name is as German as our family gets in any way, shape, or form.

It was strange to be so uncomfortable in a place where I blended in, when I am so comfortable living in a country where I stick out (“like a turd in the punch bowl!” in the words of my dad) everywhere I go.

I tried my best to decipher the garbled German voice, announcing the stops toward the city center. I made the connection at the central HBF and took the U to Römerplatz, the most gimmicky, touristy area that Frankfurt am Main has to offer!

My (mostly absent) German heritage on German cobblestones. Looks like Frankfurt broke out the confetti for my arrival. I was honored.

Römerplatz was pretty lame. I felt like it was me & a whole bunch of classic tourists, snapping shots of themselves in front of the once-authenthic/now-rebuilt-for-tourism-purposes building façades.

With my cheesy tourism obligations fulfilled for the day, I turned my attention to more pressing matters at hand.

Finding myself a meal.

He’s got the right idea.

Being the girl that I am, I was already thinking about what German food I wanted before I set foot in Frankfurt.

Here’s a list:

1. Sausage (Frankfurter? Are those even real things in Germany?)

2. Beer from a glass boot

3. Pretzel

That’s it. I am the picture of originality with this list. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any beer in a glass boot during my oh-so-brief time in Germany.

I settled for some sausage and potato salad instead. I took bites off of both ends of the dog before I remember to capture the picture for posterity.

the ‘wurst’ sausage in Frankfurt! ooohh, ok. I’ll be quiet now.

I felt the same darn apprehension ordering food in Frankfurt that I did while in Paris (but I didn’t have Sophie with me to order for me). I get really self-conscious and flustered when I’m supposed to be ordering food and people are looking at me like I’m supposed to be speaking the language and all I can eke out is unintelligible, muffled sounds and “I’m sorry” and some pointing. It’s much easier for me in Thailand, where I’m able to respond to strangers in Thai, much to their delight, “Oooh-wee! Put Thai gang!”

So I ended up with this sausage and some potato salad somehow.

I wandered around a lot, not feeling very impressed with Frankfurt.

I saw my name emblazoned on a cheap shoe store.

I found the Kleinmarkthalle and bought a hard pretzel. I wandered around some more, making my way slowly back to the central HBF.

in looove with the seafoam. also with the fonts in Frankfurt.

I passed through the Indian shops and by Occupy Frankfurt. Feeling more apathetic than tired, I went back to the airport to while away the time I had left before my flight.

I read The Art of Fielding and then fell asleep at a table for the better part of an hour.

I watched a drunken, irate Irishmen get dragged away by Interpol while screaming obscenities at the sassy Lufthansa staff.

I found some currywurst and Hefeweizen and scarfed them down before my impending plunge back into all Thai food, all the time.

I browsed the duty free, as I am growing increasingly more likely to do these days, and bought a big bag of Haribo gummy bears (I then proceeded to polish off the bag of bears at 5:30AM in my room a few days later, in a fit of jetlag and homesickness and whattheheckismylifeness).

And last, maybe most importantly, I admired the Frankfurt sunset, streaked by the airplane trails of the departures and arrivals at the Frankfurt airport.

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get yer goat

No trip to the DC area would have been complete without visiting my friend Casey at her family’s house right outside of DC. I wanted to see their land, their goats, their house. Even though they live so close to the city, when we were at Casey’s house, all the signs and trappings of city life were noticeably absent.

It was just us and the goats.

what interesting pupils!

Amber, your fur is so luxurious

It was neat to be able to see the home of one of my best friends, especially since we both grew up on farms. (Fun fact – one time, when I was in Thailand and Casey was keeping an eye on all of the pregnant goats at her home, we were skyping, and mid-skype, unbeknownst to Casey, a little kid was born!) Her family’s house and land were so beautiful and lovingly cared for – like something straight out of HGTV (the surprising cable TV channel I never step watching when I’m home). It was a truly great way to while away an afternoon.



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brioche kind of days

Some day in the distant future, this blog will once again post timely pictures and anecdotes about what’s going on in my life.

But until then, you get to look a pretty, mouth-watering pictures of fattening food that I took over a month ago.


I knew that when planning a trip back home to the US, a trip to some cool city where my friends now live would be requisite. Without much hesitation, I settled on Washington, DC – chosen city of many of my dear friends. While I was sad to say goodbye to my family (who I rarely ever see anymore), I was delirious at the thought of spending quality time with some of my closest friends.

One of the things I miss the most about living in a city in America is the constant access and availability to free cultural events. Before making it to DC this time around, my friends and I had already made plans to participate in the Post Hunt, which is more or less a downtown-DC-wide riddle/puzzle/scavenger hunt on steroids designed by Dave Barry, run by the Washington Post and for the overeducated. Definitely my kind of thing.

Thanks to a lot of DC-know-how, my team made a good showing. We successfully found the answers to the 5 main clues of the day but we weren’t quick enough to snatch the final prize. As the Post Hunt was coming to a close, our brains were tired. I was supposed to be counting over 600 words on a page, but in my head, I have given up.

I was only thinking about one thing.

The Luther.

As I am wont to do, while at home, I was scrolling through one of my favorite foods blogs, Serious Eats, and found a picture of a glorious sandwich from the ChurchKey in Washington DC.

In food legend, the Luther is the monstrous combination of a cheeseburger sandwiched between two doughnuts acting as buns. Without having tasted it, the sandwich haunted my time at home and haunted my time in DC. It was always at the back or my mind until I knew that it would be mine.

ChurchKey took that idea, and instead of one-upping it, they 3,000x-upped it. Crisp, tender fried chicken breast filled the space between fresh, glazed (and dare I say, bordering on cakey?) brioche. The sandwich was drizzled in maple syrup and festooned with walnuts. As if this sandwich wasn’t cool enough, it wasn’t even on the menu. We were a table of cool kids with doughnut sandwiches and the diners around us wanted to know what magical creations we had ordered.

I know I can die a happy girl.

If that wasn’t enough brioche for a day, we decided to hit up DC gelato mainstay, Pitango, for some dessert. If there was ever a meal that didn’t deserve dessert, the Luther was it. But I do love me some Pitango and it would’ve been a shame to go to DC and not go to Pitango.

The Pitango we visited in Logan Circle offered brioche-gelato sandwiches. Apparently this is an Italian tradition? I know that in Thailand, I can easily buy homemade coconut ice cream nestled between two slices of baby-sized white bread, but I figured that Italy was too classy to mix their starches and sugars in such an offensively tasteless way.

I was already beyond stuffed at this point, but I went for the brioche sandwich anyway. I carefully selected  dark chocolate and Earl Grey gelato.

I’m afraid nothing could compare to the perfection that was the ChurchKey Luther brioche. The gelato was tasty (and the flavors were refined and subtle), but the brioche was too dry to enjoy the sandwich. I wouldn’t order it again.

Did I learn anything through my overindulgence of brioche? Yes. Never order two in the same day. One is bound to be dry. And it’s usually best to keep your breads away from your cold desserts.

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A Father-Daughter Tradition

“Corndogs aren’t for every day, you know. They’re for special occasions too.” – my Poppa

Like a lot of father-daughter relationships, my dad and I have a relationship built on love and an extremely squirrely sense of humor. Unlike a lot of father-daughter relationships, our relationship is strengthened by a mutual love of corn dogs.

So it was only fitting that I spend one of my last days at home going on a strange cultural journey with my father. We went to Franciscan-sister-run llama farm to procure organic beets and check out some corn that my dad was growing for the nuns. We then made our way to the thriving metropolis of Springfield, Illinois to visit the Cozy Dog Drive In, the self-proclaimed originator of the “cozy dog” (really, the corn dog). The Cozy Dog Drive In is situation along the original Route 66 and is a point of pride for many people in the area.

Wow, do my dad and I love corn dogs. He always suggest having corn dogs for lunch whenever I’m home. And when I was at college in corn dog-deprived state of Rhode Island, a friend made a nostalgia-themed documentary on my statewide search for the elusive corn dog. I never found one in Rhode Island (though, upon writing this, I realized that I found a corn dog in Bristol a couple of years later).

You can find corn dogs under many different names. Corn dogs. Cozy dogs. Pronto pups. My dad and I like to intentionally switch the ‘r’ and the ‘o’ and call them ‘cron dogs.’No matter what you call them, they all taste great. Just writing this and looking at pictures of corn dogs made my eyes hungry.  My dad promised that he wouldn’t go to Cozy Dog Drive In without me, so I’m going to hold him to that.