amari palm reef

The Great Durian Adventure

Yes…it smells quite awful! A ‘No Durian’ sign in Singapore

I have travelled through the East many times – I love everything about South East Asia, well almost everything anyway!  Everything except a nasty looking fruit called Durian.  Its known as the King of Fruits and looks like a medieval weapon….it has a thick stalk and the fruit is the size of a football.  Although the fruit is covered in wicked spikes, its not the appearance that makes me cross the road when I come across a vendor….it’s the nasty stench!

Durian is sold at markets and street vendor stalls all over Thailand.  It is sold in neat pre-packed segments and it looks tempting until you rip open the packaging.  Yes, its enough to make your eyes water.

I have not been able to find Durian in Samui this holiday.  I was keen on giving it a try since making a decision to be more adventurous.  All this talk of durian has made Rob curious too.

Its never been hard to find durian….the most sensible way to track it down is to walk in the direction that smells the most!  Stop walking when you find the delicate yellow flesh that smells like a load of rotting something.  Yes, it smells rotten.

We headed off to a few local markets or talaads (as it is known in Thai). We first tried the Fisherman’s Village market in Bhoput and then popped in to another one in Chaweng with no luck.  We visited the Laem Din market too…still nothing.  What rotten luck!

I was chatting to Martin Kunzmann (I have mentioned him before – he is the resident manager at Amari Palm Reef) and told him that I could not find any Durian.  A keen adventurer and explorer, he offered to lead us on a Durian hunt.  I was so excited.

After we had finished our delicious cooking demo with Chef Kanit, we headed off – Martin on a flash bike and us on our trusty moped.  We stopped at the local Chaweng market just to make sure there wasn’t a durian delivery and then took an inland road out to Mae Nam.  It was fantastic to get away from the buzz of the main Chaweng strip.  We travelled along the Ghost Road – Martin says it is where the old spirit houses are abandoned.  The road is lined with hundreds of them in various stages of decay.

Rob and I were thrilled to be experiencing a different part of the island.  We made another stop, Martin pulled over and said he got a durian whiff….false alarm – It was another Samui special…Stink Beans!!!!  Garlic makes your breath smell, asparagus makes your wee smell, stink beans makes everything smell.  It makes your breath, skin and even your poo smell really bad.  Martin tried to talk me into giving the stink beans a go….still on honeymoon, I thought that this might not be an appropriate time to acquire a devilish stink!

Stink beans – Smelly business!

We were now on our way to Mae Nam.  The hills got steeper and steeper and the moped got slower and slower.  Eventually, I had to get off and walk up a ‘Tour de France’ hill.  Spluttering and cursing after eating too much, I jumped on Martin’s bike –  I can best describe this as a cool looking retro vintage bike and boy, it is noisy!  It was a like a rocket up the hills and we met Rob at the top!

This is where our troubles started….on our way down the hill, we got caught in a tropical storm.  The raindrops were large and heavy enough to make the trees bend over.  We drove down the hill slowly, quietly kakking ourselves all the way.  The raindrops stinging our faces and soaking us to the skin.  We passed the durian trees (yes, actually with durians on them) and it was storming so badly, we could not even get a pic.

We got to the bottom off the hill and I never thought I would be so happy to spot a ‘Seven Eleven’.  For me, it was like a sign saying, ‘Welcome back to civilisation’!

We got back to a flooded Chaweng strip….the water was about 50cm deep.  It was chaotic….people were riding their bikes on the sidewalk and the pedestrians were wading through the street knee deep in muddy water.

Rob and our moped – riding on the pavement in Chaweng

I never got to find the durian in Samui, but I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure.  I saw a part of the island that was beautiful and far away from traffic and tourists!

Durians in Singapore – finally!!!

As luck would have it – I found durian in Singapore!

Advertisements

The trouble with cooking classes…..

Yudhika and Chef Kanit at the Amari Palm Reef, Samui

I need a lie down….I really need a lie down.  Every time I attend a cooking class, I make promises not to eat too much.  I have a large breakfast and get to a demo thinking I am not hungry….maybe just a little taste!  My little tasters always turn into feasts!  We have just rolled back from a cooking class with Chef Kanit from the Amari Palm Reef Hotel in Samui, and my greed let me down again.

We had occasion to try some of the chef’s food a few nights ago and we really thought it was fabulous.  So, when the hotel’s resident manager, Martin, suggested a one on one cooking class, I jumped at the opportunity.

After a morning spent lazing on the beach, we met with Chef Kanit  who was ready to cook up a storm. Everything was prepared, every fresh ingredient had been chopped, sliced, diced and shredded.  There were 20 – 30 little bowls of every Thai ingredient imaginable, there were bottles, tins and jars of various spices and sauces.  He was incredibly thorough and talked me through every ingredient, offering tastes of each item that I did not know well.

 

Checking out the ingredients

Stir fried ostrich was the first dish – ‘Pad Krapow Nok’.  Ostrich is called Nok in Thai which means bird since there is no word for it. The meat looked like beef fillet and I wasn’t expecting much. Although we do find ostrich in South Africa, I have never found it appealing enough to cook. Heaps of garlic were tossed into the hot wok and sauteed with chilli….I just love aroma of garlic….it makes me go weak at the knees. The ostrich was prepared in a flash….oyster sauce, sugar, fish sauce and basil were thrown into the pan. This dish was amazing – the meat is richer than beef. Fresh ‘hot’ basil leaves, garlic with chilli packed a flavoursome punch creating a bit of competition between Rob and I when it came to the tasting.

 

Pad Krapow Nok

 

Here’s Chef Kanit’s Recipe for the Pad Krapow Nok

 

Ingredients:

45ml sunflower oil

3 small chillies, finely chopped

15ml white sugar

Handful holy basil leaves

120g thinly sliced ostrich

15ml crushed garlic

15ml fish sauce

125ml chicken stock

30ml oyster sauce

4 – 5 sliced red chillies

 

Here’s how:

 

Fry the garlic and chilli in oil over high heat.

When the garlic starts to turn brown, add the ostrich and stir constantly.

Keep stirring until all the juices have evaporated.

Add the sugar, oyster sauce, chicken stock and fish sauce.

Add the basil leaves.

Stir a few times to mix the leaves with the meat, then remove from the pan and garnish with sliced chillies.

Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice.

 

 

Next was the Chu Chi Gang which is rock lobster with red curry. This was also a dish that was prepared at our wedding feast. The tender lobster meat soaks up the flavours of the lime leaves, lemongrass and chilli. The combination of the spices and coconut milk with lobster was heavenly.

Our last dish for the day was Pla Goong – a spicy prawn salad. For those of you who don’t know Thai salads, never order a ‘hot’ salad. Birds eye chillies are added and they can make you weep. I am still not sure exactly what makes the chillies in a salad so much more potent – maybe sometimes its because the chillies are bashed in a mortar first. I had a beef salad last night….being a sucker for spicy food, I ordered medium spicy. I had to eat a toasted sesame burger bun to try to calm my taste buds down. So when Chef Kanit asked how spicy….Rob and I both emphatically said mild! It was a good choice…the prawns were delicious and succulent. This is going to be my favourite starter when I get back to South Africa!

The trouble with all this eating at cooking classes is that I am now lying in bed…..moaning from over eating! Martin Kunzmann, the resident manager at Amari Samui, is meeting us in about five minutes to lead us on a search for Durian. I have been complaining that I could not find Durian at the market so he very kindly offered to assist us! I think we (and the moped) are going to take some strain on the hills this afternoon!

 

 

Sleepless in Samui…

Rob and I are in now in Koh Samui – we are living each day like it is our last!  What fun its been….we have been enjoying alternating waves of relaxation with bursts of activity that have led to lots of adventures and a few misadventures too.

 

Just another day in Samui

 

There is just always something to do in Samui – we started out with the compulsory Amari Palm Reef Brekkie.  Fried rice, eggs any way you want them, sushi, salads, pastries and stir fried chicken with young chilli.  I thought young chilli was mild – clearly not!  Yes, I am sure that the Amari staff are familiar with hangover cures and the young chilli can sort out just about any hangover.

I popped into the Breeze Spa for some decadent pampering and chose to have a Panpuri massage.  I eyed out the therapist who introduced herself in a soft melodious voice.  A petite therapist with a gentle, soft sing-song voice….thats what made me opt for a strong massage.  Rattana turned out to be stronger than I could have imagined.  I am sure that she could knead a teak plank into a soft, pliable mass.  I don’t think I could have moved even if there was a tsunami alert….I lay there like a sack of potatoes occasionally drooling into my pillow.  I had a swim to revive me and did a bit of shopping from the back of the Moped – nothing like retail therapy to raise energy levels!

We decided to get an early start to the evening so we would have time to take in a few different spots so we put on our glad rags –  a flash beach dress and slops for me, and for Rob – baggies, a tee shirt and his ever-present Moon Boot (achilles injury, long story).  We kicked off the evening at Villa La Moon overlooking the bay.  Rob spotted cheap beer and two litchi martinis for the price of one.  It’s the moped driver’s job not only to navigate the crazy traffic but also to keep an eagle eye out for Happy Hour(s) which are at different times in every different place.  We soaked in the beautiful view while I soaked up the martinis.

 

Litchi Martinis at Villa La Moon in Samui

 

 

We jumped back on the moped and dashed down the hill to the main street at Chaweng.  We noticed a sign saying ‘Walking Street’ which was bustling with people, music and barrow vendors selling everything from clothes to cocktails.

 

Gintonic and icy cold Singha at Chaweng’s Walking Street

I quickly found some chicken drummies flaming on a small fire while Rob tracked downed an ice cold Singha beer and a Gintonic (as the locals call it).  We also couldn’t resist trying out the Pad Thai which was prepared at lightening speed by an enthusiastic local, Nom Poon.

 

Nom Poon – the fastest Pad Thai in the East!

 

Jarwat Pad Thai – check them out on facebook

Starz Cabaret was our next stop – with live appearances by Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera, Madonna and Dianna Ross.  Maybe those litchi martini had more of a kick than I thought because Rob told me that the performers were actually Thai ‘Ladyboys’!  The drinks were expensive but there was no covert charge.  The show was entertaining and they extracted maximum laughs out of caricatures of the real artists’ performances.

 

Starz Cabaret – one of Chaweng’s main attractions!

We got back on the moped as the heavens opened for a short cloudburst so we popped in at the closest lively spot – The Solo Bar.  Rob was happy once again with our timing as Happy Hour lasted until 10pm and it was now 9.45pm.  We threw back a few half priced cocktails at double speed.  I tried something called ‘Land of Paradise’ – between this and the Bongo Guy the evening started getting rowdy.  There was a DJ playing some funky house tracks which we both normally hate.  Just as we were thinking of leaving, an athletic looking Thai muso set up his bongo drum and proceeded to get the entire bar rocking with his incredible energy. The bongo beat lifted the monotonous bass line and injected an excitement that got me off my bar stool.  Luckily, this was far from the Sandton Baron and anyone I knew.  I spent the next thirty minutes dancing my head off with my own cocktail mix of Indian, Arabic and Latin dance moves!  I don’t think I did too badly because not only was there lots of whistling and clapping but the Bongo Guy moved his setup to play right next to me.

Rob had seen this movie before so suggested that this would be a good time to move to the Reggae Bar on the other side of the lake.  There was a big Jamaican band playing mainly Reggae music.  I am constantly amazed at how big Reggae is in Thailand.  Bob Marley lives on in music, tee shirts, handbags, rasta caps and mainly in dreadlocks!!!  Rasta rebels of all ages from all countries congregate at this bar in their Che Guevara tee shirts singing songs like ‘No Woman, No Cry’.

It felt like time for a change of pace so we meandered on to one of the several dozen small pubs lining the side of the road for a game of pool.  The bar girls work hard to get you into their establishment but once you are in, the hard sell stops, and they leave you to get on with your game of pool and a quiet drink.  This particular place had no name and its main claim to fame was a laptop at the bar where you could choose the next song or three.

 

Robbie at the Hangover Bar

It was now about 2.30am and Rob was feeling quite peckish.  Another great thing about the island is that you are never far from a street vendor selling everything from satays to banana pancakes.  We had a few of both and decided that was enough for one night.

Just before we got back to the Amari we passed a brightly lit massage place with people still having foot massages.  I couldn’t resist a 3am foot rub and was snoring by 3.05.  We finally staggered back at around 4am and snuck in a quick illegal dip in the hotel pool before bed.

My last thought before I drifted off was, ‘Yay, breakfast in 5 hours!