Frankly, this cold weather is a shock to the system. I have just returned from three weeks travelling around Thailand: visiting family, enjoying the cuisine and hunting for interesting wildlife.
One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the incredibly rare and bizarre cave angelfish. This little creature is found in only two caves in northern Thailand, and lives only on waterfalls, where it grazes on bacteria. We walked four hours underground to find it, also encountering bat-eating snakes and non-luminous relatives of New Zealand’s glow worms.
After admiring the fish we left them in the dark, to get on with their strange everyday business.
It was a grand trip; we were there for the Thai New Year festival, known as Songkran, which is a three-day nationwide water fight. The hotbed of the festival is in Chiang Mai, where my brother lives. Walk one step and you are drenched head to foot. The only solution is to join in, which is what we did. Little four-year-old Thai girls and their grandmothers were not safe from me. And neither was I safe from them.
It was magnificent fun but had a sobering side. The road toll during that week was 364, with 3559 injuries. And that toll is probably on the low side as fatalities are only tallied if they occur at the scene of the accident.
I also had some dentistry done, so if anyone wants to know what it’s like to get crowns and implants in Thailand, give me a yell. There is good and bad news…
Back in Bangkok, we rode the river boats, visited a temple or two, ate street food and enjoyed the crazy, eclectic bustle.
Upon returning, I realised how absolutely, gorgeously beautiful Gordonton and New Zealand are.
While it was fantastic travelling around a country 6000 miles away, there really is no place like home.
And yet, as I sat by the fire with Sit and Kléklé in a Karen village in Doi Inthanon National Park, drinking coffee made from beans grown in the village, I also realised how connected we are to the rest of the world.
In the meantime, I’m in need of warm fodder to help on these chill evenings. With a touch of Thai tucked into them, in the way of herbs and spices.
A tasty little number, this dish is both exotic and familiar. A modified Thai beef salad that will have me warm in no time.
Thai beef salad
1 spring onion
2 tbsp fresh mint
2 tsp parsley
600g rump steak
1 Tbsp oil
Spinach leaves or lettuce, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp fish sauce
4 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sugar
2 – 3 chillies (or more if you’ve recently been in Thailand!)
Remove any fat from the steak and slice into long, thin strips, about 5 mm wide. Set aside.
Trim the end off the lemongrass, and remove tough, outer leaves. Slice the yellow section of the stalk into thin slices, about 2.5cm and then chop further until fine.
Peel and halve the onion, slice. Finely chop the spring onion and herbs.
Put all of the sauce ingredients into a small bowl and stir together well. Season to taste.
Heat a little oil in a wok or heavy skillet. Fry the onion quickly, when it is just cooked add the lemongrass and mint. Remove to another bowl, and heat wok. When it’s really hot quickly fry steak. It should be rare and pink when served.
Add the sauce and all other ingredients and heat for about half a minute while tossing.
Serve with rice. You can add cashew nuts or noodles to dress this simple dish up or down.
Sawat dee ka!