Tag Archives: holiday dinner

Back to Basics

Ah, holidays without cold and snow. After a rather dreary and gray November, skies cleared this month, the temperature dropped, the sun shined brightly albeit a tad hazily for so early before “burning season”, and it began to look like a perfect Tropical Christmas Card. For those following along, you’ll recall how much I’ve craved real fresh roasted turkey. Harder to find than a good pastrami on rye or a beef hot dog, turkeys roam wild all over Asia and maybe that’s because nobody ever tried to catch them. Although commercially raised turkeys are available in Chiang Mai, they’re not very good and the quality and can’t hold a candle to North American Butterballs. Having attended a Thanksgiving buffet last month at a friend’s catered event, disappointment abounded when the turkey turned out to be a pre-cooked processed roast similar to deli sandwich meat.

arriving at Thai Cooking School

Although we didn’t move to Asia expecting to eat turkey sandwiches, burgers and pizza, Chiang Mai is a hub of western expat civilization with throngs of farangs from Christian missionaries out of Omaha to digital nomads from Europe, Australia and everywhere in between. Add in the thousands of retirees, millennial dropouts, begpackers and tourists that never leave and you’ve got a sub culture looking to eat everything from burritos to haggis. (I’m not sure where you can find that but it’s probably somewhere). Since arriving six months ago, there’s been a crush of new western food outlets opening all over and many say they serve “authentic” cuisine. Taking some of the fun out of what used to be a town filled with mostly local ethnic Thai food, the largely opinionated Facebook food group people go on and on posting about the greatest new burger in town and then rave about some ribs cooked by Europeans from nations that normally specialize in herring or schnitzel. Granted there is some good western style food here and it literally blows the shit out of Penang’s version but after a while it all seems to blend together. Yearning for the good ol’ days, we put aside the stereotypes associated with cheesy tourist attractions and did the only sensible thing. Looking for a way to further indulge our inner Thai gastronomic urges. we went to a Thai cooking school.

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The First Thanksgiving

Realizing you don’t appreciate the little things in life is very clear to Americans spending their first Thanksgiving Day away from North America. As much as I love Asian good, there’s nothing I miss more than turkey. Eating turkey sandwiches almost daily in my old life along with turkey breasts dinners, turkey burger lunches and almost anything else you can do with the healthier white meat, it’s more American to me than apple pie and Hollywood. With Limited availability on this side of the world, you can find almost anything western in a variety of supermarkets from Penang to Chiang Mai. Sadly, one of the lone exceptions is turkey. Unclear why they eat every organs and body parts of almost very animal found anywhere on the continent but don’t raise commercial turkeys, Diane and I decided we needed a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. Almost an impossible task in Malaysia with frozen turkeys priced upwards of $70 USD in Cold Storage and not enough Yanks for restaurants to waste their time on special occasion dinners, Thailand is the place to be for a holiday dinner. Fortunately, we had plans to visit Hua Hin for a beach vacation anyway and the haze inspired us to extend our time to a thRene week exploratory vacation. Using two different Airbnb hosts to scope out what life might be like in Chiang Mai, we just happened to stroll across a place called Art Cafe right outside the Tha Pae Gate that advertised Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings for a very reasonable price so we made reservations and spent an evening with other American expats enjoying a holiday tradition.

While not the most elaborate holiday meal we’ve ever been served, it did the trick with a pumpkin soup that tasted great and a plate with carved turkey and gravy, mashed or sweet potatoes, veggies, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Feeling like I’d died and gone to food heaven is the only way to describe what it’s like to eat fresh turkey again. Combined with those large Chang beers they serve that are always cold and perfect with food, it was an inspiring meal even if it felt nothing at all like Thanksgiving. Oh, I should mention it just happened to fall in the middle of the three-day Loy Krathong celebration which is simultaneously known as the Yee Ping Festival in Thailand.

 

Having already experienced two weeks of fireworks waking me up every night for Hari Raya and again for a week of Deepavail, we’d become accustomed to Asia’s idea of holidays and festivals. Unlike Americans who now barely even get a half day of holiday thanks to corporate greed, most large stores now open on Thanksgiving Day, forcing millions of retail employees to forego one of the very few holidays per year so shareholders can reap the benefits of more wasteful consumer spending.

Spending the night before Thanksgiving wandering down by the river to see throngs of people enjoying their best attempts at sending lanterns into the sky, we also enjoyed the Thai version of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade complete with brightly lit floats, pretty Thai women decked out in their best ornamental outfits and shirtless guys performing various acts while the crowds cheered and speakers blasted what sounded like North Korean propaganda but was no doubt cheerful banter. Experiencing something very different from Chinese New Year parades was enjoyable and we look forward to future years where we’d probably go away from the main tourist drag and watch the locals celebrate in the suburbs.

On that note, we’re coming to the end of our eight night stay in Hang Dong, a suburb about 12 miles south of the Old City. Investigating how life might be without a car or scooter, tomorrow we move on to a condo near the fashionably cool expat haven known as Nimman, where we’ll get an opportunity to try living within walking distance of almost anything you’d want to do. Suburban Chiang Mai is great and we really enjoyed this quiet little neighborhood where we rented  a three bedroom house for less than $30 a day but without a vehicle , the only option of transportation is flagging down a yellow songthew and cramping into the back for a 20 minute ride. Although it’s cheap (15 Baht per person) to use the scheduled service that runs down the main artery from the Old Town to the southwestern suburbs, it’s hot and the exhaust stinks so it’s not something we’d want to do every day. But we want to thank our host Sallie who picked us up at the is station and was very accommodating. Should you need cheap house rental in the southern suburbs of Chiang Mai, please look her up on Airbnb or email me for contact information.

Our Airbnb rental

Our Airbnb rental

As we spend the last of three weeks in Thailand, we’d like to send a special thanks to our blog friends Brittany and Charlie who answered a bunch of questions for us about living in Chiang Mai. Even making recommendations and giving us contact information, we appreciate their help and hope to finally meet them some time next year depending on their plans. Sporting a very interesting  and insightful blog, we hope you check out The Trading Travelers. Enjoying Thailand immensely, we pretty much see ourselves abandoning Penang in about 18 months when our lease expires and moving here for a while. Although Penang gets the reputation for Southeast Asia’s best food, we respectfully disagree and enjoy the wide assortment of eastern and western food better in Thailand. Incorporating many more fresh green veggies into their food, we find it healthier, tastier and closer to Chinese than the Hokkien style that dominates Penang. But who knows? After this trip it’s off to Tasmania in January for our WorkAway assignment and our minds can be easily swayed. For now, Happy Black Friday. (If you need to ask you don’t need to know).

Borrowing a phrase from my good friend Sylvia, I’d like to coin the phrase “Happy Gratitude Day” and wish everyone worldwide some good cheer. Originally intended for her non-American Facebook friends to celebrate a day of thanks, I think it’s worth repeating and hope everyone has a healthy and happy upcoming holiday season no matter what you celebrate.

Cheers from Chiang Mai.