A trip to Bangkok has long been on our wish list, so we were thrilled to be able to spend a few days in the city recently. Thais are the friendliest people on earth and we felt welcome as soon as we got there. Throw in some amazing food, great shopping, historical sights as well as gorgeous temples and we were ready to move there permanently!
One of the first places we wanted to see in Bangkok was the Grand Palace complex. Even after reading and hearing so much about it, we were completely dazzled by its beauty and sheer magnificence.
The walls are decorated with an inlay work of semi precious stones while golden domes, gilt edged pillars and life sized golden statues add to the grandeur of the place.
One of the city's most well known landmarks, this huge complex was the home of the king and his court as well the place of government for more than 150 years. Within this sprawling complex is also the temple of the Emerald Buddha, a must see sight for any visitor.
Buddhism is an integral part of everyday life in Bangkok. You can pay homage to the Buddha in many of the fabulous temples that dot the city. The most famous of these are Wat Pho with its magnificent, giant statue of the Reclining Buddha, Wat Mahathat, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok and a centre for learning meditation, Wat Phra Kaew or the temple of the Emerald Buddha and the spectacular Wat Arun or the temple of the dawn, built right on the river front.
A lot of the temples, palace complex and other places to see lie along the banks of the Chao Phraya river. A good way to avoid Bangkok's chaotic traffic is to hop aboard a boat, especially in the evening when you can relax in the cool breeze and watch the twinkling lights of the shore. This is still very much a working river and you will see cargo barges sailing amidst river taxis and tourist boats, adding to the bustling atmosphere.
A fun place to stop off on your boat excursion is Asiatique. This huge open air night market is filled with shops, restaurants, street food vendors, entertainment and lots of excitement! We found it to be the perfect place to buy souvenirs and gifts.
The food in Bangkok is waaay better than anything you can imagine! From higher end restaurants such as Baan Khanitha to lowly street food carts, it is all prepared with fresh ingredients, aromatic herbs and lemongrass, with the perfect balance of sweet, sour, spicy and salty. I just couldn't get enough of my favourites such as Pad Thai noodles, papaya salad and green curry or guzzle down buckets of rich Thai iced coffee sweetened with condensed milk!
The word "Mussaman" derives from "Mussalman", the Hindi word for Muslim. Indian sailors and traders, many from Gujarat, have been frequent visitors in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia for over a thousand years, and their cooking techniques have left a long-lasting impression on local cuisines. Mussaman curries are a magical blend of Indian curry spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper with Thai ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal and fish sauce.
We first had this fantastic potato Mussaman curry at the hotel we were staying at in Bangkok. Called AriasomVilla, it is a lovely, charming, green oasis in the middle of a bustling city. It's restaurant Na Aroon is vegetarian with many delicious, authentic Thai dishes on the menu created by chef David Lees. My recipe is based on one generously shared by Chef David, with a few minor changes here and there (with apologies to chef David!). The restaurant uses vegetarian 'chicken', which I have omitted from the recipe, instead adding tomatoes and herbs for colour and flavour.
For variety, add small cubes of tofu or paneer and some green peas along with the potatoes. This curry goes best with plain steamed rice or with warm naan to scoop up the delicious sauce. And the best part is that it tastes even better the next day! If you would like to serve this dish with chicken satay skewers, click here for the recipe.
Mussaman Potato Curry
1 lb baby potatoes, about 14-16 small ones
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch piece ginger or galangal, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass (optional), soft white parts only, roughly chopped
2 tbsp unsalted roasted peanuts
3/4 cup premium canned coconut milk, well shaken
2 tsp each: Thai curry powder, brown sugar, fish sauce or salt to taste
1 cup each: water, halved mini cherry/grape tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp each: chopped fresh cilantro and basil
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add potatoes and cook them until just tender but not mushy or falling apart - about 12 - 15 min. Cool, peel and halve them. Reserve.
Meanwhile, warm oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, ginger or galangal, lemongrass and peanuts. Sauté until lightly browned and softened, about 5-7 min.
Cool slightly (about 5 min), then transfer to the jar of a blender, along with the coconut milk, curry powder, sugar, fish sauce (or salt to taste) and water. Blend to a smooth paste.
Transfer this paste back into the skillet, set over medium heat. Add reserved potatoes, stir to mix, cover skillet and cook until mixture starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 min. or until potatoes are very soft and sauce is thick. Stir occasionally.
Fold in tomatoes, lime juice and fresh herbs. Cover and let curry rest 5 min. before serving.