The ancient, historic town of Ayutthaya, situated about 85 km north of Bangkok, was once the magnificent capital of the great Thai empire that ruled over large areas of south-east Asia from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Named after the legendary city of Ayodhya in India, it reflects the seamless blending of Hindu and Buddhist cultures that is still found in Thailand.
At the height of its powers, Ayutthaya ranked among the world’s greatest cities, with exquisite buildings and an elaborate grid of canals and roads. Visitors from China, India, Japan, Persia, the Arab world and Europe all came to marvel at the wonders of the city, to trade, or to study and worship in one of its many Buddhist monasteries.
Ayutthaya was destroyed by a Burmese army that invaded in 1767 and burned to the ground. The survivors of the attack abandoned the city, and when they rebuilt their capital it was at the present site of Bangkok, whose official title still includes the name of Ayutthaya. The old palaces and temples were left to crumble neglected for over a century while the jungle grew back over them.
Today Ayutthaya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. The Ayutthaya Historical Park, located in the middle of the town, includes some of the most spectacular temples that have been carefully and painstakingly restored. Remains of other temples and monasteries are scattered all around the region and you can easily spend several days trying to visit all of them. Even if you do not have the time to do that, you must spend at least a day here to grasp the glory of the the ancient kingdom of Ayutthaya .
On your way to Ayutthaya you will pass by a touristy, bustling floating market which will provide you with a completely novel shopping experience! If you’re based in Bangkok, there are several authentic floating markets such as Damnoen Saduak, that are within easy traveling distance. It is real fun to cruise along the narrow canals, absorbing the sights, stopping occasionally to sample the wares on offer. Here you will find sellers in boats peddling everything from trinkets and souvenirs to fresh fruit, made to order hot food and even coconut ice cream with all the fixings!
Stir fried noodles are my favourite and I made sure to have some wherever we went. By far, the most fascinating noodles were the ones that were being cooked on boats in the floating markets. To watch these amazing cooks deftly prepare food in the tiny confines of a rocking boat was an experience in itself, but to savour it while gently floating by in our own boat made it that much more memorable.
You can skip the shrimp, eggs and fish sauce and make these noodles vegetarian if desired, and also add other vegetables such as thinly sliced cabbage or green beans. If you can find smoked tofu, use that for the wonderful smoky flavour it adds. These noodles are best eaten fresh out of the pan, so have all the ingredients prepped (as they do on the boats!) and stir fry them just before serving. For more easy and delicious Thai recipes, check out Thai Green Curry Chicken, Red Curry Fish or Mussaman Potato Curry.
Stir Fried Rice Noodles With Vegetables And Shrimp
1/2 lb (225g) dried flat rice noodles (half of a 450g package)
2 tbsp each: light soy sauce, prepared sweetened tamarind sauce or tamarind chutney, tomato ketchup, lime juice
1 tsp each: Thai chili sauce or any hot sauce, fish sauce
1/2 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 10-12)
Salt to taste
4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup small cubes of extra firm tofu
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
6 scallions (green onions), cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts
Lime wedges for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add noodles and switch off the heat. Soak noodles in boiling water until softened, stirring now and then to loosen them, about 3-4 min. Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, tamarind sauce or chutney, tomato ketchup, lime juice, hot sauce and fish sauce. Set aside.
Pat shrimp dry and lightly dust with salt.
Warm 1 tbsp oil in small frying pan over medium high heat. Pour eggs in, make omelet. Shred omelet roughly with spatula. Set aside.
Warm 1 tbsp oil in same frying pan over medium high heat and gently saute the shrimp for 2 min until they are lightly pink and almost cooked. Transfer to a plate and reserve for later use in the recipe.
Wipe down skillet and warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in it over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper. Sauté 4-5 min until lightly browned.
Add tofu cubes, reserved noodles and reserved soy sauce mixture. Mix well, cook 2 min.
Note: Just before adding noodles to skillet, loosen them under running water if they are sticking to each other.
Add reserved shredded omelette, shrimp, bean sprouts, green onions and 2 tbsp of the roasted crushed peanuts (reserve remainder for garnish).
Stir fry gently, tossing with 2 forks until everything is well mixed, about 2-3 min. Transfer to a platter and garnish with peanuts and lime wedges if desired.