Monday, March 27, 2006

Baked Spaghetti

This is my contribution for the monster's 15th birthday 3 sats ago. I had to use the biggest pots we have to cook this 2 kg. mother-of-all-carbo sans the equally heavy sauce, and struggle with all the stirring, transferring, layering, and stuffs just to get this all done in time for lunch.
The recipe i used for the sauce is the classic pinoy style. If the boys like it sweet, then sweet it is. One trick i always do when baking pasta is to not rinse the noodle after it is cooked. Trust me, you'd be needing the extra starch to bind the pasta in place. I have no specific recipe for the spaghetti sauce because i always adjust the taste and spices according to my mood. Just a mental note: i made use of everything (and i mean everything) i had in the kitchen cabinet except for the curry powder (yay...basil, bay leaves, celery, parsley, spanish paprika, italian seasoning, ground pepper, chili powder, garlic name a few?) with no specific measurement as well. What i did was to combine the noodle and sauce in a large pot, reserving some of the sauce for topping. In a shallow baking pan or pyrex dish, layer the pasta and press to make it more compact, followed by the reserved spaghetti sauce, and finish off with the bechamel/white sauce (butter, flour, cream and milk simmered till thick). Bake in a preheated oven for 20-30 minutes (350F). Let stand for another 10 minutes before serving.

My monster suddenly looked tamer in the midst of his more monster-like friends...=P

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Mr. Bob and the Unlucky 4 Club

An excerpt from the very lengthy formal complaint sent to

"At 6:00 PM, a certain "Mr. Bob" picked us up at the hotel lobby going to the boat pier for the Chao Phraya Princess. After Mr. Bob talked to the ticketing staff, we were appalled to be informed that we can't board the boat because our travel agent didn't make any payment to the cruise company. If I remember it right, Mr Bob said, "I want to be honest with you, and I don't want to fool you anymore." And to add insult to injury, he didn't even bother to volunteer contacting your company to help us with the problem. He just led us to a phone booth across the street. When I finally got to speak to Ms. Wichuda, I transferred it to him so that they can arrange the problem right there and then. We went back to the ticket booth, and then to the boarding station. Honestly, we can't understand everything that is happening at that time and we all felt so helpless and fooled. Mr. Bob, once again instructed us to follow him outside, and this time he said that he was going to take us back to our hotel. Of Course, we were all against the idea, and he told us that if we really want to join the cruise we would have to pay it ourselves, which is so ridiculous since we already paid for the tour in advance! After a series of phone calls made by Mr. Bob, we were finally given the boat tickets for the 7:45 PM cruise. The very "tensed" Bob left us after that.

With this, I am demanding a written explanation and apology from your company. "

And the only reply i got was:

Thank you for your valuable feedback. I apology for all the frustrating and unappreciate experience you get. As our company have many section working together, I would take this email for meeting to improving our services and avoid this kind of situation to happen again.

For my opinion, all this happen because we currently are shortage of Tourist Guide. Sometime we have to use the Freelance guide. Though we have the screen the guide freelance, it's happen that they cause problem in some ways. However I don't blame all the problem to them, It all our responsibility to make the good services.

I apologize you and your family members again. I would do my best to stop this kind of problem.

Best Regards

Thanawat Boonyarak (

Executive Director

***haay naku, sa totoo lang i want to edit the letter.=P

Dumbwaiters in Thailand

First House Hotel Elevator- dumbwaiters huh?

A Foodtripper's Adventure in Thailand (Part 4)

Our fourth day was pretty much screwed up when our agent didn't show up for our scheduled Ayutthaya trip. Apparently Feb. 13 is a holiday in Thailand (Buddha Day) and AsiaWorld's hotline couldn't be reached that morning. I headed to the nearby Internet shop to email the agency (they charge 25baht/hour) and just as i was about to return to the hotel, my food radar switched to alert mode the moment it saw the sticky rice and mango hawker on one side of the street. Their mango is very much the same as our local produce from Zambales- sweet and really succulent, whereas the sticky rice falls more on the salty side probably to complement the hot sweetened coconut milk doused over the rice. I had mine with a custard-like topping as an extra for 40baht. I think it was a deliberate overcharge since the vendor knew right on that i was a foreigner. Also, i saw an earlier local customer pay only 20baht for the same stuff.
Now let me tell you about my sweet sticky rice (suman) and mango love story. I basically grew up eating the combination as a treat everytime we'll go on vacation in Zambales. It just surprised me to learn that other people find this a bit odd and haven't tried it yet. When travels to the province lessened as i grew up, my mom would cook her own version of this coconut sticky rice and serve it alongside ripe mangoes from her hometown. Delish! Thais just serve it differently but its basically the same, it's just that theirs is very well marketed.
Going back to Bangkok, i returned to the hotel only to find out that Joy was able to contact the agency and they'll get back to us the moment they sorted the problem out. Meanwhile, the two went ahead for more shopping in Pratunam, while i went with Anne to scout for good finds in the same area.
By lunch time, i was able to talk to our agent and we agreed upon the Chao Phraya Dinner Cruise later that night in exchange for the blown up Ayutthaya trip which we was the original plan. We then headed out for lunch at the nearby Platinum Mall, while mom and Joy took theirs in the hotel resto.
By 6pm, a certain Mr. Bob picked us up and off we went to hell. I'll be needing a separate post for this because what happened was really unthinkable.
Now let's move on to the dinner cruise.

After a roller coaster ride with the agent, we finally boarded the Chao Phraya Princess at 8pm for the 2 hour cruise around the famous river. I am compelled to say that this is definitely a must-try for tourists and it is the most perfect way to end a Thailand vacay. Anyhoo, what about the food? The buffet table is divided into traditional Thai and International food selections. Good thing there were more than just Thai offering because by the fourth day, seemed like we would all gag by the mere smell of it.

My only gripe is that it was rather windy due to the open air set-up, thus you really have to eat fast otherwise you'll be eating your dinner cold. I didn't mind anyway. How can you concentrate on your plate when you are being surrounded by the magnificent views of Bangkok by night? It was all together lovely and romantic if i may add.
A showband was also on-board, and we did ended the cruise dancing the night away. Mom must have enjoyed it so much she even forgot her daughters were there and danced with a complete stranger=P.
After savoring our last breakfast in the hotel, we pulled off the last leg of our Bangkok shopping spree to maximize our time. The airport transfer arrived at 9:30am for our 12:15 noon flight going back to Manila.

Just as the plane was about to take off, i overheard a bejeweled Pinay, in an almost angry voice, say to the veela-like stewardess: "The three pieces of children...blah blah blah...".

The travel ended with me watching Elizabethtown while enjoying lunch at the plane.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Foodtripper's Adventure in Thailand (Part 3)

Our third day in the city is all about shopping. From the hotel, we hailed a cab (35baht flag down rate) that took us to the BTS Phaya Thai station going to Mon Chit (25baht) where the Chatuchak Weekend Market is located. Chatuchak is probably one of the world's biggest bazaar, and i could very well compare it to BF Ruins x 100, if you're familiar with it.
Finally we were able to have our money converted into bahts right in time for shopping. From Chatuchak we split into two groups (mom-joy; me-anne) agreeing to meet up by lunch time at the bank situated right in the center of the bazaar.

Just as we were walking in the main pathway, i saw this stall selling local ice cream in what else but young coconut flavor. The exciting part is that you get to choose two toppings of your own with choices that range from sweet-sticky rice, corn, sweet potato, taro, nata, peanut, etc. I had taro and nata on mine, topped with milk for only 20baht.
As expected, i eventually lost sight of my sister, who, by the way lost total control of her shopping in return. Frankly, though, i don't like shopping in Chatuchak because of the heat and confusion one could get by just going around half the area. It's so big i was not able to explore a good portion of it, largely because of fear that i will never find my way back. As i was strolling along one side of the street, again something yummy-looking caught my fancy. For 20baht, i was able to buy this mini-custard filled pastries which i have no pictures of anyway.

For the record, the lunch i had in Chatuchak was the spiciest i had in the city. We were in some sort of a mad rush to get back for more shopping that we opted to buy food in this stall where most of the locals flock for lunch. I had this non-assuming veggie dish for 25baht, that upon closer look reveals the uber generous presence of chili seeds in it. I insisted on eating half of it and ended up having stomach burns. Good thing, the brewed iced coffee i bought for 15baht helped wash away most of the sting in my mouth.
After lunch, we were once again separated, but this time, we no longer caught sight of each other in the area. We agreed to meet up by 2pm but Joy and Mom "claimed" that they got lost and so the chain of unplanned events happened. Before leaving the area, my food radar got so distracted with this small resto beside the waiting area serving this green dessert. I'm fascinated with the idea that it serves only this particular food and people just kept on coming non-stop. I had my dose for 15baht/bowl and until now i'm still wondering what it is. At that time i'm 100% convinced that it's the Thai's own version of our local buco-pandan but when i tasted it i'm not so sure anymore. The thought still haunts me until now. Have i just eaten green worms or is it cold green pasta swimming in iced coconut milk? Whatever.

Anne and i went back to the Phaya Thai station, notwithstanding the heavy rainfall, and took a cab going to Mah Boon Krong (MBK) Shopping Center. The mall is disappointing- and i mean that to the highest level. We could have just spent the time we wasted there exploring Chatuchak for more finds. To compensate for the waste of time, i shopped for groceries instead, and i'm so glad i did. Nestle yoghurts are sold for roughly around 10baht/cup and even cheaper if you buy in packs of 4. They even offer flavors not locally sold here such as blueberry and sweet corn. I bought a dozen to take home. One more thing i noticed is that bottled water is super cheapest in Thailand. We've been buying 1.5L of Nestle pure since our first day and it only costs 13baht in 7-eleven, and 11baht in larger grocery stores.

Anyhoo, back in the hotel, we found each other in time for dinner. Apparently mom and Joy were also at MBK mall and even hopped to Siam Square for a quick browse around. Dinner is at the hotel resto were we had this awesome Phad Thai, stir fried veggies, and ground sweet basil chicken which is a misnomer as it turned out spicy hot once again.

Where else can you get an authentic Thai massage than in Thailand itself. I just learned that they even have this some kind of central massage school in Wat Pho where masseurs learn the art of Thai massage the traditional way. I had my massage with my sister at the spa beside the hotel for only 250baht/hour and its really good, save for the part where i almost freaked out when the masseuse cracked my neck like how barbers do it here. I don't know if its really a part of it because when i asked the rest of the family if they got the same neck-cracking experience they looked at me like i'm a maniac. At least mine was different.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Foodtripper's Adventure in Thailand (Part 2)

We were all up by 5AM on our second day due to a scheduled out of town sightseeing tour via I was able to book this tour online more than a week before the trip just so to avoid all the hassles when we get there.
Fortunately the driver was prompt in the 6:20 pick-up time. We were then transferred to a tourist bus, along with the other farangs (foreigners) and left Bangkok a little before 8am.
First stop is the Damnern Saduak Floating Market, a certified tourist spot where everything is overpriced. Even the boat ride of 150baht/head is just so unbelievable leaving tourists with no choice but to grab it anyway. What's worse is that our paddler was an old lady with a really short temper (slapped my hand when i accidentally placed it outside the boat). Imagine my shock!

We weren't able to buy anything since it was all unreasonably priced. Good thing I spotted this sort of coconut dumpling with lettuce for 20baht and young coconut juice again for a cheaper deal of 10baht. The dumplings taste somewhat like a milder version of our local bucaio and i'm guessing that it was intended to be eaten wrapped in the lettuce leaves that comes with it. I ate it that way anyhoo and totally enjoyed it.

Next stop was the cobra show, which was not included in the itinerary. It was after all a deliberate scam and tourists were made to pay a separate 200baht for the show. We didn't bite. That sidetrip turned out to be the root cause of all the delays in all that followed after.

We arrived so late at the Samphran Elephant Ground Zoo that we literally had to run the entire time we were there to catch up with time. The buffet lunch was really superb, more so because all of us were just so darn hungry for a late lunch at 1:30pm. And just as i was about to pop a watermelon into my mouth, the conniving Mr. One (our tourist guide) was back announcing that the elephant show had started, signalling the end of my afternoon bliss. We missed a good portion of the show but had fun nevertheless. The crocodile show that came after isn't even worth mentioning. Interaction and photo opportunity with adorable baby elephants was the highlight of the zoo.

Next stop is the Rose Garden for the cultural show. Honestly, a good half of the show is reminiscent of grade school field demonstrations because of its sort of cornball presentation. The better deal is that we all got to ride an elephant for a 50baht/head fee for a quick tour around the garden.

An afternoon tea followed at the jewelry factory again. Agents are serious about this stop because of the gas money they get in exchange for requiring tourists to stop by in the area. We were back in the hotel by 5:30pm.

By 6pm, Anne and i decided to go to the Pratunam Center for some possible shopping. Unfortunately, stores close early in Bangkok and what's left in the nightmarket are either overpriced or no good at all. Mom, on the other hand couldn't wait no more, and had Joy accompany her for an authentic dose of Thai Massage at the spa beside our hotel.

It's our second day in bangkok and we haven't had a decent dinner yet because of our street food indulgence. Bahtless still, i had my sister buy me some watermelon (can't get enough of this baby!) for 10baht and ready-to-eat pomelo (comes with a sugar-chili dip), 20baht, to munch along the way. The other girls bought some steamed corns (comes with a coconut-sugar dip) that turned out surprisingly good albeit different, and did not resist the urge to buy the much needed fix of chips, cookies, and chocolate drink to wash the all the spice away.

A Foodtripper's Adventure in Thailand (Part 1)

To shop and to eat. That is my great Thailand motto.

We left Manila via Kuwait Airways at 11:15pm, Feb 9, and arrived at Bangkok after the 3.45 hour trip. Time difference is an hour less in Thailand. Anyhow, i slept for only 10 mins in the plane out of sheer excitement, full stomach (yes, i dig plane food), and the distraction of a good movie since Just Like Heaven is being shown.

The plane landed at around 2am the next day, and we finally checked-in at the First House Hotel at 3am. Notwithstanding the lack of sleep, we still had our half-day city tour scheduled at 8am, the same day.

Now let me tell you about breakfast. Breakfast is inclusive in the hotel package and i'm sure glad it is. Chicken noodle soup is an everyday staple, and so are rice and veggies. You wouldn't imagine how happy i was with this setup. The first time i saw the buffet table, i couldn't contain my emotion and almost shouted "I heart your buffet breakfast!" now pass me the plate please. And yes, my love affair with tea and cream started in Bangkok.

Moving on, our tour guide picked us up at the scheduled time and off we proceeded to the temple tours. First stop is at the Wat Pho, where the Temple of the Reclining Buddha can be found. Next we went to visit the Wat In, where the standing buddha can be found, the leather shop, and finally the jewelry factory.

Temples are boring. Now let's go to where the action is.

By lunch time, we were munching away at the street hawkers corner right beside our hotel at the Pratunam area. Communication was really bad, and my other sister, Anne, got really pissed off because one of the noodle vendor in the area wouldn't sell her anything despite pointing the food and sign language. Oh well, mom and i were able to buy this cooked-like-tempura shrimp for 20baht since i'm still full from my breakfast feast. Joy went for a chicken noodle soup (20baht), and Anne finally got around to buying a decent rice meal of her own.

My radar went full blast as soon as laid my eyes upon this old vendor selling some kind of a create-your-own guinataang halohalo-like food at one corner of the street. True enough, the old lady cannot speak English, but my pointing skills worked and i was rewarded with a sweetened cassava-sticky rice-coconut milk concoction for only 7baht (would you believe?!?) I don't really know what it is called, but the thing with her stall was that you get to pick the combination, and the lady will mix everything before your very eyes. Anne, got her own as well, but overdid it with the combination of banana-langka-tapioca-and other stuffs that turned out overly sweet after all.

We returned to the hotel for the much needed sleep after lunch. But i can't. Just as i was about to sneak out of the room. Anne woke up to my dismay and insisted on coming with me for a quick walk around the area. After an hour, we returned back to the hotel only to find mom and Joy waiting for us at the lobby. We then took a walk to the main road in search for a currency exchanger not realizing that it was a little after five which is beyond the closing time of banks.

Again, i was so distracted with the street hawkers grilling waffles, and mini pancake-like stuffs that i just had to have one of those myself. Mom was completely grossed-out and kept warning me to stop buying street foods (btw, they grill by their hands) but i gave in anyway. The little pancakes i bought turned out some kind of little coconut cakes that comes in plain and looks-like-chocolate-but-doesn't-taste-like-one flavor, which btw is completely delish for only 20baht.

The early street food adventure must have been too much for a "mature" first-timer like mom. She was lbm-stricken that afternoon. And so all three of us, minus mom of course, still proceeded to explore the hard-core Pratunam area. No serious shopping yet. And so once again, we were confronted with a street lined with hawkers of all sorts. To buy or not to buy is not the question. Given the chance, I would have bought all the street foods right then and there but i have no baht of my own. Fortunately, i was able to snag a couple of baht from mom to continue the food tripping adventure.

Yes, there were fried insects, and no i didn't try it. The young coconut juice is absolutely divine for only 15baht. Don't think that this is the same from our local buco juice because it doesn't even come close, at least for me. The taste is so sweet, coconutty, and beyond the beyond. We also bought papaya and yellow watermelon for 10 baht each for some munchies at the hotel. My two sisters, ordered a take-away beef and veggies meal (quite pricey for 100+baht) at a nearby resto, which by the way smelled and tasted so blechhhh because of the coriander overload.

Next stop was to buy a cup noodle for my poor mom. I was able to find a Nissin noodle (thank heavens!) at a 7-eleven store which, by the way, turned out spicy as well.

And that was just our first day.