Dinner at Gaggan Bangkok

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Gaggan Anand is an Indian native that established Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok in 2010. The restaurant serves molecular style food based to a large extent on Indian cuisine. It has been named the best restaurant in Thailand as well as in all of Asia. 

We went to Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok last year (and Nahm which I’m hoping to write about too) and it was spectacular. Given the low price compared to a similar (probably less good) experience  in say Europe, Gaggan is almost a must if visiting Bangkok and enjoying (amazing) food. Gaggan was an experience in both terms of food and fun. Clever and creative dishes mixed with some good old tastiness made our dinner there one of the best I’ve ever experienced.
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Indian street food bites. For instance you ate the whole bag, plastic and all, of nuts. Then you realised that it wasn’t actual plastic even though the first bite made you think and feel so. Instead the “plastic” evaporated in our mouths and elevated the spiced nuts. So good, and so clever.

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“Say cheese”: Hot soufflé of cheese and crispy rice cereals, green chilly oil. Probably my least favourite dish of the night. Still good though.
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Sandwich: Foié gras mousse, onion water baguette, onion chutney and hazelnut candy.

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Keema Pao sliders.

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Down to Earth: Summer vegetables (asparagus, morels, mushrooms, artichokes) with a 62C egg yolk and truffle chilli.

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Charcoal: “Be surprised! We wont tell you what it is.” (It was seabass)
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River king: fresh water prawns grilled in the tandoor with  curry leaf infusion and mango chutney. This dish was great, despite that the manager came and fed me a part of the prawn that I’d missed. Shame on me, I guess.

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Angry bird: slow cooked country Thai native chicken in an Indian style curry. Maybe the most ‘ordinary’ dish of the night. But still so good.
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Made in Japan: Matcha tea cake with wasabi.

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“Magnum”: homemade icecream cake pops.

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And of course, no “coffee candy” without dry ice show off when at a fancy ‘molecular’ restaurant.

All in all as mentioned above, a really fantastic experience. Well worth a visit in my mind. Visit Gaggan’s website for reservations and menus.

Larb gai recipe


Last year I visited Thailand, and for the first time I tried the dish larb, something I’ve been wanting to try for a long time. Larb is a salad common in Northern Thailand as well as in Laos. It contains ground toasted rice and herbs and can be made with several proteins. Some use raw beef, some use pork mince, I had it with guinea fowl in a spectacular version at Nahm in Bangkok, and you could also, like me, use chicken for this fresh tasting flavour explosion of a dish. A salad in my taste.

What you need
Minced chicken/chicken chopped finely
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh coriander/cilantro
1 Green chilli (or use chilli flakes – or like I did, both)
3 stalks of spring onion (the green stuff)
2 shallots
3 deciliter of jasmine rice (get Thai long grain if possible)

For Thai salad dressing
2 limes
2-3 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
1-2 teaspoons of caster sugar

How to cook it
1. Start with the salad dressing. Roll the whole limes for a bit against the table, this will make it easier to squeeze out the juice. Then cut limes in half and press the juice into a bowl. Add fish sauce and caster sugar. Stirr with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Time to toast the rice. Toast a deciliter of rice in a dry pan until it’s is quite brown but not burnt. When it smells toasty it’s probably about done. Ground the rice in a blender or by using a mortal and pestle.

3. Continue with the chicken. Fry the mince or the chopped chicken until done. Set aside.

4. Roughly chop mint leaves, coriander and spring onion stalks. Finely slice the green chilli if you’re using one. Then mix everything together and pour over the dressing. Let rest for a while and then served together with steamed rice and possibly a cold beer.

Eating in fantastic Singapore

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After our recent visit to Manila and Boracay, we ended the trip with a visit to one of my favorite cities in the world: Singapore.

We flew sort of direct (a short stop in Cebu, then back onboard the same plane) from Boracay with Singapore Airline’s “low cost” affilliate Silkair, which proved to be very nice. They had a wireless onboard entertainment system that you could use on your own device (no wifi though), tasty food and complimentary drinks.

I’ve visited Singapore once before, and by then I had the idea that I think many have of a futuristic little city country with harsh laws, extreme cleanliness and a general feeling of surveillance. I did not get that feeling at all when visiting fortunately, and neither did I this time. They have harsh punishments for certain crimes, true. But as a foodie destination I really love it. It’s clean – yes, but more in a no-rats-and-no-trash-in-the-water kind of way than in a scary way. Anyway, we began our trip by using the limo company Blacklane for the first time. They are sort of like Uber, but you can pre-book them which is handy. A friendly guy named Herman picked us up in a spectacular Mercedes and we were driven to our hotel Sofitel So Singapore for not much more than a taxi. We used a discount code though, but they are easy to find by a quick google search. In our fancy ride from the airport, driver Herman told us about our hotel being very close to Lau Pa Sat, a large outdoor (and indoor) food market in the middle of the Singapore CBD. Anyway, below is the best we had.

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Blacklane pick-up from Changi Airport. Complimentary food advise was given.

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Bak Kut The aka “meat bone tea”. A tasty, spicy broth with pork ribs and condiments. Had at Ng Ah Sio in Marina Bay Sands mall’s food court.
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Chicken and prawn satay (grilled skewers) with peanut sauce, cucumber, raw onion and a pitcher of Tiger Beer. So good.
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Grilled beef satay.
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Built in the 19th century, Lau Pa Sat or Telok Ayer Market has for a long time provided food to hungry visitors. These days, they close the street in the evenings when the satay stalls lit up their barbecues where they produce some of the best skewers I’ve ever had. The atmosphere, prices and food was actually so good that we spent four out of six nights at Lau Pa Sat. Either for food, or just for a beer on our way back to the hotel.
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One of Singapore’s most famous dishes: The Chilli Crab. A giant steamed crab that is then stir-fried in a spicy and sweet chilli sauce and served with “mantou” deep-fried buns that you use to soak up the sauce. Chilli crab is a messy but fantastic experience of sweet crab meat, spicy sauce and crunchy fluffy mantou buns. Don’t forget to buy napkins from the vendors.
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Really delicious Korean fried chicken at “4 Fingers Crispy Chicken”. The kimchi coleslaw was spectacular in its obvious tastiness.

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Fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, fold again, fold, fold, fold AND fold. DTF’s dumplings are folded at least 18 times. And they are crazy delicious.
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Dan Dan noodles (spicy sesame and peanut) DSC_0447
Chilli and cucumber salad.
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Sautéed water spinach.
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Taiwanese pork chop with egg fried rice.
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Xiao long bao.

Din Tai Fung is an old favorite of mine since my student days in Sydney where first got our addiction. Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese chain of restaurants that these days is operating in both Asia, Australia and the US. They just opened shop in Dubai, so they’re at least moving towards Europe. A few of their outlets (at least in Hong Kong) has been awarded Michelin stars, and that is despite not being particularly fancy or expensive.

Din Tai Fung’s most famous dish is the xiao long bao aka the soup dumpling. XLBs are basically dough that is folded at least 18 times and wrapped around meat and jellied meat broth, that melts when the dumplings are steamed. That means that when you bite into the dumpling you will experience light dough, meat, and soupy broth at the same time. You will also get the sensation of dipping them into the DIY dipping sauce of hot chilli paste, soy, ginger and black vinegar. It is ridiculously tasty and I try to visit Din Tai Fung each time I’m at a place who has one.

We ate at Din Tai Fung Marina Bay Sands and it was delicious, of course. Except for the XLB, Din Tai Fung also have a few other dishes that’s really delicious. Our standard order is above water spinach, chilli-cucumber salad, spicy dan dan noodles, and Taiwanese pork chop with egg fried rice. Washed down with a Taiwanese beer it is definitely one of my all time favorite meals.
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Light show every night (free) at Marina Bay Sands. Bonus views of the pretty CBD skyline all night long.
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There’s actually decent beaches in Singapore. This one on Sentosa Island.
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Above is Hainanese chicken rice from vendors “Tian Tian chicken Rice” and “Ah Tai” in Maxwell Food Centre. When I last visited Singapore there was a chicken rice war between the two, since Ah Tai used to work for Tian Tian but then got fired/resigned and started his own shop in the same hawker centre. Last time I thought the rebel chicken rice stall Ah Tai had the better version, this time I’d say that Tian Tian had reclaimed the Hainanese chicken rice victory.
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Lunch at Lagnaa in Little India. Tasty butter chicken, palak paneer, jeera rice and naan.
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One of the last dinners of the trip was at Equinox restaurant. Equinox is located in the Swissotel Stamford building, located on the 70th floor. The food is not fantastic, but still very tasty, and the view is really to die for. Above is a rib-eye steak with marrow bone, black truffle butter and black truffle mac n’ cheese (that was amazing). Prices are quite high, but are kind of worth it since food is good and view’s as mentioned fantastic. If you’re after view but do not want to pay 100 SGD for a steak, you can do like we did last time and visit the adjacent New Asia Bar for a drink instead.
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Delicious Godiva Soft Serve ice cream at Godiva, Suntec City Mall.
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Our last dinner in Singapore was at Yayoiken Japanese restaurant. The place is very high tech and you order and pay for all food and drinks through a table-side tablet. We had tonkatsu, tempura prawns and gyoza which all were really delicious. Prices were really good too.
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A visit to the “Arab Quarter” where we visited the beautiful Masjid Sultan Mosque and had a tasty falafel at House of Kebab.
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Then it was time to fly home. The flight from Singapore to Bangkok offered this sunset as well as Charles Heidsieck champagne and lobster thermidor onboard Singapore Airlines.

The best Boracay food and restaurants

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Sitting on the plane bound for Singapore at the moment and thinking back on the Boracay experiences from the last seven days. Boracay, as you may know, is an island in the South China Sea, mainly famous for its pretty beaches, more specifically “White Beach”.

Prana Restaurant
But if you know me, you know it won’t be just beach life. One has to eat too. On Boracay, we stayed at the Mandala Spa and Resort, situated among lush greenery on top of a hill overlooking the ocean. Since we arrived quite late we opted to have our first meal there, a miniature tuna dish and healthy Thai red curry with whole grain rice in the resort’s Prana restaurant.

Mandala Spa and Resort
Mandala Spa has a massive focus on health and relaxation. So much that we were upgraded to a “Digital Detox Villa” that lacked both wifi and a TV. Even worse, the mini bar was only stocked with things like dried mango, healthy nuts and organic wine. That is no wifi, no tv and no beer. I felt like I was part of the movie “Couples’ Retreat”. Fortunately things improved. The TV, i could not do much about, but we cheated on our digi detox-room with locally purchased sim cards. To be honest, the reliability was quite poor, but it worked better than no internet at all (to the resort’s defence there was free wifi in the lobby). We also bought local beer from the local super market, and abrakadabra, the only-organic-wine-issue was a thing of history as well.

In all seriousness, the Mandala Resort and Spa is probably one of the better places I’ve stayed in, and despite I can’t really live without internet, the villa, the surroundings an the staff was really great. The food’s a bit expensive though, and portions are a bit small. You do feel however, that there is some serious thought into the options, all I tried was quite delicious despite being made extra healthy. Especially their breakfast dishes were really delicious, although slightly pricy compared to other options on nearby White Beach.

The food of Boracay

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Above: tuna main course, as well as quinoa pancakes with mango for breakfast at Prana, Mandala Spa and Resort.

If healthy holistic food is not what you’re after in Boracay there are several other options waiting for you. We did quite a lot of research before our trip and tried a lot of different places on Boracay and being an island, there aren’t any fantastic food experiences, but still very good food to be had. Below are my favourites.

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Above: Choriburger, wonut and giant pancakes at Sunny Side Cafe.

Sunny Side Cafe

Our first day we had dinner at the Sunny Side Cafe. The Sunny Side Cafe has (at least) two sister restaurants on the island, Spicebird and Super Magic Burger, and is a modern hipsterish coffee shop meets restaurant. They are serving western-style breakfast dishes like French toast, pancakes, grilled sandwiches and really good coffee as well as twists on local favourites like the Chori-burger, a delicious spicy chorizo burger with a sweet and spicy tomato dressing, served in one of Sunny Side’s fluffy brioche buns. We actually went back several times to the SSC and enjoyed both their eggs benedict made with perfectly poached eggs on English muffins with hollandaise and thick cut bacon. I also tried their ginormous pancakes with cream cheese and mango. Sort of pricy for Boracay, but very good food and drinks. Not to miss is also their dessert “wonut”, which is a deep-fried waffle which we opted for having served with fresh mango, whipped cream and nutella. So unhealthy, so delicious.
Prices: $$$

Location: pretty close to station 3


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Above: Pandan pancakes filled with “lechon” suckling pig, as well as stir-fried lechon at Mesa.

Mesa
Mesa is a sort of fancy Filipino restaurant chain that we saw both in Manila and on Boracay. One of the perks of eating at Mesa Boracay is that they have extended the restaurant (although many White Beach restaurants did this) on to the beach itself. So you sit on the beach itself enjoying dinner. From my experience this is something you usually have to pay extra for in certain resorts. So I found it very nice. Anyway, the food at Mesa is very nice and especially so is the crispy lechon. Lechon is basically a roasted suckling pig, a very popular dish in the Philippines. At Mesa, you order from 1/6 of a lechon (which the two of us did) up to an entire pig. The lechon is served two ways, sliced in pandan pancakes and then the remaining lechon is stir-fried in chili and garlic. Sort of like peking duck. Except for the pandan pancakes that were on the dry side, the both dishes were really delicious. The stir-fried suckling pig (note that they stir-fry the already crispy roasted pig) was really something. Best dish we had on Boracay, but also the most expensive at around 1 000 ++ Php.
Location: Close to station 2 at the Henan Resort (former Boracay Regency).
Prices $$$

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Above: Pizza at Aria.

Aria
One night we did a short break in our Filipino eating experiences since we were both desperately craving pizza. We did a little research about the local pizza situation, and based on empirical evidence from a walk-by combined with written reviews we went for Aria restaurant. Aria is an Italian restaurant located adjacent to D’ Mall near Station 2, and I read good things about their truffle pasta, but it was pizza that was the focus of the night. We ordered a Greek pizza, with olives and feta, and a “Diavolo” with mozzarella and spicy salami. Pizza’s were surprisingly great and I really enjoyed mine. The dough was nearly perfect but the mozzarella cheese could have been better.
Prices $$$

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Above: Smoke Resto, bulalo and crispy pata, at Smoke Resto.

Smoke Resto
When visiting Manila, one of our taxi drivers started chatting with us about Filipino food, and I asked him about his favorite dish. “Bulalo” he answered, and as it happened, Smoke Resto on Boracay had been awarded for the best bulalo in the entire Philippines. Smoke Resto is an authentic Filipino place situated in sort of an alleyway just off White Beach. We arrived quite early and was immediately seated at a table, however just a couple of minutes later the place was full and a line had formed. We ordered (of course) the bulalo, which is a soup with beef shanks and marrow bones that are cooked for a long time to make a really flavoursome broth as well as melt-in-your-mouth-tender meat. I can see why they won their award, a seriously tasty soup. We also tried “crispy pata” which basically was a deep-fried “schweinshaxe” or pork shank, and we also had their beef in dark soy and garlic sauce served with rice. All their dishes were quite simple in look and ingredients, but so tasty, as well as inexpensive. An added benefit was that the place felt really authentic, much more so than many places on the White Beach Strip.
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Above: Garlic fried chicken at Gerry’s Grill.

Gerry’s Grill
We visited Gerry’s Grill first in Manila and then again on Boracay when we learnt of its existence. Food was as good as in Manila and we tried their pancit noodles, their pork floss adobo, garlic fried chicken, water spinach and grillad pork skewers. Everything delicious, although not spectacular. Prices are very good though.
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Above: D’Talipapa market action as well as our prawns that was bought at the market and then cooked at Sababi Paluto restaurant.

D’ Talipapa and Sababi Paluto restaurant
The local wet market on Boracay is called D’ Talipapa and is located along the main road a few blocks from White Beach. We had a bit of a struggle to find it, but if you walk up to the main road along the street up from White Beach that passes a McDonald’s, you’re on the right way. When you reach the main road, turn right and just walk a couple of meters until you see signs to D’Talipapa. You can also reach it through the alleyways from White Beach strip. Can’t really give a good description for that though. Well, the experience then. We visited quite early in the day, and the market was quite relaxed. The idea is that you purchase fresh or still alive seafood or fish from the vendors, you need to haggle a bit. We did not reach that great of a deal, but we were happy with the small discount we got as it was a fun experience first and foremost. We bought a dozen of prawns and went to the nearby Sababi Paluto restaurant since they had the most customers. Paluto means that they cook the food you bring according to your instructions, and we got a small menu with prices for the different options available and opted to have our prawns sautéed in butter, garlic and a hint of chili. The food took a little while to arrive, and meanwhile we could enjoy watching the grill chef cooking others guest’s whole fish fillets, making us regret only buying prawns. The food arrived and was really delicious. Although the prawns were slightly expensive, having them cooked was not, so all in all it turned out to be one of our both best and most inexpensive meals of the week on Boracay. Very recommended both for the experience and the tasty food.
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Above: Real Coffee Boracay’s chicken sandwich, coffee, juice and kalamansi muffin.

Real Coffee Boracay
They have dishes like grilled sandwiches but are famous for their kalamansi muffin which I found was the best of the things I tried. Coffee is also better at Sunny Side (above).
Location: just outside D’Mall with views over the beach from second floor.
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Above: Juice at Jonah’s fruit shake.

Jonah’s fruit shake
On main road, so a bit of treck through alleys if you’re going from White Beach as we did. Worth the walk though, ask a local if you can’t find it. Note: it seems like there was (or still is) a Jonah’s on White Beach itself, but we couldn’t find it. So we walked from about Gerry’s Grill towards the main road and managed to find it after asking a few locals. It’s not far, and the fruit juices and shakes are delicious.
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Eating in Manila



After an amazing flight in Thai Airways’ first class (no, I did not win the lottery, I just saved up on air miles) we touched down at Ninoy Aquino International Airport for three days of eating and exploring the Filipino capital and mega city Manila.

Since we got a really nice price (for a Peninsula) we opted to stay at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, situated in Makati, one of sixteen cities that make up Metro Manila – an area with a 35 million population.

Our first day was spent mainly lazying around the hotel and its vicinity. We had a pretty good, but by Manila standards hideously expensive, dinner in the hotel’s Spices restaurant featuring Pancit stir-fried noodles with pork, chicken and prawns. We also had Inihaw Baboy, a grilled pork dish.


  
 Intramuros, inside the old Spanish walls

Our second day was spent touring Manila’s walled city, or old town Intramuros (inside the walls) built by the Spanish in the late 1500s. We selected to get a private tour with “Yolo Tours” which for a reasonable price merged their Intramuros and food tour into a one day experience.

We begun by visiting the Manila Cathedral where we managed to walk right into an Easter mass attended by lots of locals. The Philippines is quite religious and roughly 85 percent consider themselves Christian.

During the World War II Intramuros was heavily damaged (according to our guide basically flattened out) by American bombings of the occupying Japanese invaders. One church in the area managed to survive the war though, the impressive San Agustin Church that was opened in 1607. A hidden secret rests in the church’s ceiling and walls. What you ask?  Read on next week and I’ll tell… Just kidding. The secret: All the stone carvings are actually painted.

  

  
  
  
 Bull’s ball soup in Binondo

After the interesting and sometimes sad history lesson of Intramuros, Manila and the Philippines we went on to Binondo, Manila’s Chinatown.

Our first stop was the Café Mezzanine, a place that the local volunteer fire brigade additionally had as their hang out between alarms. We did not experience it, but the restaurant has their own alarm bell, signaling the firemen when there is a nearby fire. We were their for a couple of dishes. First and foremost the soup number five.

Soup number five is a potent (pun intended) soup with bull’s testicles as its main ingredient. It felt somewhat appropriate to enjoy balls for which the restaurant profits went to the volunteer firemen which definitely showed some balls putting out fires in their spare time. How was it then? The soup’s broth was quite tasty. Salty and fatty. The bull’s balls themselves weren’t the best thing I have had, but tasted basically like fatty beef.

We also tried the slightly more easily digested pork and chive dumplings which was dipped in a soy, chili and kalamansi (local lime:ish fruit) dipping sauce.

Next stop was “Sincerity Cafe and Restaurant” where we had crispy Filipino spring rolls, or “Lumpia”. We also had a quite delicious crispy fried oyster cake; sort of like an omelete-pancake with fresh coriander. The final thing we tried at Sincerity was “Machang”, sticky rice with pork and chicken mixed into it, and then baked in pandan leaves. Filipino paella, according to our guide.

Next stop was a fried “Siopao”, a steamed bun, sort of like a bao. The bun was filled with salty and slightly sweet pork, and was in addition to steamed fried on one side.

 

I love Halo-halo

Since we took the tour on a Sunday, a few of the restaurants that was normally on the tour weren’t open. Because of this our guide threw in a few extras and we got to try our first halo-halo at national chain Chowking.

Chowking’s halo-halo was surprisingly good to be honest. Halo-halo means ‘mix-mix’ in Tagalog and that pretty much what you do. You receive a bowl with ube (purple yam) ice cream, evaporated milk (the stuff you cook for dulce de leche), leche flan (egg custard), coconut, shaved ice, jack fruit strips, sweetened white and black beans, plantains and jelly which you mix-mix together. It’s fresh, it’s desserty at the same time, and it’s really good.

After the final food item had been injested the tour finished and we went back to our hotel to pass out for a while.


  
Filipino food in Greenbelt

After waking up from our bull’s ball and halo-halo inflicted sleep we needed more food. Close to the Peninsula is the Greenbelt shopping area, a mall complex with restaurants, shops and so on. By advise from our guide we went to a Filipino restaurant there called Gerry’s Grill. We tried “Sizzling pork sisig”, fried pork parts (such as snouze, liver and ears) that was served with kalamansi lime and suppossedly is a popular beer snack.

We also had lechon kawali which is roasted suckling pig belly. We had it with garlic rice and wilted water spinach and it was quite enjoyable and price (1100 php for two including 2 beers each) felt reasonable for the area.


    

One of the best hotel breakfasts and THE BEST goat tacos

Day three was spent lazying around the hotel for the first part of the day. The Peninsula served up a really good breakfast buffet with both tasty bread (usually hard to find); crispy bacon (also rare on buffets); fresh tropical fruit; yoghurts; cold cuts; local food like pancit noodles, garlic rice and pork adobo; pancakes; waffles – they also had an egg station and my first ever seen juice station. In addition to that they had some seriously good homemade pastries. My favourite one was a mango and vanilla cream Danish pastry with the fresh melting-in-your-mouth mango slices and the soft smooth vanilla cream contrasted by the perfectly crunchy danish. Mm-mm-mm.

After hyper-ventilating for a couple of hours we were again hungry. Based on advise from a couple of friends we set foot on a place called “El Chupacabra”, or “the goat sucker”. The chupacabra is a goat blood-sucking creature that according to some is a myth.

Nevertheless, we were their to suck some goat ourselves, and after some initial confusion we managed to find the place in an alley close to Makati Avenue (totally walkable from Peninsula/Greenbelt Area).

We ordered the spicy goat meat taco (cabrito) and the “al pastor”. Both were seriously good, I would stretch as far as to say that the goat taco was the best I’ve ever had. Spicy, tender meat, super-thin corn tortillas and simple yet delicious condiments. Good prices too, so definitely a must visit if you like tacos and find yourself in Manila.

  

  
A tenth of a sunset and Jollibee

The rest of the day was spent in the giant Mall of Asia where we went to see the Manila Bay-sunset. Although we couldn’t see that much of it due to clouds, it was pretty cool to stroll along the water together with lots of local couples and families hangig out there. By recommendation from our food tour guide we also tried Philippino fast food-chain Jollibee that has spread as far as Doha Qatar lately. Wasn’t terribly impressed unfortunately (sorry Filipinos) with my Champ burger.


The last meal

Our last meal (okay I had one more of the awesome Peninsula breakfasts, but that does not count) in Manila was the Halo-halo Harana. The HHH is one of Peninsula Manila’s signature dishes and is a fancied-up version of the Filipino national dessert. It contains leche flan, chickpeas, sweetened kidney beans, coconut gel, the purple yam ube ice cream, sago, evaporated milk, jackfruit, creamy coconu and rice puffs. This was really a treat, but on the other hand it was about 850 php including service and taxes which would’ve been expensive for a dessert even in Sweden. It was so good though!

After the final mix-mix our time in Manila had come to and end. We’re currently enjoying one of the prettier places I’ve been to: the island of Boracay, under an hour’s flight from Manila.