They say one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster. Big Gay Ice Cream’s founder Bryan Petroff finds out just what they mean on a fleeting visit to the Thai capital.
Visiting Bangkok was a bit of a whirlwind. I saved it for the end of my trip and even then, I was there for less than 36 hours. So with such a short timeframe, I relied on some new local friends that I met at the wedding to give me a crash tour. Perhaps ironically, the day veered away from most things Thai and went international: I stayed in Chinatown, had a middle eastern dinner and a Japanese second dinner, and dessert!
Chinatown was a nice change of pace. Just like NYC’s Chinatown, it was its own world. I stayed at a cute little place called 103 Bed & Brews on one of the main strips, Soi Nana (Yaowarat), just a block away from the giant Golden (as in solid gold) Buddha, Phra Sukhothai Traimit.
The cafe on the first floor had a quaint Chinese teahouse feel to it and the few rooms upstairs were simple and “boho” chic. The only downside was having to leave my shoes on the ground floor, leaving me to maneuver carrying my heavy luggage up and down the stairs barefoot. (NOTE: I stress barefoot. Don’t attempt carrying luggage up and down flights of stairs in your socks!)
But there was no time to relax. I rushed out to meet my friends at Soi Arab (Arab Alley), the middle eastern neighborhood. After picking up some hilarious knockoffs (Herrobs, Supremre, Larph Lauren), we stopped for a first dinner of dips, breads & kababs there in the alley. For those interested, Soi Arab is right across the street from Nana Plaza, one of the adult districts.
Second dinner was at the Michelin-lauded Japanese yakitori house, Jidori Cuisine Ken. It was very serene (at least until the alcohol kicked in) and each table was in its own little room. We sat on the floor cushions sharing quite a few small dishes, including all sorts of grilled chicken parts and homemade tofu. The restaurant may be hard to find for people, especially at night: it was down an alley and as far as I could tell, through an unmarked door.
If that wasn’t enough, we went to the Japanese After You Dessert Cafe. One of our desserts was the size of an American football: a cheesecake core surrounded by a graham cracker crust, surrounded by a ton of shaved milk ice, all drenched in strawberry sauce. Go big or go home!
The one quintessentially Bangkok thing they insisted I do was go to Chatuchak Weekend Market, and boy was I glad I did. It’s Thailand’s largest market. The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Los Angeles looks like a New York City studio apartment compared to this place. I have to share the stats because they’re crazy: 8000 vendors spread out over 35 acres. That’s 26 football fields! It’s pointless to ask what you can get there. The answer is LITERALLY everything. I bought some tote bags made from recycled concrete bags. (I was super tempted to get the kimono made from the same bags, but stupidly passed.)
I got tons of little souvenirs for the folks back home. My favorite takeaways were handmade PJ sets made from patchwork-ed recycled dress shirt fabrics. I noshed my way through the place instead of sitting down at one of the restaurants. I had waffles, chicken wings, pork floss, fresh fruit juices & more. Now, fair warning, it’s not all great: I consciously avoided all the aisles with things like illegal ivory and caged live animals (seriously, meerkats??). That was just too much for me to deal with.
So how do you conquer Chatuchak? My answer: you don’t. It conquers you. It’s 100F & 100% humidity (every so often you’ll be fortunate to find an AC booth or mini-shop), it’s outside on asphalt for much of it and there are 200,000(!) other shoppers competing with you for bargains.
The solution: just go with it. Jump in like you’re on some river rapids and go where the river takes you. Catch a glance at too many shiny things & suddenly you (like me) will have turned too many corners and won’t have any idea where you are.
Fortunately there are maps here & there, toilets (each urinal had half a lime in it to help with odors), banks (not just ATMs, but actual air conditioned bank branches) and Apple Maps kept a very accurate accounting of where I was and even which way I was walking down each aisle.
But one thing I realized: don’t think it’ll be easy if you change your mind about something you should’ve bought earlier and want to go back for it. Who knows where you’ll end up. Just when I was set to leave, I suddenly (and unexpectedly) found myself in the young hip(ster) fashion designer section and stayed an extra two hours. I came across $200 vintage Levi’s; up-cycled vintage goods reworked into one of a kind pieces; snazzy track suits; rattlesnake cowboy boots; $150 Balenciaga knock off sneakers; & even an enormous vintage Issey Miyake parachute coat that folded up into its own hood.
It’s no surprise Bangkok is renowned as one of the best street food cities in the world. Even the airport has a 24/7 “hidden” street food court (first floor near gate 8) with amazing eats. Even though it caters to airport employees it’s open to the public and super good, and really cheap. Because of that, this week’s recipes are inspired one specific street food dessert.
Khanom Pang Ai Tiim is a Thai ice cream sandwich with sticky rice in a hotdog bun. We actually first had this at Andy Ricker’s restaurant Pok Pok. For our version we’ve come up with a toasted coconut-curried peanut ice cream recipe, as well as a tamarind caramel. We’re swapping rice pudding for the sticky rice, but keeping the hotdog bun. It also tastes great stuffed inside brioche.
Hugs, Bryan xo
This week’s Big Gay Ice Cream recipes are inspired by Bryan’s trip to Bangkok
Toasted Coconut-Curried Peanut Ice Cream
- 1c sugar
- 1/2c heavy cream
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 3c unsweetened coconut cream
- 1/2c unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2c crushed dry roasted peanuts
- 1 1/2 tsp yellow curry powder
Makes 1 quart
- Combine sugar, cream & vanilla extract in a saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar is completely dissolved, stirring often
- Slowly add coconut cream, whisking continuously
- Cover & refrigerate overnight
- Churn according to manufacturer’s directions (whisking again right before pouring into machine)
- While mixture churns, in a dry pan lightly toast shredded coconut on the stovetop over low heat until golden brown (take care to not burn the coconut); transfer to a small bowl & allow to cool; return pan to the heat – In the same pan, add crushed peanuts, sprinkle curry powder over the peanuts, combine & toast until lightly toasted, shaking the pan often (take care not to burn the peanuts); transfer to a small bowl & allow to cool
- While transferring into freezable container gently fold in the shredded coconut & peanuts – Freeze covered for 4 hours before serving
Khanom Pang Ai Tiim Thai-style ice cream sandwich
- Split top hot dog buns or brioche hamburger buns
- Pre-made rice pudding
- Toasted coconut-curried peanut ice cream (2 small scoops per sandwich; see recipe)
- Tamarind caramel (see recipe)
- Crushed roasted peanuts
- Add layer of pre-made rice pudding to the buns
- top pudding with two small scoops of ice cream
- drizzle caramel over ice cream
- top with crushed peanuts
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- One 16-ounce box dark brown sugar (2¼ packed cups)
- ¼ cup dark corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup tamarind purée
- Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, cream, salt, vanilla, and ½ cup bourbon in a large saucepan (using a large saucepan will help prevent the mixture from accidentally boiling over), and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the sugar is completely dissolved (the sauce should not have any grit to it)
- Continue cooking, stirring often, for another 20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced and thickened; it should be a dark caramel color, have a nice sheen and be thick enough to coat a spoon- Remove from the heat and stir in the tamarind purée (note: it is very tart; a little goes a long way)
- Let cool a bit, until warm, not hot, and gooey, not runny, then pour over ice cream- Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks; reheat and stir before using (may also be kept frozen)
More of Bryan and Doug’s Thailand adventure
Join Bryan as he discovers Thailand’s ancient, Northern city of Chiang Mai, from heartwarming grassroots projects to stunning natural wonders. He also shares two wonderful recipes inspired by the city.
Bryan heads to the Thai capital for ‘one night in Bangkok’ and takes on its grand outdoor market at Chatuchak to discover retail-therapy, Thai style. His travels inspires a Big Gay Ice Cream take on a classic Bangkok recipe.
Read more >
Bryan heads to the Golden Triangle to meet its gentle giants.
This story will be posted on August 17th 2020.
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