Massaman Roti Battle: Counterpoint

Jade has done some great services to us all by offering up the Surat Soup Challenge and then giving a lengthy, detailed breakdown of Massaman Roti, quite possibly the best dish in Thailand. However, as he pointed out, this is a dish that incites passion among the SE teachers, and I feel compelled to respond to his slanderous accusations toward Rajutid Massaman Roti.

Where to even begin? Let’s start with the sauce consistency. Jade did rate Rajutid’s sauce as better, but only mentioned that it’s “thicker”… let’s uncover the whole truth about it. Not only is the consistency of this curry absolutely perfect, it even redefines the norm. You may think you’ve experienced this phenomenon elsewhere, but this dish will certainly change your mind. It’s a 14 out of 10. No joke.

Next up – the meat. Yes, the beef at Muslim Massaman is pretty good. But it’s inconsistent. Sometimes it’s fantastic, some of the best beef in town (which isn’t really saying too much). But other times, I’ve gotten a few big chunks that turned out to be nothing but bone and gristle. Not sure how that’s considered top-notch, unless you’ve picked up some eating habits from a friendly Thai street dog. And Rajutid Massaman – “slimy chicken”? “SLIMY?!” Come on, Jade. As much as I love this dish, I’ll be the first to admit the chicken isn’t perfect. Sometimes it even diminishes the greatness of the meal. And I think I’d even give a slight edge to Muslim Massaman. But “slimy chicken” is an outrage! I won’t sit by and take it! I demand a retaste!

Moving on – let’s talk about the taste. Got no problem with Jade’s comments, except let’s take away the “overly” from “overly sweet”. Rajutid and Muslim Massaman have different styles – one spicier, the other sweeter. I’m a spicy food fanatic but I’d still give the edge to Rajutid. It’s just that good!

And how about that roti? Fair enough, Jade. I agree it’s pretty close, so depending on your taste you might like either. They’re both great. But again, I’ll take the one at Rajutid – a perfect blend of doughy, flaky, crispy goodness – just as a roti should be.

When it comes to price and portion size, Jade’s spot on. Although, as mentioned, the dish at Rajutid is sometimes better without the meat – in which case you can knock 10 baht off that price and enjoy an amazing plate for only 30 baht. Or eat two!

So give them both a try. Weigh in with your two baht. But I think if you close your eyes and just let the experience of the meal wash over your soul, you’ll concur that there ain’t no beating Rajutid Massaman Roti.

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Massaman Roti Battle to the Death (not really)

There is a disagreement between teachers (Super English teachers at least) about who in Surat has the best Massaman Roti.

What is Massaman Roti? Well, it might just be the most delicious dish you’ll find in Thailand. Massaman is a curry thought to have either been brought by Arab traders to the south of Thailand or by a Persian envoy to the north of Thailand. Either way, what is agreed upon is that it is of Muslim origin. What that means is that traditional Massaman will not have pork in it. Massaman curry typically has a sweeter sauce made with spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise, etc..

What is roti? Roti is a pastry that can be found all over Asia and depending on where you find it, it can vary greatly. In Thailand it is thin and flaky, with the outsides typically crisped on a griddle, and it tends to be on the sweeter side. It can be served with any number of things including eggs, banana, mangos, ham and cheese, etc..

Well, when you mix the two together, you get Massaman Roti, one of the most savory dishes I’ve experienced just about anywhere.

In Surat there are 2 well known stops to pick up this delicacy. Because it is such a delicious dish, people tend to get pretty passionate about it. So, who has the best? This is what we’re here to discuss.

Our 2 contenders are:

1. Rajatid Massaman Roti
2. Muslim Massaman Roti.

Of course, like almost every restaurant in Surat, we don’t actually know the names of these restaurants, so they’ve earned their own farang given monikers.

Rajatid Massaman got it’s name from the road it’s on, very clever. Muslim Massaman got it’s name from, you got it, the fact that the owners are very obviously Muslim… oh and there is a big star and crescent outside their restaurant.

Comparing the 2:

Sauce consistency: I have to give this to Rajatid, because the sauce is thicker. Muslim Massaman is slightly thinner.

Meat: I have to give this to Muslim Massaman because they use beef. The beef is actually of decent quality, which is an unusual find in this part of the world. The beef adds to an overall more savory experience as it contributes to the flavor. The meat at Rajatid is a slimy chicken, which isn’t immediately identifiable as chicken and doesn’t contribute much to the flavor.

Taste: Gotta give it to Muslim Massaman. The taste of their sauce is much more savory and it has a nice spicy kick. The sauce at Rajatid, while it is quite delicious, is overly sweet and almost dessert-like.

Roti: Again, gotta give it to Muslim Massaman. The roti at Muslim Massaman has a nice cinnamon flavor to it as well as a crispy texture. While the Rajatid roti is nice and crispy, again, it’s too sweet because they add sugar to it. This is a close call, though.

Portion size: The portion sizes don’t vary that much, but the big chunks of beef from Muslim Massaman add to the weight of the meal. The chicken from Rajatid is lighter and left me feeling like I was still hungry.

Price: Gotta give this to Rajatid Massaman. The price on Rajatid is 40baht whereas it’s 50baht at the Muslim Massaman restaurant. That being said, I’d rather spend my 50 at Muslim Massaman.

Winner: Muslim Massaman on Chalokrat.

I’m sure I’ll catch some heat for this but I just gotta call it like I see it (or taste it).

Diving in Thailand

One of the great things about living in Surat is its proximity to a lot of the desirable destinations of Thailand.

I just got home off of a night boat from Koh Tao. Since it was a long weekend, thanks to Buddha, I decided to go get my advanced open-water diving certification. I managed to dive 30meters (almost 100 feet), swim through a wrecked WWII warship, and see some sea turtles.

I’d highly recommend any current or future teachers who have not tried diving to do so while in Thailand. It’s a great place to start and it’s far cheaper than you’d be expected to pay at home.

Going Green in Surat #1 – One Week No Trash Challenge

One day while traveling in Vietnam over the break, Kristin and I rented a motorbike and went cruising on the roads around Sapa. We drove to the top of Tram Ton Pass, the area’s highest road-accessible point, and stopped to enjoy the view. While we were looking out over the other side, a guy pulled up on a bicycle. He’d ridden a LONG way up. We offered to take a picture for him and chatted him up for a few minutes. Mike told us he’d been riding his bike for months, all the way from Korea! Long bike treks have always interested me, so we talked for a while before he went on his way. Before leaving, he gave us a card with his blog and told us about his 3 rule ride – no gas, no meat, no trash. It sounded like a really cool concept, and after checking out his site, I got even more of an idea of the reasoning behind it.

Trash PileThe “no trash” aspect really made an impact on both Kristin and me. When my parents visited Thailand, one thing they were shocked at (especially in Bangkok) was the abundance of trash just piled up in the streets, the parks, the markets – everywhere! I don’t know that this is a Thai problem in particular – I think it’s something you can see everywhere around the world. But seeing the extreme in Bangkok really got me thinking about the insane amount of trash we go through and where it ends up. After meeting Mike in Vietnam, we went to Halong Bay and kayaked through one of the most beautiful places on earth. It was breathtaking, it was serene, and it was… extraordinarily trashed. Everywhere we paddled we found plastic and styrofoam floating alongside us. It was disgusting. It was here that we first decided to make a conscious effort to cut back on our trash. And we talked about trying to even progress to almost no trash at some point.

Which brings us here. Tomorrow we’re starting small. Kristin and I are starting a one-week challenge to eliminate the trash from our (over)consumption. When you start planning to do this, you realize it’s no small task. It means not only no useless triple-bagging at 7-Eleven, but also no snack-time pre-bagged pineapple from Thida. No individually wrapped Werther’s candies to get me through the day. It means if we want a Thai tea, we hand them a water bottle and request “sai nai nee” despite the initial awkwardness or confused reactions we’re sure to get. If we want fruit or fried rice to go, we take our own container and make the same request. Obviously, one week isn’t a huge commitment. But it’s a start.

I’m sure we won’t be able to completely avoid trash this week. So while we’re aiming for “no trash”, we’ll also keep a list of  what we can’t avoid, like when they give the farang a to-go cup at a sit-down meal despite the fact that every single other person has a glass… I’ll post again next week with an update on how our week went and what’s next in our effort to “Go Green in Surat!” And if you think you’re up for it, join us.

Also, just because: