Massaman Tuna

Lunch in a Can

Last semester, I posted on the blog about the Top 5 and Bottom 5 Thida lunches. Unfortunately, those posts mysteriously disappeared on our old post-eating blog site, part of the impetus for switching to this new wordpress address. I hope to re-rank the meals with some additional consideration soon, but for now, here’s one simple alternative to Thida lunch.

After reading my posts, Peter offered me a couple cans of curry “for the bad days.” Pictured above is the (puntastically branded) “Sealect Panaeng Tuna.” Peter also gave me a can of Massaman Tuna. Some days when the lunch is bad, I’ve taken a walk across the street to get fried rice or spicy chicken. I’ve considered the tuna a few times but had never really been feeling it on any of the days when I opted out of Thida lunch.

Today, after one terrible bite of the strange mystery-fish-dish the school was serving up, I finally decided to dig into my can of Massaman Tuna. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I found it pretty satisfying. There were some surprisingly tasty tuna chunks along with delicious potatoes and peanuts, which I wasn’t expecting at all. It was all soaked in a good-but-not-amazing massaman curry sauce. Not the best massaman in town, but much better than the free Thida lunch today. Overall, it makes a good, easy lunch alternative, and I have to thank Peter for introducing me to it. I’m looking forward to trying the penang curry in the next few weeks as well.

YEN TA FO (Vegan style)

A lot of my more recent recommendations have been ignored by certain people. That’s OK, I know there’s a lot fighting for your attention. Pass on The Shield, if you must (despite it being one of the most underrated TV shows of the past 15 years) but do not pass on this soup.

This is apparently called Yen Ta Fo, and is distinctive by it’s pink broth. Traditionally, it’s a seafood based soup, though I haven’t had the pleasure of tasting that version. This is a version from one of the vegan restaurants (J-Wawa). It doesn’t have anything derived from animals, but it is so tasty that meat-eaters will not mind. There are the funny little crinkly white mushrooms, and some of the dark ones too. It has the big rice noodles, a crunchy bit of fried dough, leafy greens, and about 5 kinds of fake meat that are startlingly delicious. The broth isn’t as powerful as something like tom yum, but it just as good. It’s sweet and tart, with a little peanut-y and herbal flavor too.

Better yet, get this at the vegan place that’s near school. They put more of the pink sauce in there (which is what gives the pink color and the delicious flavor) and they include celery. The only negative about this soup is that it’s served at the vegan places, which close at around 2pm.

Coming home

As much as I like being at school, I also like the moment when I can say goodbye for the day. The first few minutes are a little stressful, dodging traffic, but the real relief comes as you cross the bridge over the river to the jungle side. The air is tangibly cooler. The traffic is better and a lot of the excitement from school evaporates. Bugs replace people as the more populous lifeform (haha just kidding, this is true even in the middle of the city). The drive to the house isn’t very long, about 10 minutes, but being so much farther away than everyone else (about 5km) makes it seem longer.

Pulling up to the house, driving over the mud to park in front of the house, I can feel the anticipation of relaxation. I take off my sweaty helmet, drop my backpack, and change out of my teacher clothes, but not before I give myself a quick rinse in the shower. I turn the fan to the highest setting and as I lower my body onto the bed, I realize that I didn’t get any drinking water, so now I have to go back into town to pick some up.

Ups and downs…

A Frustrating Endeavor

All we wanted for dinner was a simple spaghetti. We had angel hair pasta in the fridge, we only needed some pasta sauce. We were too lazy to drive out to Central and go to Tops, so we thought we’d try our luck in the center of town. Many western foods are difficult, if not impossible, to find in Surat outside of Central Plaza, but pasta sauce should be doable.

First stop – a small Tesco mart outside the Karun Rat white market. No luck, but that was to be expected.
Second stop – the little organic place near the river on the corner of Chonkasem and Na Mueang. I KNOW I’ve seen it there. We got our hopes up when we saw the dried pasta in bags, but they were dashed again when there was no pasta sauce to be found.
Third stop – The Tops market a block away. We parked the bike and as I climbed the three steps to the automatic door, something didn’t feel right. A cold breeze chilled my bones as I realized that the store was still yellow, but now there was a giant “Family Mart” decal on the window. We actually found a small can of Prego – traditional sauce, and as we brought it to the register triumphantly, I felt that maybe our quest was over. The cashier looked at the can with a huge amount of suspicion, and then beckoned for someone more proficient in English. “You no buy we no sell,” was all she could say, and as the anxiety built up in my guts, I was dragged away before I could “cause a scene,” hands and backpacks still lacking a can of pasta sauce to hold.
Fourth stop – Might as well try the Tesco next door. No pasta sauce available, as expected. Blood pressure rising.
Fifth stop – The Tops at Coliseum. I was so glad when I remembered this place, since it’s so hidden that everyone forgets it. My heart skipped with joy as we walked down the stairs to the Coliseum basement, then halted in its tracks as we saw the dreaded “Family Mart” in place of where it should have said “Tops”. Emotionally battered, I found another can of Prego, and skeptically brought it to the register. This cashier’s reaction was quicker, so when she shook her head and hands and said “no sell”, I dropped my shoulders and accidentally slammed the can down on the counter and muttered curse words as we walked into Coliseum. WHY ARE YOU OPEN IF YOU CAN’T SELL ME WHAT’S ON YOUR SHELVES?! is what I kept screaming to myself. It was becoming a matter of principle at this point.

Sixth stop – This story ends anti-climactically because we found the stupid can of pasta sauce at Sahathai, which is where I would normally have looked first all along. God knows why it was my 6th choice that day.

Thaksin Visit

My first experience at Thaksin was for the syphillis exam. It reminded me of that movie, “Love and Other Drugs.” Anne Hathaway’s character has Parkinsons, but before she knew, she was being tested for a number of diseases. She’s glad she didn’t have syphillis, but she felt like a “nineteenth century [lady of the evening.]”

My next experience was almost just as painless. I was cutting some potatoes for a stir fry, and accidentally included the tip of my ring finger. Thank goodness it was my left hand. I’m right handed. Phew! The blackboard would have missed me.

I went into what I believe is the Emergency Room. It’s on the left walking up, before the main entrance. Once you go in, there is a desk on the left. I gave the nurse at the counter the Thaksin card I received from that first visit. She checked me in and pointed me just past the double doors, to the beds, right away.

The nurses laid me down and asked me how I got the cut and if I had cleaned it. The doctor came in and asked me if I was allergic to anything and if I was updated on Tetanus. He asked me if it was okay to use local anaesthesia. I said yes, and I’m glad I did. They put a stitch through my fingernail! I had five in total.

They prescribed me an antibiotic and some Tylenol. All together, I paid 1080 baht. We asked, however, if this was something the “Accident Insurance” from the upgraded debit card would cover. The doctor said, “Yes, it was an accident!” Good to know.

The accident happened at 6:45 pm. Including the drive there and back, I was home at 7:30 pm. I still ate the potatoes.

Semesterly Meetings

At the beginning of each semester we have a meeting, which essentially is the only meeting we have the entire term. It tends to be a few hours long but it’s significantly better than the monthly meetings we had while I taught in Korea.

There’s usually as much tomfoolery as there is talk of business. At the start of this semester we played an interesting game of “the best of the best,” which is a bracket of things which are considered to be the best within a certain category. Sound confusing? Think of it like this: Beach vs Jungle. Thai food vs Mexican food. Communism vs Sharia Law!? What? So, eventually you have some pretty comical match-ups such as Communism vs the Beach. We all filled out brackets like an NCAA tournament to see how we thought it would play out. The final match up was Scuba Diving vs Massaman Roti (a favorite Thai food of most teachers). Scuba diving won and Teacher Devin had the most successful bracket so she earned herself a lovely bottle of whiskey.   DSCF9773 DSCF9770

My Morning Routine

A large part of my morning, pre-school routine is making sure my lunch and/or snacks are set for the day. I always stop at the vegan place to grab some take-away lunch and to get a snack for me or my Thai teacher. Maybe I’ll stop at a little store to get some yogurt for breakfast too. There are also some markets on the way to school where I can stock up on fruit.

Usually I’ll get to school early. One of my favorite times of day is pulling up into the MEP parking area and nervously watching as my smiling students run towards me. While I’m on my motorbike. And moving. So far they seem to know not to get too close, but considering the extent of their English is telling me what they like and the amounts of things in a group, I sometimes worry that they won’t understand my pleas for them to be careful.

Then, the quiet handful of minutes in the office before the other teachers come in… It’s very relaxing and is just what I need before the day starts.

Buying souvenirs

Thinking about visiting home during the long break, I start wondering what to bring as presents. The Saturday night market near Super has a bunch of appropriate little souvenirs. So does the daily night market. But what are some of your favorite little, not-so-obvious places to get souvenirs?

I like the OTOP shop near the school. It’s on the street connecting Talad Mai and Na Mueang Rd, parallel to the street that the Thai Rungrang hotel is on. If you’re coming from Thida, it’s the first left before the Kawasaki shop – the first thru street you can turn on. The store is about halfway down on the right. It sells a bunch of different herbal and fruity lotions and soaps and ointments for really cheap.

I also like the post office. They sell some little books and you can buy sheets of stamps that would make really interesting souvenirs.

There’s also another OTOP shop right next to the intersection of Wat Pho and Talad Mai that I haven’t checked out yet.

What are some of your favorite souvenir shops?

Navigating the Never-ending Parking Lot

Thai Traffic

Before coming to Thailand, I read and heard all about the crazy drivers and the chaotic traffic here. I was prepared, but seeing it in person was still a shock. Motorbikes swerve into oncoming traffic to pass. Oh yeah, so do the tuk-tuks, SUVs, and the thousands of D-Max pickups whose drivers must still think they’re on a bike. People pull out directly into the flow of traffic without so much as a sideways glance to see if it’s clear. And then there are the cars that inch out and accelerate slower than a waking turtle. It’s certainly a crazy thing to experience in person, and even after a year, I still get pretty stressed out sometimes driving around town.

Recently I had a realization that driving through the streets of Surat is a lot like navigating a parking lot. You’ve got the incher-outers. The impatient drivers who move against the flow rather than take an ever-so-slightly longer route. The cars moving along at a snail’s pace looking for a place to pull over or park. People who decide to just stop and park right in the middle of the road. People slipping between stopped traffic to cross the street. Shopping carts flying out from between parked cars. (Ok, I haven’t seen that one. Yet.) Just like maneuvering through a parking lot, impossibly-perfect, 360-degree situational awareness is the number one skill required for successfully navigating Surat’s streets. No big deal. This is Thailand!

Meet the SE Bloggers: Susan


Name: Susan Devore

Age: 23

Hometown: Tampa, Florida

Other Places I’ve Lived: Gainesville, Fl, Jacksonville, Fl, Chicago, Il

Former Lives/Occupations: I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants in my time, some as a server, some as a bartender, and most recently as a reservationist and then food runner at Next in Chicago. I got my first restaurant job when I was fourteen, but I came to Thailand vowing never to go back to one. I’ve also worked as part of the Box Office Staff at the Hippodrome State Theater in Gainesville.
At UF, I studied English and Film and Media Studies. I spent a lot of time watching and making short experimental films and videos. It’s still something I’m very interested in continuing.

Education: Magna Cum Laude, University of Florida, August 2012

Currently Teaching: First Grade IEP (Intensive English Program) at Thidamaepra

Favorite Thing About My Job: I love working at Thida. The kids are very sweet, and for the most part, very well behaved. My Thai co-teachers could not be more helpful. Also, lunch is pretty darn good sometimes! If not, there’s a few great places close by. I get to work with some awesome Super teachers, too!

Coolest Thing I’ve Done/Coolest Place I’ve Been: I studied in Berlin for two months during the summer of 2012. I took a class on digital photography and a class on Super 8 filmmaking. While there, I went to Kassel, Germany to attend a huge international art festival called Documenta. This was Documenta 13, and they are only held every five years. The whole town is transformed for the festival, with art pieces scattered throughout the parks, stores, streets, libraries, and museums.

Favorite Thai Food: Pad See You (I have no idea how to spell it), Yam Pla Duk Foo (again, no idea), Sohm Tom (papaya salad), those hot coconut cups they sell at the night market, anything at the vegan restaurant on Nam Muang…

Thailand Bucket List: I would love to see James Bond Island in Phang Nga. I would also like to take a motorbike through Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Pai.