Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 21: Denial, (something better than) Dreyer's and Dinaldalem

Today is my second to the last day in beautiful Bangkok. I was full of plans: wake up early, check out the shops on one of the satellite streets along Thanon Silom (and buy a few things, of course), do the laundry, cook lunch, whisk my sisters to Central World for gelato and a little bit of retail therapy, come home and make dinner, have some Swensen's ice cream then do another circuit of Thanon Silom in the night time.

But something unexpected happened: I opened my office mail and answered a few messages. Then a few more. Another one here and a couple more there... Before I knew it, it was 4 in the afternoon and I wondered where the day had gone.

In the interest of fairness, I was able to do one load of laundry (Sissy went to the laundromat with me), made lunch (just fried a few pieces of chicken and asked Sissy to get some pad thai from Momsie's favorite vendor along Thanon Convent), cooked dinaldalem for dinner, hung the laundry out to dry, got ice cream to go from Swensen's, and went on the Silom circuit.

I get asked this a lot: what's dinaldalem? When I was in high school (senior year), my roomie brought a dish with pork strips, pork liver and potatoes (P-cubed, yeah huh?) and I immediately exclaimed, "wow, dinaldalem!" to which my roomie (Lani, it was, who hails from Bataan) replied, "higado yan". Right... same dish, different names. In Ilocano, dalem is liver. So the dish literally means "liver-ed" or "cooked with liver". Traditionally, when a pig is slaughtered, some of the better parts of the pig are taken and sliced (still warm, ugh!) then cooked in a big pot with strips of liver, garlic, vinegar, salt (or fish sauce/patis) and cracked black pepper. Imagine adobo with patis instead of salt and you get dinaldalem. I ate it a lot growing up: my Mom's version, another by my Nanay (Mom's mom), another by my Mommy (Dad's mom), or by one of Nanay's siblings (they're all great cooks. Must have inherited that gene... eherm!). But I have a secret: I have never tried cooking it until yesterday.

According to my Popsie (who has eaten more than twenty versions of the dish), it is good and spicy. Ooops, I may have gotten a little heavy-handed on the ground black pepper but what the hey! It was edible and, I must admit, quite nice. The pork was tender and the chicken liver (my favorite kind of liver, besting even
foie gras) was cooked just right. I think I'll be making this dish a few more times in the next few weeks (in Manila, though. *sigh* ) to perfect it. Harharhar...

Before we had dinner, we went to Watson's at C.P. Tower on Thanon Silom - a couple of buildings away from Dad's office - to pick up a few toiletries for my sisters. It was also having a sale, so all the better! We met up with Popsie at the store then went over to Swensen's on the lower ground floor.
Swensen's is an ice cream parlor and is (according to the impression I got, anyway) a local brand. Thais are very loyal to their local brands, which may explain why the branches I see are usually packed. They're also very common here. To date I have counted at least five branches all over the places in the city (C.P Tower on Silom, Central World on Ratchadamri, Siam Paragon, Platinum Mall and MBK) that I have visited.

I was expecting to get a tall glass with three or four flavors but Dad suggested getting a quart (149 baht) or two (249 baht) to go. Being a sucker for all things frozen and creamy (and delicious), I went for the two-for-249 promo. We got Rum Raisin and Midnight Brownies. After placing your order, they hand-scoop the stuff into plastic quart container, wrap them up in aluminated (as in, lined in aluminum?) paper bags with their red and silver logo all over - with a few pieces of dry ice. The packaging is so cute! Efficient too, with an added bonus of watching your toilet bowl bubble and spew smoke for a good five minutes when you dispose of the dry ice (we live about five minutes away - on foot - so the pieces were more or less intact). Just remember to turn on the vent!

What can I say? The texture was beautiful... too dense to be ice cream but too light to be gelato, it was creamy and smooth - melting almost as soon as it hits the tongue and coats the mouth with a film of flavor that's so... there! The Rum Raisin packs a punch - the rum assails your taste buds (not too strong - for me anyway, as I love big flavors) then mellows out to let the velvety vanilla shine through. When all the cold ice cream melts away, you're left with whole pieces of rum-soaked golden raisins to munch on. Perfection!

A contrast to the in-your-face flavors of the Rum Raisin was the stealthy-but-oh-so-sinfully-good oral attack (that somehow sounded so wrong!) of the Midnight Brownies. The first spoonful makes you go, "hmmm... chocolate. Brownie bits. Quite good" that progresses to " Ah, maybe a darker sort of milk chocolate. The brownie chunks are so moist!" and culminates in a " ... a creamy dark-but-milk-chocolate. Velvety chocolate. Oustanding brownies... Must eat more. More! MORE!" by the fifth spoonful. It's a trap, a flavor that holds on and doesn't let go until the last spoonful. Such eating pleasure! Chocolate bliss or Buddha-hood, you decide.

The texture reminds me of Dreyer's but smoother and creamier. The flavors are bigger... and I wish I started eating my way through their menu the moment I arrived. Woe is me. Lesson learned. Day 1: eat ice cream at Swensen's after lunch. Dinner, have gelato at Central World. Repeat until my visa expires. Harhar...

After indulging in two-days worth of calories in ice cream, Sissy and I went on a circuit on Thanon Silom. Our usual route is: right to Silom from Convent, straight until right before Rama IV, cross Silom to get to the other side (yes, the side where Thanon Pat Pong is - with the ping pong show. Harhar...), walk on until a little past United Center then cross again, go back along Silom until Convent. Then Walk on to convent to Soi Phi Pat 2 para makauwi ng bahay. In that short stretch of sidewalk we covered (took as an hour, since we were browsing the merchandise, of course), we bought: three fabulous watches and a couple of pairs of high-heeled shoes. And we spent less than 800 baht. Happiness!

At Liberty Square (Silom corner Convent), we saw Khun Chao with his roti cart. While he was making my usual roti with egg, we asked him what time he packs up to go home (he's usually in front of our condo at 6pm then he moves to Liberty Square at around 8pm) and were shocked when he replied "3 in the morning". I'm going to miss him and his yummy roti.

For those who keep asking, roti is "bread"... but this specific product is not of the baked sort. It starts out as a supple ball of dough soaking in what I think is a sort of flavored oil(midway between the size of a tennis ball and a golf ball). Khun Chao whacks it on the greased surface of his cart, which he pulls and shapes until it is paper thin and about 12 inches in diameter. He then sets this afloat on a puddle of oil in the middle of a 16-inch hotplate (bowled in the center to hold the oil). After three seconds, he cracks open an egg onto the roti dough and spreads it around, allowing it to cook in less than seven second. He then folds the sides over until he forms a square. This is then flipped over and a dollop of margarine is added. He allows both sides to brown, drains it for a few seconds on a rack before placing it on a chopping board. It is chopped into sixteen bite-sized squares, loaded onto a piece of stiff paper, drenched in condensed milk, crowned with granulated white sugar and poked with a single wooden skewer. 18 baht will buy you this culinary wonder and I have been having it almost everyday for the past two weeks...

*sigh* I only have less than 48 hours left until I need to leave Thai soil and step on my
Lupang Hinirang... I still cant decide if I'm happy about it or not.

I still don't want to go home. I wonder if the classifieds show some promise...

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