The Best Laid Plans…

The rumor is that the Peterbergers are coming home.  Is it true?

No matter the best laid plans, sometimes right turns take you down alternative paths.  And here we are – a right turn that has now changed the course of our trip.

Perhaps it is age, perhaps it is a testament to our lifetime commitment to sports and physical activity, but Jay’s shoulder needs a break from the bike.  We contemplated staying in SE Asia for our break.  Yes, living in SE Asia can be cheap – but not as cheap as being home for rehab.

Plus, there’s the advantage of family, dogs, friends, fresh Oregon air and familiarity with the language and medical system (for better or worse).

What we do know is that cycling in New Zealand will be intense with it’s off road tracks taking us high into the hills where we will camp and frolic in the mountain meadows.  This will require four good shoulders.

So we are on a holiday from our holiday and will be returning tomorrow.  We will rehab, work and live frugally so we can pick up our trip where we left of in a few months.

Portland folks – look out – the Peterbergers are coming home!

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Cooking School Thai Style

Happy Chefs

Happy Chefs

In true Peterberger fashion, we signed up for a Thai food cooking school in Bangkok as soon as we arrived.  We researched cooking schools in Bangkok on the interwebs as well as asking some friends about different options.  We decided on the Silom Cooking School because it had good reviews, was relatively inexpensive, had a menu we both liked and was within walking distance (10k) of our lodging.

As seems to be common to most cooking schools we have experienced, we were first taken to a local food market.  I love this because the markets that the cooking schools use are usually well off the beaten tourist track. Sure enough, the only folks shopping at the street market this morning were locals.  Here we were each given a basket into which all the ingredients for the course were placed as we went from stall to stall.

Our chef, Aot, spoke English well. He was very knowledgeable about food, food science and Thai culture.  He also had a good sense of humor – which always goes a long way. There were eight of us in this class representing, the US, UK, Ireland, Singapore, Philippines and Germany.  Although there were four classes going on at the same time, the school ran the whole affair very efficiently with a good attention to detail and individual student learning.

Our class with our "graduation" hats on.

Our class with our “graduation” hats on.

The classroom and kitchen are located in a lime green four story building down the end of a long alley.  There is a dining/sitting area where we first gathered to get the lay of the land.  Then we were directed to the classroom to do all the food prep.  We all sat on the floor in a traditional Thai style.  We were given some cushions to sit on – but all the prep work was done on the floor.

Aot walked us through the preparation of the spices, meat, “fillers” and main “key” ingredients one dish at time.   Fillers are usually vegetables which, according to Aot, do not contribute to the taste of the dish, so you can add them in or leave them out. Typical fillers used in many Thai dishes include mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergine (egg plant), baby corn, cabbage, bok choy, etc.  So leave them out or add them, the choice is yours.

There are several ingredients that form the essence of Thai cooking:  lime, kaffir lime leaves (this is the ingredient Jay and I have been missing in our laab), lemon grass,  Thai garlic (with the skin on), tamarind, galangal ginger just to name a few.  The key ingredients depend on the dish you are cooking. For example, if you are looking for a Tom Yum taste, then you need kaffir lime, lemon grass and galangal ginger.  Then you have Tom Yum. If you leave out any one of these ingredients, “then you’re not making Tom Yum, your making something else, something you made up”.

After we finished preparing the ingredients we went to the patio where the stoves are lined up against the wall. We were instructed to turn the flame on full, “knob to nine o’clock” and added the ingredients in the order suggested by Aot.  For the Tom Yum soup we used water in the wok, for the two curries and Pad Thai we used soy bean oil.  Thai’s do no use olive oil in their cooking because it burns at too low a temperature and they like to cook on a full flame.

Most dishes took about five minutes to cook.  This explains how and why there are so many street food vendors- all they need to do is a bit of prep work, have a hot stove ready, turn the heat to high and your meal is ready in five minutes. Yum.

Once our food was cooked and the sauce adequately reduced, we served ourselves (“presentation, don’t forget to give a nice presentation”) and sat together to eat each course in the dining/seating area.

The Silom Cooking school is worth the cost (right around $30.00) – for this price you get cooking instruction, a five course meal that you prepare, a market tour and recipe and reference book.  Not bad, right?   The school is well organized, they have lots of sous chefs helping with prep and clean up.  The facilities are very clean, tidy and well kept.  Magic drinking water is provided (and encouraged).

Our menu for this Thursday morning class:

  1. Tom Yum Goong (Hot and sour soup with shrimp)
  2. Pad Thai (Rice noodles and peanuts with shrimp)
  3. Phanaeng Curry (Red curry with chicken and beans)
  4. Kang khaio wan gai (Green curry with chicken)
  5. Mango Sticky Rice.

The portions sizes we made were reasonable. However, it was still way too much food for one person. Even though rice was only served with the green curry, the red curry was treated as more of an appetizer.  We had a fantastic experience learning some of the basics of Thai cooking and meeting new friends. We are looking forward to experimenting with Thai food when we get back into a kitchen!

We highly recommend the Silom Cooking School for anyone who is in Bangkok, wants to take a half day cooking class but doesn’t want to spend a boat load of cash. You won’t be disappointed!

 

Silom Cooking School in Bangkok.

Silom Cooking School in Bangkok.

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A nice article about us!

Check out the nice article on the Linfield’s web site.  Thanks for the write-up Laura Davis!

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Istanbul

Map of the downtown area of Istanbul.

Map of the downtown area of Istanbul.

How do you house, feed and clothe 16 million people?  High density living, shops lining the streets and great food stalls on every corner.  That’s how. Istanbul is a dynamic cultural hub that brings together east and west.  The city, really more of a megalopolis, is divided by the Bosphorus, a channel that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara.  The Bosphorus is an integral piece of the dynamics of this lively city.  On the east side of the Bosphorus you are on the continent of Asia, and on the west, you are on the continent of Europe.

We stayed on the Asian side of Istanbul initially because of lodging opportunities and ultimately because we preferred to be away from the touristy chaos that is found on the European side of the Bosphorus.  Most of the tourist attractions are found on the west side which is divided by another water way, the Golden Horn which runs perpendicular to the Bosphorus.

On the south of the Golden Horn there is the area known as the Old City which is part of the Fatih district.  Here is where you find the famous Blue Mosque, the Sofia Mosque and several other significant Mosques, palaces, markets and the Grand Bazaar.  These are just a few of the attractions, there are many more – too many to list.  The Mosques were grand, beautiful, awe-inspiring, old and crowded with tourists from around the world.  We happened to be hanging out between the Blue and Sofia Mosque when the call to prayer began- check out this video for a small sampling and 360 degree view.

Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque

Sophia Mosque

Sophia Mosque

Along with the tourists, comes the scam artists trying to get you into their carpet shop or an old artifacts bazaar or polish your shoes for exorbitant prices. Tea in this area of Istanbul costs three to five times as much as it does on the Asia side!

Inside the Grand Bazaar

Inside the Grand Bazaar

We love a good market packed with colorful displays of regional goods – everything from fabrics to spices to foods.  We were a little disappointed with the Grand Bazaar.  The Grand Bazaar is located within the covered rebuilt (it was originally wood which burned in the 1700s and was rebuilt then) stone structure and it is definitely grand in the large sense of the word.  The Bazaar covers 61 blocks and has over 3000 shops.  It was more of a shopping mall with modern signage for the shops and less of a market. We found it to be very kitschy with lots of over-priced souvenirs for tourists. The sellers are hard pushers of their goods- working diligently to get you into their shop.  “The best rugs are here”. They start off by trying to be your best friend “Where are you from?” and always end with “come to my shop, best prices”.   We were warned by our friends in Kirklareli, to not purchase goods in the Grand Bazaar. To go back to the Asia side and make your purchases there- great advice!

Looking North across the Golden Horn.

Looking North across the Golden Horn.

One of our favorite days in Istanbul was spent as students in a cooking school – which you can read about here. The Istanbul Cooking School was located on the north side of the Golden Horn (on the European side) in a district referred to as Beyoğlu. This area is considered to be the economic center as well as the happening night life area for tourists. The shop, bar, hotel and restaurant lined Istiklal Avenue stretches from the Ferry terminal up the hill to Takism square.  This is the acclaimed party spot of Istanbul – at least that is what the tour books and websites claim.  We took the Fernicular (underground metro) up to Takism square and slowly strolled down Istiklal Avenue. We found that the small streets coming off Istiklal were much more interesting than the avenue itself.  The avenue is lined with modern, expensive brand named stores – we knew we were in a touristy area when the first store we saw was Starbucks and the second McDonalds.  The side streets are packed with spice and fish markets and old interesting restaurants, just a bit off the beaten path.

Istabul4

Fruit market just off the main avenue

Not being big partiers,  we skipped the nightlife on Istiklal, preferring to spend our evenings on the much quitter and less touristy Asian side of the Bosphorus (not a Starbucks in sight).

Besides sampling the yummy restaurants in “our” neighborhood (Uskudar), our favorite pastime was strolling down the sea wall towards Kadakoy and stopping at one of the tea kiosks.  There we would sit on the steps of the sea wall on comfy cushions, sipping tea and watching the world go by.  Sitting in the sunshine, watching locals play backgammon, lovers exchange glances and the occasional kiss, children playing with kittens and fishermen catching fish for the day.  Watching the boats from small fishing vessels to huge cruise liners and freight ships navigate one of the busiest waterways in the world was highly entertaining.  Quietly reflecting on our journey and simply enjoying each other’s company is and will always be priceless.

Tea on the Asian side - the European side is across the Bosphorus

Tea on the Asian side – the European side is across the Bosphorus

We love Istanbul and could easily spend much more time here. We recommend anyone who visits Istanbul to stay on the Asian side.  Everything is cheaper, there are very few tourists and it is inexpensive (2.50 TL or about 1 USD) and easy to get across the Bosphorus to experience the tourist attractions.  If you do find yourself lodged on the west, be sure to hop on a ferry and experience the Asian side of the city. Watching the sunset over the old city is magical.  Not to be missed.

Sunset over Istanbul - the Blue and Sophia Mosque are silhouetted.

Sunset over Istanbul – the Blue and Sophia Mosque are silhouetted.

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The Best Kebap House in Istanbul

OK – we did not try EVERY kebab house in Istanbul – I am not sure that is even possible.  We did try many and the Adil Kebap in Uskudar wins our vote, hands down.

The owner - a bit shy for the picture.

The owner – a bit shy for the picture.

While you are waiting for your main dish you are given a very tasty tomato, cucumber, pepper and chili salad and a yogurt sauce with a basket of fresh bread.

They serve a variety of daily made soups including the lentil, tomato, tripe and chicken, all classic Turkish recipes.

Soups On!

Soups On!

We ordered the mixed kebab which is a large portion of lamb, chicken and beef kebap cooked to perfection in an open fire oven.  The meat is served with a soft white rice, roasted tomato and peppers and topped with fresh baked flat bread.  One order was more than enough food for both of us (we learned this our first visit to Adil Kebap and knew better for our second round).

Mixed Kebap with the flat bread on top.

Mixed Kebap with the flat bread on top.

Mixed Kebap with the bread removed. Yum

Mixed Kebap with the bread removed. Yum

After you have enjoyed a wonderful and tasty meal, you are served the traditional Turkish tea and are invited to sit as long as you like.   All of this along with a soft drink for less than $10.00.  Not a bad deal.

If you find yourself in Istanbul, on the Asia side in Uskudar, be sure to visit Adil Kebap a few minute walk from the ferry terminal at the entrance to the Fish Market.

Your taste buds will thank you.

The chef with the fire oven behind the steal plate.

The chef with the fire oven behind the steal plate. (Sorry for the blurry picture)

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