How to do Spanish in Thailand

DSCF8415What do you do when you find yourself at a barbecue in Pai, a glorious hippy den in the northernmost part of Thailand, and you’ve got to produce something fabulous for everyone to share? All you’ve got is a frying pan and a single ring on the hob for your veggie self, whilst everyone else is skewering enough meat to keep a big cat sanctuary going for a few weeks. You could just say sod it and buy yourself a polystyrene tray of som tam or phad thai from the local market, or you could hit that market and refuse to be defeated!

What you do is track down some dead easy ingredients:

  •        About a pound of potatoes,
  •        Garlic Cloves,
  •        An Onion,
  •        8-10 Tomatoes,
  •        Hot Sauce,
  •        Passata (optional – most countries have a version of this),
  •        Oil of some sort for frying,
  •        Cheese,
  •        Salt/Pepper/Whatever seasonings are kicking about.

Cheese is harder to track down in Thailand and if I’m honest I’m not entirely sure where I got my hands on a lump. The fabulous thing about this though is that you can put in whatever you find in the local market and make it in a hostel, a house or a trangia on the side of a mountain. It is Spanish Potato Hot-Pot. If you want to try the original Spanish version then you can check it out on my website. What’s great about it is that it is so easy and so versatile!

Here’s what you do once you’ve carried your haul back to your pad:941420_10151463608491713_807895122_n

1. Chop up all your veg and defend yourself against all the snippy comments that your dinner is not going to be as good as everyone else’s. Make sure your potato chunks are pretty small or everyone else will have eaten, drunk too much, sung karaoke, fallen in the pool and gone to bed by the time yours is cooked.

2. Start frying your potatoes in the oil and keep them moving or their bottoms will burn.

3. When they’re looking quite browned, add the onion and garlic and keep them going, giving everything a good stir and flip every minute or so.

4. When those look a bit browned too, add your chopped tomatoes and hot sauce to taste – personally I like it spicy, but even if you don’t, don’t be too tight with it – without hot sauce this is a much blander beastie. If you are using passata then put that in now too, but don’t drown it too much. Let it all get hot and try a few of your taters to check that they’re done all the way through.

5. If they are, then add salt and pepper and turf it all out, covering it in cheese. You might want to melt the cheese in the pan quickly; it should only take 30 seconds or so for it to melt.


7. Wash the dish up when it comes back licked clean.

8. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture of it at the time, but here’s the Spanish version – for a visual image just mentally replace the olives and parsley with cheese.


Burmese Avocado Salad

Forget what you think of as a salad if you’re thinking south-east Asia, you won’t see a lettuce leaf in miles. Here it means any kind of vegetable dish that doesn’t require cooking and one of the nice things about Burma (Myanmar) is the proliferation of avocados. The only avocado I ever saw in Thailand was £10 in the posh international food market of Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok. I’m a big fan of avocados.

You will need:WP_20140705_003

  • 2 Avocados
  • 1/2 Red Onion
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Tbsp Crushed Peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut Oil/Olive Oil
  • Pinch Garlic Salt
  • Pinch Chinese Five Spice
  • Juice of Half a Lime
  • Toasted Sesame Seeds


All you have to do is chop your veg up small and then mix all the ingredients together. Et voila! Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds as a garnish.

The original recipe requires chicken powder which I have substituted with garlic salt and Chinese Five Spice. It also requires peanut oil which isn’t always readily available here. In its absence any other nut oil will suffice, alternately olive oil or even chilli oil work well.


Mozzarella Tagliatelle

This has to be the easiest Italian dish to make and yet so delicious. Almost certainly you’ve tried something like it before; especially if you’ve travelled through the country as a vegetarian. It’s the sort of thing that students learn to cook in a simplified form as their very first staple dish on leaving home – although I’ve fancied it up a bit from the basic one-pot dorm room grub. This should take you straight to Italy, even in the humblest of student digs!

You will need (to serve 4):WP_20140715_010

  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1.5 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Large White Onion
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 400g Passata
  • A Handful of Fresh Basil
  • 250g Dry Tagliatelle
  • 1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
  • 250g Mozzarella
  • 50g Diced Black Olives
  • Shavings of Parmesan (rennet-free
1. Chop the onion into small pieces and fry in the olive oil until clear.
2. Drop your tagliatelle into boiling water, it doesn’t take as long as other shapes of pasta to cook so be careful not to overdo it. Keep stirring to untangle it and make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom.
3. Finely dice the garlic, chilli, basil and olives and add to the pan with the onion and oil.
4. Add the passata and red wine vinegar and bring to the boil, before dropping the heat to simmer.
5. Add the cooked tagliatelle to the sauce and stir.
6. Shred the mozzarella into chunks and drop them in until slightly melted.
7. Serve with a few shavings of parmesan and some fresh leaves of basil to garnish. WP_20140715_005