Beauty from ashes

This year has been an exercise in finding beauty and joy in unlikely places. The red light district is not a place of happiness. It is not clean. It is not real. It is not beautiful. It is a place of facades, pain, mistreatment…ashes. It is a place where you can see people who have abandoned their dreams or been dragged from them into darkness where they now serve as an indulgence for other’s pain or greed.

It is possible to lose perspective and even hope when working with women from/in this environment. Sometimes you see only the pain. But that helps no one.

While I worked with women leaving prostitution to return to their home country, I found out that they are amazing. This experience has not destroyed them. Each has found a way to hold onto hope, even if it’s just a glimmer. They sing and dance. They cook to share their culture and abilities with others. They watch out for each other. They laugh. They LAUGH! Can you believe it? The first week I spent at the shelter with women who had left prostitution (previously tricked and trafficked, taken from their home country and now trying to get home) we danced, sang, laughed, cooked and ate together. It was joy. It was beauty. It was life-giving.

In the darkness, in the pain, there is always some hope, some light. God can turn any pile of ashes into something beautiful (Isaiah 61:3)

Bugs etc.

We’re free and clear from cereal bugs, which is good news.

In other news, we have none. We’re continuing, for now, in the jobs we’re in. Bangkok is still hot, the rainy season is still going on and lots of things are as they were.

We may have some more meaty news in the next few months, and if you know what that is, please don’t mention it in comments. But for now, thanks for reading!

The infestation investigation

We had planned for exotic animals invading our home. In our first week in Thailand, we met people who had snakes and cockroaches in their home. And so we’ve lived in quiet expectation of some invaders coming. You cannot live in 90F heat with 80%+ humidity and expect to share it only with a peaceful spider or two.

Where we live, they spray once a month in every apartment in our 14 storey building, so there are not many bugs, but we have recently had the long-expected infestation… And it was of the not-very-exotic kind.

First we started noticing tiny beetles in our home in small, but slightly increasing numbers. As one or two a week became one or two a day, we started to kill them (which runs against everything I used to think was important until I lived with mosquitos).

Their numbers increased but there was no pattern. They’d be in the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom (where we saw the first one) and in the bedroom.

The ‘investigation’ was rubbish!

Then my wife suggested we have pasta. I poured my gluten free spaghetti into a pot of boiling water (it needs longer than gluten-containing pasta) and then my wife’s spirals were ready to go in. She poured in the pasta, and about 15 little bugs.

She’d bought the pasta for a hefty discount at Tesco Lotus and was excited about having this pasta from home at a reasonable price…

Some rapid pasta resolution gave way to specific research: cereal beetles! They were in bags of flour both supposedly sealed and unsealed and throughout that general area. Carefully resealing the unaffected flours, chucking out the affected ones and killing the ones left behind has resulted in a steadily decreasing incidence rate.

I am still anxious every time I open the Cornflakes though… Will the flakes move?

Firecracker chicken

One of our favourites in England has been used a few times here in Bangkok, since we got an oven. It really is our favourite meal, as Kitchen Meets Girl says herself. We’re eating it tonight, hence the post, but below is a picture from October 2014 to whet your appetite and encourage you to try it.

Take a look at her recipe here: Recipe for Firecracker Chicken

Firecracker chicken in a Pyrex dish

Frozen frogs… to stir fry

When I saw a bag of frozen frogs in Makro on a recent trip, I had to try them. We have both eaten:

  • mammals (e.g. pig, lamb, beef, rabbit)
  • fish (mackerel, tuna)
  • birds (chicken, ostrich, guillemot)
  • crustaceans (malacostraca) (lobster and crab)
  • mollusc (squid, octopus, oysters, mussels, clams, scallops)
  • reptiles (crocodile)
  • marsupials (kangaroo)
  • insects (grasshopper, mopane worms)
  • an arachnid (scorpions)

But we have never previously had amphibians. We bought the bag of frogs and some vegetables to go with them in a stir fry. I forgot to take a photo of the bag before I did the filleting and threw it out, so take a look at the photo on Richard Barrow’s site.

Here are our frogs’ legs marinating in soy sauce (gluten free, of course).P1070315

Next step is to fry them with vegetables and garlic etc.

Awesome gluten free pancakes / waffles

In Thailand, gluten free flours vary in price dramatically. The ones we’re used to using in the US and England are very, very expensive here. Xantham gum is also extraordinarily expensive. So we’re trying to find alternative recipes. We found a corn flour-based recipe (corn flour is called “corn starch” in American) that makes outstanding waffles. We haven’t tried making pancakes using this recipe, but that’s what it is for.

Unfortunately, the next time we went to the site, it was gone. So I’ve been to the internet archive to recover it, and am sharing it here. Click the following link for the original recipe. Also, having used the recipe twice, I’ve amended it to make it easier to follow:


  • 2 cups corn flour (300 grams)
  • 1 cup sugar (225 grams)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup butter (57 grams)
  • 1½ cups milk (360ml)


In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients; mix until all ingredients are well combined. Note, let the butter reach room temperature, but don’t melt it, or it will cause the mixture to split.

For waffles: Leave the mixture for about five minutes to allow it to thicken slightly (it will still be quite runny). Pour the mixture into a pre-heated waffle iron and leave for six minutes.
For pancakes: Lightly grease a skillet and cook each hot cake over medium heat on both sides for about one to two minutes or until ready.

Serve with butter, maple syrup, or your favorite marmalade.

A tiny oven…and delicious cookies!

Washing the tiny oven in the sink
Washing the tiny oven in the sink
What a fridge looks like when you want to chill cookies for a tiny oven!
What a fridge looks like when you want to chill cookies for a tiny oven!
Our tiny oven!
Our tiny oven!
The finished product: delectable gluten free m&m cookies!
The finished product: delectable gluten free m&m cookies!

Today we made a batch of m&m cookies! But because our gorgeous little oven is so tiny we could only bake 3-4 at a time. We wanted to chill them first so we filled our oven with little parchment paper sets of 3-4 cookies and then did a series of short bakes – to GREAT satisfaction! Delicious!

Making new and different (and tiny) work!

Gluten free in Bangkok, general advice

As a coeliac (celiac in American) who was diagnosed at 18 months old, I need to be very careful about eating food so that I don’t accidentally eat gluten. Unfortunately, gluten is hidden in lots of non-bread-like foods, such as soya sauce, most oyster sauce and in anything that has been contaminated.

So how can one eat safely in Bangkok?

These are a few tips:

  • Street food is hard. While it’s good value, and there are gluten free rice pancakes (on Marley’s great blog), I would skip it entirely. I have never come across wheat-containing fish sauce, so I’d worry less about that, but my biggest problem with street food is that so many of the vendors cannot read (read Thai, that is). If you go with your gluten-free card or PDF it won’t necessarily do you much good. Though this is the way around I would prefer it, many street vendors will confuse soya sauce with soy bean oil (which is the main oil in use) so you will miss out sometimes.
  • Food courts are a mixed bag. Unlike in the West, Thai malls, Tesco Lotus and Tops Markets have food courts that sell a wide variety of street-food and other traditional Thai dishes. The staff here often cannot read, so you’re only a little better off than street food, but there are some guaranteed safe dishes. Note, at food courts, you buy a little gift card with money on it at a separate counter before you order.
    • Tops Flavour (at Tops Market)
      • Krapow moo* (spicy basil, pork and veggies fried with steamed rice)
      • Krapow ghai* (spicy basil, chicken and veggies fried with steamed rice)
      • Green curry
      • Hainanese chicken (even the broth, as it’s made from the chicken stock)
    • Tesco Lotus
      • Samurai chicken
      • Green curry (if they have it)
    • MBK food court (in Sukhumvit)
      • The only thing I have had is Krapow moo
      • There is also a high-end food court on the 5th floor, which has Indian curries which are safe (when they don’t have a roti).
    • Terminal 21 (on Sukhumvit)
      • Hainanese chicken
      • Green curry

* Just occasionally, I have received the same, but with all the items fried together in soya sauce. If the steamed rice is not on the side, say “Mai chiy” (not correct) and repeat more slowly “Krap pow moo” or “Krap pow ghai”. Chicken is somewhat hard to say (and it’s very similar to the Thai word for “egg” when said by a Westerner, so if you see the sign, point to this word: ไก่ (assuming they can read).

  • Yayoi has been a good restaurant for coping. They only have one dish I am sure is safe, but it is very good. And Yayoi is everywhere which is helpful. I have had no luck in its sister restaurant, MK.
  • MaxValu – if you’re not a tourist, or have access to a microwave, MaxValu has a penang curry and a green curry in their freezer cabinet for 49 baht that, though it says “mays [sic] contain… wheat” does not cause any adverse reactions.
  • Theera is a ‘bakery’ which has gluten free cakes and a gluten free spaghetti dish. There are at least two in Bangkok – one in Siam Paragon.
  • Issaya Thai – if you’re not on a budget, this is the best restaurant in Bangkok, and their ability to cope with gluten free is as one may expect. Location here.

Are there places I have missed? Let me and others know in the comments!

Theera spaghetti bolognese

Updated 22 July with amended pronunciation and transliteration of “chicken”.

Spelling… or speling?

One thing I find interesting in Thailand is the translation from Thai script into the latin letters most of the world uses. When you translate from one script to another, there is not necessarily a ‘correct’ translation (or, more correctly, “transliteration”).

For this reason, the Sathorn area of Bangkok, which is home to the Corporate Business District, has many variations on spelling. It is called:

And I am sure there are other spellings incorporating the letter ‘u’. What’s most baffling, though, is that there are varying spellings within a single location. So you can be in Sathorn BRT station and see signs for “Sathon Tai Road” and even other signs mentioning the BRT using different spellings.

Becky and I have discussed the fact that we sometimes hear different pronunciations of words when they’re said by Thai-speakers through our imperfect ears, so there may not be an actual ‘correct’ spelling, but you’d think there could be one spelling that groups could agree upon.


There are also spelling problems in English, though. Central Plaza mall has two English education establishments within it, but despite that there are still signs like this:

“Camela and lens” anyone? And where can I find “Finacial Service”? These aren’t one-offs – all other mentions of Financial Service, on all the other signs, are spelled the same way. As I said to a ‘bi-lingual’ school I worked at, “Can’t you get these things checked by an English speaker before printing them?” Their response? They laughed at me.

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