Throwing a sarong around me but eschewing flip flops, I stroll up the beach on our last day in Phuket…the sand is warm under my feet. No it’s not, it’s hot….no it’s not, it’s roasting! I’m just in front of the beach bar now, facing the small Thai gentleman, a purveyor of ice cold beer. I can stand it no longer, I open my mouth to ask for the drinks but then turn on my heels and dash back toward the sunbeds, hopping in the agony of my burning soles. Confused, the Thai gentleman starts running after me “Lady! You want beer?” I can’t stop or turn. I throw myself , panting, onto the bed next to the Marmoset. “Lady? You want beer?” he persists. I pant. “Yes please”. He wanders back to the bar in his sensible leather sandals.
Marmoset, pulls her shades down her nose and peers over the top of them – no words just a hard stare with a slightly quizzical edge. “The sand is fucking hot” I respond to the unasked query – she smirks and rolls over. Mata Hari lifts her head and smiles, Oceana and The Dam Buster are deep in conversation at the far end of our row and the boys slumber on, oblivious. Our beer arrives.
Heading towards sundown, we are in a ‘tuk tuk’ bus being transported back to the villa for our final evening in Thailand when we stop for a traffic light. I gaze out vacantly, dwelling on the journey home tomorrow. Just visible through the narrow slats on the side of the bus…..”There it is!!! I see it!! I see it!! – stop the bus. Where exactly are we??????” I shout. “What‘s she on about?” says DJ Ozz…
“It’s the Catfish Café!”……Cheering ensues.
7 days earlier…..
We arrive in Phuket after a stonking time up north in Chiang Mai and are made warmly welcome by the couple who manage our Villa. They give us the low down on our environs and as ever we are keen for a bit of local knowledge on the eating and drinking front. Our hosts give us a few recommendations, one of which is a bar that has a giant Buddha head next to the sofa we sat on giving the distinct impression the man/ boy god himself was having a drink with us…..another visited late by myself, Rocket, Stepney and Marmoset was one of the more bizarre experiences I’ve had whilst sitting up at a bar enjoying a drink…..it involved some strange dancing – let me leave it there.
A final passing observation,is the massaman curry at the Catfish Café, “sounds good” we say, “we will definitely try that.” The couple begin to give us elaborate directions, we reassure them that we will find it…
On subsequent evenings we set out to find the elusive destination, we ask in the local town, we scan the internet, we harangue our tuk tuk and taxi drivers, we ask at the tuk tuk line at the beach… Our queries are met with shrugs and we are resigned, no Catfish Café for us. Pride prevents the question to our villa managers – well to be honest, pride and fear that they will try to join us, which sounds churlish and I was going to go into a long explanation but I think I’ll just leave it that we are churlish.
Imagine then, the excitement when we eyeballed the elusive venue at last!
Later that night, we are off and running, we arrive at what appears to be the patio of the owners house, greeted by a lovely little Thai gentleman. Rocket cuts straight to the point “ please tell us you have the massaman curry on tonight???” Our lovely host beams – and tells us that his wife “made big pot of the curry just this morning”.
Happily ensconced beside the pond containing………?? Yes, Catfish….we order the massaman curry for 8, to follow some traditional starters and of course, a few beers.
This was a chicken curry, which I now realise is the less common version with beef being the one most commonly found. A dish originating in the Muslim community and having evolved into a Thai classic. We dine on it’s velvety unctuousness and replete we head toward the taxi – we had arranged the return journey on our way there. Our taxi driver is having an animated conversation with our host, who it turns out is his brother-in-law and of all the taxi drivers in all the world (or that week anyway) he would have known the Catfish Café….if we had just asked him.
My blog is named for it, and signifies for me many things but mostly a search for good food, memories of happy times and the idiosyncrasies of life….
Back to the tale…..
Last week with friends scheduled to come for some lunch we were pondering on what to cook and we realised that a number of the group were those self same friends from the Thai holiday so we decided to do the massaman chicken curry. In addition to many others things that irritate me, unfaithfully reproduced recipes on line make me crazy. My far eastern Odyssey book is in France and I was searching for the Rick Stein version. I found many that contained obvious errors – ingredients within the list not then mentioned in the method and so on. I feel for Rick, his recipes are so well tested, to ensure success and then idiots go online and credit him with a recipe that is totally inaccurate. BLAAAAAAA!!! Anyway, I commend Rick’s recipe to you and if you want it – I recommend you buy his book or catch the series. Ironically we overcooked our chicken to a ludicrous extent – I feel time pressures and alcohol may have impacted on quality but the flavor was as we had hoped. We made a green papaya salad and jasmine rice to go alongside it and for starters, we had Vietnamese dumplings, purchased from Longdan Vietnamese supermarket near the Elephant and Castle in London a fabulous little store and eatery. Why Vietnamese? My next milestone will be marked by a trip to Vietnam – it’s a way off yet but I’m dreaming of it already….Please listen along to the track and leave your comments below.