So it’s happening. We are officially heading to Southeast Asia for my big birthday in May. We’re spending a couple weeks there, hitting up Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. To say I’m exited would be the understatement of the year. We still have some more detailed planning and itinerary-ing (is that a word?) to figure out but the flights to/from have been booked and I couldn’t be happier. We also convinced my married couple friends from college to join us on our journey. We have taken a trip with them before, so we know we all travel together well, and isn’t it always more fun to have more people share the experience? I think maybe what sealed the deal was when we took them to Land Thai on the Upper West Side while they were in town.
Land is my absolute favorite Thai place of all time. It’s our go-to spot in the neighborhood when we’re craving spicy deliciousness and cheap prices. It’s a teeny tiny place, but is always worth the wait for a table. We were on a roll with Saturday night dinners at Land for a few weeks, and it seems like we order in from Land at least once a week as well. I have yet to have a dish there I didn’t love. They also have a great “Land Juice” drink that we start out with – it’s vodka, lime juice, and some other deliciousness that I can never remember.
This time, we started with the crowd pleasing root vegetable spring rolls. The roll is really light and crispy, full of vegetables, and served with a mild sweet and sourish sauce. And they’re the perfect size – small enough that you don’t feel guilty ordering them every single time.
I ordered the Drunken Noodles with steamed tofu, one of the spicier noodle dishes they have. The sauce is rich and so spicy it makes my nose run. But I can’t help but love it. The vegetables are also great – really fresh and they add even more flavor to the dish.
R went with the Pad Thai (with no egg and steamed tofu), which is also a favorite of ours. Our friends had some sort of steak and seafood dishes that they also loved – though I didn’t photograph.
All the dishes were wonderful, as usual. One of my other Land favorites is their green curry with steamed tofu and vegetables. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this place. I find myself craving it all the time. I’m really interested to see if after our trip my Thai tastes will be different (like when we went to Napa and my wine tastes changed). I also worry- perhaps unnecessarily- about whether we’ll be able to communicate our non-meat preferences while we’re over there. Have any of you traveled to SE Asia? Any tips or pointers?
Oh my goodness! I’m not going to lie, I’m totally jealous, but so happy for you!
Thanks, Laura! I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures and blog about the experience. 🙂
hi! i have no idea how i stumbled onto your blog, but i’m soo glad i did! i’m going to be in harlem sometime late june and i’ve been furiously writing down all of your restaurants/cafe recommendations. they look most excellent!
and i’m glad i went back this far into your archives because i’m actually vietnamese and have been to thailand. i managed to survive in thailand because we had a friend living out there. there’s a ton of street food, but most of it is fried. the best meal i ate there was boiled chicken with white rice and a sweet ginger sauce, which is a version of hainan chicken and rice. be careful of the meat that you eat though.. after i had a duck dish in the city, i was so sick with an awful stomach virus. other than that, i would seriously recommend protecting yourself from mosquitos! i got so many bug bites; it was repulsive. i just saw some amazing bug repellent candy on http://www.organicolivia.com / http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IZGPJFM/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00IZGPJFM&linkCode=as2&tag=orgaoliv-20. they have tons of 7 elevens out there, and most are stocked with food. however, i don’t remember seeing any produce there so you’ll probably have to head to the market.
and maybe you can try pokpok in new york before you go. i know it’s almost may so maybe you’re already about to go. i believe the chef lived in thailand for awhile and might be able to give you some recommendations if you’re able to catch him.
as for vietnam, you should be able to find vegetarian places in the city since the main religion is buddhism. monks at the temple don’t eat meat, so if anything head to an area around the temple! also, the fruit should be amazing around this time. live off of that and coconut water! and remember to ask for no MSG in your food (maybe try picking out a nice waitress so they don’t get offended, haha). let me know if you need help with anything, translating-wise. but you should be fine, most of the younger people in vietnam learn english in school so you can always try communicating with them.
definitely pack some dehydrated or dry food with you for the trip! who knows what you’ll run into when you get to asia. i’ll try to ask my cambodian friends about traveling in cambodia! 🙂
Wow! Thank you so so much for all this wonderful, detailed info! I’m actually starting to pack tonight, we don’t leave until next Friday, but I feel like with work and everything else going on it will be good to get a head start. I’ve already picked up some serious bug spray, lots of sunscreen (I’m REALLY pale), but that’s a good tip about the dry food! I don’t plan on eating any meat, so hopefully I won’t get sick.
I do have one question for you, actually, how prevalent is mango in Vietnamese cooking? I know it’s big in Thailand (and i’ll be carrying 2 epipens with me in case I accidentally eat any) – but I’m allergic and want to make sure I’m on the lookout. How do you say mango in Vietnamese?
I’m so glad you stumbled across my blog too – and thank you so so much for all your advice, it’s really helpful! 🙂
what’s your email?
i can send you a voice memo of me saying ‘mango’ in vietnamese. it sounds like swai – the fish, but you have to lower your tone of voice. i’ll also make you a word document & voice memo stating you’re vegetarian and cannot eat mango in case you’re unable to communicate with a vietnamese waiter/waitress/vendor. one thing about thailand and vietnam though.. everything is made with fish sauce. so hopefully you’re not allergic/on a super strict vegetarian diet.
to be honest with you, i don’t remember seeing much mango in thailand and on thailand menus. of course, there are things like mango sticky rice, but you can avoid that entirely. when cooking, we tend to use green papaya, rather than mango. and if we use mango, it’ll just be green mango. in viet nam, we just have a fried fish dish with shaved mangoes on top. in thailand, you’ll probably a lot of the papaya salad around. i’d recommend living off pad thai and fruits, if anything, in thailand. you can also find a vendor with steamed white rice and maybe someone sauteing vegetables?
remember to dry your hair really well after summer, even if it is in the summer, to avoid mosquitos!
in viet nam, depending on where you are, you might be able to find some vegetarian restaurants.. although your food will still be cooked with fish sauce, unless you go to a buddhist-run restaurant! (remember, the temples/monasteries! lol) we use a lot of tofu in our dishes and we have vegetarian meats. popular vegetarian dishes are probably going to be stir-fried water spinach/ong choy, vegetarian sweet&sour soup, ‘do chua’ – pickled daikon&carrot shavings, vegetarian spring rolls with peanut sauce, vegetarian eggrolls, stir fried fat noodles, etc. if you see spicy lemongrass fried tofu and like it… indulge!!! or to-go some and eat it with white rice. i told my mom i want this a crapload of this in my coffin if something happens to me and i pass away before she does…! the word for vegetarian in vietnamese is ‘chay.’ i’ll send you a voice memo of that as well.
the only things i can think of to bring are various nuts, brown rice cakes, raw butters (would be so good with fruit!), overnight GF oats, etc.. you’d probably be better in this section than me!
also, if you were to get some crazy parasitic stomach virus.. be sure to carry virgin olive oil with you! take a tablespoon of this on an empty stomach as soon as you wake up so it can coat your stomach lining. eat nothing for 30 minutes, and when you are able to eat, i’d recommend eating something light/soupy that wouldn’t stick to your stomach like rice or dairy would (i know this is never a good option, but a cup of noodles would do if absolutely desperate). hopefully you’ll feel better after that. that’s seriously how i cured myself of the stomach virus from thailand after days of feeling morbid. and lastly, please keep your passport safe!!! i got mine stolen in thailand, along with all of my money. make sure you & your friends make photocopies of your passport and itinerary so at least you have some evidence that you are a us citizen! remember to exchange your money at a bank in new york, if you can.. rather than going to currency exchange spot and getting jipped!
Oh. My. Gosh. You are literally my favorite person ever right now. This is all so so helpful, and I can’t thank you enough for offering to help me out! You can reach me at email@example.com
Going back to the beginning, your quote “I think maybe what sealed the deal was when we took them to Land Thai on the Upper West Side while they were in town.” I’m going to disagree and say that what sealed the deal was all the sake and wine Sunday night… haha
As for Olivia – you are awesome! Talk about great advice. I’m so glad you came across this blog!
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