Day 3: Kho Samui, Thailand
ABOARD OCEANIA’s NAUTICA — Tom Kha Kai, Pad Thai, and Deep Fried Stuffed Crabmeat in Crab Shell; this was our lunch today at Nora Beach Resort & Spa on Kho Samui. All three dishes were delicious, and we cooked them ourselves! We joined Nautica’s “Thai Cooking Class” excursion and believe we may have had the best lunch of anyone on the cruise today, save our classmates.
We tendered ashore about 10 a.m. in a choppy sea, making it a little tricky boarding and leaving the tender. Six of us were transported by air conditioned van to what our guide, Sally, called the “Wet Market,” in Nathon, the island’s commercial hub. Here she explained about the local cuisine.
She encouraged us to taste fish cakes, a popular snack, sniff variously hued and spiced curry pastes, and three varieties of basil, and sample a refreshing little berry-like fruit called long an. Stumped when asked to guess what part of a chicken she was pointing out, we learned they were the key ingredient in chicken-foot soup.
Then we drove nearly half-way around the island to Nora Beach Resort with roofed, open-air public spaces, lush landscaping and a beachfront terrace restaurant where we met our instructor, Sous Chef Walai “Paula” Tabtawee. After a miraculously refreshing herbal welcome drink we received a booklet with ingredient lists and preparation instructions for each dish, along with aprons and chef’s hats to make us official.
While the stuffed crabmeat was an original and creative recipe using several typical Thai ingredients, its title is pretty descriptive. And we all knew that Pad Thai is a traditional fried noodle dish and staple of Thai cuisine. But the Tom Kha Kai, that was new. It’s translated as “chicken soup in young coconut,” and provided an unexpected taste sensation. Coconut milk, coconut water, lemon grass, Kaffir Lime leaves, cilantro, and a Thai root similar to ginger called galingale, combined with more conventional ingredients plus some Thai chilies to taste and, Wow! We’re trying this on out friends when we return home.
We guess it goes without saying; we’re giving Oceania very high marks for this shore excursion. We think the resort, its restaurant and Chef Paula also earned an “A.”
Sally explained that Kho means “island” in the Thai language and that Samui means “first gate.” Kho Samui is where European trading vessels would provision with water, rice and coconuts before continuing on to Bangkok, making it the first stop in Thailand.
Naturally, it is hot and humid here, but the island and beaches are beautiful and deserve more time than we had. Perhaps we’ll return in cooler season for a better look, and if we do we’ll try to stay at the Nora Beach Resort.
We weighed anchor around 6 p.m.. and are now headed for Singapore, a two-day journey. We’re looking forward to this cosmopolitan city with keen interest, and also to Kuala Lumpur, where we’ll head next, but then we’ll get one more bite of Thailand with a call at Phuket. We have become big fans of Thailand, if not the April weather. Tomorrow we’re at sea and so will finally have time to more closely explore our mobile floating resort, the Nautica.
April 6, 2013