Friday, December 11, 2015

Next Meal, Indonesia

For our next meal, we're going to Indonesia!

Also, in the spirit of Christmas we will have a small gift exchange. Details here.

Meal #02: Lebanon

Our culinary trip to Lebanon brought us to Beirut, a fairly well-established restaurant with several branches around Bangkok. We met at the branch in the basement of Ploenchit Center, at Sukhumvit 2 near Nana. Our explorers were Joe, Lynette, Joan, Zoe, Fabian and partner (sorry I forgot her name!), Jim, Kim and of course, myself.

The menu was pretty large, with a good selection of dips and starters, grilled meats and some specialties that were specifically Lebanese. Grilled/stewed/fried meats came in the form of beef, lamb, chicken and seafood (prawn and fish) although I'm pretty sure the seafood section was just an adaptation to local tastes. We started off with a serving of hummus fata and lahembel aajin. The former had whole chickpeas rather than smashed, but had an interesting texture because of the crunchy bread mixed in. Lahembel aajin was recommended by Joe as traditional food - an open pie of meat, tomato and lemon - much like a pizza without the cheese.

Hummus Fata (source: Beirut website)

Joe has come to the restaurant often, so he offered a lot of insight into what's traditional and what wasn't. When it came to the Lebanese specialties on the menu, they got stamp of approval. The stews too, were recommended. Some of the other dishes that were tried that night:

My mixed shwarma (beef and chicken) served with rice (you could also get fries). A huge portion - I didn't finish it and got to pack it for lunch the next day.

Zoe's couscous dish with vegetarian stew, one from the traditional Lebanese menu.

The mixed kebabs were a popular choice too, although this is a picture of the jumbo plate. (photo source: Beirut website)

Who says you can't make friends with salad?

For a table for 10 on a Wednesday evening, the restaurant didn't seem to have too much trouble seating us. I called ahead to book a space and they had one ready and waiting. By 7.30 though, the place was quite packed so it seems pretty popular enough.

This was the first meetup where we introduced the collection bag for our adopted charity, Apopo. We had extra money left over from the bill - THB300 - so that went to the Apopo fund. Once we hit 3,000, the money will be used to fund the training of a Hero Rat for one year.

Beirut Restaurant, Ploenchit Center (Source: restaurant website)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Introducing our charity project: Apopo's Hero Rats

Starting the next meetup, you might see a little collection bag going around. This is for our adopted charity: Apopo, and their Hero Rat programme. Apopo is a Belgian-based NGO that train rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis in Africa and Southeast Asia. It sounds quirky and strange, but they've been effective for over 20 years now.

I visited the Mine Detection Rat programme last week in Cambodia to see the rats in action. Here is a video of them detecting explosives under the ground as part of their training:

Rats are often thought of as pests, but they are also very clever and sociable animals. Also, they are rather cute!

The money collected during meals will go towards Apopo. The money will either used to sponsor the training of a rat (or rats), or given directly to the Mine Detection Rat programme in Cambodia to offset their operating costs of approximately USD$160,000 a year. In the interests of transparency, I will post a tally of the collections during every post-meal report.

Again, this is not obligatory. The main aim of this group is to discover new foods and to make new friends. I do not work for Apopo or intend to turn this group into a fund-raising vehicle. Give some spare change if you want to, or not if you aren't inclined.