Monday, May 20, 2024

The PRUFF is in the pudding

We had a wonderful time at Phuket’s incredible one star Michelin restaurant, PRU, although we almost didn’t make it. It required booking in advance with a credit card. For some reason, their firewall prevented my credit card from going through and I tried more than one repeatedly. I corresponded quite a few times with the folks and finally I realized it just wasn't happening. I emailed them that I was sorrowfully releasing my reservation for the chef’s counter, which is where you always want to be. And guess what? They allowed us to come without the security of a credit card. That was pretty big, because there are only 8 (10?) seats at the counter overlooking the chefs, along with just a handful of tables. 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Elephant Etiquette And More


Probably the most thrilling part of our trip was going to the Kanta Elephant Sanctuary an hour outside of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Chiang Mai itself is a wonderful place and adding a visit with the elephants was an incredible experience. Elephants used to work in the logging industry in Thailand moving huge logs from place to place. Commercial logging was outlawed in 1989 and the elephant handlers, known as mahouts, were left with these giant animals to care for that no longer contributed to the family income. The burgeoning tourist industry provided some income to the Thai owners, but often elephants were mistreated and the owners lived below subsistence level.   

Sanctuaries were set up to buy the elephants and give them a tranquil life and some financial relief to their owners. Many organizations promote the well-being of the elephants and the proper running of these sanctuaries. Unfortunately, you still see places where elephant rides are promoted or where they’re chained and not given the freedom to roam. Luckily, the Kanta Sanctuary allows none of that and the elephants spend their days peacefully eating and walking, walking and eating in the forest, with daily baths and a monthly visit from a veterinarian.   

The Kanta Sanctuary has 21 acres of forest, grazing land and rivers for 17 lucky elephants. Each has his or her own Thai handler, who cares for the elephants and gets them safely from place to place. 

We arrived at the sanctuary in the morning and were told the program for the day and instructed in what I call elephant etiquette. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Boats Abound In Bangkok

One of the most fun things on our trip to Asia was all of our adventures on the water. The Bangkok Peninsula Hotel is right on the Chao Phraya River and it had a fabulous shuttle boat which took us to various places. The best was to the incredible IconSiam mall. 
This is a mall of all malls. Thai malls are fabulously busy and bustling, where families, young people, tourists go en masse. One reason is obviously the air-conditioning. It IS hot in Bangkok, but the malls also offer shopping, many food choices, sometimes entertainment, all with the opportunity to get out of the humidity. 
IconSiam has great food stalls, beautiful crafts, clothing and jewelry AND restaurants both inside and outside on gorgeous plazas and terraces. 


One more thing about IconSiam. On the top floor is an absolutely gorgeous indoor waterfall coming from the ceiling. It changes colors and designs and spells out words! It’s really impressive!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Bangkok’s Breakfasts of Champions

I consider myself a relatively experienced breakfast eater. I’ve eaten the first meal of the day in many different towns and types of places as well cooked more variations of it than I can even count. I’m happy sticking with the usual or going down a different path when the fancy strikes me.

But I have never…let me repeat that…I HAVE NEVER seen anything like the breakfast offered at the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok. It was like 7 (maybe more?) separate restaurants in one. The displays were lavish. The offerings were appealing and everything – from the crusty, crispy uber-FRESH croissants to the fried noodles and baos - was perfect.  Honestly, it was every superlative you could throw at breakfast. 

In the center of the main inside area, there was a huge table with magnificent fruit in a museum-quality display.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Beautiful Bangkok - Chanting Monks, Buddha In Recline And A Sparkling Green Stone Buddha

What is there not to love about Bangkok? It’s a busy, vibrant city, but without the bedlam of wonderful-in-its-own-way Mumbai. It WAS actually hotter than Mumbai and Kerala, but there are so many great places to visit, you just have to forget about the heat (and the even worse humidity). The best thing would have been to spend three months in Bangkok during the nicer winter months. But we were determined to make the most of 3 days in REALLY hot weather (but we’re not going to talk about that...much.)

The main sites are spectacular. 

Note - Wat means temple and there are gazillions of them in Thailand.

Hint to visitors – Bring socks with you on any outing. Shoes have to be removed in every temple and other places too. Walking barefoot on the HOT stone or tile steps up to the temple is torture 🤯, so shove the socks somewhere, so that you always have them. 

Wat Phra is a Buddhist temple within the grounds of the Grand Palace. It’s the home of the Emerald Buddha and the most sacred temple in Thailand. You’re told way in advance no shorts, nothing sleeveless, no sandals, no short skirts, no tight clothes, which was a bit of a challenge in sticky weather that felt like 105 degrees, but well worth it to see it all.

Friday, April 12, 2024 my stir frying technique leaves something to be desired...

Cruising on the backwaters of Kerala

Chinese Fishing Nets

Our next stop in India was Fort Kochi in Kerala, a sliver of a state in the southwest corner of India. It’s a lot calmer than Mumbai (although certainly not cooler). The state of Kerala is known for its natural beauty, lush green areas, tranquil backwaters and one more thing - it has the highest literacy rate in India - 96.2%.  Interestingly, it also has stronger and better enforced traffic laws, where motorbike users actually wear helmets or they are ticketed, according to our great guide, Jayakrishnan. Hmm, higher literacy rates AND safer traffic situations…Are they related? 😏 

The highlight of our visit to Kerala was taking a leisurely cruise on the backwaters of Alleppey.

Friday, April 5, 2024

Spicy Mumbai

For any city lovers, Mumbai is an experience that has to be seen to be believed. The pulse of the city, the energy, even the chaos is unlike any other place. Compare it to any large city and multiply it a million times and put it on steroids and that’s Mumbai! 

You know how Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Well, it would be impossible to be bored in Mumbai or even to have a lukewarm response to it. There are people everywhere, there is commerce on every street corner (and everywhere in between), there is a constant coming and going. 4 lanes of traffic become 8 as cars, buses, slews of motorbikes, trucks and carts all vie for any space available (and most likely not actually available). All of this is happening as every possible horn is being sounded steadily.

So this is a lot to absorb from a car, (which thankfully was being driven by a professional…at least I think he was!) but imagine having to cross a street like that! We did it numerous times, where there were no crosswalks, no traffic lights, just crossing the street in front of oncoming traffic! It does keep you alert! The funny thing is we never saw an accident, perhaps only a few close calls, but we never witnessed any motorbike, pedestrian or car crash. I can’t really explain it, except that no one was going superfast, but still…😮.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Astonishing Dabbawalas of Mumbai

The highlight of our time in Mumbai was spending a morning with the Dabbawalas – the guys that pick up and deliver lunches to office workers. Our wonderful guide, Aman Wallia, took us to their main office in Mumbai. 

There we met Vijay, a 4th generation Dabbawala and the youngest one at 19 years old, who is also their spokesperson.

Office workers in Mumbai often have to take very crowded trains to their workplaces. They may have a briefcase or other bag and they need their other hand to hold on (tightly) to the straps or handrails on the train, so they can’t be carrying the somewhat elaborate lunch that many Bombayites have to come depend on. Typically, several dishes are put into separate sections of a metal tiffin box – a chicken curry, rice and dal for example, and each section fits together one on top of the other. 

The office worker leaves early in the morning before lunch is made and the dabbawalas show up at the door between 9:30am and 10:30am, which gives the homecook time to prepare the meal. The Dabbawala picks up the food, which has been packed into a tiffin box and put into some kind of tote or lunch bag. They then transport them to the train station by bicycle and the dabbawalas ride with the lunch bags in a special car on the train to the main station. There they are divided by region and delivered to each individual office by 1pm in big bicycle carts.

The incredible thing is that the dabbawalas have a 99.999% accuracy for the 100,000 lunches they deliver daily. (Before Covid, it was 200,000 lunches a day. Even Harvard was super-impressed by their intricate system.) 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Gone To Pot

I’m not against downsizing kitchen equipment or even upsizing, but what I’m really for is RIGHT-SIZING. 

Every time I make soup, I'm faced with the dilemma of using a pot that is much too big... 

or one that borders on being too small... 


Okay I'm being a bit dramatic, but I really love my 12 quart stainless steel pot that I use for huge recipes. It’s my go-to for boiling 20 potatoes on Thanksgiving for example. But reasonably-sized recipes get lost in it and it IS a bear to wash. I also love my 5 quart pot (I think of a POT as having two rounded handles on opposite sides and a PAN as having a long handle, although some say pots are deep and pans are shallow.🤷) But many times if I double a soup or stew recipe the 5 quart pot borders on overflowing, which is never desirable. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Who knew? - Melissa Clark’s Red Lentil Soup was the most reviewed recipe on the New York Times website as of last November. She had gotten the recipe from a friend and just like the rest of us, adjusted some things according to what she had in the house. When I made it, I made a few changes too and I think I ended up with one of the best soups I’ve ever made…OR had! 

Jump to My Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

A few main changes:

I added a diced sweet potato, which melded perfectly with the color of the red lentils and made a beautiful, rich, slightly sweet soup.

I cooked the onions as I usually do, until they are soft, soft, SOFT. I don't add spices or any liquid ingredients until the onions have given up any signs of resistance and are left sweet and almost buttery.

Monday, July 24, 2023


In the hot days of summer, ratatouille is the perfect vehicle for all those bountiful farm fresh vegetables – eggplant, yellow and green squash, onions, peppers, garlic, as well as tomatoes. Oooh, don’t forget the mushrooms…This does require a fair amount of stovetop cooking, but you can do it in advance and serve it cold, which is absolutely sensational!

Jump to Sue’s Ratatouille

I have a distinct way of making ratatouille, which I think brings out the best in all the vegetables. I use two different pans. First, I get the chopped onions softening in a largish (8 quart) stockpot, while I sauté each kind of vegetable separately in a nonstick pan. As they're finished, I add them to the onions. I add a hit of garlic and as little oil as possible (maybe 1 1/2 teaspoons) to each vegetable and I season as I go.

To minimize the amount of oil, here's a trick:

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Frozen Yogurt Bark Isn't Just For Babies


I first became familiar with yogurt bark through a baby I know. It’s a cool treat for all those baby-led weaning kids, but it’s great for anyone else too!

It’s basically a spread-out bed of yogurt topped with fruit and anything else you can think of and then frozen. For babies? Use just fruit. For non-babies? The sky’s the limit! The biggest challenge is to find a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer, but once you’ve done that, it’s smooth sailing.

Jump to Non-Baby Frozen Yogurt Bark

I started with 2 cups of 5% Greek yogurt. The first time you make it, PLEASE don’t use non-fat yogurt. Experience it being really good, before you strip away the flavor and rich feel that the 5% yogurt gives it. (My baby friend actually uses 10% Greek yogurt, which I couldn’t bring myself to do…) Also – and don't do this for babies - I stirred in some honey AND drizzled more over the final product just before freezing.