Desserts in Budapest

The main reason we chose Budapest for our last full month-long home in Europe was the huge selection of awesome Airbnb apartments for dirt cheap prices. But a very, very, very close second was all the decadent desserts in Budapest. Hungary is a country with an incredible cake scene – it was like a dream come true for a self-proclaimed cake lover like me. After all, this is the country where the Dobos Torte was invented.

This blog post will be a quick photo tour through the desserts we tried in Budapest. If this blog post makes you Hungary (har har), I highly recommend you walk straight to your kitchen and make your own Dobos Torte using this recipe, which is easy to make and guaranteed to impress family and friends. I made it once and love it.

Without further ado, let’s eat!

Kürtőskalács (Chimney Cake)

Oh. My. Goodness. This dessert was a revelation, and was hands down the best sweet we ate in Budapest. Chimney Cakes are made from a sweet dough that is rolled out onto a wooden roller, then rolled in sugar, then either grilled over hot coals or baked in an oven. After it’s cooked, they’ll roll it in your choice of topping: chocolate, walnut, almond, poppy-seed, vanilla, cinnamon (our fave!), or coconut.

The best Chimney Cakes we had during our time in Budapest were from Molnar’s Kürtőskalács. Their chimney cakes cost 990 Forint (about $3.68), and were by far the best we found in all of our time in Budapest.

Molnar's Kürtőskalács. This place is my idea of heaven.

Molnar’s Kürtőskalács. This place is my idea of heaven.

One of the bakers, working hard on making those Chimney Cakes.

One of the bakers, working hard on making those Chimney Cakes.

They’re located in the heart of the downtown tourist area, so it is inexcusable not to stop by, in my opinion.

Ahhhhh Molnar's is so good. My mouth is watering looking at this photo...

Ahhhhh Molnar’s is so good. My mouth is watering looking at this photo…

A very close runner-up to Molnar’s is any charcoal-cooked Kürtőskalács stand at outdoor festivals in Budapest. Here’s the caveat, though, make sure it’s a food stand where lots of locals eat! We picked the one below, which had a CRAZY line, and it was fantastic.

A Kurtoskalacs stand at an Easter Festival in City Park.

A Kurtoskalacs stand at an Easter Festival in City Park.

The key to Chimney cakes is getting them fresh and hot! Never, ever, ever buy a cold Chimney cake. Here’s a peek at how they’re made:

The dough is rolled onto these wooden rollers.

The dough is rolled onto these wooden rollers.

At festivals, they're usually cooked over hot coals!

At festivals, they’re usually cooked over hot coals!

Here's Kevin with our Chimney Cake. At the festival, they usually run about 1000 Forint (about $3.72), but are quite a bit bigger than the ones you'll get at Molnar's.

Here’s Kevin with our Chimney Cake. At festivals, they usually run about 1000 Forint (about $3.72), but are quite a bit bigger than the ones you’ll get at Molnar’s.

Best Bakery in Budapest: Pasha Turkish Bakery

In a surprise move, we decided to name Pasha as our favorite bakery in Budapest. But it’s Turkish, you say, and this is Hungary, you say. Tough cookies (har har). Make one visit to Pasha and you’ll be singing a different tune, I promise.

Pasha Bakery, the best in Budapest.

Pasha Bakery, the best in Budapest.

The downside to Pasha is that it is pretty far out in the Northern Suburbs. In fact, you have to take the H5 commuter rail to the Békásmegyer stop to get there, then walk a couple blocks. We think it’s totally worth the trip if you’re in Budapest for five days or more. Their amazingly tasty sweets and rock bottom prices make the trip totally worth it! We got four baklavas, two bureks, four cookies, and a big sesame pastry for just 2265 Forint, or about $8.45.

Pasha serves Burek! We loved the apple and spinach varieties.

Pasha serves Burek! We fell in love with Burek in Croatia. At Pasha, we loved the apple and spinach varieties.

Best pastry we tried there was this tahini and sesame pastry. It had just a hint of sweetness, which Kevin and I both LOVED.

The single best pastry we tried there was this tahini and sesame pastry. It had just a hint of sweetness, which Kevin and I both LOVED. It balanced out the honey-doused baklava.

Delicious baked goods at Pasha!

Delicious baked goods at Pasha!

Cookies, cakes, and Turkish Pizza, oh my!

Cookies, cakes, and Turkish Pizza, oh my!

Two words: Chocolate Baklava. Or as I called it, Choclava.

Two words: Chocolate Baklava. Or as I called it, Choclova.

Clearly, we bought the chocolate baklava, which completely blew my mind. It is so good. They also have a superb traditional Baklava, which would've knocked my socks off if I had eaten it before its chocolate sibling.

Clearly, we bought the chocolate baklava, which completely blew my mind. It is so good. They also have a superb traditional Baklava, which would’ve knocked my socks off if I had eaten it before its chocolate sibling.

Rumor has it that Pasha bakery may open up a chain in downtown Budapest sometime in the future. Check their website often to see if it happens before your visit!

The Dobos Torte: Hungary’s Gift to the World

The Dobos Torte is a Hungarian sponge cake layered with chocolate icing, topped with a crunchy layer of caramel. It was invented way back in the 1800s by a guy named Jozsef C. Dobos. If I could time travel, I would love to go to the 1800s and give this man a well-deserved pat on the back.

Check out this Dobos Torte. I can definitely get onboard with this ratio of icing to cake.

Check out this Dobos Torte. I can definitely get onboard with this ratio of icing to cake.

Nearly every Cukrászda (the Hungarian word for Bakery) in Budapest sells this tasty creation. We only tried it at one bakery, but I’d challenge you to try to find the BEST Dobos Torte in town and leave me a comment once you do!

Ruszwurm Bakery in Castle Hill

Ruszwurm Bakery in Castle Hill

We got our Dobos fix at Ruszwurm Cukrászda, which claims to be Budapest’s oldest cafe! It’s a family business started back in 1827, and is located a block from the Matthias Church at the top of Castle Hill. The bakery has been through a lot – the building was damaged in bombings in 1849 and 1944, but they are still dishing up tasty cakes today!

Ruszwurm's Dobos Torte

Ruszwurm’s Dobos Torte

There is no shortage of cakes to choose from at Ruszwurm.

There is no shortage of cakes to choose from at Ruszwurm.

The Dobos Torte was good, but the cake Ruszwurm Cukrászda is most famous for is their Ruszwurm Kreme cake. It’s a heavenly vanilla custard sandwiched between two pieces of puff pastry, then topped with a hefty amount powdered sugar. This slice of cake was absolutely the winner at Ruszwurm – if you visit, you MUST try this one!

Ruszwurm's famous Kreme Cake. You have to try it!!

Ruszwurm’s famous Kreme Cake. You have to try it!!

Fair warning, Ruszwurm is definitely on the tourist radar and full of people wildly waving around selfie sticks and taking photos. Excessive photo taking is always slightly annoying, but this is one case where I think the Kreme Cake is worth the hassle of feeling touristy.

Auguszt Cukrászda

Speaking of Kreme Cake, we also gave it a shot at Auguszt Cukrászda. They’re also known for their Kreme Cakes, but the only reason I’m putting this section in here is to encourage you to get it at Ruszwurm instead.

Kreme Cakes at Auguszt Cukrászda. Regular ol' Kreme Cake on the left, and their Chocolate and Orange variety on the right.

Kreme Cakes at Auguszt Cukrászda. Regular ol’ Kreme Cake on the left, and their Chocolate and Orange variety on the right.

Ruszwurm’s Kreme Cake was far superior to the one we got at Auguszt, and Ruszwurm’s service was more friendly.

Fröhlich Cukrászda

For something different, be sure you stop by Fröhlich Cukrászda, a bakery in the Jewish Quarter that specializes in a few traditional Jewish Cakes.

Check out this unassuming storefront! Fröhlich is located smack dab in the middle of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

Check out this unassuming storefront! Fröhlich is located smack dab in the middle of the Jewish Quarter of Budapest.

This bakery is family run, and the woman behind the counter was one of the nicest people we met in town. They had a dizzying array of cakes, and I’m certain they are all delicious.

The cake selection at Fröhlich Cukrászda

The cake selection at Fröhlich Cukrászda

They even have a Dobos Torte. We didn't try it, but I bet it's awesome.

They even have a Dobos Torte. We didn’t try it, but I bet it’s awesome.

First, we went for the most chocolatey thing we could find:

Fröhlich's Chocolate Torte Cake.

Fröhlich’s Chocolate Torte Cake.

And obviously, we got the cake they are famous for, Flodni. Flodni is an apple, poppy-seed, and walnut dessert cake. It’s a traditional dessert commonly made in Jewish households in Budapest, Fröhlich is just about the only bakery where you can find it in Budapest.

Flodni cake from Fröhlich Cukrászda.

Flodni cake from Fröhlich Cukrászda.

Hungarian people are absolutely bonkers for poppy seeds for some reason – the entire middle layer of this cake was just a bunch of poppy seeds held together by a sweet syrup. It’s not really for me, and I didn’t 100% enjoy this cake because the poppy made it pretty earthy, but it was definitely fun to try. Plus, Fröhlich has some of the most reasonable cake prices in the city, so it’s impossible to steer yourself wrong here.

Cookies for the Cookie Monsters

If you love cookies as much as we do, Budapest has you covered. I’m sure that the Great Market Hall is already on your radar if you’re planning to visit the city. It was built in the late 1800s and is known for its awesome colorful Zsolnay roof tiles.

Budapest's Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok)

Budapest’s Great Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok). Look at that roof!

After you enter the main doors of the Great Market Hall, turn left, and there will be a bakery immediately on your right. This gal sells some of the best cookies in town, for rock bottom prices! The minimum purchase is 100 grams of cookies, which will run you 100 Forint, which just south of 40 cents. Go ahead, buy a whole Kilo of cookies, you know you want to.

Cookies at the Great Market Hall. We loved the round Chocolate and Vanilla ones at the front here - they are great dipped in coffee or tea!

Cookies at the Great Market Hall. We loved the round Chocolate and Vanilla ones at the front here – they are great dipped in coffee or tea!

Stand back from the cookie booth and watch what locals order. There were older men literally buying several Kilograms of cookies from this gal. It’s gotta be the best bargain in the Market Hall!

If you’re looking for a cookie experience that is a little more… interesting… head to Castle Hill and seek out Pethes János Cukrász. They’re located in Castle Hill at Donáti Utca 42 (map), way off the Tourist track, in a basement.

The unassuming Pethes János Cukrász, a basement bakery in Castle Hill.

The unassuming Pethes János Cukrász, a basement bakery in Castle Hill.

This place is more of an industrial bakery than a storefront, but don’t let that deter you! They bake and sell cookies to other stores in the city, so they know what they’re doing. No one there spoke a bit of English, but I got by with some hand waving and gesturing. Be sure you take small bills, I doubt they have a lot of change lying around.

I managed to buy a bag mixed with the cookies we love to dip in coffee, and these delicious peanut cookies that I think are called földimogyoró. They're in the top-right in this photo.

I managed to buy a bag mixed with the cookies we love to dip in coffee, and these delicious peanut cookies that I think are called földimogyoró. They’re in the top-right in this photo.

Because of the language barrier, I bought more cookies than I intended to. I'm not complaining, it was still just $3! Look at all these cookies!

Because of the language barrier, I bought more cookies than I intended to. I’m not complaining, it was still just $3! Look at all these cookies!

Rêtes (Strudel) in Budapest

I’ll leave you today with some sweets that are completely acceptable to eat at breakfast. I’m from a family where a slice of Pie is a perfectly normal way to start your day – in fact, that is one of my favorite things about the holiday season. So when I got wind of the strudel situation in Budapest, I was super excited.

I did a little digging on the internet and found Rózi Néni Rétesei, a little food stand that is allegedly the reigning Strudel Specialist in Budapest. This place has been family owned for over twenty years, and deserves its reputation for being delicious.

The Rózi Néni Rétesei Strudel Stand

The Rózi Néni Rétesei Strudel Stand

They have an all-Hungarian website and a Facebook Page, and are located in a food stand that sits here.

So many strudels yum!

So many strudels yum!

We tried Cherry Cheese, Sesame, Sour Cherry, Imperial Cheese, Peach Cheese, and Apple.

We tried Cherry Cheese, Sesame, Sour Cherry, Imperial Cheese, Peach Cheese, and Apple. All these for about $5.

They were all delicious except for the sesame, which was earthy and not for me. The Peach strudel is one of their most popular, and was delicious! I actually liked the Imperial Cheese the best, which is the fanciest of the strudels in the photo above (top left).

PRO TIPs: Go in the morning, or they may run out of the good stuff! Also, take cash. Also, you should absolutely get the powdered sugar topping!

We Want to Hear From You!

Which country in Europe has the best sweets? Paris? Italy? Belgium? Hungary? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Eating in Budapest

If you do a little research about Hungarian food, you’ll start to see some common themes. Words like starchy, heavy, and fattening will come up regularly. It’s heavy on the meat and bread, and light on the vegetables. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that ordering a “salad” in Hungary meant getting a plate full of pickled vegetables! Even in recent years, with imported foods showing up in more stores, you’re still hard pressed to find leafy greens anywhere.

Word on the street is that much of the food here is made with lard, making it extra filling and heavy, and some would say extra yummy. The occasional meal where my plate is loaded up solely with meat and starches definitely hits the spot every once in awhile, but I also like to fit into my clothes and feel good about life.

So we adopted a go-out-twice-a-week rule for Eating in Budapest, and I’m happy to report that we’re more or less the same size as when we arrived in this city. I think it was a smart move, because I’m here to tell you that I saw with my own two eyes a pork dish that came with rice AND potatoes, and they also brought out a bread basket. SO MANY STARCHES! What is this madness?

As unhealthy as it sounds, Hungarian food can actually be extremely delicious. If you look in the right places and visit the right restaurants (and cook some healthier meals for yourself in between trips to restaurants!), you’ll fall in love with the local cuisine. The paprika dishes are out of this world, the duck dishes STILL make special appearances my occasional food dreams, and the local lunch institution known as the “Napi Menü” is every budget traveler’s fantasy.

In this blog post, I’ll show you a few of our best experiences of eating in Budapest. I should note here that there will be a conspicuous absence of sweets. Don’t worry, we’re not off sugar. Not even close. The cookies and cakes in Budapest are just so damn delicious that they deserve their own blog post. Stay tuned for a post on desserts next week. Without further ado… let’s eat!

Hungarikum: Best Restaurant in Budapest

Every once in awhile, you visit a restaurant that knocks your socks off. For Kevin’s birthday, we decided to try out Hungarikum Bistro, one of the top-rated restaurants on Trip Advisor in Budapest. Normally, I’m more impressed with small eateries that are off the beaten path, outside the major tourist areas. The kind where you have to order your food using hand signals and broken attempts at using the local language.

Once in a blue moon, though, a touristy popular restaurant far exceeds my expectations. Hungarikum has everything: incredibly friendly service, wonderfully delicious food, live music, and a few extra freebies that they throw in to make your meal extra special. PRO TIP: Hungarikum is extremely popular, even on random weekdays at lunchtime, so reservations are absolutely a must-do.

Without further ado, here’s a photo tour of our meal at Hungarikum:

First, they bring out complimentary bacon and onion bread topped with sour cream and paprika. And Freebie #1 steals my heart. Nice work, Hungarikum.

First, they bring out complimentary bacon and onion bread topped with sour cream and paprika. And Freebie #1 steals my heart. Nice work, Hungarikum.

Everyone gets a plate of peppers to spice up their meals. PRO TIP: The one on the bottom is fantastic in Goulash.

Everyone gets a plate of peppers to spice up their meals. PRO TIP: The paste on the bottom is fantastic in Goulash.

Kevin and I shared a bowl of Goulash as a started, and they split it out into two bowls without us even asking!

Kevin and I shared a bowl of Goulash as a starter, and they split it out into two bowls without us even asking!

Then the live music started! Check this guy out - a total badass.

Then the live music started! Check this guy out – such a badass.

Our waitress offered to take our picture when she brought out our food. She was super sweet and helpful.

Our waitress offered to take our picture when she brought out our food. She was super sweet and helpful.

We ordered the Pork Tenderloin (with BACON) on noodles with Paprika Sauce...

We ordered the Pork Tenderloin (with BACON) on noodles with Paprika Sauce…

...and the Crispy Duck Leg with braised red cabbage and onion mashed potatoes. This was our single best plate of food we had in Budapest. It was SO delicious.

…and the Crispy Duck Leg with braised red cabbage and onion mashed potatoes. This was our single best plate of food we had in Budapest. It was SO delicious.

When they bring out your check, they give you a free shot of Plum Palinka liquor! And freebie #2 seals Hungarikum's place as my favorite restaurant in Budapest.

When they bring out your check, they give you a free shot of Plum Palinka liquor! And freebie #2 seals Hungarikum’s place as my favorite restaurant in Budapest.

If you’re in town, you definitely should make a reservation well ahead of time and arrive hungry. Visit their website to reserve a spot. The total damage for this entire dinner was just 7810 Forint, which is about $29.

Kisharang: Second Best Restaurant in Budapest

If you’re in the mood for something a little more casual or didn’t manage to snag a reservation at Hungarikum, Kisharang is a great alternative. It doesn’t have a huge presence on Trip Advisor like Hungarikum, but they have friendly service and serve up delicious Hungarian food at reasonable prices.

Enjoying the outdoor seating at Kisharang in Downtown Budapest.

Enjoying the outdoor seating at Kisharang in Downtown Budapest.

Probably the tastiest dish we ate there, this is Lecso with sausage. It's a traditional Hungarian dish that is sort of their answer to ratatouille. Highly recommend.

Probably the tastiest dish we ate there, this is Lecso with sausage. It’s a traditional Hungarian dish that is sort of their answer to ratatouille. I highly recommend it.

When you're in Budapest, you MUST try some Hortobágyi Palacsinta, which is savory pancakes with a meat filling topped with a heavenly paprika sauce. These will set you back about $3.90.

When you’re in Budapest, you MUST try some Hortobágyi Palacsinta, which is savory pancakes with a meat filling topped with a heavenly paprika sauce. These will set you back about $3.90.

They also serve a less soupy take on Pork Goulash, which comes with noodles. This one was $4.97.

They also serve a less soupy take on Pork Goulash, which comes with noodles. This one was $4.97.

We also tried their stuffed pepper and meatball dish. Yum.

We also tried their stuffed pepper and meatball dish. The sauce was a bit on the sweet side for me, but still tasty.

PRO TIP: Kisharang is cash only.

The Napi Menü: A Hungarian Institution

When you’re in Budapest, you have to try at least one Napi Menü, if only for the thrill of getting lunch at the most incredible bargain EVER. The Napi Menü is something restaurants cooked up to try to entice office workers to eat lunch at restaurants during the workweek. It’s served only during lunch hours on weekdays, and consists of 2 or 3 courses. Most times, a restaurant offers just a single Napi Menü option per day – there are no choices, and no substitutions. You eat what they’re serving.

It’s a little bit of a bummer to be robbed of your choices, but sometimes I like to just eat whatever’s being served. Plus at just $3-5, a 2 or 3-course meal is an absolute steal!

Here are a few of the Napi Menü lunches we had while we were in Budapest:

First Napi Menü experience, Nador Restaurant, which serves up 2 courses for 990 Forint (about $3.70) or 3 courses for 1350 Forint (about $5).

The first course was better than it looks. Soup with chicken and gnocchi.

The first course was better than it looks. Soup with chicken and gnocchi.

Second course at Nador, Chicken Schnitzel with potatoes.

Second course at Nador, Chicken Schnitzel with potatoes.

Course #3 was a tasty dessert crepe with jam.

Course #3 was a tasty dessert crepe with jam.

Nador restaurant is down the steps in this huge cellar-like room! Such a fun stop for lunch.

Nador restaurant is down the steps in this huge cellar-like room! Such a fun stop for lunch. The big white thing in the foreground is a CANDLE, if you would believe that. The wax drippings have accumulated over years and years, making the huge white blob you see here.

Look for a sign like this: the magic words are Napi Menü.

Look for a sign like this: the magic words are Napi Menü.

Our second, and definitely weirdest, Napi Menü was at Ruben’s Eatery. They serve up 3 courses for 890 Forint (about $3.30).

The day we visited, the first course was a chicken and dumpling soup.

The day we visited, the first course was a chicken and dumpling soup.

I'm still not sure what the second course was. Noodles with saurkraut and maaaaaybe some meat? It was tasty, but unidentifiable.

I’m still not sure what the second course was. Noodles with saurkraut and maaaaaybe some meat? It was tasty, but unidentifiable.

The weirdest course of them all, dessert was an apple! I like apples as much as the next lady, but it just made me chuckle when they brought this out. How do I eat it? Do I take it with me when I leave or eat it here? Should I slice it or just go for it with my hands?

The weirdest course of them all – dessert was an apple! I like apples as much as the next lady, but it just made me chuckle when they brought this out. How do I eat it? Do I take it with me when I leave or eat it here? Should I slice it or just go for it with my hands?

Our last, and maybe tastiest, Napi Menü stop was at Vendiak. They’re situated on a sunny little square that is perfect for people watching. For just 980 Forint (about $3.60), we got a glass of honey-lemon tea, soup, and a bowl of cheese ravioli. It was really tasty, definitely a good stop!

Enjoying Vendiak's honey-lemon tea.

Enjoying Vendiak’s honey-lemon tea.

Course #1: Vegetable Soup.

Course #1: Vegetable Soup.

Course #2: Ravioli with plenty of parmesan.

Course #2: Ravioli with plenty of parmesan.

The cute outdoor eating area at Vendiak.

The cute outdoor eating area at Vendiak.

While Napi Menü lunches can be a great money-saving option on weekdays (you HAVE to do it at least once!), we think it’s definitely worth it to visit Hungarikum or Kisharang so you can pick out some of Hungary’s best dishes.

Langos: Hungary’s Most Unhealthy (and Delicious) Snack

It’s possible that I’ve insinuated that Hungarian food is not the most healthy in the world. Brace yourself – here’s the most unhealthy thing we ate while we were in town.

Langos are something of a local delicacy, and you’ll never find a festival in Budapest without at least two booths serving them. Sort of the savory cousin of the funnel cake, langos are just fried dough that is usually topped with sour cream and cheese. Ours also came with pork knuckle, jalepenos, caramelized onions, and paprika. It. Was. Delicious.

If you're in town, you have to try Langos. But only once, if you know what's good for you. :-)

If you’re in town, you have to try Langos. But only once, if you know what’s good for you. :-) I know the photo makes it hard to tell how big this is – it’s larger than my face, if that helps.

My Little Melbourne: Best Coffee We Had in Europe

I know sound like a broken record when I complain about the coffee in Europe. I’m happy to report that we finally stumbled upon a cafe where the coffee was delicious! My Little Melbourne is a cute little cafe located in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter that scores well on our coffee meter.

My Little Melbourne, such a cute little coffee shop.

My Little Melbourne, such a cute little coffee shop.

Enjoying some coffees in Budapest!

Enjoying some coffees in Budapest!

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you been to Budapest? What did you think of the food? Good? Bad? Heavy? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Eating and Drinking in Split, Croatia

Split is the perfect place for a scenic picnic!

Split is the perfect place for a scenic picnic!

Split’s food scene has a little something for everyone. With bargain basement prices, Eating and Drinking in Split, Croatia is a complete joy. We didn’t have high hopes for this small city based on things we had read in guidebooks, so we were pleasantly surprised with the restaurant and wine options. While the food definitely won’t hold up if you measure it against places like Italy or France, it’s got a few hidden gems that will satisfy any seafood craving or sweet tooth.

If all else fails, you can hit a supermarket to pick up sandwich supplies and hike to the top of Marjan Park to have a wonderful picnic with unparalleled views. I mean, LOOK at the photo at the top of this post. Incredible. Now, onward to the eating and drinking!

First, Booze.

Have you ever seen a Croatian wine at your local grocery store? No one has! So we were surprised to find that Croatia produces some really fantastic wines. Anthony Bourdain even came to Croatia to do an episode of his show “No Reservations” and visited a bunch of the wineries up and down the wonderful country of Croatia. I don’t know much about wine, but I’m told the weather here is great for wineries. Something about how the hot sun and cool wind is like a magic playground for grape vines to live in. (News flash: being abroad hasn’t made my wine palate more refined…)

We tried some nice wines, like this one from the little island of Hvar:

Juho'v wine from Hvar.

Juho’v wine from Hvar.

But we found a place that was REALLY our speed after living in Split for a couple of weeks. Come with me to the magical place that is the Iločki Podrumi winery store. It’s a bit hard to find online, at least for English speakers, but it’s located here on a map. For between $2.25 and $4 you bring in your own 1 Liter bottle and they’ll fill it up with the wine of your choice!

Wine Heaven

Wine Heaven

If wine isn’t your thang, then boy have I got a surprise for you. You can buy a giant 2-liter plastic bottle of beer at the grocery store for just $2.50!

Enormous beer from the Croatian grocery store.

Enormous beer from the Croatian grocery store.

I honestly can’t imagine a better drink to be sold in a beach town than these plastic 2-liter bottles of crappy beer. I bet they sell like hotcakes in the summertime in Split. Just grab yourself one of these puppies, throw on your speedo, head to the beach, and you’ve got the perfect Saturday on your hands.

If you value quality over quantity, Croatia has you covered (barely). The best beer we found in Croatia was Tomislav:

Tomislav, a dark beer. Turns out, this is the only Croatian beer we tried that we'd deem worth buying again. We miss Seattle beer!

Tomislav, a dark beer. Turns out, this is the only Croatian beer we tried that we’d deem worth buying again. We miss Seattle beer!

Our advice with regards to booze in Croatia? Focus on the wine, skip the beers.

Paradox Wine and Cheese Bar

Since we’re focusing on Wine, let’s talk about one of wine’s best friends: cheese. If you’re not going to order Paradox Wine Bar‘s Island of Pag cheese trilogy when you’re in Split, you might as well stay home. If you come here and do not get it, I will never speak to you again. For realsies.

Allow me to share with you a few quotes from Kevin and I when we shared this cheese plate: “I’ve died and gone to heaven“, “OMG SO GOOD I WANT TO EAT ALL OF IT“, “Holy **** this **** is amazing“, “This is better than our wedding day“. Ok that last one is an exaggeration (albeit a small one), but I’m serious, this cheese…

The Island of Pag is famous for its cheeses, so famous that it has its own Wikipedia page. The reason their cheese is so stellar is that Pag has very, very special climate. The weather apparently makes the island a mystical wonderland full of unicorns and rainbows for the happy cows and sheep that graze there. They produce the milk that is turned into this delicious cheese that I would happily eat for every meal for the rest of my life. (Alas, one cannot survive on cheese alone… can you even IMAGINE attempting that?!)

Without further ado, here’s a look at the glorious plate of goodness from Paradox:

The Island of Pag Cheese Trilogy.

The Island of Pag Cheese Trilogy.

It has three types of cheese (hence the name “trilogy”). Bottom right is Pag’s most famous cheese, Paški Sir, which is made from sheep’s milk. Our favorite was the top left, an aged cow’s cheese. Also included was the delicious mix of cow and sheep’s milk cheese on the bottom left. Each one was paired with its own jam (strawberry, fig, or quince), and it came with dried fruits and a basket of bread. All of this for about $12.

While you’re at Paradox, you obviously have to try some of Croatia’s wines. They have glasses ranging from about $3 all the way up to $8.

Enjoying some wines with Kevin.

Enjoying some wines with Kevin.

One of the best thing about Paradox, though, was the friendliness and unpretentiousness of the waiters. They were super knowledgable of their wines and didn’t make you feel bad for not being a wine expert yourself. On our first visit, one guy even told us all about what makes Croatian Pršut (Prosciutto) so special and gave us a free sample plate cut fresh off the house pork hock. (Pršut is smoked before curing, giving it a distinct flavor when compared to cured Iberican Ham in Spain or Parma Ham in Italy.)

Best Menu: Villa Spiza Restaurant

The inside of the small but mighty Villa Spiza restaurant in Split.

The inside of the small but mighty Villa Spiza restaurant in Split.

I am a HUGE fan of places that base their menu on what was freshest at the produce and fish markets that morning. Villa Spiza‘s constantly changing menu is handwritten each day based on what they got from the market. They specialize in seafood, which is definitely what you should eat when you visit coastal Split. We had everything from boiled shark to shrimp pasta to the freshest most enormous prawns I’ve ever seen in my life.

Enormous prawns!

Enormous prawns!

Awesome pasta with shrimp.

Awesome pasta with shrimp.

Boiled shark! Can't believe we ate shark!

Boiled shark! Can’t believe we ate shark!

Villa Spiza also serves a local Croatian specialty, Bakalar. Locals go nuts for it. In fact, we walked up to a different restaurant one day and were looking at the menu when a group of folks walked up and looked at the specials on the chalkboard. When one guy saw Bakalar, he raised his arms in the air and hollered “Bakalar!!” with the biggest grin on his face you’ve ever seen.

Bakalar at Villa Spiza

Bakalar at Villa Spiza

What is Bakalar? It’s dried salted cod, rehydrated and cooked in a tomato sauce with potatoes. I prefer my fish fresh instead of dehydrated, but you gotta try it once. Kevin had this at a different restaurant, and said it was MUCH better at Villa Spiza.

They also make amazing soups that look ugly but taste great:

We also had fabulous meatballs there. Comfort food at its finest:

Delicious meatballs at Villa Spiza.

Delicious meatballs at Villa Spiza.

But the ONE thing that kept us coming back is their sandwiches. Oh, the glorious, wonderful sandwiches. They’re a little different each day depending on who makes it, but that’s half the fun.

The best sandwich ever: ham, egg and cheese.

The best sandwich ever: ham, egg and cheese.

Runner up: braised pork with brie. YUM.

Runner up: braised pork with brie. YUM.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little hungry now.

Best Desserts: Luka Ice Cream & Cakes

I’ll keep this brief, because honestly it shouldn’t take much convincing to get you to go to Luka. A scoop of ice cream at Luka costs just 7 Kuna, or just shy of $1. ONE DOLLAR! With tasty “normal” flavors like tiramisu, chocolate, and pistachio, and “adventurous” flavors like carrot and pink lemonade, there is something at Luka for everyone. I also love that they make their ice cream in-house with high quality ingredients; this means flavors are constantly rotating and their ‘scream is always the freshest.

A terrible photo of their wonderful Ice Cream.

A terrible photo of their wonderful Ice Cream.

If you don’t like Ice Cream (though seriously, who doesn’t like ice cream?!), try their cakes:

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Tiramisu. YUM.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Tiramisu. YUM.

Drinkable Coffee: Viva Cafe

A "Coffee with Milk" at Viva Cafe.

A “Coffee with Milk” at Viva Cafe.

First, let me say, there is a LOW coffee bar in Croatia. In fact, there’s a pretty low bar for coffee in all of Europe from what I can tell. This may be my Seattle roots talking, enhanced by my time in the coffee mecca that is Chiang Mai, Thailand. (Who knew Chiang Mai would have SUCH a huge coffee scene?!)

However, if you’re in Split on a sunny day, there’s really nothing better than hunkering down and having yourself a mediocre latte while soaking up some sunshine. (Okay, maybe soaking up sunshine while having a delicious latte would be better, but I take what I can get.) If you care more about the views than the coffee, pick any place along Split’s waterfront “Riva” area.

Soaking up some sunshine at Viva Cafe on People's Square. Split's clock tower is there over my left shoulder.

Soaking up some sunshine at Viva Cafe on People’s Square. Split’s clock tower is there over my left shoulder.

If you prefer to have a coffee that’s drinkable and not like a cup of burned mud, we recommend Viva Cafe, located here on People’s Square in the heart of Split’s Old City.

Must Have Snack Foods in Split

I’ve probably said enough already to cause any traveler to gain at least 10lbs on a visit to Split, but I’m going to step completely over the line into greasy Snack Foods. Come on this journey with me; trust me, these foods are worth it. You can eat healthy when you get home.

What is the snack-food theme in Split? It’s anything cheesy, greasy, and starchy. In short, it’s the perfect vacation food, or hangover food, or it’s-a-sunny-day food. Make up your own reason to have these treats, I won’t judge. I would consider any of these snacks to be the perfect sinful companion to a huge 2-liter bottle of Ojuško beer.

The single best treat-yo’self snack food in Split is Burek. It comes in several different varieties, but traditionally is just salty cheese baked inside a puff pastry.

"Burek Sir", or Cheese Burek. Definitely yummy.

“Burek Sir”, or Cheese Burek. Definitely yummy.

The best place in Split to get Burek, hands down, is St. Burek, located here. It’s just 10 Kuna (about $1.40) for each enormous piece of Burek. Be sure you try their Apple variety (totally our fave) and the Spinach and Cheese version.

Look for this little hole-in-the-wall place called St. Burek to get the tastiest best value Burek in town.

Look for this little hole-in-the-wall place called St. Burek to get the tastiest best value Burek in town.

Spinach Burek from St. Burek. I kid you not, this pastry was the size of my face.

Spinach Burek from St. Burek. I kid you not, this pastry was the size of my face.

The clear winner, Apple burek. This is only my half what Kevin and I split. This one, too, was the size of an adult face. We weren't hungry for like 6 hours afterwards...

The clear winner, Apple burek. This is only my half what Kevin and I split. This one, too, was the size of a fully grown person’s face. We weren’t hungry for like 6 hours afterwards…

If you want something a little lighter, but still a bit greasy, I recommend Soparnik. It’s a local Croatian specialty of swiss chard, onion, parsley, garlic and olive oil inside a flatbread. The best place to get this snack is at the Green Market on sunny days in the morning.

Soparnik, one of Croatia's favorite snacks. Fair warning, after eating this you'll smell like garlic for approximately 83 hours.

Soparnik, one of Croatia’s favorite snacks. Fair warning, after eating this you’ll smell like garlic for approximately 83 hours.

We Want to Hear From You!

What is the BEST food you’ve ever eaten on any of your travels?! Crêpes in Paris? BBQ in Texas? Tacos in Mexico? Lobster in Maine? Curry in Thailand? Leave us a comment to let us know!

A Saga to Find Good, Cheap Food in Koh Lanta

For the most part, the food scene on Thailand’s islands is a barren wasteland full of overpriced and under-flavored foods that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I don’t know what causes this phenomenon, but I think it has something to do with the fact that a lot of Thai people keep trying to feed us spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti! We stayed for two nights with a Thai Woman in Chiang Rai, and she cooked us macaroni with meat sauce on the first night. Only after spending a lot of time convincing her that we wanted to eat what she likes to eat did she relent and make a delicious stir fry for our second dinner.

The food in most of Thailand’s most touristy areas just tends to taste subpar to me. I’m not sure who to blame, the locals or the tourists. Is it the tourists fault for always asking for “Mai Ped” (Thai for not spicy)? Or do Thai people water down the food because they think all we want to eat is spaghetti? I think the answer lies in the latest crackpot theory Kevin and I cooked up: The TripAdvisor One Third Rule.

In this post, I’ll explain our TripAdvisor One Third Rule, our Golden Rule for eating in Thailand, and I’ll tell you where to find the absolute BEST cheap food in Koh Lanta. We found a gem that serves up some of the best curries we’ve had in Thailand, at prices that rival the ones we’re used to in Chiang Mai.

The TripAdvisor One Third Rule

We came up with The TripAdvisor One Third Rule when we were in Koh Lanta for a week, and it states that “When traveling in countries where the locals do not use TripAdvisor, one should automatically disregard the top one third of TripAdvisor Ranked Restaurants, and take all reviews with a grain of salt.”

I don’t want to offend my fellow tourists out there, but I think some tourists might have a skewed idea of what Thai food is supposed to taste like. I blame Thai food restaurants in our home countries. Let’s face it, there are a lot of bad Thai food restaurants in countries where TripAdvisor is popular. I can vouch for a handful of bad Thai places in Seattle alone, and I know there are a lot of less than stellar spots in Europe. I think this sets the bar for Thai food really low with a lot of people, so when they come to Thailand, even a mediocre restaurant seems fantastic.

This is the problem with TripAdvisor – people making the ratings may have this skewed idea of what Thai food tastes like. Also, some of the best places I’ve eaten don’t have an English name, so they’re less likely to be on TripAdvisor. That’s why we like to disregard the top third restaurants and focus on those in the middle of the pack.

As a specific example, we tried Jai-Dee’s, the #16 ranked restaurant in Koh Lanta (out of 203 total restaurants). The staff was really nice and we met the lovely owner, but the Pad Thai was just awful and their Panang curry was not good. Several doors down, Blue Moon Bar (Ranked #96) serves up far superior noodle dishes and had a really delicious Papaya curry. The One Third Rule in action, people! (Blue moon is beach front, so it has fairly high prices; 80 Baht for noodles, 120 Baht for curries, and a whopping 40 Baht per serving of rice, ouch! But the view is probably worth it, and the waiter Ken is awesome!)

The Fried Glass Noodles at Blue Moon Bar were Delicious (80 Baht)

The Fried Glass Noodles at Blue Moon Bar were Delicious (80 Baht)

Blue Moon also has a delicious Papaya Curry (120 Baht), but white rice will run you an extra 40 Baht!

Blue Moon also has a delicious Papaya Curry (120 Baht), but white rice will run you an extra 40 Baht!

The Golden Rule for Eating in Thailand

Stop looking on the internet for good restaurants! Most spots with a good internet presence will be more expensive, more crowded, and often times if they get more popular the food quality gets watered down. I suggest completely ignoring Trip Advisor. Instead, search for good food with your eyes! Walk around and look for restaurants that are packed with locals. Go outside of the touristy areas. The number of motorbikes parked outside the food stall directly correlates with how good the food will taste!

The golden rule of traveling is to eat where the locals eat. Someone once explained it to me like this – if you eat like the locals, it will be tastier (obviously), but it will also reduce your chances of getting food poisoning. Why? Because local people know the right way to cook local food, and might not be as good with foreign food. I’ve heard multiple stories about people getting food poisoning in Thailand from deli meat. We think it’s because refrigeration isn’t as important here since most food here is so fresh. Lack of refrigeration with fresh food is fine, but with deli meat it can be dangerous.

If you MUST look on the internet before you go, I don’t blame you. I am one of those people who like to plan ahead, too. The very best source of info in Thailand for us has been travel blogs! Sometimes you have to dig deep into the interwebs (page 4 or 5 on Google search results, PHEW) to find the best posts, but it’s worth the effort to get a blogger’s perspective. Some of our favorite spots in Chiang Mai were found that way.

Finally, the Good Cheap Food in Koh Lanta!

We found it. The holy grail. Delicious food on one of Thailand’s Islands. We’ve been to Koh Samui, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Ko Chang, and never found anything that even comes close to this place. The best part?! Prices are similar to the ones you’d find in Chiang Mai, and the portions are big!

This is Part, the guy behind the magic at Pad Thai Like. SO much good food comes out of this kitchen!

This is Part, the guy behind the magic at Pad Thai Like. SO much good food comes out of this kitchen!

Located near Klong Dao beach, this awesome little food stall nearly blends into the noise around it. The restaurant doesn’t have a name, but loyal customers have nicknamed it “Pad Thai Like”. It’s run by a wonderful couple (The husband, Part, and his wife, Oou) that serves up some of the best curries I’ve had in our entire 8-month stay in Thailand.

Here we are, enjoying our first meal at Pad Thai Like:

Pad Thai Like - So Delicious!

Pad Thai Like – So Delicious!

It even impressed my brother-in-law Albert, who probably loves eating more than anyone I’ve ever met:

Here's Albert, Enjoying the Best Food in Koh Lanta.

Here’s Albert, Enjoying the Best Food in Koh Lanta.

Here's Albert with Chef Part.

And here’s Albert with Chef Part at Pad Thai Like.

They served the best Green Curry I’ve ever had in Thailand (50 Baht), and also the best Tom Kha Kai (coconut soup with chicken) I’ve had in the 8 months we’ve been here:

Tom Kha Gai, which is Coconut Soup with Chicken. Just 50 Baht!

Tom Kha Kai, which is Coconut Soup with Chicken. Just 50 Baht!

The Muslim-style curry (50 baht) was stellar:

Muslim-Style Curry with Chicken

Muslim-Style Curry with Chicken

The Savory Curry (50 baht) was even better:

Savory Curry from Pad Thai Like

Savory Curry from Pad Thai Like

Becca and Albert enjoyed the Pad Thai with Shrimp (50 Baht):

Pad Thai with Shrimp

Pad Thai with Shrimp

And don’t miss the shakes. I would swim across the ocean to reach Koh Lanta if it meant I could have their pineapple shake (30 Baht) one more time. The Mango shake with yogurt (60 Baht) was also delicious:

Delicious Shakes at Pad Thai Like!

Delicious Shakes at Pad Thai Like!

So how do you find this mythical, magical, wonderful restaurant? It’s on the main road near Klong Dao beach, across the road from the Ananda Lanta Resort where we stayed. It’s just south of Salad House:

IMG_1556

Here’s a view of the storefront:

The Pad Thai Like Restaurant

The Pad Thai Like Restaurant

Once you see this sign, your saga to find delicious, cheap Thai food in Koh Lanta is over:

Look for this Sign!

Look for this Sign!

Be warned that if you go after 7pm, they might be starting to run out of food. It’s a small place with only a handful of tables, so do yourself a solid and just go early.

We Want to Hear From You!

Have you ever discovered a little known gem of a restaurant during your travels? If you have, leave us a comment and let us know! Who knows, maybe we’ll travel there and give it a try. Stranger things have happened!

The Best Restaurants in Chiang Mai

We recently realized that the single biggest driver behind the locations we choose for vacations is the local cuisine. We visited Vietnam last December because of our deep love of Pho. We travelled to Germany for the beer. We made a trip to Southern Thailand mostly so we could order a peanut sauce and noodles dish that we remembered from a different visit last year. We recently nixed Laos from our travel list because we realized we probably wouldn’t like the food. So it should come as no surprise to you that we’re mainly living in Thailand because we love the food here.

We have a lot of people coming to visit us here in Chiang Mai in the next two months (Miles, Jenn and Lindsey, Pio, Becca and Albert, I’m talking to you!), so I thought it would be appropriate to post about what we think are the best restaurants in Chiang Mai. Most of them are out west in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood where we spend most of our time.  But I also think that food in the Old City (the area more popular with tourists) tends to be more expensive and less delicious. That combination makes me shudder and want to cry. If you prefer to pay more money for worse food, you are never allowed to visit me. Ever.

We narrowed our list of the Best Restaurants in Chiang Mai down to just 8 restaurants, all shown on the map below.  Read on for details!

 

The 40 Baht Spot (a.k.a. Organic Vegetables or O-Veg)

The Scoop: Consistently delicious food for a bargain! We eat dinner here almost every night, and we almost moved away from Chiang Mai forever when they were closed for a whole week. An English menu is available. (Note that this place isn’t actually called The 40 Baht Spot. Rather, we gave it that nickname because all chicken/pork/tofu dishes are just 40 Baht. We don’t know the real name.)

The Hours: Open for Lunch & Dinner daily except Sunday

The Best Dishes: Red Chili Paste Fried Rice with Pork (40 Baht), Fried Glass Noodles with Egg, Vegetables and Pork (40 Baht), Yellow Curry Fried Rice with Pork (40 Baht), Fried Mixed Vegetables with Pork (40 Baht).

The Location Hints: Look for the sign with “Organic Vegetables” on it, or for the blue and white umbrella. It’s a few doors west of the Burmese Restaurant and Library, before you reach Anchan.

Look for this Sign and the Blue and White Umbrella!

Look for this Sign and the Blue and White Umbrella!

Chili Paste Fried Rice with Pork and Vegetables (40 Baht)

Chili Paste Fried Rice with Pork and Vegetables (40 Baht)

Yellow Curry Fried Rice with Pork (40 Baht)

Yellow Curry Fried Rice with Pork (40 Baht)

Fried Glass Noodles with Egg, Vegetables and Pork (40 Baht)

Fried Glass Noodles with Egg, Vegetables and Pork (40 Baht)

Pun Pun Vegetarian

The Scoop: Delicious, beautifully presented food for a moderate price tag. Beware, sometimes it really lives up to it’s “Slow Food” label. We avoid this place whenever it’s busy – it’s best to arrive before 11:45am if you want speedy service. Menus are available in English and Chinese (and obviously also Thai).

The Hours: Daily 8am-5pm, closed Wednesdays. They often close early because they are “out of food” too.

The Best Dishes: Any Curry, but mostly we love Massaman Curry, Yellow Curry and Penang Curry (all are 60 Baht), Som Tam Thai (40 Baht), Salad Pak Polamai (70 Baht).

Som Tam Thai (40 Baht)

Som Tam Thai (40 Baht)

Salad Pak Polamai (70 Baht)

Salad Pak Polamai, a great way to sample fresh tropical fruits! (70 Baht)

Massaman Curry (60 Baht)

Massaman Curry (60 Baht)

Cherng Doi Chicken

The Scoop: Widest variety of Som Tam available in all of Chiang Mai – not to be missed if you’re a Som Tam fanatic like me. An English menu with tons of photos is available.

The Hours: Daily 11am-8:30pm, closed Mondays.

The Best Dishes: Roast Chicken (60 Baht), Steak Jaew (60 Baht), Tam Khao Pod (corn Som Tam, 40 Baht), Tam Pol La Mai (cucumber Som Tam, 50 Baht). Don’t forget sticky rice (10 Baht)!

Kai Yang Nung Krob, or Roast Chicken (60 Baht)

Kai Yang Nung Krob, or Roast Chicken (60 Baht)

Steak Jaew or Pork Steak (60 Baht)

Steak Jaew or Pork Steak (60 Baht)

Left: Tam Khao Pod or Corn Som Tam (40 Baht) and Right: Tam Pol La Mai or Cucumber Som Tam (50 Baht)

Left: Tam Khao Pod or Corn Som Tam (40 Baht) and Right: Tam Pol La Mai or Cucumber Som Tam (50 Baht)

Pad Thai Family

The Scoop: An awesome family serving awesome pad thai for an awesome price. All you need to do is walk up and say “One, please!”

The Hours: Open most days at 6pm until they’re out of noodles. It seems like they are closed one day per week, but it’s entirely unpredictable which day. I have a hunch it’s usually a Saturday or Sunday, but I’ve been bitten on weekdays too.

The Location Hints: These folks set up every night on the South side of Suthep Road, right next to the pedestrian stoplight a block or two west of Wat Suan Dok. See the map above for exact location.

Look for this food stall!

Look for this food stall!

You can eat-in or take-out, it's 30 Baht either way. Here's a peek at eat-in Pad Thai.

You can eat-in or take-out, it’s 30 Baht either way. Here’s a peek at eat-in Pad Thai.

Anchan

The Scoop: Arguably the healthiest food you can find in Chiang Mai, this vegetarian restaurant is always changing their menu to serve what’s in season. This is my favorite spot to take out of town guests willing to spend more than $2 on a meal. Excellent English spoken here.

The Hours: Open Tues-Sat 11:30am-8:30pm

The Best Dishes: Their menu is always changing, but we loved the Pumpkin Red Curry (95 Baht) and Fried Rice Anchan (95 Baht) during our last visit.

The Website: Facebook

Look for this sign to find Anchan

Look for this sign to find Anchan. The restaurant is up the flight of stairs right by this sign.

Fried Rice Anchan (95 Baht)

Fried Rice Anchan (95 Baht)

Pumpkin Red Curry, possibly the best curry I've ever had (95 Baht)

Pumpkin Red Curry, possibly the best curry I’ve ever had (95 Baht)

Siri Mankalajarn Food Stall

The Scoop: We call this place the “Siri Mankalajarn Dive” for a reason. I’m pretty sure the people running this food stop hate us, or are just not nice to any foreigners, but DAMN they make a delicious Pad See Iew. They don’t speak a lot of English here, but they have an English menu with pictures.

The Hours: Open daily from around 10:30am until 8pm or so.

The Best Dishes: Pad See Iew (30 Baht) and Kao Soi Kai (30 Baht)

The Location Hints: This is the first food spot South of Kaweh Cafe on the West side of Siri Mankalajarn.

We call it a dive for a reason, here's a look at the interior!

We call it a dive for a reason, here’s a look at the interior!

Pad See Iew Moo (Moo means pork, 30 Baht)

Pad See Iew Moo (Moo means pork, 30 Baht)

Kao Soi Kai (Kai means chicken, 30 Baht)

Kao Soi Kai (Kai means chicken, 30 Baht)

The Suthep Soup Spot

The Scoop: These folks serve up the best bowl of soup in Chiang Mai! Everyone who works here is super friendly, and they always have someone around who speaks English.

The Hours: Open daily for dinner, but they seem to start closing up at about 7 or 7:30pm. (I’m not sure about lunch, we’re never over there during that time.)

The Best Dishes: Order the soup from the photo below, just point at the picture on the menu that looks like the photo below. It’s 30 Baht.

The Location Hints: We’re not sure what this place is actually called. See the map for the exact location. It’s on Suthep Road, and it’s the 2nd place down from the corner.

Best Soup Ever, comes with Pork and Rice Noodles (30 Baht)

Best Soup Ever, comes with Pork and Rice Noodles (30 Baht)

Why Not?

The Scoop: For those times when you just NEED to have pizza, this spot is a good choice. We walked all over Chiang Mai and did the math for you – if you order the large pizza, you’re getting the best price per square inch you can find. We prefer pepperoni.

The Hours: Open Daily from 5-11pm.

The Best Dishes: Pepperoni Pizza!  With Tip, we usually blow 400 Baht here on a large pepperoni pizza and a large Chang beer.

The Location Hints: Why Not? has a big footprint. You can find it from both Nimman Soi 11 or Nimman Soi 13.

The Website: Facebook

CHECK OUT THE SIZE OF THIS PIZZA.  Large Pepperoni Pizza and Large Chang Beer runs about 400 Baht

CHECK OUT THE SIZE OF THIS PIZZA. A large Pepperoni Pizza and Large Chang Beer runs about 400 Baht

We Want to Hear From You!

Did we leave any of the best restaurants in Chiang Mai off of our list? Do you have any suggestions for additions? Leave us a comment if you do!

Rice Cooker Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rice Cooker Style

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rice Cooker Style

Please do me a favor.  Walk into your kitchen, get out your electric mixer, and just give it a hug for me.  I miss my kitchenaid mixer soooooo much, and have never missed it more than this week when I used a FORK to beat egg whites into soft peaks.  A FORK!  It’s like I’m living in the dark ages.  I tried to find and purchase at least a metal whisk, but in a store that stocks not one but two different sizes of crab leg cracker tool thingies, there was not a whisk to be had.  So I was stuck with my fork.  All that was missing was a covered wagon and a butter churn.

While you’re in your kitchen, please also just take a moment to look around and appreciate the fact that there aren’t ants worming their way into everything.  I have to keep my sugar in the refrigerator to keep the ants from swarming it.  On any given night, there’s about a 50/50 chance you’ll find me crawling around our apartment with a head lamp on, searching for the source of the ant problem.  I’m clearly on the verge of declaring all out war on these ants; at the very least I’m on the verge of losing my insanity.

Proof that I'm slowly going insane.  I really am not exaggerating.

Proof that I’m slowly going insane. I really am not exaggerating about these ants.

On a more fun note, this week Kevin and I celebrated our three-year anniversary!  It’s hard to believe that three years ago today, we were sweating profusely on an unusually warm day at the Arboretum in Seattle, celebrating our marriage with our nearest and dearest.  Now we’re here, sweating profusely in Thailand.  We never saw that coming!

Kevin and I had a fun day celebrating.  We started our day with french toast at home, topped with nutella and bananas:

 

After a quick swim in the pool, we finally tried Ristr8to, Chiang Mai’s fanciest coffee shop.  It was like we teleported to a coffee shop in Portland.  I had a hot Flat White with single source coffee beans from Brazil, and Kevin had their signature drink, the Ficardie.  It came with a mysterious tiny cup of hot water; we’re still not sure what that was for…

 

We spent the middle part of the day hiding in an air conditioned coffee shop, enjoying lattes and bubble tea and working, because work makes us happy.  We finished off our day with a trip to Why Not?, home of the best deal on pepperoni pizza.  Trust us, we searched for and found the place with the best Baht per square inch price within walking distance of our apartment.

But the pièce de résistance was something I cooked up in our humble 10-cup rice cooker: a delicious decadent Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  It was tasty and wonderful and smelled so heavenly while it was cooking that I almost tore into the rice cooker to eat it right then.  Next time I cook it, I’m going to try a couple things: I want to try coconut milk in place of the regular milk, and I want to add about a cup of chopped pineapple into the batter.  Read on for the full pineapple upside down cake recipe:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Rice Cooker Style

Note: For those of you who only have a rice cooker measuring cup available, which is much smaller than a regular measuring cup, be sure to scale up the cup measurements by a factor of 1.4.  I noted in parenthesis the places where this is necessary.

Topping

  • 1 pineapple, cut into 1/3″ thick rings.  (You need enough to cover the bottom of your rice cooker pot.  They cook down, so use about 50% more than you think you’ll need!)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar (brown sugar works perfectly too)
  • 4 cloves (optional)

Wet Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar (just over 1/3 rice cooker cups)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (just over 1/3 rice cooker cups)
  • 1/4 cup milk (just over 1/3 rice cooker cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional – I skipped this because vanilla costs an arm and a leg here!)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour (1.4 rice cooker cups), I used cake flour and it was fine
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Make Topping

  1. Cook pineapple slices, cinnamon sticks, palm or brown sugar, and cloves in a pan on medium low heat until the liquid bubbles and the pineapple slices are slightly softened, but still firm enough to handle without breaking.
  2. Turn off the heat and set the pan aside so the pineapple can soak some of that juice back up while you’re making your batter.

Make Batter

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar in three batches, whisking between additions to combine.
  2. One by one, add in egg yolks, melted butter, milk, then vanilla, whisking after each addition to incorporate each ingredient fully before adding the next.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl, then gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Assemble and Bake

  1. Butter the bottom of your rice cooker pot to prevent that precious pineapple from sticking!
  2. Place the cooked pineapple rings in a single layer on the bottom of the rice cooker pot.  Save the remaining cooking liquid!  You’ll want to drizzle it on your cake after it’s finished baking.
  3. Pour the batter into the pot to completely cover the pineapples.
  4. Place the pot in your rice cooker and bake for 40 minutes on cake mode.  If you don’t have cake mode, regular mode is ok!  Just keep your timer handy and check the cake for doneness after about a half hour.  If your rice cooker is smaller than 10-cups, it may take longer than 40 minutes to bake.  The cake is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove the rice cooker pot from the rice cooker, and use the plastic rice spatula to loosen the cake edges from the pot.  Then place a plate on the pot opening and bravely flip the pot over onto the plate.  If all goes according to plan, the cake should fall right out.
  6. Drizzle the cake with the reserved pineapple syrup from earlier – you may need to heat it back up on the stovetop to thin it out for drizzling.
  7. Slice and enjoy!  The cake should keep for several days in the refrigerator, if it lasts that long.

We Want to Hear From You!

I’m barely clinging to my sanity with these ant invasions!  They come in from a different direction every day.  Does anyone have any natural remedies they might suggest for getting rid of these pests?  I’m a little nervous about buying ant spray since I can’t read Thai – I would prefer to not accidentally poison Kevin and myself.  Any tips would be lovely!  (Mom, if only I had access to that ant poison you used to use that was banned in the early 70s… sprinkle some of that on our balcony and we’d be all set!)

Eating in Singapore

Singapore’s food scene is absolutely epic.  There are food centers full of “Hawker Stalls” all over the city where you can try dishes from all over Asia.  Not only is the food at Hawker Stalls more delicious, it’s also much cheaper than sit-down restaurants.  Contrary to what you might think after reading my last post, we ate more than just Indian food while we were in Singapore.  Here’s a summary at some of the tasty things we tried.

Maxwell Food Centre

The Maxwell Food Centre is in the Chinatown neighborhood of Singapore, just a few blocks from where we stayed during our weeklong trip.  It was highly recommended by several Singaporeans we met at the Red Dot Ruby Conference, so we made sure to arrive hungry.  Here’s a look at the Maxwell Food Center – it looks like madness, but it’s fun, delicious madness:

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First, we tried out Hainanese Curry Rice.  We picked this place because of the long line at the stall:

Hainanese Curry Rice Hawker Stall

Hainanese Curry Rice Hawker Stall

Check out all their tasty looking food:

Delicious Food at the Hainanese Curry Rice stall

Delicious Food at the Hainanese Curry Rice stall

The spoils – Hainanese Curry Rice with chicken, cabbage and a fried egg:

Curry Rice, Cabbage, Chicken and a Fried Egg

Curry Rice, Cabbage, Chicken and a Fried Egg for S$3.

We grabbed a fresh sugar cane juice – such a treat:

Fresh Sugar Cane Juice

Fresh Sugar Cane Juice for S$1.50

Singapore is famous for their “Chicken Rice” dish, so we headed to the Hawker Stall recommended by total food badass, Anthony Bourdain.  I think we were in the right spot – check out this line:

This is THE Hawker Stall to get Singapore's famous Chicken Rice dish!

This is THE Hawker Stall to get Singapore’s famous Chicken Rice dish!

Still going…

Can you believe this line?

Can you believe this line?

Still going…

Unbelievable line!  The wait was about 20 minutes!

Unbelievable line! The wait was about 20 minutes!

We were not deterred by this guy, who crawled up on Kevin’s foot.  Fun Fact: cockroaches can fly!  (Shudder…)

The flying cockroach that climbed Kevin's leg.

The flying cockroach that climbed Kevin’s leg.

We enjoyed the chicken rice, but thought it was overhyped and the line was too long:

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Next, we grabbed some dessert from the longest dessert stall line (noticing a theme here?  This is rule number one – pick stalls with long lines!)  The Tapioca cake stall:

Tapioca Cake Stall

Tapioca Cake Stall

Look at these tasty cakes!  We got one of each, which ran us S$1.40:

Coconut Tapioca Cake Bakery

Coconut Tapioca Cake Bakery

I like to run around pretending I’m a super artistic photographer.  Here’s the result of those efforts:

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Hong Lim Hawker Stalls

We also tried some food at the Hong Lim Food Centre in the Chinatown neighborhood.  We only got one dish there – Laksa, which is a coconut milk soup with noodles and in our case, chicken:

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Arab Street

We ventured up to the Arab Street neighborhood, a great spot to just wander around and look at all the fun fabric shops and the beautiful Sultan Mosque (photos of this to come in a later post).  There were a bunch of street food tents set up for Ramadan, so we snagged ourselves some dinner.

We got the most disappointing chicken gyro ever.  It looked so tasty when they were cutting meat off of the roasting gyro:

Tasty looking chicken gyro meat

Tasty looking chicken gyro meat

But sadly, for S$5, this is all we got!  Is this the saddest pita you’ve ever seen or what?

Saddest S$5 Pita, EVER.

Saddest S$5 Pita, EVER.

Luckily, our next purchase redeemed Arab Street for us.  We decided to try the “Roti Jack” with chicken, egg, mayo, cheese, mushrooms, and spices.  It was greasy, salty, wonderful, delicious goodness and was super filling for just S$5.  The folks at this food stall were super friendly too – after finding out we were from the USA, the Roti Jack Chef sang the Star Spangled banner to us.  It was awesome.

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Coffees, Sweets, Pastries and Beers

We didn’t hit many coffee shops in Singapore, where a Latte can cost as much as S$13!  But here’s a peek at a few of our indulgences.

We stopped at a Chinese Bakery for a S$1 Milo Bun, which was delicious.  Milo is sort of like Rich, Chocolatey Ovaltine.

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We visited Starbucks twice.  The first time, we shelled out S$9.20 for two French Press Coffees (yikes!) but got a Buy One Get One Free coupon we used on our second visit!  Cheap traveling WIN.

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We also visited “The Book Cafe” to enjoy some drinks and free Wifi:

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Kevin has been PINING for an IPA since we left Seattle.   So when we walked past Brewerkz in Singapore, we pretty much had no choice but to go inside and do some drinking!

Brewerkz!

Brewerkz!

Brewerkz has a complicated pricing scheme – beers are S$6 cheaper between noon and 3pm than they are after 7pm!  Is that crazy or what?!  So you can bet your bottom dollar that we did some day drinking.  We had the IPA and the Black Pig (sort of a black IPA).  With the 10% service charge and VAT (tax), this ran us S$16.50, ouch!  But we did get free wifi and did some work in their bar area.  Tip: Ask about the beer of the week – it’s S$2 off!

Black Pig and IPA

Black Pig and IPA at Brewerkz

Has anyone reading tried Durian?  Haven’t heard of Durian?  View the wikipedia article here.  We had Durian in December in Vietnam, but were told by our new Singapore buddies that it was probably out of season and we should give it a second chance.  Alright, we said, we’ll try it one more time, we said.  We decided durian in the form of ice cream would be the safest bet – if Ice Cream + Durian = Gross, there’s no way we’ll enjoy the fruit itself.  So we gave it a shot at a Chinatown Ice Cream vendor:

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The verdict?  Even Durian in the form of Ice Cream is not for us.  Also, a word of caution, even the Durian Ice Cream will give you Durian burps – there’s nothing quite like having garbage burps for a couple hours!

Restaurant Food

During our entire week in Singapore, we had TWO meals in actual sit-down restaurants.  The first meal was a super extravagant splurge for Singapore’s most famous food, Chili Crab.  This is a “do not miss” food in Singapore!  We went to Jumbo Seafood, recommended to us by a handful of Singaporeans at the Ruby Conference:

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Jumbo Seafood took a jumbo bite out of our travel budget (har har har…).  For a Chili Crab, a plate of asparagus, rice and steamed buns, we paid S$90!  But it was delicious.

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Check out the mess we made.  Why on earth they use white tablecloths is beyond me!

Sad the Chili Crab is gone!

Sad the Chili Crab is gone!  We did a number on the tablecloth.

Our second restaurant meal was at Ya Kun Kaya Toast:

Ya Kun Kaya Toast

Ya Kun Kaya Toast

Kaya Toast is another of Singapore’s unique foods, traditionally consisting of Kaya (coconut jam) on toast with butter.  We stopped to try some traditional kaya and butter toast and also the peanut kaya toast:

Kaya Toast

Kaya Toast

It came with coffee and soft boiled eggs, which made me feel like I was eating snot.  Fun times.

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Kaya Toast is served at almost any cafe in Singapore.  We picked Ya Kun Kaya Toast because it had pretty good reviews, but in hindsight I would’ve rather gone to this other establishment solely because of their ridiculous name:

This Kaya Toast Cafe is called "Heavenly Wang".  I couldn't make that up.

This Kaya Toast Cafe is called “Heavenly Wang”. I couldn’t make that up.

 

DIY Food for Budget Travelers

As you know, we’re unemployed, so we travel on a tight budget.  Here’s a look at some of the less glamorous meals we’ve had to save money.  We stayed at an Airbnb that didn’t provide breakfast and didn’t have a kitchen on this trip, but they did have a refrigerator!  So we picked up some groceries for morning breakfasts.  Each day we had a banana plus a plain piece of wheat bread (not toasted… we had no toaster…) with a couple slices of ham for protein:

Ridiculous "Breakfast Sandwiches"

Ridiculous “Breakfast Sandwiches”

We also craved fresh vegetables, so we bought some raw carrots:

Just two weirdos eating raw carrots...

Just two weirdos eating raw carrots in Chinatown…

We Want to Hear From You!

What’s the best meal you’ve had on your travels?  Do you have a particular country where you enjoy food the most?  For us, it’s a close race between Vietnam and Thailand.