Paradise & the places that scare you

Travel is scary, dredging up from deep within us an exhilarating fear. Fear of the unknown, the unexplored, the not-yet- understood. And that is precisely what makes it so enticing. Terri de Roche, the force behind the Fearful Adventurer, just came out with a new book and to celebrate it she is challenging her readers to write a blog post about their own fearful adventures. Here’s but one of mine:

I am on a nearly deserted island in southern Thailand. I am standing at the edge of a mangrove forest and I am terrified. Twenty yards up the sandbar I can easily spot our beached kayaks and twenty yards ahead I can see the waiting posture of my friend and guide, who has ducked seamlessly into the wall of mangrove skirting the island. My fear fills the chasm between us, a short section of deep ocean which taunts me. My breath shortens, its return to a natural rhythm in no way aided by the snorkel valve snugly flanking my face. The waves have picked up unexpectedly and they break at the tree line. “Maybe I’ll stay here”, I shout, almost succumbing to my senseless phobia. But Tom can’t hear me. He waits.

By all accounts, this is paradise. And the opportunity to snorkel through a mangrove forest? Something I have only imagined might someday come true. Here it is — and I want to turn around, because of an irrational fear of deep water. This moment becomes one like so many others I encounter while traveling. My hand is forced and I have to face my fears head on. Conquering those fears of all shapes and sizes, and proving triumphant, is a rush that drives me on, seeking the next and the next.

African savannah? Check. Western highlands of Guatemala? Check. Learning to navigate in places where language proves impossible? Check. Learning that foreign countries are generally not the harbors of crime and fear they are portrayed as in America? Check.

Somehow, I can’t seem to stay out of the places that scare me. I don’t know what the next fear I set out to conquer will be, but I’m sure it won’t be long before it makes itself known. And if history is an indicator, it will hopefully be in paradise.


Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

"Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow." Australian Associated Press

"… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams." Nomadicmatt.com

"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail

Find out more…


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Khao Soi: Thai Curry Noodle Soup

I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is little else as comforting as curry: its warmth, its spice: sometimes subtle and sometimes a four-star alarm for your taste buds, and its offering of creamy, coconut milk-induced bliss. There are a few other foods that rival curry for comfort and one of them is surely soup, so indelibly ingrained in the memories of people accustomed to long, cold winters.

I discovered Khao Soi, a curry noodle soup endemic to northern Thailand, and it made an imprint on my palate that wasn’t quick to fade. When people inevitably ask me about the best food I tried in South East Asia, I don’t even hesitate before recalling the harmonious combination of flavors in this Burmese-inspired dish. Sometimes, I tell them about it before they even ask. ‘Hey. Do you know what’s delicious?’

Khao Soi, completed

Last week, my dad celebrated his 51st birthday and I recognized an opportunity to try my hand at making my new favorite food. After gifts, before cake, we could celebrate with bowls of Khao Soi. As I browsed the aisles of the Vien Dong neighborhood market for fresh ginger and chinese egg noodles, as I blended chili peppers and shallots to a smooth paste, as I shredded chicken that had simmered in coconut milk broth, it crossed my mind that maybe my people would hate it. After all, it isn’t exactly in their culinary wheelhouse, which would usually include the requisite birthday steak dinner. But I didn’t have a plan B, so it was Khao Soi or nothing…

People tentatively ladled polite no thank you portions into their bowls, before sitting down around a communal plate piled high with fresh cilantro, thin slices of red onion, and lime wedges. I sipped by broth, held my breath, and waited. And then, the exclamations started, the squeezes of lime, drizzles of hot sauce, and the trips to the kitchen for seconds and thirds.

Now all week, no joke, I’ve been fielding calls and text messages asking for more. I’ve ferried containers laden with leftover Khao Soi across town and now it’s gone, but its imprint remains.

Try Khao Soi. You will not regret it, guaranteed.

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KHAO SOI
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

CURRY PASTE:

  • 4 large dried chiles, try a variety with medium heat
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric (I reduced this from 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25-30 minutes. Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Puree chiles and all other curry paste ingredients, with 2 tablespoons soaking liquid in a food processor, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth.

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SOUP:

  • Hefty splash of vegetable oil
  • 2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 cups chicken broth (upped from 2 cups, still a very rich broth)
  • 1.5 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise
    (Great because they’re less expensive, especially when buying organic)
  • 1 pound Chinese egg noodles
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, preferably palm or light brown
  • Salt, to taste, of course
  • Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil, and lime wedges (for serving)

PREPARATION

  • Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4-6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil; add chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 20-25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.
  • Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
  • Add chicken, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, and sugar to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.

Bugs: They’re What’s for Dinner

Silk worms. Cicadas. Scorpions.

All of these and more were on the menu in Thailand, served up street-side, freshly fried and garnished with the ever ubiquitous chili sauce.

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In Laos, people harvest nutritious ant eggs to supplement a diet often wanting for protein. In Tanzania, during that brief window before the wet season, when termites alight from their mounds searching for mates, they provide an abundant, if fleeting, food source. There is no doubt that people have, and still do, tap into the nutritious potential of insect protein.

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And the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization would like to see more of it. A recently published report by the FAO, Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Food Security, begins:

It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people. To accomodate this
number, current food production will need to almost double. Land is scarce and expanding
the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished
and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for
food production.

When put that way, the conclusion seems so obvious. If not from the land, and not from the ocean, well, then  from the sky. While citing many benefits, the report also identifies a major barrier to adoption of broader scale insect consumption: western attitudes toward the practice.

So, maybe we can all do our part for sustainability: with a net, a fryer, and a little daring. Maybe we’ll have to.

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