Tom Ka Gai Soup...a family dinner out that inspired...

For our final meal as a family before the holidays officially ended, we chose to go to our favorite Thai restaurant here in Houston, Thai Cottage.  We discussed our New Year's Resolutions and what we hoped for in the new year.  My resolutions have to do with the colors black and white.  I have set for the year to try and see people and consider their actions more within the color "grey", rather than black and white.  Instead of coming to a ready conclusion about things, I'm going to probe the color grey more to see if I can shift my outlook about people a little more.

But, back to our favorite Thai restaurant.  We had not been there recently because they were in the process of redoing the decor.  We were really quite attached to the mood, lighting, and decor of what they already had so we were a bit dubious about the change.

Top Left: Delicious Thai Curries Top Right: Moody moody skies
Bottom Left: our favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Cottage; Bottom Right:daily walks

Curries, Thai soups, and mango slices with sticky rice are some of our tried and true favorites and we were missing our dose of this delicious cuisine.  What is wonderful, too, are the leftovers that we can enjoy the next day.

To our relief, the new decor is beautiful.  A large artistic mural is painted on one wall of the restaurant. They kept the lighting and color palette the same but changed the texture of the flooring and upgraded the back bar area and some of the lighting fixtures.

After our night out at our favorite Thai place, I decided to add a simple Tom Ka Gai soup into our line up of weekly soup options. 

Buying the ingredients for Asian soups is the best way to understand the diverse cultures better.  I can walk my fingers over a map of Asia and watch how subtly the ingredients of dishes shift reflecting what is grown in that particular area of this huge continent.  

Being in a major city, it is always a little adventure for me to hop about searching for either galanga roots or stalks of fresh lemon grass.  Coconut milk is fun to use in cooking, smells so light and fresh, and is an ingredient everyone here enjoys.  

Sugarland, Texas Farmer's Market 

I hadn't stopped by our local farmer's market for a few weeks so I thought I would add that to my Saturday shopping lineup.  The weather is at it finest here in the south.  The skies range from moody and wild to bright and cheery blue with crisp breezes.  This is how winter is defined here in southern U.S.  Fortunately, right now the horrid humid days are months away and we can all breathe easy outdoors.

Since we have such a large Asian population here in Houston, there are several stalls at the local farmer's market specializing in Asian produce that is grown locally.

Ingredients:  peppers, lemon grass, cilantro, ginger, fish sauce, and fresh limes

As I chatted with some of my favorite farmers, I spotted a few new vendors this week.  I noticed these lovely porcelain necklaces in classic Chinese blue and white designs.  What a wonderful addition to the market.  A certain special someone in our family has a February birthday so I'll plan on bringing her by here to see if she likes any of these pretty necklace pieces.

Limes, coconut milk, lemon grass, ginger, and cilantro were among the items on my shopping list and the fragrances of each item tingled my nose as I breathed in the fresh scents. 

Ingredients tucked away, I wandered around the market, taking in the wonderful sounds of the music, the smokiness billowing from the grills outside, and the cute dogs getting their weekly dose of fawning over at the market by the many pet lovers.

Bottom Left: Kumquats

One of my favorite fruits is kumquats.  I've been noticing them appear in town more and more lately.  I recently tried a hybrid fruit called a mandarin-quat.  They were a bit more sour than a kumquat but with an extra puckering kick of the mandarin flavor in was an interesting combination, but I don't think I'll give up my kumquats any time soon, though.

Produce from Gundermann Acres Farm

This week I sampled some pepper jelly.  The Texas culture loves to put peppers and spices into just about anything they can to tweak the flavors around here.  

I only tried it to be polite but I was surprised that I really liked the sweet and spicy flavors blended together.  Added with a little cream cheese on a cracker and it makes a nice little appetizer.  

I love stopping by this booth because the man who works there makes me smile and laugh.  He has big thick hands and a ready laugh.  He tries hard to daintily dab a dollop of jam onto a fragile little cracker and his efforts make me chuckle.

Top Left:  Kristi's Kitchen Jam's and Jellies  Top Right: Gundermann Acres Farm;
Bottom L: Texas "T" Kobe Beef;  Bottom R: Imperial BBQ 

I wandered around some more, thinking of my Tom Ka Gai Soup and how much I would like to experiment with Asian flavors in my kitchen more often.  So little time and so many dishes I would like to cook!

I came across one booth selling local beef.  I was noticing the cute little metal cow sculpture holding the pot of grass when the woman working the booth told me that they sell "Kobe Beef".  "Like the beef associated with Japan?"  I queried.

"Yes, that's it.  We offer it here in Texas."  I tried to understand why this just didn't seem to fit with my knowledge of Texas food products.  We chatted a bit about how they entered the Kobe Beef business here in Texas by shipping this breed of cows here and that it has become quite a popular choice for beef with the Texas crowd.

The smoke was luring me outside of the market where they were bbq'ing huge turkey legs alongside big slabs of beef ribs.  The aroma, along with the smoke that wafted in and out of the crowd of people, made me smile and enjoy the power of food, music, and people to create an atmosphere of fun, relaxation, colorfulness, and bustling life. 

Top Left:  Texas Hill Country Olive Company  Top Right:  Lavande Lavendar Farm Sachets

I did not come home with a bottle of Terra Verde Balsamic Vinaigrette, but I think I will remedy that on my next visit to the market.  I sampled a fig balsamic vinegar that was delicious, pungent, and sweet at the same time.  I don't really like to mix fruits with vinegars but this one had me hooked.

I might not have bought the vinegar because the lady at this booth caught my eye and intrigued me.  She was so beautiful.  She carried herself in such a stately manner that I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

I have an insatiable curiosity about people.  I always have and I guess I always will.  Her silver hair was swept back in thick waves so elegantly.  The soft wrinkles in her face gave her face such wonderful character and I wondered what stories they held.  She carried herself gracefully and wore a warm plaid blanket effortlessly around her shoulders in such a simple but stylish manner.  

Did she make the vinegars?  Is it an old family traditional recipe?  Where was she from?  What stories does she have to tell?  Maybe I'll swing by again next weekend, actually remember to purchase some fig balsamic vinegar next time, and uncover more about her alluring persona.  

Top Left:  Gundermann Farms Produce;  Top Right:  Texas Hill Country Olive Company
Bottom Left:  Great Harvest Bread Company:  

(Recipe from Food & Wine Magazine) 

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