A Thai paradise found … in your kitchen
There is no question that Thailand’s allure is powerful, especially when you consider it offers a vacation for all of the senses as well as the soul. This also explains why Thai restaurants can be found on all six populated continents, and Thai massages and spa treatments and facilities are nearly as ubiquitous. While the tropical climate begets a bounty of fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices, the real magic happens in the way they are combined in edible and body care formats.
Of course, there’s nothing more magical than enjoying Thai food and body care against a backdrop of elaborate gilded buildings and colourful, fragrant vegetation in Thailand. However, while you wait for travel restrictions to lift or are saving up money to do that once-of-a-lifetime journey to Thailand right, there are ways to bring the vacation to you—and not only through your favourite local restaurants and spas.
In the interim, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, along with assist from Nashville-based James Beard House Chef nominee–Food Network star Arnold Myint, and destination spa RAKxa offer easy ways you can feast all of your senses at home with unmistakably Thai combinations of botanicals—in the form of a classic salad and a soothing facial—that will keep you cool, your skin healthy and your senses alert.
‘Som tum (or papaya salad) and sticky rice bring back so many childhood memories, and it is still one of my favourites,’ says Myint. ‘I have loved this dish for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Nashville, it was a perfect warm-weather companion for barbecue, Thai or American. When on my first trip to Thailand as a very young child, it was one of the first dishes I recognized and ran towards. ‘There are many versions, from mild to highly pungent, but the classic presents a subtle balance of bright aromatics, of citrus and sweet notes along with spice and texture.’
Som tum Thai (Thai papaya salad)
1 whole (8–12 oz) green papaya, shredded or julienned
½ pint grape tomatoes
½ lb green beans
3–6 garlic cloves
¼ cup roasted peanuts
3–6 Thai birds’ eye chili
¼ cup (2–4 oz) dried shrimp
4–6 fresh limes
4 oz fish sauce
¼–½ cup palm sugar
1. Using a mortar, place 2 garlic cloves, 2–4 Thai chili, 8–12 dried shrimp and 2 tbsp of palm sugar and pestle until the garlic is coarsely crushed.
2. Add an entire lime (skin and all) that has been quartered and juice squeezed as well as 2 tablespoons of lime juice and pestle to incorporate the flavour. Using the entire lime releases some oils and an added layer of flavour from the skin.
3. Add a few tomatoes and green beans (snapped to 1-inch lengths) and continue to crush with pestle. At this point, there should be a good amount of liquid that will act as a “dressing”.
4. With a spoon, fold in 1½–2 tablespoons of fish sauce and a generous handful of shredded green papaya.
5. Pestle everything together, and also use a spoon to evenly distribute the ingredients.
6. Add 2 oz of roasted peanuts for texture, also crushing some with the pestle. The flavour should be sweet, sour, spicy, and briny, with nice multi-layers of crunch forming not only the green papaya, but also the green beans and peanuts.
The RAKxa Wellness Retreat (rakxawellness.com), an independently owned urban oasis near the heart of in Bangkok, is a must for anybody intending to not only integrate a Thai approach to wellness into her everyday life but also one that’s customized to specific health needs. Granted, many five-star resorts across the country offer aromatic, energizing and healing spa modalities with gloriously appointed indoor–outdoor surroundings. However, what RAKxa hopes to provide every guest is something that transcends a great memory of being pampered in a blissful environment.
Whether you come for a day or a longer retreat, the RAKxa approach is fully holistic and, at times, blurs the line between edible and topical nutrition with its treatments and food offerings. To get the point across, it offers a generous sample of its on-site experience with a facial anybody can whip up at home as well as customize, via the recipe below.
RAKxa DIY herbal compress
200 g white or brown rice
1 generous piece of muslin or natural fibre fabric
5–7 inches of yarn or thick, soft thread
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp cinnamon powder
1⅓ cup sliced fresh ginger
lemon or lime slices
1. Combine your choice of rice and spices and mix well.
2. Place the mixture into the centre of your cloth, folding all of the edges of the fabric tightly to make a firm ball.
3. To create the handle, use your yarn or thread to ensure it will be spill-proof an easy to heat and hold.
4. Heat the compress using steam (and a steamer device, preferred) for 30–45 minutes, as it releases the essential oils and intensifies the aromas. If time doesn’t allow, you can microwave the compress for 90 seconds.
5. Pro tip: if using the steam-heating method, prepare two compresses so one compress can heat up while the other is being used.
6. Before applying, test the temperature of the compress on your forearm to make sure the temperature is to your liking.
7. Massage the heated compress around problem areas (aches, pains, stress) for 15–30 minutes.
8. The compress can be reused 4–5 times.
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