Since my early 20s I’ve lived in places where people vacation. In Washington D.C., I rode the metro to work half-asleep and surrounded by bright-eyed students buzzing over maps of the city’s monuments. In Bangkok, schlepping home in business attire, I pass red-shouldered visitors in sundresses. It’s part of the fun, and occasionally part of the challenge, of living and working somewhere that is a destination.
There’s an up-side to destination-city living though – daily reminders of all that is good about the city you call home.
All too fast, we have a tendency to overlook the things that make a place special. It becomes my default to gripe about Bangkok’s heat or traffic. My mental checklist of new colors and scents and scenes in this city gets dusty from non-use.
This blog helps, for sure. There’s nothing like the practice of writing to remind me of what is unique about a day, a place, or a person.
But the most fun solution is to join all those tourists and see the awesomeness of Thailand through the eyes of someone on vacation. Someone who can spend their days on a lounge chair in the warm shade, sipping fruity drinks without a care in the world except when to apply more sunscreen (to which, for a person as pale as myself, the answer is always now).
We’re hitting the beach with friends starting Saturday. It’s going to be an odyssey to get to this Gilligan’s Island of a place that requires a flight, a bus, a ferry, and finally, a short transit by long-tail boat.
In preparation, it’s been a week of simple, healthy dinners interspersed with a bit of packing and a lot of soaking in the quiet of being home before travel.
Before going on vacation, I check every corner of my refrigerator the way that others check to be sure all their doors are locked. I like to do a clean sweep, tossing or freezing anything that won’t last through our return. No matter how chaotic the rest of our lives are as we close the door and head to the airport, it’s that clean refrigerator that signals to me I can leave it all behind.
Some of the best dinners come together thanks to a refusal to go to the store and a desire to render the fridge clean and bare. This soba noodle bowl is such a meal. It’s made special by pantry staples – soba noodles and a simple, tart miso vinaigrette, but the addition of vegetables and a protein make it a complete (and pleasing) dinner. I loved this combination, particularly as leftovers in my lunch – it’s brimming with protein and the flavors just get better in the fridge.
The countdown begins. The beach is waiting. In 48 hours, there will be no difference between myself and all those tourists. I’m reclaiming this place and every bit of its beauty.
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons white or yellow miso
- 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
- 1 Tablespoon Asian sesame oil
- ¼ cup sunflower oil
- 4oz. salmon filet
- 2 teaspoons sunflower oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 oz soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
- ½ cup shelled edamame (soybeans; see note)
- 4 scallions, green parts only, cut into 1-inch-long strips (optional)
- Purée vinegar, miso, garlic, sugar, ginger, and sesame oil in blender. With machine running, gradually pour in ¼ cup sunflower oil; blend until mixture is creamy.
- Preheat the oven’s broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray or oil.
- Place salmon directly on the prepared wire rack, skin side down. Brush the surface of the salmon with sunflower oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the baking sheet directly under the broiler. Cook for 10-12 minutes (depending on the salmon’s thickness) until opaque and easily flakable with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When cool, cut salmon into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse well under cold water, then drain again, thoroughly. Transfer the noodles to a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the miso dressing, tossing gently, just until the noodles are coated. (You may not need all of the dressing right away. Serve any additional dressing on the side.)
- Add all remaining ingredients, including salmon pieces to the noodles. Toss gently. (This noodle bowl can be served at any temperature, although I liked it best when slightly chilled.)