Cooking, Food
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In case of an emergency… bite the bitter melon |Gin Jay in Bangkok’s East Side

I’m a walker.

In search of my usual strange, I’ve been out and about, scouring the lengths and breadths, of breathless Bangkok.

Back in good olde London town, I had been known to take the odd walk  or two, from my old haunt in Walthamstow – to central London.
No kidding.
I’d set out with the intention of taking a nice little stroll and before I knew it, the music of the city would lure me further and further away from my titchy little house in East London.
The Liverpool street area, especially happens to be one of my favorite places.
On the weekends it becomes this eerily. You have to see it for yourself to understand it’s magnetic pull.

At the time, everybody thought I had lost it. I actually think I had.
My final year at university was a really dark time for me. But what really kept me going was the walking. Walking helps me think.
It helps me soften all that self-debasing pressure, that resides within me, that occasionally gets the courage to burst out; pushing against my psyche, paralyzing my ability to make rational decisions.
Some people run, others hike. I  walk around to find clarity.

Bangkok’s pavements should come with a health warning.
They are hazardous on good days and deadly the rest. 

I really can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been covered in the contents of the underside of a precariously placed pavement slab.
I once tripped over and nearly fell headfirst onto a nail that just so happened to be conveniently positioned where my right eyeball would have hit the ground (point facing up of course).
Yet I still go…
Something about being in a foreign place, makes the urge to walk all the more enticing. Weaving through all those people and traffic, stopping at whim, breathing in the ‘essence’ of a place.
It’s like a drug.
I can imagine I look a right state. I’m the epitome of a woman possessed; afro and headphones in tow, purposely aimless, walking to the beat of an unknown song.
Who gives a damn? I don’t.
Because if I did, I doubt I’d have discovered this amazing Thai ‘Jay’ restaurant in Sukhumvit Soi 71.

For those who don’t know ‘Gin Jay’ (sometimes spelled ‘ Kin Jeh’) is a type of vegan food, derived from the teachings of Jainism; one of the oldest religions in the world. The food is categorized, not only by it’s prohibition of the consumption of meat, but also by it’s exclusion of things such as: onions, garlic, strong spices and even alcohol. I was lucky enough to be here for the big vegetarian festival that took place, but I have to admit that there were few vendors who were so strict as to the laws of Jainism.
Have you ever tried to make a meal without any of these things?
Without spices, seasonings and things like onion, the meal doesn’t exactly scream enticing at you, does it now?

This recipe for bitter melon really did teach me that you can find a middle ground and although it has salt and the likes, it’s not over powering, but still delicious.
I got talk to the owner, who happens to be Chinese from Taiwan and she was kind enough to give me her recipe.

Jay (-ish) Bitter Melon Soup

Bitter melon is certainly an acquired taste but once you get used to the earthy bitterness, you might just find yourself craving it at the most random of times.
This is really a recipe of personal taste, so please feel free to experiment and find your own bitter melon experience.

bitter melon
minced tofu – add a little bit of water to get it to soften
an onion – chopped
courgettes / zucchini – peeled and cut into small chunks
soy sauce
carrots peeled and cut to small chunks
[I find that you can generally get away with the usual ‘soup’ vegetables, such as potatoes, courgettes and mushrooms. I’ve tried this now with a few variations and still enjoyed it]

vegetable broth
wolfberries soaked in water until puffy; drained
pitted red dates
leeks – thinly diced
a pinch of sugar and salt

In a bowl mix together all of your chopped veg, tofu and soy sauce.

Cut the bitter gourd in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the all the insides, this means the seeds and the white bits. Sometimes it won’t open up the way you want it to, but you can split it lengthwise and then add the vegetable filling.

Stuff all the vegetables into your melon and set aside.

In a large soup pot, add water, red dates, leeks and bitter gourd. Allow to simmer for about 30 – 40 minutes. Be sure to keep tasting, if it’s still too bitter, then add in some more red dates, a pinch more of sugar or even honey.

When it suits your taste, add in the wolfberries and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes.

Remove bitter melon, slice to suit your taste and serve.


[I always find that soups taste better after they’ve had time to ‘settle’ so keep it warm and serve after about 30 mins to an hour]

1 Comment

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