Barbecued Bananas with Caramel Sauce
Today’s post starts with a story… so first let me set the scene…
Date: Sunday, January 2nd, 2011
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Characters: Nienke, Derek, one scheming Tuk-Tuk driver, a friendly group of street vendors
Mission: Visiting the temples and eating some real Thai street food
Result: Two tourists with a map, a scam, a street chase, refuge in a crowd and comfort in barbecued bananas covered in caramel sauce
It was our last day in Bangkok and at that point we had done our fair share of walking around, visiting markets, buying cheap t-shirts, eating at the night markets, and even ringing in the new year with a bang. It was time for us to see those stunningly photogenic temples! Armed with water, sunscreen and a map, we hit the streets.
I will spare you the details of how we were scammed into believing that we could have our very own tuk-tuk driver for the whole day for only 20 thai baht (that’s less than a dollar). I think it has something to do with us trying to make sense of a map while standing on the corner… I call that “putting a target on your backs”. If you’ve made the trip I can practically hear you cringing right now - especially since this is exactly the type of thing you are warned about when travelling in Thailand. Let’s just call us gullible and get on with the story.
It was really awesome. Our driver took us to see the big Buddha, waited around for us and took us to a few smaller temples. So far so good. We started driving down really quiet streets and the guy stopped to tell us that we had to go into the suit store because they will pay him for bringing us in. Ok fine, only once. We went in, told them “No, we do not want a custom tailored suit made, thank you very much” and left. Now we were on our way to the big temples! Or so we were lead to believe…
A few minutes later, whizzing around in the open tuk-tuk, the guy stopped again and refused to move unless we went into the store. We said “No, just take us to the temple”. Anyways, he said he would do it for 360 baht (what happened to the 20 that we agreed on initially?). We would have gotten out and walked, except that we had no idea where we were and it was a quiet industrial area. Just a little bit sketchy.
This is where we were sneaky and told him that we would pay 360 baht if he took us straight to the temple (trust me, he wasn’t going to move, let alone turn the engine back on). When we finally got dropped off we paid him the original 2o baht and left. He was not a happy camper. Lucky for him he dropped us off on a traffic circle and there was no way we could escape him. He followed us in his tuk-tuk and every time we changed direction he would recklessly turn around in traffic and follow us around and around the very busy circle. He was very angry and yelling – I was SO scared! It got worse when he got out his cellphone and we were surrounded by people – I have no idea who he was calling… or why. I was just praying that one of his buddies were not in the crowd. Miraculously we lost him, but I was physically shaking and couldn’t feel my limbs I was in so much shock.
We walked amidst the throngs of people surrounding the temples and I was still trying to keep a look out for him. I could just imagine him bursting through the crowds with rage. Guys, after that little adventure my body needed sugar. Fast!
And then suddenly, as though the heavens opened and shone down on us, I saw the friendliest group of food vendors. They were laughing and smiling and handing little baggies of goodness to people all around them. And sugar, oh sugar! The smell of caramel and bananas were in the air and I felt like a little cloud was transporting me in their direction. It was like I had tunnel vision and I lost my hearing. It was dead quiet and I was focussed.
It is hard to believe that a little plastic baggie of cut up, barbecued bananas tossed in a caramel sauce could restore my energy and my faith in humanity all at once, but on that day, it certainly did!
There you have it, a very long story to tell you to please make this thai dessert. I know that on that fateful day it tasted really (really!) good, and I can’t help but wonder if perhaps it tasted just a little bit better after the ordeal that we went through and knowing that we were safe!
I tried to recreate this dessert as closely as possible, so I bought a bunch of cute mini bananas. Just like the ones we had in Bangkok. Peel your mini bananas and place them on the barbecue until they start to caramelize and you can smell them. Turn over and repeat on the other side.
The vendors in Bangkok chopped the bananas into pieces and threw it into a small plastic bag (the size of a sandwich bag). They scooped caramel sauce into the bag and shook it al up until the bananas were covered in the sticky sauce. Since I don’t need this dessert to be portable, I just placed the sliced bananas on a plate and drizzled it with home made caramel sauce.
Break some kebob sticks in half and eat away (this part is true to the real deal).
We did end up seeing the incredible temples of Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha). It was breathtaking. And so ornate! Lots of colour and gold and frills and curls – wow! Was our little side adventure worth it? Yes! I got a good story and a good dessert recipe out of it!
Caramel Sauce Recipe:
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup of table cream
- 2 tbs butter
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
- In a large pot, melt the sugar and salt.
- Once it is liquid and golden brown, remove from the heat.
- Immediately add the cream, vanilla and butter. The mixture will foam and expand a lot. Use a whisk to mix it all together.
- Pour into a glass jar or container to cool down. Reheat before use.
Now, close your eyes and pretend you are on a busy traffic circle in Bangkok, your heart racing in your chest, relieved that you are safe and finally heading to see the pretty temples!