Thai Banana Smoothies
Working in Seoul, I was ready for a holiday on the beach before heading off to graduate school. The Ko Phi Phi Islands certainly fit the bill.
My desire to visit Ko Phi Phi was prompted not simply by tales of the pristine beaches and the unreal beauty of the smaller island Ko Phi Phi Le. In 2004, the Boxing Day Earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravaged countries along the perimeter of the Indian Ocean, including this small group of islands, killing nearly 230,000 people. Friends had traveled to Ko Phi Phi the summer before the earthquake and were devastated at the news. What had become of the island, they wondered. I was headed to find out.
As the ferry pulled up to the shore, I took in the bay filled with ruea hang yao, the famous long-tail boats of Thailand, and the palm trees. Near the shore, the trees were short and looked freshly planted. Further in, the trees were taller, but patchy in places, some bearing scars and gashes. To the unacquainted eye, the island showed no real evidence of destruction. Buildings lined the boardwalk along Ton Sai Bay: restaurants, bars, hotels, and snorkeling shops. All the ingredients necessary to satisfy the tourist population.
During my time on the island, I saw traces of the tsunami here and there. The island had been hit with much less force than other countries closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, such as Indonesia. A restaurant bore a pen mark on its wall, indicating where the water level had been after the tsunami, far above the heads of dining customers.
On the second day of my visit, I stopped by a smoothie stand and asked what was on the menu. “Anything you’d like, but banana is delicious,” said the man, smiling with a blender in hand. “Just banana?” I asked. The cart stood overflowing with exotic fruits. Banana alone sounded unimpressive, but he seemed confident in his recommendation. We chatted as he threw in the ingredients: some type of milk, a small bit of cocoa, and huge chunks of banana and ice. “Enjoy!” he said with an even bigger grin. I did. It was the most delicious smoothie I have ever had. Pure banana, subtly sweet and milky rich.
I went back every day, sometimes twice, during my stay on the island. The man was always there and, as he put together the smoothie – always banana – we talked about our lives. He told me that the island was rebuilt quickly after the tsunami. The tourist industry was so important to the lives of the people that there was no other option. The finished facade that greeted newcomers to the island was only part of the story. Over the hill, where the Thai residents lived, was the other part. Houses still in shambles and lives just now being reassembled. I took his story with me as I traveled back home, as well as the memory of that perfect banana smoothie. This re-imagining of that banana smoothie adds in a few more ingredients and comes without a view of the beach, but it makes the average summer day a bit more tropical.
There’s nothing like travel to get the appetite ready for new tastes and cooking methods, and I’m happy to have Carly Diaz here once again, showing how seeing the world inspires us in the kitchen. Don’t miss her last gorgeous post about Welshcakes.
- 6 bananas
- ½ avocado
- ½ teaspoon cocoa
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ teaspoons agave syrup
- ½ cup coconut milk
- Cut the banana and avocado into large chunks. Add all items to a blender and pulse until smooth, adding more or less milk to taste. Serve chilled.