A Religious Experience: Thai Brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Religious Experience: Thai Brunch at Wat Mongkolratanaram

My love of Thai food dates back exactly ten years to my junior year of college. My best friend and I had decided to take spring semester off to travel around the world. Although neither of us knew anything about Thailand (it was not yet the hot tourist destination it has since become), we chose Bangkok as our first stop on a whim.

We arrived horribly jetlagged after the 18+ hour flight and were practically flattened (minus our hair, which was pretty much the exact opposite of flattened) by the wall of intense heat and humidity that hit us when we stepped out of the airport. But after a good nights' sleep, we began to explore this strange and wonderful new land.

Despite the fact that Thailand is so humid that you have to take at least three showers a day just to feel semi-human, I spent next three weeks falling deeply in love with Thailand's gentle and friendly people, beautiful Buddhist temples, orange-clad monks, crowded (yet clean) streets, and noisy tuk-tuks. But all that was nothing compared to how hard I fell for the FOOD.

Thailand is truly a gastronomic wonderland. The food is fresh, cheap, and absolutely delicious. Although I wouldn't touch street food in India with a ten foot pole, I feel perfectly safe eating from Bangkok's army of street vendors. Mangos, rambutan, lychee, pineapple, bananas, champu, jackfruit, durian (if you're into that sort of thing...), noodles, sticky rice, green curry, red curry, yellow curry, rice dishes, beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, fish, you name it, they've got it.

So it was like walking into a wonderful dream when we stepped into the courtyard of
Wat Mongkolratanaram this weekend for the Thai brunch the temple hosts each Sunday from 9-2. This brunch is like a little slice of Thailand in South Berkeley, complete with an equal number of neatly dressed Asian people and dreadlocked hippies.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'm going to let the photos I took do most of the talking.

View of the temple entrance at 1911 Russell Street in South Berkeley.
Entrance to Wat Mongkolratanaram in South Berkeley

Shot of the ceiling of the temple entranceway.
Ceiling of the Temple Entrance

Two dragons guard the temple entrance.
Guarding The Temple

List of the brunch prices - each token costs $1. All proceeds support the the temple.
Brunch Prices

Pile o' tokens - these Buddhists are raking in the cash for their delicious brunch foods!

Pile O' Tokens

My little cup of tokens. This turned out to be way more than I needed but it's no big deal since you can trade them back in for cash before you leave.

My Cup Of Tokens

Scooping softened rice noodles out of a vat of boiling water and into a waiting bowl for noodle soup, a traditional South East Asian breakfast food. You start by specifying the type of noodles you want in your bowl of soup --vermicelli, medium, or wide rice noodles.
Adding Cooked Rice Noodles

Adding more broth to a bowl of noodle soup.
Adding More Broth

Fetching a pot of boiling water (with a smile.)
Fetching A Pot Of Water

Two women making khanom krog, a sweet coconut pudding with green onions. Truly delicious!Making Khanom Krog (They Were Delicious!)

A bowl of delicious noodle soup with beef, scallions, cilantro, and bean sprouts waiting to be devoured. After the vendor hands you your bowl, you head to a side table to add as much (or as little) fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, and chili peppers to it as you like.
Bowl Of Thai Noodle Soup

Fresh vegetable and herb spring rolls in riceflour wrappers.
Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

Diners wait with forks in hand to dig into the spread which includes fried chicken and sticky rice, several kinds of curry (my favorite was the pumpkin curry - so good!), banana fritters and khanom krog (in the blue paper on the left.
Some Of Our Shared Spread, Forks In Hand

Papaya salad!!!

Kalyani Eats Papaya Salad

View of the brunch scene in the temple's back courtyard.

The Sunday Brunch Scene

A pile of soup bowls awaiting pick-up.

Dirty Soup Dishes Awaiting Pick Up

A mother and son sharing a bowl of noodle soup by a Buddha statue in the temple garden.
A Mom and Son Sharing Noodle Soup In The Temple Garden
The temple garden grows vegetables and herbs used in traditional Thai cooking, including lemongrass and holy basil.

A sign at the entrance to the temple garden offers both literal and figurative meanings.
Stay On The Path (Meant Both Literally And Figuratively)

Just a note about timing -- I'd recommend arriving either early or late since the crowds get pretty burly between 10:30 and 1:00 (the only downside to arriving later is that they may have run out of some dishes.)

Thai Brunch At Wat Mongkolratanaram
9:00 AM - 2:00 PM on Sundays

1 comment:

Nadia said...

Well if I didn't have enough reasons to visit you, this surely cinches it! yum. great pictures.