I opened my eyes and, using my arms to prop myself up, rolled over to look at the clock. It was well into the afternoon. Looking down, I noticed thin strands of fringe, at one point pieces of my favorite beach party top, stuck to my body, along with neon pink and yellow paint that went all up and down my arms and legs.
And then it hit me—a pounding headache whose rhythmic pulsing brought back memories of the night before. Flashes of fire limbo, dancing on an elevated platform that stretched out into the sea, and brightly colored buckets, like the kind you might have used to make sand castles as a child, passed through my struggling brain, fragmented and quick. My arms itched as the paint cracked on my skin. My feet ached and burned. All of it was quite painful, to be completely honest. But I couldn’t help but smile at the fractured memories from the night before. What an experience.
What I’ve just described to you is how I felt the
morning afternoon after one of the biggest parties of my entire life: the Full Moon Party on the island of Koh Phangan, Thailand. A party that draws over 20,000 twenty-somethings from around the globe to come together under a full moon and party like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve seen some pretty crazy parties before, mind you. Remember, I grew up in the Big Easy where Mardi Gras is just one of the many occasions to let your freak flag fly. I’ve also had the joy (?) of experiencing San Fran’s Folsom Street Fair up close and personal. But a party like this? I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again in my life.
One staple of FMP is its (in-)famous “buckets”. These bright pink, yellow, and green plastic contraptions serve as the trusty vessels that give party-goers the fuel to dance until the sun rises. And how could they not? Their key ingredients include: a bottle of Thai Red Bull (very different from American Red Bull), a flask of liquor, and a can of soft drink. You choose your liquor and soft drink of choice from your vendor. The Thai Red Bull is mandatory, though, for better or worse. In terms of potency, buckets are like the equivalent of a New Orleans Hand Grenade…times ten and made all the more dangerous by their seemingly-innocuous drinking device. Hence the head throbbing that happened the next morning.
But there was something about drinking that otherwise unappetizing concoction that was just downright fun. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say it made me feel all giddy and kid-like again. (Except there was alcohol in my bucket this time around, not sand.)
I was reminded of this experience last week when my husband (who works in the international shipping industry) came home with a surprise for me. It wasn’t flowers or chocolates like most husbands might bring home to their wives. Nope, it was a bottle of Indonesian red bull, which he casually tossed to me saying, “We should make some buckets this weekend!” with a wink and a smirk. I’m fairly certain he was joking, but I decided to take him up on his offer. And so, when we went camping this past weekend, I packed the red bull, a bottle of rum that we’d acquired in Belize, and 2 bottles of Mexican coke. I know what you’re thinking—we’re so mature and worldly. And clearly, very refined 😉
We did, in fact, indulge in a little makeshift Thai bucket on our campout, but, sadly, I had to make it in a Bubba Keg instead of a genuine bucket. But it still gave me the same indescribable giddy feeling that I had at the Full Moon Party, though even this might have been enhanced with some body paint and fire limbo. (Smoky The Bear would not condone either, I imagine.) And I decided I’d carry that theme into my post for today and prepare a Thai-inspired meal for all of you. Don’t worry, it’s not just a recipe for a bucket. You’ve already got that in the preceding paragraphs. (You’re welcome!)
Today I’ve prepared Chilean sea bass with a Thai vegetable medley. The skin on the sea bass fillets is crispy like a potato chip after frying in hot oil, while the meat of this treasured fish is rich and luscious. Cutting through its soft flesh is like pressing a knife through butter. The vegetable medley is comprised mostly of root vegetables such as shallots, garlic, and ginger, their bold flavors mingling together in an acidic sauce, lending a unique complexity to the otherwise simple fillets. The whole fillet is then topped with ground peanuts and bright cilantro. I also served mine on a bed of puréed curried cauliflower.
This dish is best when paired with a buttery white wine, which, if you’re able to find it, might be particularly delicious if consumed out of a bright neon bucket. You know, for authenticity’s sake.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Thai Vegetable Medley
- 2 tablespoons of lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 2 tablespoons of canola (or vegetable) oil
- 2 medium shallots, sliced thinly into rings
- 1 thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and julienned
- 2 green onions, sliced lengthwise into thin strips and then into 2-inch pieces
- 3 birds eye chili peppers OR ½ jalapeno, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- ¼ cup of cilantro, leaves torn or chopped (for topping)
- 2 tablespoons of roasted peanuts, chopped
Whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, and honey together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, green onions, and chili peppers. Stir often until you notice the shallots starting to get golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook over medium for 1-2 minutes. Add reserved lime juice mixture to skillet and cook until the liquid has almost entirely been absorbed, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside mixture while you prepare the fish and reheat over medium heat just before serving.
Crispy-Skinned Sea Bass
- 2 tablespoons of canola (or vegetable) oil
- 2 4-6 ounce fillets of Chilean sea bass (skin on)
- salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat the oil over medium-high in a medium-sized cast iron skillet. Salt and pepper the tops of the fillets. Once oil is hot, add the fillets (skin side down) to the skillet and cook until skin is crisp, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and continue to cook for 6-9 minutes, or until the center is barely opaque and the meat easily pulls away from the skin.
Plate the fish and top with the vegetable medley, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. I served mine with a mashed and curried cauliflower purée, but any side will accompany this bold dish nicely.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.