Did you know that the full ceremonial Thai name of the city of Bangkok is actually Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit??? I dare you to try pronouncing all of that, which according to Wikipedia means "the city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishukarma". Luckily everyone calls it Bangkok these days or sometimes just Krung Thep, which means "City of Angels". Whew!!!
It's hard to put Bangkok into words without repeating all the travel guide cliches. It's an Asian megapolis and very much a city of contrasts...shiny skyscrapers alongside ancient temples, mega-malls (a new one seems to pop up every week!) next to massive street markets, people that happily hop from luxury restaurants one day to eating a bowl of noodles on the street the next. The frenetic pace, the buzz, the bling, the smells, the tastes...there's really no place like it!
The nightlife here is certainly interesting, and one of the things that I love is the increasing number of bars and restaurants that make deliciously original cocktails with traditional Thai herbs and fruits. Galangal, kaffir lime, Thai chilies...all wonderful in a good cocktail! I've come to prefer a drink like this over a glass of wine on most occasions, as wine here is generally expensive and not so good (at least to my palate, probably a bit spoiled after 6 years in France). But you know what they say about bad wine...make sangria out of it! And so I did, giving it a "Krung Thep" flavor with some lemongrass syrup, mangosteen juice and a handful of some of the delectable fruit available...pineapple, papaya, lychees (OK these came out of a can since it's not lychee season anymore) and dragon fruit. Speaking of dragon fruit, look how beautiful it is! It makes a beautiful garnish on your wine glasses as well.
Serve with some Thai spring rolls or corn fritters and you've got the perfect start to a Thai-themed dinner party!
KRUNG THEP ("CITY OF ANGELS") SANGRIA
1/2 cup lemongrass syrup (see below)
1 (750 ml) bottle dry white wine (I used an Australian sauvignon blanc)
1-2 cups mangosteen juice (or lychee juice)
1/4 - 1/2 cup vodka (optional)
1/2 cup each tropical fruits of your choice (I used pineapple, papaya, lychees and dragon fruit)
1 cup soda water or sparkling water
Additional soda water or sparkling water, for topping off glasses
Sliced dragon fruit, for garnish (optional)
1. Make your lemongrass syrup: In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of water. As the sugar just begins to disintegrate, add 2 stalks of lemongrass, crushed and chopped into 3-4 pieces. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and let the syrup form. Remove from heat and cool down to room temperature. Once cooled, drain to remove the lemongrass pieces. Refrigerate the syrup.
2. In a large pitcher, mix the syrup, wine, juice and vodka together and stir well.
3. Add the fruit. Lychees will sink the bottom, while everything else will float!
4. Just before serving, add the soda or sparkling water.
5. Put a few ice cubes (if using) in each serving glass. Pour the sangria in, top with some additional soda or sparkling water and garnish with a slice of dragon fruit.