July 13, 2010
Thailand Part 1
There’s good eating in Thailand. Really good. So good that I have dreams about it. Regularly. And I wake up with drool on my pillow and the strong desire to hop on the next plane to Thailand because only authentic Thai food will satisfy my craving. I’ve tried to recreate the dishes I ate in Thailand and I’ve tried to find equally good versions on menus of restaurants here but nothing compares. Not only is Thai food in Thailand amazing, but it’s also cheap. The best Pad Thai I’ve ever eaten in my life cost me less than $1. It was from a street vendor that was recommended to me by a local. It was the type of place that my travelling companions usually would have passed by without a second glance but under the guidance of a friendly Thai, they were convinced to give it a try. I can’t thank him enough for his suggestion. We returned to that nondescript street stand with multicoloured plastic tables and chairs many times afterwards as we determined that Pad Thai was perfectly suitable not only for dinner or lunch but breakfast and snacks as well. Just thinking about it now is making me hungry.
But Thailand is so much more than just Pad Thai. It’s a beautiful array of spices and herbs and curries and rice and noodle dishes. It’s chilis and lemongrass and coconut milk and sweet, sour, hot and spicy all rolled into one. Nowhere is this more evident than in the markets where my mouth watered at every turn. I found the best way to navigate was by sense of smell and to follow your nose à la Toucan Sam, (anyone else remember those Fruit Loops commercials?). Once I’d found the source of whatever smelled good I would just point to it and say please. Often times I had no clue what I was eating, only that it tasted good and that’s all that mattered. To spur my appetite even further, I found that wandering the market with a Chang beer in hand was a good idea. With an alcohol percentage of 6.4%, plenty of food was required with each Chang that was consumed.
Besides Pad Thai, another dish that was featured on most menus in Thailand was Green Thai Curry. And it was ah-mazing! Despite the fact that I wanted to constantly try new things, I found myself repeatedly ordering the Green Thai Curry. I wouldn’t even realize it until the words were out of my mouth. Sometimes I’d intended on ordering something else but when the time came to speak up I’d blurt out “Green Thai Curry!” like I was possessed. The combination of slight heat from a chili, sweet from the coconut milk and sour from kaffir lime leaves was too good to be true. And I couldn’t get enough of the little Thai eggplants and snake beans that were so often used as the vegetable base. I didn’t care if the protein was chicken or pork or nonexistent so long as all the herbs and spices were right and it was served with a generous portion of rice to help sop up all the delicious sauce. If only I could make it as good at home! I cleverly thought that a Thai cooking class might be the solution to all my problems, but more on that next time…