Monday, December 17, 2007

Food of Thailand

This post will either cause your mouth to water or nausea or both. The food in Thailand has been wonderful, making each meal an exciting journey. In every city, town , and village, we've easily found street vendors who can fry up amazing delicacies in minutes; it's fast food done right. A typical meal has one seated at a metal fold-up table with plastic chairs enjoying rice with chicken and vegetable or rice with beef and garlic.

Sick of rice? Options are endless in Thailand but I typically head to a Thai classic, Pad Thai Kai, noodles with chicken and vegetable.

Essentially, any meat can be added to these dishes making for numerous options. Curries are popular to stimulate the taste buds and chilies as potent as those south of the US border make their way into many unique dishes.

In the mood for a barbeque? It's not hard to find street vendors barbecuing up sausages, chicken, kebabs, and fish.

Feeling like un-fried vegetarian food? Thais make a spicy papaya salad (aka som tam) whose spiciness knocked my seasoned-spicy-veteran socks off!

Glad I had a beer on that order. Laura chose the less teary-eyed eggplant salad.

We've gotten suggestions from ex-pats and they rave about dim sum, a white, doughy delicacy filled with pork, shrimp and veggies, egg custard, or taro root. We like to have dim sum with a refreshing Thai ice tea.

Looking for a Thai snack while strolling the market? Living at the equator, fresh fruit is plentiful all year round. Bananas, mangos, papayas, oranges, watermelon, strawberries, name it, they probably have it (although grapes and apples seem to be imported). Of course, some of the fruit treats require searching. Banana leaves are a popular wrap to contain food; the shape of the wrap lets the Thai customer know what is inside. As a farang (foreigner), I haven't a clue. This means I either dare to buy, pass for another day, or hope I catch someone with it in the street. Luckily, Laura's cooking class gave her tips and we've discovered the wrap for sticky rice with banana.

Banana overload can easily occur but a satisfying substitute exists, sticky rice with mango.

If you missed breakfast, salt and peppered quail eggs should provide the cholesterol you are lacking.

Don't forget the pork balls; they have that breakfast sausage sweetness.

Missing your crunchy cracker snacks, just simply replace with a crunchy fried critter.

What are our favorites? Well, nearly every night, Laura searches madly for the banana pancake vendor.

The pancakes can be ordered with any number of fillings but the popular choice is banana. A banana is sliced into a crepe-like dough and they are fried together. Condensed milk is poured over the pancake and chocolate syrup topping is optional. Can you smell the sweetness?

My favorite is the fruit stand.

They make shakes from any fruit they have, pineapple or banana being my preference. The fruit is blended with ice, milk, and palm sugar for a vitamin in a bottle, no Jamba Juice protein pack required.

All of the foods above cost thirty baht (less than a dollar) or less at street vendor stalls. This makes eating out an institution; many Thais find kitchens useless and don't have them in their home. Also, Thais don't stick to a scheduled eating method like westerners with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They drop by the market or a food stall when they are hungry meaning they might eat six small meals per day instead of three large ones. Sometimes, they are just eating for fun. Finally, one last interesting food fact, Thais don't have a verb meaning "to eat"; the closest verb is translated "to eat rice." Well, you made it this far, is your mouth watering or are you nauseated?

Now, a break from the travel blog to discuss some random interesting things in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, each night as we stroll back from Laura's banana pancake vendor, we see too older Thai gentlemen huddled next to a beat up chess board. They are playing checkers, one with sprite caps, the other with Pepsi. Wonder what my odds would be if I purchased enough Coca-Cola and brought my caps to play? I bet my odds wouldn't be too good, especially against the Sprite guy; he has always got double Sprite caps.

The other day we went to our second movie since leaving the US. Did you know they play the royal anthem and show photos of the Thai king before each movie showing? The audience stands while photos of the Thai king as a prince, soldier, and monk are flashed. The royal salute is emotional, actually bringing tears to Laura's eyes at the last showing!

Ever heard of a Thai massage before? If you haven't, you should go get one. In Thailand, a full-body Thai massage, a full-body oil massage, or a foot massage for one hour costs only 150 baht (less than five dollars), another brilliant custom of the Thai culture. Laura and I had our first Thai massage yesterday. It was a deep, body contorting muscle massage that made me feel like a million bucks and Laura feeling like one was enough. Could you imagine if the US would adopt 5 dollar massages? Maybe then, even Massachusetts wouldn't have road rage.

Ever been to seven-eleven, that mini-mart getting its name from open hours of 7AM to 11PM? I've been to 7-11 more times in Thailand than I have in the US. They are as common in Thailand as McDonalds is in the US, and they provide all the necessary goods for a long bus ride. They make for a cheap breakfast stop, offering Thai tea, ice coffee, dim sum, and pork balls.

We're slowly entering malaria zone, where we'll be more cautious of mosquitos. We've had some mosquitos in our rooms over the weeks but very few. Could this be because of our friendly neighborhood gecko? I thought there were a lot of stray dogs and cats; there is at least one gecko per room at a guest house patroling the walls for our security. Other than their occasional chirps, they are virtually invisible. They don't even push geico insurance! I'll take them over a malaria pill any day.

Speaking of bugs, the Jungle Hut bungalows outside of Khao Sok National Park gave us the worst accomodations to date. It wasn't just the cold shower, hard bed, dim lighting, and tiny room. It wasn't that the wall boards making up the bungalow structure were improperly spaced learving 2 cm gaps where one could peer inside or out (free air-con?). It was the fact that I slept shirtless on a mite-filled bed and the red bumps on my back still haven't healed! Luckily, they weren't too itchy and have just been a cosmetic issue. Funny thing is, we stayed another night!


Anonymous said...

Hi Guys,

No, definitely not for me! I would probably frequent the fruit stand every day and night. Maybe a pancake or two but definitely not the crispy critters.

Be careful around those mosquitos.

Oh, and I am sure you are missing all the shoveling we have been doing lately.

Take Care, Laurie

Greg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Found four missing words and an equal number of misspelled. So here goes AGAIN.

Who the heck are those healthy looking actor types in the photos you inserted. Those should make some momma's feel great.

Ah food ... not that I've ever indulged myself. I learned on a business trip to Calgary ..... Thai food is the hottest ... it put this guy to his knees in front of a full restaurant - just as you say. But it is oh so yummy.

Banana pancakes....... by the vendor stand photo it looks like our type of bananas. I have tried plantain cakes ... latest being last week in Cuban restaurant .... and yummy. But will be trying Laura's type soon.

I agree with you - dim sum is great. Dim sum, chow tzai [China], and Monte [Kazakh] are slight variations on a theme in my book and oh so good to chomp on.

The pigs in Thailand must really be small. These are the smallest and greenest "pork balls" I've seen. In PA Dutch country they usually come sliced and lightly fried with a little butter/wine or Hunan sauce - again yummy.

Stay Healthy and Be Happy
Greg 12-22-07 2345 hrs