Wednesday, July 22, 2015

From the land of cookie-flavored iced coffee


timid eater no more
I'm writing from my summer office at the Dunkin' Donuts in Marion, Massachusetts where they're blasting the air conditioner and pushing cookie-flavored iced coffees and Coolattas. It's hard for me to believe that a couple of weeks ago Isabel and I were driving across Thailand eating santol fruits and blue vermicelli, but there's photographic evidence. I wish I'd written about all this when it was fresh, but I've been flying, driving, busy, sick, and jet-lagged.

Ok. From Bangkok, which I wrote about in the last post, Isabel and I drove to Chiang Mai, the big city in northern Thailand. Three days. Seventy thousand calories. When he wasn't showing us temples, Mongkol, our guide, kept feeding us. He bought us wonderful fruits I'd never even heard of and salted puffed rice snacks drizzled with caramel and green puffed rice squares that tasted like Kellogg's Sugar Smacks. We tried grass jelly, dried bananas, and fried bananas. Pink cupcakes and fluffy eggy cupcakes. Barbecued duck and barbecued pork. If I asked what something was, he'd buy it and then we'd eat it and even if I didn't ask what something was, he'd sometimes buy it anyway. By the end of the journey I felt like a foie gras goose and became cautious with my questions lest I end up with something else to eat. This is the kind of "problem" you want on a tour. He was the best guide ever and if you go to Thailand, email me at tipsybaker@gmail.com for his contact info.
an ancient Buddha head around which a tree trunk had grown
At one temple we saw an extensive display of life-size statues of people suffering for their misdeeds. This didn't  jibe with my admittedly shallow understanding of Buddhism.
Some culinary highlights: In Ayutthaya, we stopped at a nondescript storefront where they specialize in crepes colored with either green pandan or midnight blue butterfly peas and wrapped around long, dry wisps of caramel. Women made the crepes:
video
While men made the candy floss:

video

The strands of caramel were tucked inside the crepes to create a textural combination that is totally foreign to the American palate: Soft, petal-like pancakes containing crispy strands of sugar. First bite was puzzling, but you wanted a second bite, and a third, and later Isabel ate the remainder of our crepes and candy floss in the hotel room.


At the century-old Samchuk market, Mongkol introduced us to these freakishly big meatballs with the smooth consistency of hot dogs:
They look like bread, but were pure protein and extremely heavy. I almost dropped the skewer when I tried to hold it upright.
another Samchuk specialty: rice wrapped in lotus leaf with chicken, egg yolk, and vegetables
One morning, not long after breakfast, we stopped for a mid-morning snack of multi-colored rice vermicelli that came with six types of curry, including a sweet peanut curry, a mild chicken coconut curry, and a fiery pork curry. You ladled some curry on a small nest of vermicelli and popped the whole thing in your mouth. This meal managed to be both filling and refreshing,
all colors tasted the same
Right after we'd finished, Mongkok decided it was time for us to try some noodle soup at another restaurant, our second mid-morning snack for the day.
just some of the things they put in the noodle soup

We could not do justice to this fantastic soup.
my noodle soup (egg noodles)
The ubiquitous condiments at a Thai noodle shop include chili, vinegar, turbinado sugar, and fish sauce. I generally added a little of everything while Isabel didn't add anything.
I didn't ask what this was as I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to try it.
That was our drive from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, a blur of temples, greenery, and colorful, strange, delicious foods.

And monkeys.

video

They were cute for about 30 seconds, then scary.

28 comments:

  1. So nice to see a new post from you. I need that soup in my life!

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  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Dare I hope you will pursue Thai soups and other?!!!!

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    Replies
    1. I am making curry as I type. Soup comes next.

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  3. I will definitely ask for your tour guide information some day! Was this a private tour?
    Did you request specifically for a foodie guide, or was this pure luck?

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    Replies
    1. We asked for a foodie guide and it was a private tour. Now I need to be sure I put the name and info somewhere safe.

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  4. Did you ask about what they used to get the noodles all the different colors?

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    Replies
    1. Pandan was the green, butterfly pea was the blue. I don't remember the others. They all tasted the same.

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  5. That all just looks and sounds amazing. What a wonderful experience for you two to share before she goes off to college.

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    Replies
    1. Really important. So special.

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  6. Yours is the only blog I read regularly, so though I don't often comment, I hope you know there are many who read. Would you explain why you have titled the non-cookbook reviews "18 minute reviews?" Where does 18 minutes come from?

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    Replies
    1. As I understand it, the reviews are supposed to be written in 18 minutes. (See the one at the bottom.)

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    2. Do you why the limit is 18? Why not 15 minutes, or 20 minutes?

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    3. I don't remember why. Because it sounded cute? Or because I wrote one in 18 minutes and decided that was a good amount of time to allot to a review? The trouble was I couldn't do most of them in 18 minutes. I'd get bogged down and perfectionist and end up taking an hour.

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  7. Inspired by my recent success with the kimchi from Make the Bread, I just checked Asian Pickles by Karen Solomon out of the library. It has a recipe for pickled chiles based on those found "on every table in every Thai restaurant in Thailand and beyond," in case you're inspired after your trip. (That recipe looks pretty easy, but the book also has several intense projects -- e.g., "Penang acar is the Mount Everest of pickling" -- if you're feeling REALLY inspired.)

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    Replies
    1. Wow! Penang acar? I do not know what that is. Is this a good book?

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    2. Based on the photo and recipe headnote, penang acar appears to be the Malaysian equivalent of giardiniera, with some of the cultural import of kimchi. I haven't made anything from the book yet, but reviewers on Amazon seem pretty crazy about it. The author lives in San Francisco and references several San Francisco stores and restaurants; I think you would find it interesting.

      Delete
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