December 5, 2008

Culture of Food

Thai people love to eat. Our ability to eat and the variety of cuisines stun most foreigners.

I mean, an entire floor of a shopping mall is a food court. Restaurants pepper every corner of every street. You might even find outside those establishments more food stalls.

Thai portion is small so you can try many things. We also like to share our food family style. Only in fancy "Western" restaurants are where you get your own dish.

Thai people seem to have unsatiable appetite. We would have breakfast, then a snack a few hours later, 2 bowls of noodles for lunch (one soupy, one dry), and out again for something sweet in the afternoon, perhaps another snack before dinner. And desserts. There is ALWAYS room for dessert be in pieces of fruit or a scoop of vanila ice cream atop a small bowl of strawberry Jell-o.

The best example of our eating cultures and love of food is epitomized by our road trip with my mom's best friends yesterday.

Brandon and I joined my mom's best friends for a road trip to Khao Yai National Park to check in on Aunty Or's future vacation home being constructed. While waiting to be picked up, we started out with a light breakfast, knowing that a trip with the aunties mean a lot of pit stops for tasty treats during the 3-hour drive.

Wouldn't you know it, when they picked us up, they were ready with Pah Tong Goh (Chinese fried dough) and bags of coconut juice. To their delight, I threw in a box of Cheez-it in the fray.

We picked up some Khao Tang (crispy rice cakes) at Tesco Lotus as we made our first pit stop.

Once we turned down the road toward Khao Yai, we stopped to stock up on fruits, pumpkins, and other vegetables at the aunties' usual fruit stall. I bought papayas and mangos for my family, dried chili for my American friends, and homemade candied tamarind for myself. (I had their papaya today and it was the sweetest I've ever eaten!)

We also bought fire roasted sweet potatoes and corn which we snacked on the rest of the way.

Then on to lunch at a neighborhood restaurant/shack famous for their ham. At first I was a little cautious. "Ham" in Thailand usually means the flimsy little lunch slices. But they brought out a ham RIB, y'all. As in 2 ribes still on their with the ham steak attached, fried to golden and crispy perfection, very Thai. We have never had ham like this in the U.S. I gnawed the ribs clean.

Other dishes were local. Gaeng Pbah ("jungle soup") made with fresh soup base pounded this morning, fresh baby shitake stir fried with crushed black peppers, 2 orders of fluffy Thai omelets, and stir fried morning glory.

The aunties topped of lunch with bowls of Sala fruit cooked in syrup, served over shaved ice.

Amazingly, we didn't really stop for much food along the way, to Aunty Or's house (being constructed) through the National Park. We talked about stopping for fish-sauce marinated barbecue chicken just outside of Bangkok if the aunties and our driver would remember where it was they found that stall.

We stopped once for a quick potty break. The aunties, however, managed to find more food to pack into the car. This time, salted fish fresh from the river just across the street from the gas station. Our driver started laughing at this point because there was not much more room in the van for anything else.

Oh, but just you wait. A few more clicks, we pulled over at yet another farm stall for mandarin oranges. Lots. Of. Oranges. The farmer lady let us sample a few. We bought 4 10-kilo bags of the juicing mandarins. Since we were out of room in the storage area, we put them by our feet. The lady gave us a few more oranges to snack on as we drove off.

And oh yeah, because we had our hands full of oranges, we forgot to stop at the chicken place. LOL. The missed snack resulted in all of us being completely starved when we crawled into the edge of Bangkok.

We made the final stop at THAI Airways Catering office which actually has a restaurant. The food was absolutely first class. I had the first decent snapper a la meuniere in Bangkok here. The aunties ordered prawn wonton soup and prawn Pad Thai. We also passed around super tasty green curry with crispy roti flats. And 2 tiny lamb chops, well done but we still so tender. Buttered/creamed spinach served as side was awesome too.

Wrapping up was their signature tamarine-lemon iced tea, cherry cheesecake, and creme caramel with vanilla ice cream.

Gotta love the road trip with the aunties. You'll never get bored eating.

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