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Plastic Fishtanks of Food

THAILAND | Saturday, 18 August 2007 | Views [500] | Comments [1]

No plastic containers for "takeout," just plastic bags that hold your curries, rices, soups, and noodles. They look like little fishtanks, reminiscent of the cheap goldfish you can buy at a carnival.

After a week of going full force eating everything and trying anything, I can now tell the difference between good tasting and mediocre foods. The first meal that I thought was so good Sunday night when I arrived in Chiang Mai actually was pretty low on the tasty scale compared to the amazing dishes I've tried from the super-like market. I only figured that out when I was desperate last night to find something to eat in the rain. This is the rainy season, but it hasn't been raining. I had gotten so used to eating at vendors that I didn't know what to do in a downpour. So I went back to the restaurant Krisna showed me that first night and discovered that it is possible to have a really bad meal in Thailand.

But the good food? Tonight I travelled to the market I came across on Wednesday when I got lost. I retraced my steps and ventured back in to try new things. The bugs were not there tonight and neither was the banana leaf curry seafood dish I had. (Oh, and I didn't have maggots the other night. I had catepillars). I bought spring rolls, 6 for 20 baht (.80) and a banana leaf bowl with a tale end of grilled Mackeral placed inside the bowl, and fresh lime kaffir leaves sprinkled over it with small dried chilli peppers on the side--also lightly grilled.

I've grown tired of eating out so much, so for the last two nights I've been taking food home with me to eat on the porch outside my room that overlooks the courtyard of the guesthouse. It's lovely actually and just as romantic as it sounds. And feels more like eating at home than eating out even if I a buying the food over making it. Tomorrow I am moving to a new guesthouse that will have a kitchen so I can cook. I thought I could hold out for three weeks of no cooking, but it's just too hard. The room is also going to be 3/4 less than what I have been paying.

The first bite of the mackeral was very fishy. Then I realized that the lime kaffir leaves and chillis were probably there for a reason. I took another bite of the dish, then ate a kaffir leaf, then the entire small chilli. Everything changed with that bite. Usually I can't tell what makes what taste so good, but this meal helped me understand more the Thai cooking spirit of mixing sweet, salty, and spicy together in harmony. 

I was thinking of taking a cooking course while I'm here, but most cater to tourists. I'm not so interested in the dished they make either. I've been taking photos of most of the meals I eat and then writing about them when I am particularly moved. I went to two markets today to look for herbs and spices. I bought a bunch of small bags of spices and have no idea what they are accept for the ground chilli. Like the other foods though, I'm sure I will figure it out. Now I have to check to see if I can bring them home. Kaffir leaves I know I can't take home fresh. I have been chatting with a woman who works at the place where I ate breakfast this week (curries over rice mostly) and she told me that the fresh leaves have insects on them that US customs will not let through. She's been very helpful actually in my eating exploration. Yo Yo, a tour guide, who hangs out at the vendors across the street from Mountain View has also been helpful when I want to order something particularly interesting. The other night I had a seafood noodle soup with squid, liver, fresh crab (which tastes COMPLETELY different than fresh in the US), tuna, shrimp, fish balls, and two other things that I don't know.

I hope all of the food talk is not too boring for you. I do have a few trips planned outside of the city soon so I will have other stories to tell. Next week I'm also going to a friend's engagement party. I have known Ton since I lived in Washington, DC. We used to go to out dancing all night to drum and base parties. I think he has mellowed a bit, but it should still be fun.

Tags: Food & eating



I know where you can get kaffir lime leaves in NYC!

  Megan Sep 3, 2007 5:24 AM

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