Thailand, Summer 2004
This is an account of my trip to Bangkok in July and August, 2005. I wrote it in five "chapters." Click one of the links to jump to an individual chapter or back to the photos page: 1 2 3 4 5 Photos Home
In talking about Thai food, I don't think I was quite as effervescent or effusive in my last email as this subject deserves. I guess it’s obvious from looking at me that I like to eat. Food can be one of the greatest of life pleasures and is definitely one of mine.
Thailand has a tropical climate, which means that they can grow any fruits and vegetables that don’t require cold or dry weather. (Apples, blueberries, etc. are imported from the US and are expensive.) And the growing season is twelve months long! There are a wide variety of tropical fruits and many are ones you will never see in the U.S. There are these little brown balls with a semi-hard shell about an inch in diameter. They look like oak galls but grow on trees in clusters like grapes. You peal away about half the shell then bite out the white grape-like fruit. There is a single one half-inch seed. Another very odd-looking fruit looks like those toy “goosh” balls that were popular about ten years ago (maybe they still are), the ones that are made out of hundreds of rubbery strings. The fruits are red and green and there's another that looks very much like the oak galls (brown and tan speckled spheres about an inch in diameter). Both have flesh inside that is translucent white and tastes similar to green grapes and about the same consistency, sweet and delicious. Another, called dragon fruit, has white flesh speckled with tiny edible black seeds. It is about the size of a mango with green skin that looks a little like dragon scales (I’m sure you’ve seen your share of dragons). I haven’t tried this one yet. Jackfruit, at least the ones I have had, are kind of like crisp pears but not very sweet. They also have Durian, which I will almost certainly not try because it has a smell reminiscent of an outhouse. It is interesting looking though, kind of like a green rugby ball covered with large sharp spikes.
The stores also have several varieties of melons. The watermelons are less than half the size of their US cousins, actually a much more practical size for anything except a big picnic.
I got a bunch of tiny 3-inch bananas (Dole brand!). They taste different than U.S. bananas but are very flavorful. Mangos are plentiful, as are pineapples. You can buy the larger fruits and melons whole or freshly cut up in the markets or at the thousands of fruit carts/stands dotting the city. I stay away from the cut-up fruits from the stands because I worry about cleanliness. Markets are clean and sanitary so that’s ok.
Despite what I had read about the bird-flu problem with chickens here, there is no shortage of chicken or eggs at all. This is good because some of my favorite Thai foods have one or the other or both. Last night several of us went to dinner and I ordered a plate of noodles with crab. It was great and only $1.25! There was also some Tom Ka Gai soup. This is a hot, sour soup with chicken, lemongrass (it gives a lemony flavor but eating lemongrass is like chewing sticks of bamboo), mushrooms, HOT peppers, and coconut milk. Really good until you bite into a pepper. The peppers are deceptive. Some look like green beans which is what I thought the one I bit into was. Boy, was I wrong!
Food-wise, Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city. You can get Italian, French, Mexican, American, British, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, you name it. I, however, did not travel thousands of miles to eat hamburgers (although I did have one the other night because my hosts wanted to go to an American restaurant).
One night, three of us drove to an Egyptian restaurant in an Arab part of town. The food was great. Some patrons were also brought elaborate, tall Hooka’s to smoke. I was informed that they were smoking a fragrant wood. It didn’t smell bad like tobacco and added to the overall atmosphere (no pun intended).
There is a little restaurant several blocks from where I am staying that is actually a food counter in a “supermarket.” It is open 24 hrs and always seems to be busy. Its name translates to “Cheap and Good” and it is both. The menu is large but the cooks will make anything you ask for. The market (Foodland) has a little bakery that makes some terrific pastries. My favorite are the pineapple tarts.
Ok, now I’m hungry again. I’m going to get something to eat…