Wednesday, September 26, 2012

An Ode to Thai Food

This is Thailand: walk down the street
and you'll get whiff of that distinct chili heat
At any place, any hour on any day,
the woks will surely be clinking away

When the pangs of hunger do appear,
without a kitchen at home, most would fear
But walk a few feet north, south, west or east
and you'll find yourself a memorable feast
Ba Mee Moo Daeng - Egg noodle soup with
barbeque pork topped with peanuts
Thai people eating everywhere,
An empty street stall would be rare!
At only thirty baht for a delicious meal,
Your taste buds will be dancing at a steal

My British mates think Thai food is hell-
but I pity those who can't order well
Get over the oddities & learn what is best,
I'm now dreading eating in the West

I'll take a pass on cow stomach
I was once deemed as picky;
til Thailand taught me to be open & free
Chicken feet & blood will never excite me,
but my wasteful home got nothin' on this country

In my previous life I favored cheese;
Now dairy's forgotten and no longer a tease
Upon arrival, I thought I ODed on rice
and now I'm not phased by having it thrice

Fish sauce once seemed vile, 
now I can't get enough on the pile
With a dab of sugar and tons of spice
this cuisine is just so damn nice!
Chilies in fish sauce on every table

Rice and noodle everyday,
I wouldn't have it any other way
Thai food has become my norm;
I forget what food's like in another form

With no formal training and only a wok,
The masterpieces they create are worth this talk
The cooks work at the speed of light 
It always amazing that it tastes so right
A favorite vendor at the night market -
man's got skills!
While Thai gastronomy is a work of art,
there is something more dear to my heart:
It's the food culture that's the biggest treat
Eat to live, but live to eat
Instead of "how do?" there's a special greeting:
"Have you eaten rice yet?" Thai people sing
Emotions and eating are so intertwined;
if you're hungry or full is what they want to find.

Thais understand food tastes better when sharing;
half of the fun of eating is about caring
While I am saddened to bid this special place goodbye,
My heart will forever carry the food culture of the Thai
Sukiyaki (like Korean BBQ) - sharing is caring!
- - -
My taste buds have a lot to look forward to as I indulge in 8 other countries' renowned cuisines over the next five months. And of course, I will still be rejoiced to reunite with a big, fat cheesy burrito (and pasta, sandwiches and bagels!) once back stateside.

Pad Grapow Gai Kai Dow - Chicken stir fried
with holy basil and chili & topped with a fried egg
But Thai food has become a part of me. My first six months, the pangs of Western food cravings seemed almost unbearable - I was sure the lack of cheese would be the sole factor driving me away from Asia. Now, after a year of living here, Thai food and food culture has earned its place as the number one thing I'll miss the most. I can't think of a more appropriate comfort food than fried rice, a better way to start the day than pork porridge, a better hangover cure than a spicy stir fry topped with a runny egg or a more pleasurable meal of curries to share with friends.

Thai cuisine has taught me to ditch all my prior food inhibitions and opened my eyes to so many new tastes and experiences. Thailand has taught me locavore is possible, as there isn't much time wasted from the chicken's death to its place in my belly. Not only will I forever miss the one dollar fares, but the convenience, accessibility, atmosphere and sensory overload at food markets and street shops will surely be the substance of my dreams for years to come.
Kai Geow Gai La Khao
Thai omeltte with chicken over rice (tastes nothing like a Western omelette!)
Khao Na Bpet 
Roasted duck in a sweet, spiced sauce over rice with pickled veggies
Fresh markets everywhere!
Thai cooking class in Chiang Mai
Curry paste waiting to be pestled in the mortar!
Gway Jiab Gai - Chicken noodle soup
Kanom Buang - learning how to make a "Japanese-style crepe" from the expert!
Yellow watermelon! Fruit in Thailand is unreal it's so good! How I will miss pineapple
 in its perfect form, tropical fruits unique to SE Asia and 50 cent fresh fruit shakes.
Tom Yum Goong - Spicy and sour shrimp soup
Pla Tod Minow Geng Pak Boom 
Fried fish in a lemon curry topped with morning glory
Khao Neiow - Sticky rice, to be eaten with your hands and
dipped in Som Tom juices and curry sauces
Students enjoying Som Tom (Papaya Salad) and other treats
Khao Neiow Mamuang - Mango & sticky rice topped with a sweet coconut cream
Thai sweets have changed my mind about disliking sweets.
Massaman Geng -This version may not be the most photogenic,
but this hearty stew-like beef curry is to die for.


Joni Sweet said...

This is one of your best blog posts yet. Your ode was really beautiful, it made me smile and feel nostalgic for India, where I feel in love with the food just as you have in Thailand. You should try to get this published somewhere.

Great work.

MorganE said...

Very nice poem and great pictures! I can't wait to try some of this famous food!