25 May 2012

Thai Food Travels - Part 1

Welcome back. Given the excellent response to April’s guest post on the Mekong Delta, by Ellen Haack, I invited another longtime friend, John Lukens, to prepare a guest post on Thailand, where he and his wife, Thitiya, spend much of the year. Once again, instead of a Friday post and Tuesday photo addendum, I’ll split John’s material over the two days.

This story is about eating in Thailand. It goes without saying that food is very important to Thais. They are indiscriminate about what it is, as long as it is good; not necessarily spicy, but with taste. There is traditional Thai, Chinese Thai, curries that must trace their parentage to India, and then the delicious regional cuisines.

The photographs that follow were taken on a recent trip through Thailand’s northeast, the Isaan region. They show some of the various styles and ways that northeastern Thais enjoy their food.
A khanom jiin shop in the village of Lom Gao.
Note the imaginative use of a tennis racquet
(a la Jack Lemmon) to strain rice noodles.
To preface the story, my wife, Thitiya, and I both like to travel. For many years we’d travel when we got the chance, visiting friends, and seeing things. Somewhere along the line, travel became visiting friends with food and seeing things to eat.
Bua loy, a coconut milk dessert, at the
same noodle shop in Lom Gao village.
Driving across the USA is a good example. For the past five years we’ve tried to make up for not seeing this country while we travelled the rest of the world. We’ve crossed east-west three times, and north-south twice. We usually drove, sometimes using rail to get through long empty stretches or just for the fun of train travel.

We’d never make any plans except to go from one distant major destination (like Yellowstone) to another (like San Francisco), and play it by ear in between. By late afternoon, we’d find a nice small town, look for a cheap motel, and ask for the location of the nearest Mexican restaurant. (There is always a good Mexican restaurant.) It got so that we were looking forward to the enchiladas as much as to discovering local attractions.
A unique drink dispenser in a street market in
Chiang Khan, a tourist village on the Mekong.
Monks in Chiang Khan receiving early
morning alms, mostly food.
And so it was with the trip we made through Isaan, an area about the size and roughly the shape of Maine. But warmer. And no black flies. At that scale, Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, would be about where New York City lies relative to Maine.
Sweet tamarinds--a pod-like fruit with a 
hard, brown shell--in an orchard.
And you thought tamarinds were small?
Our friend, Malinee, is there for scale.
To be continued next Tuesday. Thanks for stopping by.

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