Thai Food, Installment #???

Whaaaat, almost three months in Thailand (again) and I haven’t done a food post yet?  Something is wrong.

 2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 008

New fruit alert!  They look like miniature coconuts that were left a little too close to the bonfire.  Wikipedia calls these the fruits of the Palmyra Palm.

2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 009

Crack them open and somehow you get these little pods; scrape off the skin (or just bite through it) and you reach a translucent, nearly tasteless solidified jello mass.  Allegedly there’s also a sweet juice that comes out that can be refined into alcohol or reduced to palm sugar, but given the boringness of the little fruit pockets, I find that difficult to believe.

2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 010

After three months of being bored by the food in Vietnam and by my own cooking in Cambodia, I was excited to return to Thailand, land of smiles and ubiquitous vegetarian joints.  I went in search of one in the first town I passed through and quickly found it with some help from locals.  Too bad it was closed.

2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 014

A little more sleuthing led me to a little vegeterian supply shop not too far away, stocked with sauces, dried protein balls, shiitake mushrooms, noodles, and all sorts of other kitchen necessities.  Not knowing that it wasn’t a restaurant, I asked if I could eat.  The women looked at me perplexedly, went into the kitchen in the back, and brought ought several plates’ worth of leftovers.

 2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 013

Two grandmas’ home cookin’!

2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 016

Hey, it’s a fried thing that I haven’t seen before.  In Thai, it’s pretty easy to ask what’s inside: “Sai arai.”  (Put what.)  She told me it was rice, so I bought a few.

2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 024

Fried rice with lemongrass, galangal, chillies, and some other Thai herbs, rolled up, breaded, and fried one more time.  Reminds me of my Italian host mama Donatella’s arancini, where a ball of risotto with a mix of cheese, ragu, peas, or mushrooms in the middle is then breaded and deep-fried.

I considered waited till morning to take a better picture, but…nope.

  2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 017

I later learned that you’re supposed to let the lady take the rice balls and mash them up for you after adding peanuts, friend anchovies, red peppers, fish sauce and green mangoes into the mix.

2014-02-02 to Kabin Buri 019

Also at the market: kidney beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and some sort of seed or grain gone gelatinous.  Perhaps chia?  Swerved with a few spoonfulls of sweetened coconut milk, this dessert is generally so rich that I regret buying it after my first or second spoonful.  I still keep coming back for it since I can’t resist all those beans.

2014-02-08 to Klang Dong 032

Another dessert option: coconut ice cream in a coconut husk.  A nice, cool option when I’m feeling to hot or too busy to stop for a real meal.

2014-02-03 to Wat Censored 021

A normal breakfast at a countryside temple.  While the kids are at school and the men and younger ladies are in the fields, the grandmas take charge of “making merit” for the family by coming out and supporting the monks.  They bring loads of food in plastic bags and metal tiffin apparati, decant it into dozens of bowls, offer some to the monks and leave some aside, and then eat once the monks have said the morning blessings and had their fill.

If I plan on staying at a temple that night, then I try to pick up a few things at the market to contribute the following morning.  I do this because I know that, if given the chance, these ladies will absolutely load me down with food.

2014-02-03 to Wat Censored 030

For instance, that morning I received several boxes of soymilk, a bowlful of rice, bags of grapes, watermelon, and papaya, sticky rice desserts, and a bag of fried fish.  Enough food that I didn’t have to buy lunch and I couldn’t even think about eating dinner…despite having cycled 100+km that day.

2014-02-18 to Wang Duan 035

If there’s plastic bottles, styrofoam, and meat, you know I got it from a monastery!  This score included 1.5L of sweet teas, 1L of bottled water, a plate of rice and chicken, a bag bamboo and pork soup, and a coconut and black rice dessert.  I felt so guilty that I stopped visiting monasteries for the next few days.

2014-02-18 to Wang Duan 067

Yet another camping dinner: fresh veggies and some fresh noodles from the market a few towns back.

2014-02-09 to Bangkok 022

Stands with racks of bamboo tubes are always a welcome sight.

2014-02-09 to Bangkok 027

Because there’s grilled sticky rice inside!  The top one there is black sticky rice cooked with coconut milk.  The lower one is white sticky rice cooked with sugar cane juice.

2014-02-24 to Surat Thani 011

Might as well turn this into a snack section.  These mini-pancakes made with rice flour (maybe?), sugared and salted coconut milk, and sometimes chives and corn are a perennial favorite.

2014-02-24 to Surat Thani 008

More or less the same batter, this time fried into a puck.

2014-02-21 to Ranong 014

Another perennial fave: battered bananers and sweet potaters.

2014-02-23 to Lang Suan 009

12-3: Sesame donut with salty yellow lentil paste inside

4-6, 8-11PM: Mini glutinous banana wrapped in shredded coconut, battered and fried.

7PM, Center: Don’t remember what this was (ate it nearly two months ago and haven’t seen it since), but I’m pretty sure it had coconut and brown sugar.  One thing’s for sure: it was fantastic.

2014-02-19 to Pak Khlong 033

Wonder of wonders!  Riding through hundreds of kilometers of coconut plantations, I came across one shop where a few grannies were sitting on the floor hacking at coconuts with tomahawks.  Somehow, they were able to separate the woody shell from the flesh without spilling any of the water.

2014-02-19 to Pak Khlong 039

Another whaaaaaaaaaat moment.  Baguettes are easy to come by in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia, but are sorely lacking in Thailand.  Probably because of the whole “never colonized by a western power” thing.

2014-02-19 to Pak Khlong 038

These specimens were from a tiny, tiny, tiny, almost nonexistent town at the intersection of two roads that nobody ever travels on.  And yet, the bakery totally kicked ass.  I haven’t even seen bread this nice in Bangkok.

2014-02-23 to Lang Suan 021

Spaghetti all’aglio from a “Steakhouse” in rural Thailand.  Tasty, but far too tiny and definitely not worth triple the price of a standard Thai dinner.  I only ordered it because I was planning to ask the owner if I could camp in his back yard and use his bathroom/shower.

Though I guess I should admit that it was exquisite.  Sometimes I forget how magical even just a few shreds of parmeggiano and a few drops of olive oil can be.

2014-02-19 to Pak Khlong 037

And, now, time to get down to business.  Wherever you see the yellow sign with “Chay” written in Thai (up top) and the Chinese character (“Zhai1”), you can be sure there will be some miscellaneous vegetable goodness.   No menu, just a few trays or buckets of mock meats, stir-fries, curries, and in-betweens.  Usually 30-40B ($1-$1.33)/plate.

2014-02-19 to Pak Khlong 036

Something I don’t remember, but it looks like it had bamboo, pea-sized eggplants, shiitakes, and soy protein balls.  Probably spicy and sour.

2014-02-20 to Kra Buri 013

Definitely have no recollection of this dish.  Gluten nuggets there on the right?

2014-02-22 Ranong 029

Another miscellaneous dish; something with bean sprouts, something with radishes and beans, some fake ground meat.

2014-02-23 to Lang Suan 012

If it looks clean, slightly bland, and you can tell what’s in it, it means it didn’t come from a veg restaurant.  More likely from a street stall where they don’t understand me trying to ask for a curry.

2014-02-24 to Surat Thani 013

Nice but meh.

2014-02-16 to Ban Laem 009

Filling but meh.

2014-02-18 to Wang Duan 065

Pretty but meh.

2014-02-21 to Ranong 004

Slightly more interesting: a noodle stand at a market just across the river from Myanmar.

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A bunch of vegetables I can’t identify or even describe.

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Whatever, the noodles are noodles and the broth is coconut-based.  Just dump stuff in and it’ll turn out great.

2014-02-09 to Bangkok 039

Pad Thai from a street stall.

2014-02-19 to Pak Khlong 034

Sometimes they’ll even make a vegan one for me.

$0.80

I think I’ll have one more.

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