Glutton Abroad: Doing it all wrong in KL

Banana leaf curry at Raja Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur

Banana leaf curry at Raja Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur

Throughout the years on this blog, I have pretty much demonstrated a Taliban-like commitment to eating Thai food the way Thai people eat it. It seemed like a no-brainer to me because a fork and spoon are so obviously the best eating utensils ever created. Why on earth would you struggle with a fork or, god forbid, a pair of chopsticks, when presented with a curry and a plate of jasmine rice? Because, no duh, the best way to eat something is the way locals have been doing it for years, and that this was obviously a rule that would apply to every cuisine, no matter what.

Then I went to Vietnam, and discovered that I have been eating the Vietnamese fried crepe — banh xeo, supposedly named after the sound the batter makes when dropped into a sizzling pan — wrong for years. It turns out the brittle, shell-like crepe is not the vehicle for the herbs: it’s the herbs that are meant to enclose the crepe, the leaves rolled up like an egg roll and dotted inside with bits of crepe crunch like croutons before they are dipped in a sweet-tart sauce and brought to the mouth.

Banh xeo, or stuffed Vietnamese crepe, named after the sound the batter makes when dropped in the pan

Banh xeo, or stuffed Vietnamese crepe

Somehow, in all my years of patronizing Vietnamese restaurants all over the globe, no one thought to tell me that Vietnamese people eat their crepes differently than I was eating my crepe. They would just set the plate on my table and walk away, possibly resisting the urge to tell me, just like I resist/don’t resist the urge to tell other people, “You are doing it all wrong”. They simply seemed happy that I was there. This is because Vietnamese waiters are better people than me.

I was resolved to learn from my mistakes and to eat things properly from then on. But what happens when you don’t want to do it, even when presented with incontrovertible evidence that you’re DOIN IT ALL RONG? When our friend May took us to a banana curry leaf place called Raja Restaurant on a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur, I was forced to face this very question.

Because, let me tell you, eating gloppy food with bare hands is definitely my gastro-Achilles heel. Meaning, THERE IS NO WAY THAT IS HAPPENING. I mean, I’m Northern Thai and I can barely eat sticky rice with my fingers. The thought of all that unseen hand guck coating those grains of rice just makes me want to scrape my tongue with a chainsaw. So apologies, banana leaf curry originators. To the first people who thought of tearing a leaf off of a tree, tipping delicious curries from pails onto those leaves with a hefty mound of rice and a dollop of pickles and then having at it with their gross-ass bare hands, I say: hell naw. I say, I’m sorry. I say, it’s great you are eco-friendly and all, but thank God for the fork and spoon. Cuz when I see people doing like they’re supposed to and eating banana leaf curry with their hands, the grains of wet rice sticking to their fingers as they maneuver their way through their meal, it makes me think of this:

Stuff I would rather do than eat wet curry rice with my hands

  1. Get a painful charlie horse in the middle of a great dream
  2. Wear a repurposed garbage bag for two weeks
  3. Go to a Michael Buble concert
  4. Wash my face with sand
  5. Drink creme de menthe instead of water for a month
  6. Stub my toe really hard on something
  7. Go without sleep for three days
  8. Go camping (same as #7)
  9. Watch a “Glee” marathon from start to finish
  10. Eat a raw hotdog from current-day Leonardo DiCaprio’s crotch

In conclusion, I have to say thank everything worth thanking that the folks at Raja Restaurant are not judgmental asses like yours truly and happy to give a fork and spoon to anyone who finds themselves manually challenged. That’s pretty great of them. Because their food is really wonderful, and it would be a shame to miss out on that incredible curry due to my dumb neuroses. As for eating Thai food like Thai people … well, who am I to say how people eat? It’s nobody’s business but yours.

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Like frogs in a coconut

It’s no secret that these past few days have been the hottest that Thailand has seen for decades. I can barely drag myself back home before I want to plop myself onto my couch and go to sleep. That is, after I carefully dry out the sweat-drenched handkerchief I have taken to carrying around with me for when I inevitably start melting on the Skytrain platform. I have bought an assortment of handkerchiefs for just this very purpose, in different colors to suit my varying moods. My transformation into elderly Japanese man is nearly complete.

Many people say that global warming is to blame for hot spells like these. Yet, as with everything else — people who congratulate themselves for having not read A Song of Ice and Fire, for example, like illiteracy is a badge of honor — there are a handful of naysayers who seek to buck the conventional wisdom. These are the people who insist that what we are experiencing on a global scale is a normal blip in the sequence of things, and we are not slowly broiling ourselves to death. English-speakers liken them to ostriches with their heads in the sand. Thais have a term for them too: they are frogs in coconuts.

The term is old-fashioned, but it still applies. The coconuts may have changed, but they are still there, air-conditioned, sprawling, outfitted with many Starbucks and Burger Kings for your particular convenience. They are our shelters from the cruel concrete world. They also, somehow, harbor decent “street food” dishes, even though you have not trawled through winding alleyways or braved potential carbon monoxide poisoning for them. When it’s this hot outside, one need not suffer so much for a good bowl of noodles (as long as you’re willing to pay for it). Here are three places where the coconut yields some good-enough flesh.

1. Bamee Sawang

Egg noodles with wontons and barbecued pork at Bamee Sawang at Emporium

Egg noodles with wontons and barbecued pork at Bamee Sawang at Emporium

This outpost of the famous streetside bamee vendor on Rama IV Road is probably the most popular noodle place located in Emporium’s newishly-refurbished Food Hall (Sukhumvit 24, BTS Phrom Phong). It’s almost the same thing, but without the fluorescent green lighting or the elderly Thai man who insists on reminding you (over and over again) that alcohol is not allowed on the premises.

2. Peninsula Plaza

Peninsula's beef boat noodles

Peninsula’s beef boat noodles

Despite the relentlessly “fancy” surroundings — like the sitting room of your favorite stuffed doll-collecting widowed aunt — Peninsula Plaza (153 Rajadamri Road, BTS Rajadamri) has long served some of the most popular bowls of “boat noodles” in the city. Incongruously called “Provence”, the specialties here are actually upscale versions of Thai street food, like Thai-Chinese-style porpia sod (“spring rolls” wrapped in white flour dough and slathered in a sweet sauce) and deep-fried wontons. The boat noodles — so called because they were first served from the boats that plied Bangkok’s canals in the 1940s and seasoned with a dash of pork or beef blood mixed with salt — are by far the most famous, considered an oasis of flavor in an otherwise timid menu.

3. Nuer Koo

Wagyu beef noodles in broth at Nuer Koo

Wagyu beef noodles in broth at Nuer Koo

Even I was skeptical about this place, since there is another fancy beef noodle place that my family is fanatically loyal to. But if I don’t feel like trekking to this other place, and want to take the Skytrain with my collection of multi-colored handkerchiefs, then Nuer Koo at Paragon (4th floor, Rama I Road, BTS Siam) is my most likely destination. They too offer wagyu and “Japanese kobe” beef noodles, as well as kurobuta pork for non-beef eaters. Not surprisingly, this kind of imported beef noodle bowl costs a pretty penny, but then again, no one said the luxuries of the coconut would be free.

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Glutton Abroad: Dining on our own in Vietnam

Banh xeo, or stuffed Vietnamese crepe, named after the sound the batter makes when dropped in the pan

Banh xeo, or stuffed Vietnamese crepe, named after the sound the batter makes when dropped in the pan

There is nothing Thai people understand less than the desire to be alone. When someone slopes off, declaring an interest in taking a solitary walk or — heaven forbid! — a meal alone, the obvious conclusion that most Thais will draw is that there is something wrong. Because there is nothing worse than being on your own, with nothing but your thoughts for company. There is strength in the collective “we”. In the solitary “I”, there is just you.

The tendency to leave ingredients unadorned is another thing that Thais would rather not do. Sure, there are the raw vegetables that go with salads or dips, but they are the supporting players, the antidotes to things that need balancing in the ultimate battle for harmony on your palate. But everything is just that: a force to be counteracted. Everything is meant to be manipulated for the greater good, no stray acacia leaf or shrimp paste ball left to its own devices. What would fish meatball want to go off on her own for, anyway? Who does fish meatball think she is?

This is what makes Vietnamese food so interesting to me. There is the furious jumble of salads where lightly blanched slices of beef vie with pickled onions and julienned bits of carrot and glass vermicelli, and soup noodles heaped high with greens and christened with a bit of fish sauce and a dash of lime juice. But it’s just that — a mix that comes apart in the mouth, free to remain carrots and coriander leaves and noodles despite being part of a dish, readily identifiable and unobscured by a paste marinade or egg netting or any other highfalutin culinary trick seeking to meld every component of the dish to some higher ideal.

A typical bowl of pho with maybe a few more chilies than usual

A typical bowl of pho 

And then there is the issue with the chilies: ultimately why I think Vietnamese food resonates with so many people in a way that Thai doesn’t. There isn’t the cloud of chilies literally obscuring your tastebuds. Vietnamese food isn’t a food-based “Fear Factor” where you are expected to endure varying levels of pain in the pursuit of eating like a local. It’s just there, a similar mix of textures and sweet, salty and sour tastes, but presented much more simply and accessibly. As Karen says, it’s “gently flavored”.

I think this sort of laissez-faire attitude is exemplified most by Ho Chi Minh City’s “Lunch Lady” (Nguyen Thi Tranh, Phuong Da Cao, District 1), who cooks something different for lunch every day and still has no problem expecting people to come to her streetside stall for a bite. In Thailand, where people are so hospitable it can become an affliction, there would inevitably be the worry that people might not like what you are cooking that day. Here, the attitude is, “This is what I’m cooking. You can take it or leave it.” Paradoxically, diners appear delighted to be told what to eat. These are the same diners that probably enjoy being yelled at by irate Asian ladies. Future street food cooks, mull a little on that.

The "lunch lady" at work

The “lunch lady” at work

I should add: diners are happy to have their choices taken away, as long as that food is very good. On the day we arrived, there were thick, glassy rice noodles like glittery udon — what Thais would call guay jab yuan — in a lurid, Will Arnett-colored broth flavored with pork bone and chili. The soup held slices of fatty pork, deep-fried shallots, coriander, bits of fried pork rind, boiled quail eggs and cooked prawns, and the noodles were inevitably heavy and difficult to eat. This bowl was accompanied by both fresh and deep-fried spring rolls and an iced green drink that tasted like pennywort, or bai bua bok. Whatever they chose to plonk onto our table, we ate, and we enjoyed it.

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Curry rice paradise

A selection of stir-fry dishes along the "khao gang" stretch of Thonglor Road

A selection of stir-fry dishes along the “khao gang” stretch of Thonglor Road

I always say I hate shopping, but that’s not true. I love shopping for food. I will happily use up the same amount of time usually spent staring at my phone on a couch at a Uniqlo somewhere, surfing through the aisles of a grocery store and looking through all the canned goods instead. You find out a lot about a place from the produce, condiments, and ready-made food on offer in its markets. And no question that food makes the best take-home souvenirs.

The raan khao gang, or “curry rice” stall, is the best approximation of the shopping experience that Thai street food has to offer. Vendors offer you a plate of rice (or, if you are in a southern Thai-type place, your choice of a plate of kanom jeen or fermented rice noodles) on which you have your choice of stir-fries, soups and curries with which to paint your blank, white “canvas”. I have usually seen a total of three toppings max, but theoretically, the sky is the limit. Sometimes, everything looks so wonderful that it’s easy to imagine having it all.

A selection of curries and soups at a Thonglor khao gang stall

A selection of curries and soups at a Thonglor khao gang stall

Which brings me to the stretch of street on Thonglor across from the police station labelled “Thonglor Pochana”. Sure, there is a Chinese-style rice porridge (joke) vendor and a great grilled pork collar (kor moo yang) guy and some nice-looking Chinese dumplings for sale if you get there early enough in the morning. But the real stars of this open-air block — the only block of this type left on a very expensive road, mind you — are the khao gang stalls who give pedestrians plenty to ogle on their way to work.

More stir-fries at a vendor on Thonglor

More stir-fries, deep-fried bits and chili dip at a vendor on Thonglor

The thing that invariably reins me in is when I find something at a curry rice stall that I won’t usually find anything else: call it the “specialty of the house”. When I say “specialty of the house”, I mean that no matter the season or what’s on sale at the Klong Toey market, that one dish will be available, rain or shine. At the very decent one near me, the khao gang lady’s specialty is braised pig trotter on rice (khao ka moo). At the first of the three curry rice vendors at Thonglor Pochana (the one closest to Petchburi Road), the specialty is even harder to find: yum hoo moo, or a very serviceable pig ear salad.

Spicy pig ear salad on Thonglor

Spicy pig ear salad on Thonglor

This is a dish that always brings me back home, when my dad would get pig’s ears on the cheap from the local butcher, blanch them, and them toss them with some fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, coriander, onions and chilies and call it a day. Here, she tarts up her salad with some tomatoes, cucumber and spring onion, creating something a little more robust (and watery) — a nice counterpoint to all the spicy, greasy stuff elsewhere on display.

These ladies (because curry rice vendors are almost invariably ladies) start selling from 6 in the morning to when their food runs out (usually around 2 in the afternoon). In order to “shop” to your heart’s content, weekdays (when the morning commute is in full swing and office workers are looking for some cheap nosh) are your best bet.

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What’s Cooking: Khao yum

Khao yum, pre-mix

Khao yum, pre-mix

I rarely talk music with other people. This is because most other people have terrible taste in music. I realize this is because people my age don’t have any time to trawl through iTunes looking for something they will really love, so content themselves with whatever it is that is playing on the radio right now. Usually, that is Taylor Swift, some teenager, or Taylor Swift.

When did it become a thing for middle-aged people to listen to One Direction? Or 5 Seconds of Summer? I’m talking grown-ass women and men. What happened? I mean, as long as U2 are still making albums, “old people music” will still exist. Arcade Fire, Black Keys: old people are still being marketed to! We have wallets too. It’s not a draconian world of Either/Or, where either you listen to Justin Bieber or you end up consigned to a dustbin of Air Supply and Kajagoogoo.

I’m sorry to say this, yet again, but this kind of stuff didn’t happen in my day. My dad wasn’t getting all up in my Duran Duran while I was growing up. My mom wasn’t drooling over Robert Smith and singing along to “Head on the Door” while doing the dishes. Come on now. Let’s resist shedding our old-fart identities, disintegrating into some mass-marketed stew of wannabe youth-dom, doomed to an ever-expanding wardrobe of Hot Topic, a cultural diet of Teen Wolf reruns and a never-ending trudge towards What Kids Are Doing Today. This, from the lady with the dyed mallrat hair.

My favorite Thai dishes are the ones in which each ingredient is free to sing clearly on its own merits. You can still identify each and every taste. This is why I love every type of yum, those spicy-tart salads that play with flavor and texture, and retro DIY snacks like mieng kum, which usually involves betel leaves and pairs them with an assortment of dried shrimp, flaked coconut, slivered peel-on lime, cubed ginger, sliced chilies, roasted peanuts and a gloppy sweet dipping sauce that manages to enhance rather than mask all the goodness underneath.

Another great dish that leaves the integrity of each ingredient intact? Khao yum, a Southern Thai mishmash of rice and painstakingly julienned herbs, fruits and vegetables, held together with generous lashings of nam budu, a Southern Thai fermented fish sauce used like a punctuation mark in many regional dishes. When Khun Nuraya, a Pattani-based artist, offered to show me how to make the only dish she ever bothers to cook, I naturally jumped at the chance.

In the process of making the salad

Pattani in the house: In the process of making the salad

First off, khao yum requires a LOT of preparation. The prep work will dwarf the actual cooking of this dish, which only requires a little bit of mixing in a bowl. If you don’t live in Thailand, a few of these ingredients will be hard to come by. That’s when your imagination comes into play: as long as it’s tart and/or crunchy and relatively dry (we don’t want soggy rice), it should work. That means things like julienned green apple, asparagus, roasted peanut dust … the sky is the limit.

Ingredients (everything is to taste, so measurements are not set in stone. Also, you want to keep reserves of each ingredient on the side so that diners can add to their own taste. This should make about 4 portions):

— Nam bu du (a southern Thai fish sauce that Nuraya doctors by boiling it with lemongrass, palm sugar, lime leaves, galangal and onion. This can possibly be bought at a large Southeast Asian grocery store. If you are really in a jam, use regular fish sauce or nam pla rah)

nambudoo

— Fresh shrimp, about a handful, cleaned and deveined, then grilled and cut into bite-sized pieces

— Dried shrimp, about 1/4 cup, powdered (can substitute with powdered dried fish, or even peanuts if in a pinch)

— Coconut, about 1/3 cup, desiccated

— Lime, roughly one per person, either cubed with peel on or squeezed into the salad before eating

— Chilies, about a Tablespoonful, sliced

— Cucumber, 2 large, peeled and cut into inch-long shards

— Long beans, about a handful, cleaned and sliced

— Pai leaves (an aromatic herb that accompanies many Northern and Isaan larbs, maybe use shiso in a pinch)

— Yeera blossoms (also referred to as dara. They look like this)

flower

— Winged beans, about a handful, sliced

— Lemongrass, sliced, bulb part only

— Lime leaves, chiffonaded

— Butterfly pea blossoms (optional)

— Pomelo, shredded (optional)

— Rice, mixed with pulverized bai yaw (also referred to as noni leaves, which are boiled, whizzed in a food processor, and then added to the rice cooking water)

noniThe rice will eventually look like this:

rice

Nuraya also adds small Thai mackerel that are pan-fried with lemongrass to rid it of its fishy scent, but a good substitute are dried small fish, which give the added bonus of adding a little texture.

Eventually, all of this is mixed together, but be prudent with the nam bu du if you don’t want a gigantic salad — you don’t want to tip the balance of flavors over in any way. The final product: a fresh, bright, light melange of ingredients that, instead of competing, manage to coexist peacefully without overshadowing anything else. In that way, one can say this dish is everything Thailand says it is.

A bite of the finished product

A bite of the finished product

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Duck noodle fans unite

Duck noodles with the condiment tray at Guaythiew Ped on St. Louis Road

Duck noodles with the condiment tray at Guaythiew Ped on St. Louis Road

Karen likes to say that everything on the internet is “public, permanent, and traceable”. Everything, that is, except for my blog posts. I don’t know where my latest one is. I should probably be sad because I spent a lot of time on it. However, it might be God’s way of saying that no one should ever have to see my terrible Anthony Bourdain fan fiction. Bullet dodged, world.

I have been giving a lot more thought to fan fiction lately. This is because I want to make EL James-level bank, see my flaccid scribblings re-enacted on the big screen, and then make a nuisance of myself at numerous, famous people-populated parties. I have narrowed the criteria down to three major points. To write successful fan fiction, one must: 1.) feature a love triangle 2.) have the heroine (who is invariably the narrator and unwitting object of everyone’s affections) possess some ineffable quality that is completely beyond her control and renders her irresistible to her more standoffish (and undoubtedly more handsome) suitor, and 3.) make the heroine dowdy and/or judgmental, because making an effort to look good/being popular with boys makes you a big slut. She must be attractive to every man in the story for some other reason, as long as that reason is not her personality or intelligence, because that is boring and/or hard to write.

There seems to be a set of criteria for the successful Thai food stall as well. These are: 1.) tables that are crowded with “locals” 2.) a gruesome display of animal carcasses either in front or in back, because one must always be reminded of how truly adventurous one really is, and 3.) an abusive and/or harried cook. If the cook is not sufficiently ornery, then the stall must be in a hard-to-find location. The point is to suffer for your food.

Luckily for me, Guaythiew Ped on St. Louis Road (127/44 St. Louis Soi 3, 02-211-1411) fulfills all of these criteria, from the grisly-yet-tasty carcasses:

Ducks ready for the noodle bowl

Ducks ready for the noodle bowl

to the crowded tables and harried, frantic cook out in front. Of course, the food stands center stage — yes, the duck in every iteration: its tender gizzards, simmered feet, soft neck, rich liver and tranches of soft meat, cut with a vinegary chili sauce to offset the greasiness of the flesh.

Duck meat without the noodles

Duck meat without the noodles

But my favorite part of my meal is the cubed duck’s blood, not so soft that it disappears into the broth, nor so hard that it resembles sanguinary finger jello: slightly squidgy and giving to the slightest pressure, festooned with spring onions and coriander leaves.

A bowl of duck's blood

A bowl of duck’s blood

Presented with a formidable pile of the stuff, I managed to dispatch of every duck blood cube in maybe 5 minutes.

“You ate that like a vampire,” said Karen, unable to try even a single cube, because I had eaten it all.

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The Beauty in Bitterness

Sator -- or stink beans, a famously bitter Southeast Asian ingredient

Sator — or stink beans, a famously bitter Southeast Asian ingredient

His name was Aharon. He was very smart, cute, enormously funny, and had great hair, a dark mass of curls. I harbored a crush on this poor boy for what felt like years, but was probably only months. For weeks and weeks, I blathered on to anyone who would listen about my crush on this innocent person, who had not done anything to anyone, in the same way I had bored my fifth-grade lunch table mates with stories about Michael Jackson’s daily workout routine, or how John Taylor’s favorite meal was breakfast. So it was inevitable that one of those friends would take revenge on me by actually telling the object of my affections how I really felt about him.

It was, as Karen likes to say, a sixth-grade nightmare. There is nothing worse than having your secret crush discover the audacity of your affection for him — as if you actually had a CHANCE, as if something like this could even fall within the realm of possibility. The weight of my presumption was made worse by the knowledge that he would be kind, and would not make fun of me or emit “ewww” noises like an actual sixth-grader.  He would be nice. He might even have deigned to give me hope. But that only made it worse. The fact is that someone’s affection for you, even if unreturned, leaves a terrible yoke of obligation that can either be shrugged off gracefully, severed cruelly, or borne patiently. I was sure he would have been patient. But I did not want to be present at anyone’s pity party if I was going to be the guest of honor.

I responded as one would when it is 1995 (e.g. running home and listening to Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye”. We didn’t have Adele in those days). I also decided to tell him that I most definitely did NOT have feelings for him. I mean, I was going to lie. This would relieve him of the burden of having to pretend anything with me, and we could continue to at least be friends. Sixth-grade nightmare averted. So I knocked on his door and that is what I did. He never really spoke to me again.

A male friend of mine, when told this story (I am still boring people with my stupid stories, 30 years later. Welcome to my blog) said I had humiliated my crush. This, when I thought I was doing him a favor. The thought that I would miscalculate to the extent of causing this person actual distress represents a low point in my romantic life. Don’t get me wrong — as all of my ex-boyfriends would attest, there are many, many low points in my romantic life. But this is the one I remember most.

Low points are an inevitability in life. In fact, they are a necessity. Who walks downhill all the time? You need to climb uphill in order to get to that point. They provide the contrast with which the high points can be truly appreciated. Do you know who understand this? You’ll never guess.

Thai cooks are known to understand this. They are able to use low points — bitterness — in ways that manage to amplify the high notes to make them that much more dramatic, like the way blanched bitter gourd is served alongside a tamarind chili dip, or sadao (a Thai riverside herb) offsets grilled snakehead fish with sweet tamarind sauce. They provide the oomph against which the freshness of certain ingredients can be highlighted, like the thin shavings of raw bitter melon in goong cha nam pla, or raw  shrimp marinated in fish sauce. And they lend gravitas and heft to certain dishes, emphasizing meatiness, warmth and substance, like in larb muang, the Northern Thai minced pork salad. Indeed, of all the regions, it is perhaps the Northern Thais who accentuate bitter flavors the most, since bitterness figures prominently in their cooking: echoed in the flavors of the North’s many fresh herbs and leaves, or in the animal bile that figures so prominently in their meat dishes. Bitterness is a major component in the Northern Thai flavor profile, a deep, dark thrum against which salt, chili and animal fat can play.

It’s a common misperception that, to make something more authentically Thai, one simply has to dial up the spice to 11. I don’t find that to be true of either central or northern Thai cuisine. Thailand, as any long-term expat can tell you, is never that easy to work out. Instead, to make something more Thai, all the flavor facets — sweet, salt, sour, spicy, bitter — have to be represented and balanced. Sadly, this is becoming less of an imperative, even in dishes where it figures importantly, like in gaeng jued mara yad sai (bitter melon stuffed with pork and stewed in a pork bone broth). This is because the Thai palate is changing to reflect globalized tastes: becoming sweeter, saltier, spicier. In other words, more amped, more MSG’d. What this means is that dishes are actually changing, leaving out the bitter melon in goong cha nam pla or threatened with extinction, like sadao nam pla wan (Thai river herb with grilled fish and sweet tamarind sauce).

This results in the nature of Thai food changing. And no, it’s not because of farang chefs, or McDonald’s, or the media, or anything that people like to blame when things change. It was simply a matter of time. Low points — at least in food — have been swapped out for a vista of downhill rambles, a glossy world of ease and convenience where everything is a quick, Rot Dee-assisted stir-fry away from the table. But bereft of our culinary sixth-grade nightmares, how will we appreciate life’s occasional sweets?

Kua kling with fresh stink bean, courtesy of @chilipastetour

Kua kling with fresh stink bean, courtesy of @chilipastetour

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