I find it amusing when I hear someone say they don’t want to end up like the old married couple in the restaurant, eating their dinner in silence. I find this amusing because, in my opinion, THAT IS THE BESTEST THING EVER. Why do I have to talk all the time? The well-worn song-and-dance, the incessant thrum of pleaselikemepleaselikeme — all of this singing for our suppers … it’s just not my normal state. My normal state is that of a big old grump who thinks occasionally eating a restaurant dinner in silence IS THE BESTEST THING EVER. That’s because sometimes, I don’t want to talk. And sometimes I don’t want to listen. Sometimes these two desires meet up over the dinner table in front of my spouse. Whenever this happens, I call it RELAXING.
Of course, this doesn’t take into account the feelings of my long-suffering spouse. Maybe he wants to bare his soul over his salad caprese and dish over the little details of his day as we work our way through our oxtail stew. Something tells me I probably wouldn’t be married to this person, but once in a while my husband does want to talk, and it’s not the old refrain “When are you going to take care of the kids/clean the house/take a shower” that I usually hear coming out of his mouth.
So, in the interests of compromise, and against all my better instincts (I AM SO MUCH FUN), we talk, we discuss, we communicate. And in doing this, we find out more about each other, even as we soldier on through our 157th year of marriage. As many eons and eons (and eons) that we have been together, we discover that much more every day.
As many times as I’ve been down the main drag of Yaowaraj Road and explored its many offshoots (YES I AM EQUATING MY MARRIAGE TO A PART OF TOWN), I still find new vendors to get excited about — not every day, but often enough to make an hour-long Skytrain-then-subway-then-tuk tuk trek to Chinatown from my house worthwhile (I CANNOT WAIT for the subway extension into Chinatown to be finished. My life will BE CHANGED FOR THE BETTER. THEN I CAN STOP WRITING IN ALL CAPS).
Enter Krua Porn Lamai (081-823-0397). Despite the suspicious likeness of its name to a made-up massage parlor in a future installment of “The Hangover Part 34”, this outdoor vendor specializes in kata ron, or “hot pan” — fried noodle dishes given the special oomph afforded by the sizzle and smoke of a heated plate. Part of a “cooperative” of vendors that share tables and help service each other’s customers (something I’m seeing more and more of nowadays), Porn Lamai is set right at the entrance to Soi Plang Nam, just as you turn right from Yaowaraj Road. All those tables with hot plates on them? That queue of excited-looking customers staring at other people’s food? That’s them.
The reason for all the excitement — despite the wait elicited by having to wash all those hot plates for new customers — is obvious. Take, for example, the guaythiew lard na talay (seafood gravy noodles), charred to a crisp on the bottom, just like the bottom layer of rice in a good paella. It arrives at the table still seething, emitting a slight hiss, but when the server upends a pitcher of gravy over the liquid, a giant plume of smoke and sound erupts:
This is food that fights back (seriously, watch you don’t burn the roof of your mouth off). This is food that you will remember (as you’re doing your laundry). This is food that will not go gently into that good night. Enjoy.