Super chicken

The famous "gai super" at New Tiem Song

The famous “gai super” at New Tiem Song

There are a few things that I absolutely will not do, not even while in the pursuit of the culinarily fabulous. One of those things is eating with my hands. I absolutely loathe it. This is particularly strange for me, since a lot of Northern Thai and Isaan food involves sticky rice, which typically includes eating with one’s hands. The rice is rolled up into a little ball with the fingers and used to mop up whatever chili dip, soup or protein there is on your plate in a swift, neat little action called pun khao. The unfortunate thing about this is that all the crap that is on your hands — imaginary or real — ends up in your mouth. And that is really gross.

I know you are thinking, why don’t you wash your hands first then? which is something I do already. Or you could be thinking, but you stuff your face with potato chips and hot wings all day long, and aren’t bitching and moaning about getting your icky hand grossness all up in those tortilla chips heaving with guacamole. And this is true, mom! But it’s not the same as getting soft, soppy stuff all over your fingers. So, sorry Ethiopian restaurants and banana leaf curry stands.  I will never eat you the way you are meant to be eaten. I will always be asking for a spoon and fork. Because that is the way people should eat everything, always (except for potato chips, hot wings and tortilla chips with guacamole).

I like offal meats. You could even say I seek them out. I love kidneys, and sweetbreads, and liver, and grilled chicken gizzards sprinkled with sea salt. I don’t even mind brains, if they are battered and deep-fried, or grilled in a banana leaf. I enjoy shirako with ponzu sauce and a scattering of sliced chive, and I think a cube or two of congealed pig or chicken blood is the perfect touch for a great Thai noodle dish. That kind of thing doesn’t bother me at all.

Except when it comes to feet. Or anything with bones, pits or seeds in them, really. Because if I loathe eating with my hands, I absolutely HATE spitting anything out of my mouth. This is why I don’t eat mangosteens, and why I stay away from grapes, unless they’re seedless. The thought of regurgitating some little something that has to sit there as a reminder of all your salivary grossness is just unbearably vile to me. I would just rather swallow these things, if I can. This is probably why fishbones are so infuriating.

So chicken feet is a no-fly zone for me. It’s a shame, because the most important men in my life — Antonio Brown and Troy Polamalu (haha, jk) — really love them. It’s a street food dish called gai super (“super chicken”) which, when I first heard it, made me really excited because I thought it referred to either chicken wings or some sort of crispy, boneless chicken part, like deep-fried cartilage. Alas, it is a stewed mass of splayed, spidery chicken legs, plonked into a broth simmered from their cooking and accompanied by a mash of bird’s eye chilies.

Just another look at the same dish

Just another look at the same dish

The meat is supposed to be coaxed gently from the bones via the gentle suction usually meant for a milkshake through a straw, but HELL NAW. I’m sorry. I couldn’t do it. You can sue me now, or make me watch a Mark Wahlberg film. Instead, there was the broth, which was deeply chicken-y even without those gross-ass feet all over them, a slight twinge of coriander, and the metallic fire of a dozen pulverized chilies. All in all, it was MEH, unless you are really into the sort of masochistic task of getting those skimpy bits of flesh off of all those little bones. And some of you are like that, if the gigantic pile of toothpick-sized bones on my dad’s and husband’s plates are anything to go by.

So, no judgment. If you are headed to Dinsor Road close to the Chinese Swing, go over to New Tiem Song, which is the open-air shophouse across the street from Bangkok’s City Hall and only a couple of doors down from Mont Nom Sod — the wildly popular toast restaurant credited with being the first eatery to bring fresh milk to the Thai masses. Or, well, you could just go to Mont Nom Sod, and wait in a big long line with Thai teenagers for … toast. Either way, there is something awesome for you waiting on Dinsor Road, whichever way you choose to go.

 

 

10 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, chicken, food, food stalls, Thailand

10 responses to “Super chicken

  1. Another interesting activity to try out in the heart BKK!

    Escape Hunt Bangkok is located directly across from Terminal 21 Shopping Mall in Interchange 21 Tower (the building with the huge Citibank sign covering it) which is major plus point as it is connected to both the BTS Skytrain at Asok and the MRT Underground at Sukhumvit. Public transport is strongly advised as traffic in this area is severe most of the day.

    Go check it out and have the ultimate experience at The Escape Hunt Experience BKK. For bookings, please visit http://www.escapehunt.com or call 02-611-2828

  2. gautam

    To each their own, but speaking of Thai and Indian culture and genes, your ancestors and mine must have eaten with their hands for a few hundred generations before Europeans arrived on the scene. A famous Indian remarked that eating with knives and forks was akin to making love through an interpreter. I agree! I hear your banana leaf remark, but food has texture that needs to be felt, and temperature! Different rices, different fishes, different vegetables cut different prepared to different degrees of doneness in specific dishes! You lose all of these experiences, with cutlery, like looking at colors under sodium halide lamps! Not kidding, not at all trying to put you down either, in even a remote sense. You see, in India we mash certain vegetables by hand and then various species of sour limes, sqeezing the rind to extract the rind oils, then smashing the thai-type chilies to extract their heat and aromatic oils just so, each according to individual taste. Say just so much for plain hot steaming rice with just ghee and green chilies and salt, then doing the same with the preceding, mashing in steamed “small bitter gourd” that has been cooked with the rice, whoch gives it a different flavor than just boiling or steaming by itself. Then maybe calabaza pumpkin or taro. These form an entire repertoire of first courses in the Rarhi Bangali lunch. I could go on: we eat a penultimate or final dish with rice, fresh lime juice, green chilies, salt, sugar and water, maybe a hint of preserved lime pickle, all mixed up and mashed by hand. Cannot even imagine doing this by any implement. Loving hands of Mother does it best, and little children sit in a circle around her, although they have finished their lunch way earlier. Truth to tell, Mom’s often eat such stuff because nothing else is left, and they have happily served everyone, including itinerant beggars the last morsel before they will sit down themselves. Then the little one will eat up what little is left, opening their mouths wide, and Mama will pop a little wet ball into each greedy maw, in turn! Amrita! Who knows what she got to eat. These things cannot happen with the very selfish and individual chopstick and cutlery culture I am afraid, each mouth intent on greedily filling itself, intent on filling itself. If you have seen Central Asian cultures, you will have seen the high priority placed on feeding others with hands, husbands first feeding wives with hands laden with plov, and this hand-to-mouth feeding is very, VERY important in Indian culture as well. Parents feeding their children, gurus their disciples, Husbands ritually and loving feeding their wives food from their own plates, and their own hands is immeasurably significant. While we firmly eschew eating from a common plate that Muslims and Chinese favor, this particular sharing of food between intimates which emphasized ordinarily prohibited behavior actually reinforces bonds! Sort of strange, but that is the major significance of eating from a hand not your own in the Hindu culture, which the substratum of Thai culture which is religiously Buddhist and culturally semi-Hindu. The King is Rama a, b, c, d etc. not without a specific reason!! His ritual priests are solely Brahmans also for that reason! Not a defense for eating by hand, but just suggesting its very, very deep roots in Thai culture and their antecedents. Not so in Vietnam, but certainly in Thailand/Shyamadesha, the Verdant Land, and Myanmar/Brahmadesha, the Land of Celestial Beings.

  3. No accounting for taste! Perfect example!

  4. I can’r do the feet or offal – but Chow, how can you resist to wonderful taste of mangosteens? Couldn’t you eat them in private and spit the pips into a bucket?

  5. Dwight

    WTH Street food lady?! I prepared my mind for the chicken feet rant when I saw the photo at the top, but STICKY RICE? I’m hurt and I’m buying you some plastic gloves…

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