It is commonly believed that men think about sex every 7 seconds — which amounts to about 8,000 times a day. This is actually not true. According to an Ohio State University study published in the Journal of Sex Research (?), men “only” think about sex about 19 times a day … just a little more than food (18) and sleep (11). Women, meanwhile, think about sex half as often as men, but apparently also think about food and sleep less as well, which begs the question: what are all these women thinking about? Actual work?!
Food takes up a lot of my own brainpower (sleep comes in second). It took me a long time to realize that people aren’t thinking of their next meal as they are eating their current one. I don’t think the preoccupation with food is out of some misplaced sense of duty. Food keeps me from focusing on all the other stuff, like whether I’m a bad mother, or why does the world seem like it’s imploding, or what am I doing with my life. It’s the filter through which I’d prefer to interact with the world. Eating my feelings is my happy place.
Chiang Mai is one of my favorite places in the world to eat my feelings. So when I arrive late on a Friday, the first thing I do is head into town for something delicious, easy, not too filling, and, most importantly, quick. This usually means khao tom, or rice porridge. One of the more popular fish porridge places in Chiang Mai is S. Sriracha (186/2-3 Kampangdin, 053-449-149), just a few doors down from perennial favorite Midnight Fried Chicken (or Sticky Rice, or Fried Pork) on a road once known as Chiang Mai’s red light district. As is the case with most Thai-style fish porridge, the fermented brown bean dipping sauce is the most important component, and here it doesn’t disappoint: bags of salty flavor, but with a chili kick.
The next day, I am desperate to have some bona fide Northern Thai food, so we trek to Huen Jai Yong (64 Moo 4, San Kamphaeng Road, 086-671-8710), which I’ve eaten at and written about many times before, but why experiment when you know what you want? I get almost giddy when the food comes to the table: deep-fried bits of pork belly accompanied by grilled green chili dip, homemade fermented sour pork sausage, a pickled mustard greens stew flavored with tamarind juice, sort of like the Northern Thai version of collard greens (pak gad jaw), a minced, pounded salad of fresh Northern vegetables (saa pak), succulent stuffed Northern Thai sausages (sai oua) thick with turmeric, and of course mounds of sticky rice.
There was also a special of the day, a chili dip of freshwater fish, cooked and then shredded:
We finished off the trip the day after with the requisite stop for khao soy — probably Chiang Mai’s most famous dish, and the dish with the most muddied history. Some people will say it is adapted from a Burmese dish, while others say it’s a Chinese-Muslim specialty, and still others (mostly Malaysians and Singaporeans, I suspect) who believe it is derived from laksa. If you ask the people at Lamduan Faham (the original, at 352/22 Charoen Rat Road, 053-243-519), they will say their ancestor (the restaurant’s namesake) invented it by simply tipping fresh coconut milk into a bowl of noodles before serving it to her coconut-loving customers from Bangkok. Whatever its origin, the dish at Lamduan is still my very favorite, thanks to its flavorful, rich broth, stewed for hours from pork bones.