Category Archives: duck

Road trip up north, Part I

Waiting on a bowl of noodles in Nakhon Sawan

A terrible, unexpected thing happened that necessitated a trip up north (what a horrible sentence, I know. It will have to make do). What this … happening … underlined was that, if you can forgive the old saw, life is short, and that it should be spent doing the things that make you and the people you love happy.

So that is what we did. Maybe this was just an elaborate rationalization that people like us concoct in order to feel good about eating our feelings, but when faced with the tiny little fishballs adorning the snow-white egg noodles at Goniew in Nakhon Sawan after a crappy 24 hours and a long road ahead, the way of least resistance is also the tastiest.

Duck stewing in a vat at Goniew

Goniew is a marvel in more ways than one (and easily found. Ask anyone in Nakhon Sawan and they will tell you where it is). Not only does it offer some of the tastiest, cutest little fish meatballs around, but it also serves up a gorgeously braised bowl of duck noodles, duck and barbecued or crispy pork on rice, and a decent Hainanese chicken rice. It also offers daily noodle specials (our day, an unusual choice: duck beak noodles). And it is open at 7 in the morning, an oasis in the desert of highway minimarts after a 4:30 wakeup call with no breakfast in sight and a heavy heart.

Khao soy at Khao Soy Islam

To me, khao soy is one of the more interesting dishes in Thailand. Often mistaken for something Burmese, people are sometimes puzzled as to why they can’t find something similar to this dish in Burmese restaurants. But it’s actually “Haw”, a Chinese-Muslim group originally from Burma that gradually settled in parts of northern Thailand, bringing with them this delicious soupy mix of spice and starch. Their Muslim heritage explains why the dish, if authentic, comes in only beef or chicken, and the Chinese part possibly explains the inclusion of egg noodles.  Strangely, the “Haw” attained a reputation for bland food despite the invention of khao soy. Even now, northern Thais call something bland “haw”.

Certainly not “haw”: the thick, pungent stew-like concoction available at Khao Soy Islam in Lampang, famed for its horse-drawn carriages and the coin-shaped rice cakes cooked in watermelon juice. Both chicken and beef versions are similarly earthy, almost musky, but the beef — which appears to have been marinated in something strong and aromatic — is almost gamy, thick with spice.

A steamerful of ganjin in Chiang Rai

Finally, at our destination, Thailand’s northernmost city and my birthplace: a quick, hurried meal at Pa Suk, the city’s best and most well-known purveyor of that hard-to-produce noodle delicacy, kanom jeen nam ngiew. It’s hard to go wrong with either the pork and beef versions (pork is milder and fattier, beef more pungent), and both kinds are full of strength and authenticity — finally, after months of weak-kneed imitations back in the capital! But my favorite is khao ganjin, modeled after the Shan dish in which rice is cooked in pig’s blood and steamed in banana leaves. Here, it is served with green onions and deep-fried garlic oil, a punctuation point to the perfect “welcome home” meal.

Pork nam ngiew at Pa Suk

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Filed under Asia, beef, Chiang Rai, chicken, duck, fish, food, food stalls, noodles, Northern Thailand, pork, Thailand

Duckfest, or How Not to be China Rude

Maybe it’s the sweltering heat. I actually had to hail a cab for the 100-or-so meters from the grocery store to my house, and I consider it the best 35 baht I have ever spent. Maybe it’s the hordes of diners who, in an attempt to avoid the Red Shirts protesting downtown, have been swarming my neighborhood and turning it into a literal feeding frenzy for parking lots, restaurant tables, and ice cream. Or maybe it was the disappointing lunch I had today (how can your restaurant symbol be the picture of a mussel, and then have no mussels available for lunch? How does that happen?) A dozen Kumamoto oysters failed to salvage the  meal.

In any case, I’m feeling a bit down. When life gets this way, I do what a lot of other people do in the same situation, and eat my feelings. And if you are a fan of tender, moist, smoky flesh, something like this will likely do the trick: 

Roasted duck and crispy pork at Jibgi Ped Yang

Located across from the old Nanglerng wet market on Nakhon Sawan Road, Jibgi has what I think may be the juiciest, least-bony roasted Chinese duck around (you know those shards of bone that stick to the fatty parts of the skin? I hate those too). The skin may not be as crispy as at Mandarin, and the open-air dining room is not as swanky as, say, the Mandarin Oriental’s Noble House, but the duck here is definitely worth a gander (get it? I crack myself up). Don’t forget to order the accompanying stewed duck soup for an extra 20 baht.

While we were there, the duck on rice (30-40 baht) was certainly a popular dish, eaten with gusto by the octagenarians who occupied the neighboring table. It was here that we learned how to express our appreciation of Chinese food: with much clacking of chopsticks and a cacophony of slurping (the art of slurping is similarly practiced in Japan, but I have never learned how to do it without getting broth in my eye). So in our way, we were being China Rude, something we hope to rectify the next time we wander over to that part of town.

stewed duck soup

Thank you, @Specialkrb, for this final set of pictures. Looking forward to your return to this neck of the woods in July!

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Filed under Asia, Bangkok, Chinese, duck, food, food stalls, restaurant, rice, Thailand