The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it — fingers crossed — the end of the “research period” (aka eating my weight in street food) for my book. Isaan is now firmly in the rearview mirror, and Sukhothai awaits. And Bangkok … well, that’s still around, too, stubbornly defying all my efforts to check it off my “to do” list.
Amid all the som tum, grilled chicken, and crunchalicious deep-fried morsels of tilapia wrapped in betel leaves and garnished with bits of lime, chili and ginger was a special stall in the middle of the disarmingly clean “Tessaban 1” market in downtown Udon Thani. Across from a stand selling out-of-this-world yummy Isaan sausage, moo yaw (a Vietnamese-style pork “pate”) and Chinese sausage was a mustachioed slim man with an Asian Jack Sparrow look to him. On offer: khao piek, which translates to “wet rice” but actually refers to giem ee (fat, short rice noodles) served in the liquid leftover from cooking rice (hence its glutinous, opaque quality) and crowned with a slice of moo yaw and a brief shower of chopped green onion. This is the ultimate in comfort food: nursery-like, tasting and smelling of chicken, yet still springy and gummy in all the right places.
The vendor, Lung Nuad (which translates to “Uncle Mustache”), also serves gaeng sen (glass vermicelli in a pork bone-based broth thick with bits of pig). Both bowls cost 20-30 baht, depending on the size, and can be seasoned with fish sauce, white pepper, chili oil, sugar, chili-flecked vinegar, or chili powder. Mornings only, and perfect for when the kai kata (egg in a pan) vendor nearby is just too busy to see to your breakfast needs.