Something new



As you may have already heard, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) had plans to bring “order” and “hygiene” to the streets by clearing away many of the vendors on the sidewalk. This is roughly analogous to telling Axl Rose that all he needs to turn back the clock is a nice black t-shirt, but that is neither here nor there.

The real story is, how far is the extent of the planned ban? Is there a plan at all, or a case of a government official being quoted on something, and then after the resulting furore, everybody going “Oh yeah our bad never mind”? Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

After widespread concern that the “world’s best street food city” ™ would go all Ghostbusters on its own street food, the final answer (so far) is that, no, the places that tourists like are all good, so you can stop writing negative stories about it now, please, thank you for your understanding.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the street food will be untouched. Just the opposite, the BMA assures us! In a bid to preserve “Thainess” of the street food, they have many different plans to regulate quality and order, including mandatory government-run training programs for the vendors. Phew! That doesn’t sound ominous at all! Because the very people I want in charge of my street food are the same sorts of people who came up with the idea of the Thai food tasting robot. I can rest easy now.

Maybe all the BMA really needs is to hear from us street food lovers. You can let the Minister of Tourism know your thoughts on Richard Barrow’s Facebook page here, where the government has already denied its purported plans to ban street food … anywhere? So does this mean my chicken biryani vendor can come back to Thonglor?

One place that is for sure dunzo, government ban or not, might be legendary congee vendor Joke Samyan. Here, in a video directed by Scott Preston and edited by Peter Potts, we ponder the glories of congee and the future of one of Bangkok’s most famous street food places.



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Spring Cleaning


My curry rice place for now

I saw the movie “Get Out” maybe a week ago, and like many people have said themselves, I am still thinking about it. After reading this wonderful Jezebel interview with the actress Betty Gabriel, who played “Georgina” in the movie, it got me thinking even more … about Thai street food.

To me, “Get Out” is a literal illustration of what cultural appropriation is. It also serves as a tidy metaphor for colonization. This is what empires did: taking over foreign lands, cherry-picking the most valuable bits, and co-opting them as their own to their economic benefit. This is frequently seen as an example of the bad old days, when powerful Western countries were less enlightened than the progressive nations they are today, having safely been enriched by those bad old days already.

But some say a hidden type of colonization still exists. Of course, this belief is often derided as coming from arch-conspiracists and the sort of non-American ethnonationalists who rail against the evils of McDonald’s and Hollywood. I would say, however, it’s not that far off (*adjusts tin foil on head*), because that is something like my experience with McDonald’s and Hollywood. Just because we aren’t asking God to save the queen every time we make a toast or saluting a foreign flag doesn’t mean we aren’t in thrall to a foreign way of thinking — a way of thinking that makes us, deep down inside, hate ourselves and see ourselves as the enemy. And just because that isn’t your experience doesn’t make it untrue. We, me, a non-white on the rural Western edge of Pennsylvania: from very early on, we see in magazines like American Vogue or movies like “Ghost in the Shell” (“Oh God,” ScarJo sighs, sipping a margarita poolside in Cabo. “This again.”) that white is prettier. Smarter (if not in a nerdy sense, then at least in a “street smarts” way). More rational. More relatable. More interesting. And, if you are Asian, more manly. More important. The blue-eyed, blond “anak” dude in the Philippines tourism commercials on CNN: the world is there for him to explore, to be given free sweets, to be treated like family, smiled at and coddled even if he makes a mistake. How lovely for that guy. How often I’ve wished that “anak” meant “moron” or “dickhead”.

In “Get Out”, people are just like suits, identities to be discarded when the next “in thing” rolls around (is that a spoiler alert? Aw, sorry, anak). It’s assumed that they’re not as important as the stars in everyone’s show.  And that does something to us, we, me. We start making ourselves the supporting actors in our own head-movies: at best, the funny best friend in “Crazy Stupid Love”, perhaps, or Nicki Minaj in “The Other Woman.” At worst, we are Georgina, the shell hiding an entirely person on the inside, a person who hates and fails to identity with her outside (in Betty Gabriel’s words, “the worst kind of assimilation.”) That begs the question for us-we-me: where do we fall on that spectrum? Am I Georgina? Probably sometimes. How could I not be? Why wouldn’t we want to be a part of the stronger team, and how far would we go to get there?

Let me revert to nerd-speak for a moment. Georgina is like Sansa, before Ned’s sentencing in front of the Great Sept of Baelor. Sansa, who wished to marry Joffrey, and rushed to tell Cersei of her father’s plans to leave King’s Landing. How we all hated Sansa and claimed to identify with Arya, just like all those Harry Potterheads who think they are Gryffyndors (although one could argue that Arya is her own kind of Georgina, rejecting her own “feminine” qualities to take on the “active,” “strong” characteristics of the far more powerful men). Maybe, to paraphrase the movie “The DUFF”: Everyone is someone’s Georgina.

Including Bangkok. See, I finally did get there. Bangkok appears to have internalized the image of Asia as written by people like Rudyard Kipling: a collection of rickety warrens filled with dirt and squalor and bleating live animals, populated by untrustworthy, nattering natives (not to mention the things they get up to when left to their own devices on what to eat — bugs, intestines, yuck!). In other words, we’re a background to whatever Indiana Jones is doing at the moment. Bangkok thinks of itself as a city of extras. It is Georgina-ing itself, of its own volition.


Streetside food on Ekamai in happier times

Maybe that is why, in the interests of “cleaning up” the streets and imposing some “order”, Bangkok authorities are methodically clearing away the “mess” on the sidewalks that the authorities never walk on, simply telling vendors to move elsewhere … until they have to be moved again. Presumably, the idea is to make Bangkok more like modern-day Singapore, an artificial city built as a commercial port for the British empire. The problem is that, when trying to turn yourself into someone else, you will invariably become a pale imitation of the original. Sure, you can try to become Singapore, but Singapore will still speak better English and, sorry, remain far more efficient than you. Just sayin’, Bangkok.  Don’t get so upset. Why do you always have to take things so hard? You had your own things that make you pretty, too. Isn’t that what we always tell little girls? You were pretty in your own way, Bangkok.

The latest area to be “tidied” is Ekamai, Thonglor and Phra Khanong. Unlike Sukhumvit 38, where both local residents and tourists ate, this latest clearing is really a strike against the regular people who work the many restaurants, shops, banks etc in the area: the regular working Thai. Where are they to eat? I guess Emquartier/porium, where all the Bangkok authorities eat? But where will they really eat? Undoubtedly 7-11. Bangkok is condemning these workers to a diet of instant noodles, cream-filled buns, white bread mayonnaise sandwiches, and sausages of dubious origin. That’s better food, right? It’s “cleaner” and certainly “tidier”. It’s more “progressive”. And if a cursory look at what’s available by the highways nowadays (Starbucks, Burger King, McDonald’s, and of course 7-11), it’s the food of the future.












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Glutton Abroad: KL is trying to kill us


Delicious panipuri at Ganga Cafe

I love visiting Kuala Lumpur, but at the same time, I can’t help but view each trip with a bit of trepidation. After all, May is our host — the same woman who took us to a char siu place, a laksa shop next door, and then bought two pork meatballs for me to eat on the road because I would be without food for 15 minutes. This woman. She hosts us. And, although we are immeasurably grateful, there is no way for us (me, really, who cares about the others) to prepare for the immense mountains of food awaiting us.

This trip is no different. Perhaps anticipating the gluttony in store, my husband (with good intentions) orders me a gluten-free breakfast on Thai Airways, which ends up being a wildly overcooked poached egg next to a smattering of unseasoned sautéed mushrooms. So I am hungry when we enter Fuego, but it is the last time we are hungry for the next three days.

Fuego does a very brisk business serving up snazzy cocktails, creative South American-inspired tapas, and a lovely view of downtown KL that has only recently been obscured by construction for the new Four Seasons Hotel. It doesn’t really matter though. It’s all about the food: a handful of guacamole and ceviche iterations, different arepas, smoked quail eggs on a seaweed and vegetable nest. A ho-hum-sounding salt-baked potato with foie gras is actually the best thing I can remember having this year, covered in a sage hollandaise made with whole butter and so delicious that I will never attempt to make it on my own. A grilled watermelon salad with fried halloumi is refreshing; the lamb ribs toothsome and meaty; and the Malabar fish stew surprisingly light. We finish everything, and it is only after 3 or 4 (or 5) Sangrias (including Nat’s) that I remember to take a blurry photograph of our half-eaten churros dessert, served with a salted caramel espuma.


The next day, I am not hungry, but that doesn’t stop us from following May’s advice to “pick up a roti” at Sri Paandi (37 Jalan Date Mahmud 11/4, 46200 Petaling Jaya). The roti ends up becoming a chicken biryani or two, because let’s face it, we don’t really understand what they are saying to us and “biryani” was the only word we recognized.


Chicken biryani at Sri Paandi

We take everything they offer to us, different curries and dhals from buckets and tiny bowls of yogurt and whatnot, so it’s a surprise that they don’t offer the best-looking stuff of all, whatever this is:


But we are already headed somewhere else. Kumi Cafe (21, Lorong Setiabistari 2, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Wilayah Persekutuan, +60-12-651-1182) specializes in Malaccan Eurasian cuisine, a mix of local Malay and Portuguese cooked by chef Ruben Moissinac. There are expected staples like curry seku, a Goan-Portuguese dry curry thickened with coconut milk, otak-otak (a steamed fish paste similar to Thailand’s hor mok) and a stew made with keluak (sadly unavailable that day), a nut that is poisonous on the tree but edible after it is buried in volcanic ash for three months and soaked for one week in water that is changed daily.


Kumi’s otak-otak

But the best dishes were unexpected, like the savory pie stuffed with dry sambal chicken.


Don’t worry. When we finished, it was only a couple of hours before dinner, which would be at our friend’s house. There, a Nonya-style pork curry would prove so delicious that we could not help but stuff our gorges yet again, only to bitterly regret it later on when we cannot sleep.

The next day, dark circles under my eyes, the first thing I eat is lunch, because I cannot imagine even the hint of food anytime before noon. Too bad for me lunch is a dazzling Indian vegetarian at Ganga Cafe (19, Lorong Kurau, Taman Bukit Pantai, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, +60-32-284-2119) and I once again can’t help myself — I have to have as much stuff as possible. We have thosai, light flaky stuffed crepes made with rice flour and paired with coconut chutney, but also something from the display in front, sweet pumpkin stuff and spicy chick pea something-else and dhal and bracing tamarind soup in a silver cup. There’s also panipuri, little cups of fried dough filled with chili, potato, onion and chickpeas. It’s left to you at the last moment to pour a little bit of coriander-flavored water into your “cup” before putting it into your mouth and enjoying the perfect bite: crunch that explodes into something tart, salty and just a little bit sweet.


Some of the spread at Ganga

That night, we eat where we always eat when we are in KL: Overseas Restaurant. But to mix it up a little bit, we eat a succession of different things that now blur when I think of them, because we also had a lot of wine. We had perfectly stir-fried lettuce leaves with touched with a hint of fermented tofu and a fish soup that reminded me of Thai gaeng som, or sour curry. Of course, we had the roast suckling pig, served the way only Overseas does, with a side of sticky rice and plenty of curry sauce. There were other things that I no longer remember, but I’m sure we gamely tried them all. We didn’t end up exploding in KL, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.



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Glutton Abroad: HK Hustle


Wall of cooling turtle jelly


In all my trips to Hong Kong, Causeway Bay has consistently been my least favorite place to go. The reasons seem obvious: 1. I always get lost 2. I don’t know where to go 3. Did I mention it’s confusing and I invariably get lost there?

What I was missing was a neighborhood guide. Tadd, a Cantonese Singaporean who has lived in Causeway Bay for years, is the perfect person for the job. This is a woman who clearly loves this place, a study in contrasts that hosts not only the most expensive retail space in the world (in fact, Tadd says McDonald’s had to move a few blocks because it would have had to sell 16-17 hamburgers/second to make up for its rent), but is also home to a Hong Kong that, to its long-time residents, is becoming more of a distant memory: chaotic, Byzantine, busy, and yes, easy to get lost in.

Luckily, there are lots of delicious places to use as landmarks. A turn down every alleyway yields a wonderful place for rice porridge, a good stop for pineapple buns, delicious Macau-style egg tarts that are lightly charred on the outside and runny within, gently braised bits of cow lovingly layered over rice or noodles. Up yonder is the best store for fermented tofu; next to rice porridge is the store to go to for every variety of pickled plum imaginable. Tadd walks us to what she says is her daughter’s favorite wintertime restaurant, and it turns out to be snake soup (Se Wong Ke, 24 Percival Street, Causeway Bay), its different varieties meant to address different ailments such as coughs, a cold or I-don’t-kn0w-I-just-don’t-feel-like-it-anymore — what I would have ordered).


I guess I’ll have one of those?

And culinary discoveries are not the only ones to make here — under the bridge, at the invisible border where Causeway Bay meets Wanchai and the “spicy crab under the bridge” restaurant, elderly Chinese ladies await customers who flock here especially to curse enemies or ward off those who would curse them, with the help of some candlelight, figurines and the sturdy sole of a shoe to batter someone’s written-down name with. On a busy night, the intersection rings with the sounds of shoe heels battering plastic, over and over again.


Ready for business

But we’re here for the food. As is always the case with Hong Kong, it’s almost impossible to fit everything inside your stomach that you want to stuff it with, because no one ever has enough time or room for that. But some standouts included Chiu Chow Garden, where we feasted on crazy-fresh fried fish, an assortment of perfectly stir-fried greens, the “famous” roast chicken, and stewed goose on a bed of fried tofu to soak up its juices “because in Hong Kong, you must eat goose”, says Tadd. Although the Chinese in Thailand are predominantly Chiu Chow (or Teochew) and the Chinese-Thai food in Bangkok is supposed to reflect that, nothing we had in Hong Kong reflects anything we’ve had in Thailand, including the introductory and closing servings of bitter tea, meant to aid digestion.


Cold eggplant in a stellar sesame sauce at Chiu Chow Garden

After dinner, to settle our stomachs, Tadd takes us for “dessert”, which should never be referred to as dessert ever forever, because that would hugely disappoint anyone with images of sugarplum anything in their heads. It’s called guillinggao, or turtle jelly, and it’s traditionally made from powdered turtle under-shell mixed with different Chinese herbs to correspond to your ailment. Yes, it’s medicine, just like snake soup, and HK people eat it for “dessert”, because they are that sort of good person that exercises on their holidays and appoints themselves designated driver even before anyone threatens to tell their mom.

Wikipedia says turtle pudding became a thing after an emperor almost cured his smallpox with it (before abandoning his treatment and dying). Today’s versions probably don’t really contain actual turtle shell (only herbal approximations), but tell that to all the people who stop by Kung Wo Tong on their way home from work, or after a run (!), or during a date (?) — not only for one of the different kinds of turtle jellies, but for a healing tea, or bracing “liver detox” that tastes like a mix of wood polish with raw turnip. I get the “cough” one, which ends up being less bitter than the others with a slight peppermint aftertaste, palatable enough to eat half a cup of on a full stomach. Emboldened by the fact it isn’t as awful as I had originally envisioned, I even joke that I will be there the next morning to try it again. I don’t, though. I have braised beef brisket on silky egg noodles, because duh.





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Horror stories


Tom yum pork noodles at Zaew Thonglor

Before I begin, I want to share with you what made my day today. It was this photo (via Jezebel via Getty):


I think it’s the expression on his face, the trying-to-be-serious look of a toddler told to pose nicely with his great-aunt for the family photo. It’s the expression of someone trying to do his duty, fer serious this time. It’s the look I have on my face right now.

One of my favorite movies ever is John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. I don’t watch it too often because I don’t want to get sick of it like I did with “Clueless”. But it should be no surprise that I love it as a movie that’s ripe to use as an analogy for basically anything, ever. If you haven’t seen it already (and why not, what’s wrong with you), it’s about an isolated bunch of guys stuck in Antarctica for science-wonky work and what hijinks ensue when a super-cool discovery made by nearby Norwegians turns into something not-so-cool when it starts eating people and assuming their identities.

It’s not as scary as Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, because it doesn’t hide and attack when you’re not looking. It’s right there, in front of you, pretending to be somebody you know. It’s only later, when it shows itself, that you realize how truly horrifying it is: an amalgam of everything you recognize, combined and twisted into something monstrous. It’s the familiarity — and constant evolution with each entity that it absorbs — that is scary. Even more terrifying is the fact that no one knows who the monster is, possibly not even the monster itself. This is the most familiar detail of all.

Everyone has encountered “The Thing” at least once in their life. It’s that person seated next to you at a dinner party who suddenly starts spouting off about crime in Chicago without warning before alighting on opinions about American race relations that would make anyone with ears (i.e. me) want to jump out a window immediately. It could be the random man at a party who walks up to me only to ask if it is true that prostitutes hold a high social status in Thailand. It could be the friend who congratulates you on your scholarship, but that it was obviously granted because I am Asian (at Stanford, because there aren’t enough Asians there). I’ve met “The Thing” a gazillion times, and like MacReady, I have never vanquished it.

There are food equivalents of “The Thing” too, of course. A well-reviewed Thai fried chicken restaurant with the requisite surface dinginess (and a Green Bowl seal of approval to boot) to signal its authenticity, it ends up offering you a paltry handful of dried-up wings in a tiny bread basket, a bland som tum barely baptized by seasoning, a cold catfish stir-fry tasting of mud. The truth is, there is no way to protect yourself from encountering “The Thing”. The only thing you can do is to minimize the risk, like shutting yourself up in your room and ordering takeout for the rest of your life.

In terms of food, at least, Zaew has you covered. There are actually a couple of noodle joints named Saew or Zaew within walking distance of my house alone; who knows how many Zaew there are peppering the country. In any event, it’s a fairly safe bet that a noodle shop named “Saew/Zaew” will serve a decently good bowl of noodles, and Zaew Thonglor (Sukhumvit Road between Thonglor and Soi 57, 02-391-0043) is no exception.

Yen ta fo (of course, my favorite bowl of noodles ever) can be a hard sell, what with its pink color, fermented tofu base and frequently over-sweet sauce. The very best versions I’ve had walk the tightrope between sweet-salty and tart-spicy. Here at Zaew there’s not even any pretense: no sweetness, just a tart-spicy mix leavened with squidgy meatballs and the occasional bit of pork fat crackling, the best part of all. It’s delicious in a way that is different from my favorite bowls. It might even be better.

Zaew’s more popular options include tom yum noodles with minced pork and fish  meatballs, or noodles made of processed fish in tom yum broth, or egg noodles and … you get the picture. But be warned: the portions are not only gargantuan by street food standards, but possibly by Thai standards in general. No need to order those two bowls all at once unless you are absolutely sure.


Zaew’s yen ta fo







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Lol forgot the title


Tom yum soup at Siriporn Pochana

People have asked me why I bother to have a blog if I can’t be bothered to update it on a regular basis. My answer is that there are few other places where I can rant to my heart’s content without being interrupted by someone who has their own things to rant about. I don’t care about what is bothering them. I only want to focus on me.

My first rant today has to do with how people commonly mischaracterize George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series — *look, you can scroll to the bottom and figure out where to get the soup in the photo above, serious nerd stuff is going on right now zzzzzz* — as “nihilistic” and “dark”, a “real world” version of  a high fantasy world, replete with the grit and grime of our own terrible reality. These people are idiots.

These people are idiots because, um, maybe you haven’t heard, but the story isn’t finished yet. This would be akin to getting bummed out by “Cinderella” because her sisters ripped up her mother’s dress and now she’s crying and oh how sad is Cinderella, she never catches a break. How bleak this story is! How unnecessarily violent! I am disturbed by the unrelenting darkness! Also, I am outraged at the objectification of Cinderella in a tattered dress. Where is her sense of agency?


There’s a whole other half to this story that George R.R. Martin has yet to tell (some day). A whole bunch of other people are going to die, and secondary/tertiary characters have to come and go, the butterfly effects from their actions somehow resulting in some crazy and important repercussions that will end up getting edited out of the television series or ascribed to Bronn because he’s just so entertaining you guys. Can I go off on a sub-rant from the main rant? I am shocked at how many people don’t bother to read the books, and think that the television series is what really happens. “Oh, every one you care about dies unnecessarily and for shock value,” people invariably say. That really drives me up a wall. It’s a cascade of dumb opinions that are stoopid because they aren’t mine.

These pat responses to complicated things, these conclusions reached wholesale by committee, this is what is killing us. I get it: we are barraged with information every day, and we have to curate what stays in our brain. Vikings is on at 8? OK, stay. Pick up toilet paper because we have none left? Oops, you’re out. Examining things ourselves — even when we can’t even figure out what to have for dinner tonight, much less what to believe — is never easy. But by reflection and analysis, by thinking things through, we would be less likely to come up with stupid stuff. Like creamy tom yum soup.

Someone did it first, probably by doctoring their indifferent spicy lemongrass broth by adding condensed milk to the pot and calling it a day. The result was not only creamy and sweet, it also hid any problems with the soup itself. Score! Soon people were using regular milk, or splashes of coconut milk, or cream, or anything else that would ease the natural bite of the chili and lime and completely blanket over the flavor of the natural herbs. This is a soup that a lot of people like, but it is not tom yum soup. It’s something else, with a completely different flavor profile.

Tom yum soup is, to me, one of the most genuinely Thai dishes in the entire repertoire. You use a Thai cooking method — boiling — and infuse your water with herbs which not only smell great, but are supposed to have medicinal properties too. Later, when your “broth” is made, you throw in your protein and wait for it to cook. It sounds easy to do, but it’s not easy to pull off, because the result can be a bland, unappealing mess (trust me). It’s really hard to make a good tom yum. It’s even harder to make a great one.

Siriporn Pochana (152 Soi Mahannop, 02-224-1287) is known for its barbecued and crispy pork, but that’s only part of the reason why people stand in line for a table at lunchtime. Their tom yum soup (with nam sai, or clear broth) draws enough fans that it’s a matter of course that, when we sit down at our table, our server automatically assumes we will order a bowl. When it comes — obviously doctored with some roasted chili paste (nam prik pao) and based on a fish broth — it’s thick with chunks of sea bass and fish eggs, smelling of lemongrass and makrut lime leaves and seafood, steaming and welcome with a heaping plate of rice. Yeah, there are probably other things to think about after lunch. But it makes everything better at that moment, and that is what food is supposed to do.



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Chiang Mai Diet


Beef khao soy at Lamduan Faham

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.








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