Jungle Rock


Signature dish: deep-fried frog legs at Kohkiew Racha Gob Tod

People frequently ask me about what I do when I get sick from eating street food. I almost always say that I’ve gotten sick from hotel buffets, but not really from street food (although the sickest I’ve ever been was when I was hospitalized in Oyster Bay from a wonky hamburger in midtown Manhattan. RIP, my beloved red Birkenstocks).

I can’t say I haven’t ever been sick from Thai street food, but surprisingly enough, it doesn’t happen very often. When I do, I just sit it out like I do everything else (my anxiety, Trump’s presidency, this world). If I do get sick from Thai food, it’s usually because it’s too damn spicy and my worn-out old digestive system just can’t handle it anymore.

So when I head into the jungle along the Burmese border south of Bangkok, it’s a real battle for my stomach, because everything on the table has been jungle-fied: made hot and tasty, the way the people here like it, with plenty of garlic and local herbs and about a gallon of chilies so hot they make your ears ring. Do you know the dish they call “jungle curry” (gang pa)? The tangle of meat and Thai eggplants of assorted sizes and roots and leaves that you’ve never seen before, spicy with a metallic tang and completely unmitigated by any hint of coconut milk or palm sugar? Think that, but for everything, with only heaping spoonfuls of white rice to give you comfort.

Not surprisingly, I got sick. It sucked, but it was a welcome reprieve from the mosquitoes, the jumping spiders that scuttled into my bedroom once I opened the door, and the dodgy Wifi, which only really worked once you climbed on top of an abandoned water tower to get a good signal.


Leo=my stomach, bear=Thai jungle food

It wasn’t really the jungle. It was Suan Phung, a town in Ratchaburi province that just recently got its own traffic light. Mind you, Suan Phung has loads of attractions for intrepid nature lovers (not me): waterfalls galore, a hot springs, an animal park/petting zoo, arduous hikes through the forest. In the early mornings and after the rain, the hills are cloaked in scattered patches of thick fog, which is truly beautiful. The border with Myanmar is just a short drive away, so locals claim that the soldiers on the Myanmar side like to amble over into Thailand on most mornings for a better cup of coffee.

But of course none of these things has the ability to distract like a good few plates of food can. At German Sausages Suanpeung (#315 Moo 3, 087-995-1119) you get a superior view of the surrounding mountains while chomping on German-style pork bits cooked over an open griddle with freshly-halved white buns, buttered and charred on the edges. Try to go early to Krua Karieng Restaurant (196 Moo 1, 032-395-166), or you will have to wait two hours for a serving of their superior gang pa. Best of all, we arrived at the tail end of forest mushroom (hed kon) season, so we had them every which way: blanched in spicy salads, boiled in tom yum soups, stir-fried with garlic.

But you’ve got to hand it to Kohkiew (Saen To, Tha Maka, Kanchanaburi, 081-986-6578), situated on the edge of town on the way back to Bangkok. Few restaurants consistently pack their tables with the promise of a platterful of deep-fried frog, smothered under an avalanche of deep-fried garlic and hot enough to burn the roof off your mouth. People frequently compare frog meat to chicken, but the only way in which it’s similar is in its white-meat blandness. The texture — chewy, smooth, slightly impervious to the flavor of anything around it — puts it in its own special category. Thais like to call it “gai na”, or “chicken of the rice paddy”. I would like to call it “delicious under the most specific of circumstances aka only at Kohkiew.”


Frog meat stir-fried with ginger

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bangkok’s secret kappo


Crispy fried shrimp in garlic and scallions — an Uncle favorite

(Photo by Tod Krisanapanna)

Uncle Sondhi has been my “uncle” for as long as I’ve been married. Like almost all journalists of a certain age in Bangkok, he was briefly my boss; even after I went on to other places, we would still eat at various places together. Almost all of these places were typically of his choosing: you see, not only is he a good eater, he is also a picky one. You will not find him saying, Oh, I guess this will do, and sitting down to some half-assed fried rice at S&P or something. Like my dad, he would rather that every meal counts; if it’s not good enough to count, it won’t be eaten.

He was the first person to show me the goat curry at Roti-Mataba, the first person who forced me to try braised sea cucumber in a Chinese restaurant in New York. But the biggest foodie beneficiary of Uncle’s good graces is quite possibly Oud, a stir-fry cook who makes food out of his home, appears to accept reservations only by referral, and fashions a menu just for you.


Oud in his kitchen deep-frying shrimp

I’ve been to Oud’s house once before, with Uncle, and remember in particular a dish of swiftly stir-fried bean sprouts so deftly cooked that they were still crisp yet full of flavor. He has since moved, but to an area even further from central Bangkok, in the suburb of Bang Kruai. Customers who haven’t been before will need to call K. Oud (086-905-6664) to get directions; every customer will need to find a day (he’ll do either lunch or dinner) when he is available (not surprisingly, since it’s his house, space is limited). When we called, we actually had to drop Uncle’s name, because we weren’t sure if we were going to even score a table.  Once we did, though, it was smooth sailing, because Uncle is quite possibly Oud’s #1 customer.

Naturally, once we dropped Uncle’s name, we got Uncle’s menu, which is big in seafood: a big deep-fried pomfret with a spicy-sour-sweet “3 flavor” sauce; deep-fried shrimp in garlic; fried chunks of fresh seabass with chilies; stir-fried clams and Chinese kale in oyster sauce. Uncle can’t have lime and usually goes for a plain clear soup (gang jued)  but we asked for a big vat of tom yum shrimp and stir-fried crab in curry sauce, because I love that dish. If you don’t want to go by Uncle’s menu, you can choose whatever you like, within reason. The decisions are made via a committee of you and him and whatever is in the market that day.


The sign marking the townhouse

Once you find your way to Oud’s neighborhood, you will still need to ask for directions from the security guard. He’s used to that though. Even once you find his soi, you will need to keep on the lookout for the sign above, the only thing marking his home as different from the others.

Once you enter, though (after having shed your shoes because it’s a home after all, hello) the feel is like that of an intimate kappo bar in Japan. I love Japanese kappo — chef’s bars with limited seats where the husbands cook and the wives try to make you as comfortable as possible, plying you with sake all the while. The set-up at Oud’s is similar, the single table with a window overlooking the back kitchen area when Oud is hard at work.


Tender sweet clams and Chinese kale in oyster sauce

I get the feeling, though, that unlike at a traditional kappo, he would prefer you not traipse all the way back into the kitchen and obsess over his every move. Oud is an introverted type of cook, quiet and tidy, looking a bit like he could be an older model in a Muji catalogue. His food is similar in temperament, not flashy or showy but of very good quality. It’s the kind of deceptive Thai-Chinese comfort food that anyone feels like they could cook if given the time; it’s the food equivalent of the Jackson Pollock or late-stage Matisse that would prompt the nearest douchebro dragged to the gallery by his girlfriend to exclaim that his 3-year-old nephew could do it for nothing. I will tell you now: Don’t do this yourself. Also, your nephew will not be able to stir-fry you any seabass with chilies. Don’t try to make him.


Tom yum goong, the broth made creamy by scraping out the inside of the prawn heads

There are a lot of exclusive places in Bangkok, and a lot of expensive places in Bangkok, and places that check both boxes (exclusive and expensive, in case you were wondering). But of all the places I have been, none feel as intimate — outside of a friend’s house — as Raan Oud, where the chef and hostess are there exclusively for you, for as long as the duration of the meal. For five people, the bill came out to a little over 5,000 baht; for a minimum of 10,000 baht (invite all your friends!), Oud will come to your house to cook. I am already thinking about doing it myself.


Seabass with chilies and garlic

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Glutton Abroad: Naples pizza diaries


The marinara at Da Michele

Naples is a city that makes you work. Getting to places even just a little off the beaten track requires a good sense of direction or a lot of fortitude; I once saw a tourist, luggage in tow, pounding frantically on a hotel door just to be let in. Shopping can be a chore, since they rarely take credit cards due to what would appear to be a widespread problem with their card machines.

At the same time, I had heard raves of this city, its beauty and its history, its culture and charm. It made me feel old, like when my daughter raves about a K-pop band or when someone writes about the attractiveness of the Duplass brothers. The general feeling is HUH? It made me understand what some people find exhausting and alienating about Bangkok, how both cities reward people who “know things” or have the energy to learn.

It comes as no surprise, then, that grabbing a table at one of the city’s famed pizzerias is a test of sheer will. It usually goes this way: there is a line, and you humbly submit your name to someone, anyone, who deigns to take it. Next is your wait, a lesson in humility, as, hopefully, sometime, your turn will come. What keeps you there, standing in an alleyway, or in a doorway blocking waitstaff bearing huge platters of steaming dough? Hope and its audacity, perhaps, but probably plain old stubbornness. You’ve waited this long already, right? I’ve seen the lines at post-Michelin star Jay Fai and if you have too, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

In fact, I had time to dream about eventually being turned away, like Mary and Joseph before finding the manger, like Julia Roberts before her shopping spree. Imagine this: a restaurateur who would not want my money. Because let me tell you something, and I rarely boast, but I will  here: I am a good eater at restaurants. I will spend money on wine; I will order multiple courses; I could go for the tasting menu and order extra stuff; I am a total and thorough pig. I will appreciate the waitstaff. I will compliment the chef. If you feed me, I will love you.

The opposite? Oh, the scorn, the spite. I will walk away, find the next willing place and stuff my face with it, thinking all the while, I AM NOT MISSING YOU. THIS IS BETTER. Once sated, belly bulging, I will come back, triumphant and slightly sweaty, tiramisu in my hair. “Don’t you get a percentage of the check as a service charge?” I will ask you. You might answer, “Yes?” “Hahaha!” I will shriek, breadcrumbs flying from my open maw before I depart in a swirl of parmesan dust.


This never happened. I did get to eat at all the places we had time for in Naples, even Da Michele (though it felt like a near thing). At L’antica Pizzeria da Michele (via Cesare Sersale), they give you numbers, which makes you feel secure, because they have to call you in consecutively. People can poke their heads in at any time to do takeaway. An extremely large Japanese tour group did that, as did an American (Naples is full of Americans) who told me takeaway was the superior way to buy a Da Michele pie. If you do decide to sit down, they serve each room (there are three) one by one, so it is obviously best to sit in the first room. It is not a place where you want to linger. I don’t care if there’s a signed photo of Julia Roberts from “Eat Pray Love” on the wall.

At Sorbillo (da Gino), the really popular one with the perpetual line, there was a banner featuring illustrated celebrities like Bono and Madonna at a table eating pizza. That really turned me off (and the gargantuan line did, too). So it was really super lucky that just a few doors down is Antonio E Gigi Sorbillo (Via dei Tribunali), whom may or may not be relations, but are indeed in the Michelin Guide.


The margherita

The dough was fluffier than Da Michele’s, but light, easy to chew. The seating and service were drama-free. No emotional rollercoaster. It felt a bit un-Neapolitan in that sense.

Pizzeria da Attilio (Via Pignasecca), recommended to us by Paolo of Peppino, ended up being my son’s absolute favorite. He would very much like you to know that.


Knup’s favorites, one with artichoke cream, mozzarella and olives and the other with pesto, tomato and mozzarella

There was the nail-biting wait — will we or won’t we? — but we, a Scandinavian tour group, a large Chinese family and an Italian couple all were seated at the appropriate times. The menu was extensive and the dough soft and pillowy. Service was friendly and efficient, and unlike many other places, they are fine with long lunches and even offer their own wine. The next time I go (?!) I might even try one of Attilio’s star-shaped pies, with the cheese buried in the star points. See? I might actually be getting Naples after all.


Pasta stuffed with spinach and cheese at Osteria dei Sole, which is near Parma and is not pizza in Naples. I just liked this photo.


Filed under Uncategorized

Success stories


I did so much work looking up this photo by John Griffiths via Creative Commons

A lot of people want success, but many struggle to define it. This is probably because the definitions of success should be as varied as people’s personalities, but the loudest people continue to insist on measuring it via concrete parameters like money, awards and/or Google alerts. By these measures, Kim Kardashian is successful. Donald Trump is successful. Harvey Weinstein is successful. But if I were to choose my own role model for success, I would choose Meg White.

I think Meg White is a great drummer. Or, I should say, as good as she could have been, under the circumstances. Jack White (he still uses her name) recently said that for all intents and purposes, he is the White Stripes. Technically, that may be true, but spiritually, it is not. Because Meg — perhaps even more than Jack — understood fully that the White Stripes were a showcase for Jack. She accepted her supporting player role with grace, and only asked to be respected by her partner. When that wasn’t enough, she chose to leave.

It was Meg who made Jack, leaving open the spaces that he could choose to noodle around in, the ominous silences that another, more insecure, less giving drummer might have been tempted to fill. And did Jack ever fill up space: not just physically, but onstage with his shrieking and soloing and unnecessary exhortations for Meg to “come on!” as if she was going anywhere; offstage with his motormouth interviews in which Meg seemed simply content to sit silently and just be. She — his first wife, his fake sister — was the best partner Jack could have ever had. Her generosity and, let’s face it, love for her ex-husband was what really drove that band.

And what did she get for her trouble? She was derided as a bad drummer (see: The Onion’s “Meg White Drum Solo Maintains Steady Beat for 23 Minutes”.) Her playing was described as “rickety” and “rudimentary” by professional music critics and “always behind” by fans who now can’t put their finger on why they don’t like solo Jack White as much. Hers was the apex of generosity from one person to another, playing the perpetually bumbling Hastings to Jack’s Poirot. Meg gave until she couldn’t give anymore, and then disappeared into Michigan with her riches, presumably to live a well-off, comfortable existence on her couch watching Netflix and ignoring Jack’s phone calls.

It would appear that Jay Fai would like to follow in Meg White’s footsteps. She won a Michelin Star last year, but that blessing seems to have been mixed (I think my favorite story on this is by my friend and fellow ASOIAF aficionado Oliver). Jay Fai had always had a steady clientele, but her relatively high prices kept her from being as packed as her neighbor, Thipsamai pad Thai. I’d heard that Michelin had transformed all of that, literally overnight. Since the last time I visited was the night before the Michelin awards were announced, I decided to go a few days ago to see if anything had truly changed.


Jay Fai at work

The short answer: yes.


You must now put your name on a waiting list, but if you are organized enough (the wait is truly, excruciatingly long), you should call ahead, because they now take reservations.


There was no tax inspector sitting outside (how I would have loved to interview them) and the menu had not changed, but the outside tables were now filled with very patiently waiting diners, content to grab beers from the 7-11 across the street and wait it out until alrealdy-full tables finally finished their meals.

As for the food … well, the wait was long. And despite the partial barrier to her wok station that shielded her from the prying eyes of the street, people were still happy to treat her like a panda at a zoo, taking videos and photos next to her as she fired up omelet after omelet (for some reason, she’s now known as the “omelet lady”.) When our food came, we were happy to see it, and even better, her cooking appeared to not have changed in  quality. Granted, at 73, she is no longer at the apex of her wok-frying powers, but consider her something like 1990s-era Elton John, or The Who post-“Who Are You”, or The Clash after Mick Jones, or Coldplay after … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … uh …

… … … … … .. … … … …

Anyway, the point I was making was that I was a big cheerleader for Jay Fai, from the very beginning. I wanted her in every guide and to get all the recognition that I felt was her due. When that recognition did arrive, it did not seem to make her happy; in fact, it appeared to create hardships for her. This was not success by her parameters, but by other people’s. I recognize now that I wanted this recognition for her because I wanted to validate my own opinions and those of people like me. She herself could take it or leave it (but she could probably leave it).


Making drunken noodles

I now hope for her to get her Meg White moment. I mean, come on, she’s not going to stop cooking, because she knows nothing else. But if her star were to fall by the wayside this year, it would not be the end of the line for her. She would be just as happy in her own spiritual Michigan, cooking up stir-fried crab in curry sauce (the superior choice to the omelet) for her regular customers and ceding the spotlight to someone else.


Crab stir-fried in curry


Filed under Uncategorized

The Hangover: Macau edition


Lunch at Fernando’s in Macau

Monday, March 26

8:00 – At Don Muang airport. It is entirely too early and we have been here an hour already. But it’s worth it: for some reason, the Asia’s 50 Best people have invited us to Macau to attend the big ceremony on Tuesday at Wynn Palace Cotai. I am not being unnecessarily humble. Literally no one we have dealt with has heard of “Bangkok Glutton” before. But they already sent me the invite and can’t take it back. Sucks for them!

9:00 – We start our big foodie weekend with a double sausage McMuffin set (Karen) and double Filet-O-Fish (me). Karen gets McDonald’s coffee and instantly regrets it.

14.00 – We have arrived at the Wynn Palace, having taken a taxi for the entire 5 minutes it takes to get there from the airport. Already, people are extremely nice and efficient. Check-in service congratulates me on being ready with my registration number. I feel smart and special. They take us to our room, and it has a great big view of the airport that we just left, as well as a ginormous bathroom. Karen and I are both thrilled.

14.20 – We register at the media center, while a nice man named Bruno opens three bottles of water that Karen keeps rejecting because she thinks they were already opened before Bruno opened them. I (yet again) request an interview with Chef Bee Satongun of Paste (Asia’s Top 50 Female Chef of the Year), because I earlier received an email from Asia’s 50 Best PR rejecting my interview request, telling me that I can just reach out to her at the event (where 840 people will be). Why include her on the list of people to request interviews from then? This is just a way to tell me to fuck off, right? (“Haha,” says Karen. “The next time someone pisses me off, I can tell them to reach out to me at the event.”)

15.00 – Work worries aside, our stomachs beckon, because it’s been ages since we ate our McDonald’s breakfast.  With “Everybody Wang Chung Tonight” blaring in the background, we take a taxi to Fernando’s, which I love as a great example of the Portuguese-Chinese fusion they call “Macau cuisine”. We get almost everything that we’re supposed to, like the suckling pig, bacalao fritters, and clams, but forego the fried rice and the gorgeous-looking salad with thick, huge slices of tomato.


Fernando’s’s caldo verde

17.00 – We get back in time to get ready for dinner in two hours. We are absolutely zero percent hungry. But before we retire to our room, we take the free gondola that passes in front of the hotel complex and which offers a bird’s eye view of the property, including the preparations for tomorrow’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants party by the pool. Amped up by our gondola trip, I buy a pair of kitten heels from Gucci.

19.00 – Totally on time at SW Steakhouse, but we forgot our press passes, so the front desk is unsure of whether we are legitimate freeloaders or not. Once we get through (I am in the system as “Mr. Chawadee Nualkhair”), we get a nice table that for some reason seats us directly next to each other, with a view of the Chinese-panelled wall in front of us. We find out why exactly 30 minutes later, when the lights dim, the panels part, and we are treated to a mini-show featuring a giant gorilla figure and a banana. Karen thinks it has a very Disney feel. Every 30 minutes, a new mini-show comes on. My mom would love this.

SW (the initials of Wynn Resort founder Steve Wynn, who has since stepped down from the company) has smartly taken the decision of what to order out of our hands, and is providing us with a four-course menu complete with wine pairings. It’s great and smart, and the wines are fabulous — not a stretch considering the huge walk-in wine fridge, outfitted with 2000 bottles bearing 500 labels and maintained at the optimal temperature of 16 degrees Celsius (7-8 degrees for the champagne, stocked in mini-fridges within the fridge). Unfortunately, Karen and I are not hungry. Like, at all.


All the same, William, the restaurant’s general manager, comes up and gamely attempts to guide us through the menu, which includes a Tuscan kale salad (a product of Steve Wynn’s stint as a vegan, William tells us), a Maryland-style crab cake generously spiked with Old Bay Seasoning, and an American Wagyu-Angus sirloin from Idaho, cooked perfectly medium-rare and bearing the sort of char one would find on Texas-style barbecue. Both William and L.A.-born chef Burton Li tell us that they are spreading the gospel of American-style steak to the Chinese, and that the Chinese are gradually responding. With us, they are preaching to the choir.

Tuesday, March 27

7.34 – I wake up late, having expected to run first thing in the morning, but being thwarted by the very effective blackout drapes, which make you think it is perpetually 3 in the morning. I am supposed to do the Wynn Palace Property Tour at 10 in the morning, but Karen decides to do it on her own so that I can finally run — something I am desperate to do after the copious amounts of food and wine at Fernando’s and SW Steakhouse. Overeating is no walk in the park, yo.

8.30 – Before we leave, though, we have breakfast in our room: healthy egg white omelet with fruit (Karen) and hard-boiled eggs with bacon, sausage and croissants (moi). Not surprisingly, we are rapidly feeling stuffed again.

10.00 – I run, finally. A note on music at the gym: Alan Parsons Project and Air Supply are probably nice when it’s late at night and you are six years old and your dad is driving you home from a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland, but it does not get you very pumped up. Instead, I entertain myself with video that Karen has taken of a phoenix bursting out of a flower-decked egg. During the tour she learns that every single blossom on the premises is real, sprayed with a material that lets it last up to a year and a half (!)

11.30 – I am showered and sitting in front of my laptop in an empty room. Where TF is Karen?

11.45 – Karen arrives, having made friends with absolutely every single person on her property tour, including Aron, the tour guide and Karen’s new boyfriend.

12.15 – We go downstairs to what we think is our reservation at Mizumi, the Japanese outlet at the hotel. We learn — gradually, after much prompting, because the lovely receptionist is afraid to tell us we are wrong — that we are at the wrong Mizumi, and are supposed to take a 15-minute shuttle to Wynn Macau, where our reservation at the two Michelin-starred Mizumi awaits. Aron walks us to the shuttle to make sure we find it.

13.00 – We are really glad to have been ushered off the premises of our hotel and brought here. We are being treated to a very long and rambling sushi omakase course that includes fresh hairy crab, ungodly amounts of uni and fatty tuna belly, plus as much Blanc de Blancs and sake as we want. “Is that OK with you?” the waiter actually asks us. We laugh.


Our abalone and uni soup

People use the word “decadent” frequently, but this is truly it, with all that that means: copious lashings of tuna, and uni on everything, even on fatty tuna, rolled in a buttery slice of hamachi, and in a hot clear soup with slices of abalone. We eat everything, obviously. Karen announces to our surprised sushi chef that she loves it here and will never leave.


Botan ebi nigiri

15.00 – I have nothing to do, since my request for an interview with Chef Bee — including a last-ditch Instagram DM before bed last night — was rejected. Laden with alcohol and with an entire school of fish in my belly, I succumb to sleep.

17.45 – Crap. It’s time to get ready for the cocktail ceremony, which starts in 15 minutes.

18.00 – The cocktail party (and the post-ceremony party) is held poolside, which makes me wonder if they expect people to get sloshed enough to jump into the water. But with the Cotai skyline, such as it is, spread out in front of us, and the gondolas that whizz over our heads, the smiling waiters offering glasses of wine and canapés and the odd, pulsing club music, it really does feel … very nice. It’s a nice party. And of course, William is here, like the genie in “Aladdin”, showing Karen the sake bar and offering to fetch me a glass of wine despite the fact there are about 8,000 other people here. This man is really good at his job.

My dream of interviewing Chef Bee shattered, I do manage to buttonhole Chef Ton of Le Du at the bar, pestering him to answer my email by Friday. “Thank you,” he says, which I think is a classy way of saying “You can leave me alone now.” Later, Karen bumps into Chef Ian Kittichai and congratulates him on his excellent Instagram feed. He takes the compliment graciously, especially for a man in a crowded elevator. And that is the extent of our pleb-chef interaction for the evening. Hey, at least I got a pair of shoes out of this trip.


Karen woke up like this 

20.00 – We are gently encouraged to attend the ceremony by a young man bearing a mini-xylophone and innumerable food and drink waiters, who tell us they cannot serve us anymore. I manage to cajole someone into giving me a glass of red wine, which I suspect was taken off of a clean-up tray. I later regret it when someone makes me down the entire glass on the red carpet before being allowed into the ceremony room.

10.00 – Congratulations everyone! I am told that the ceremony was finished in record time. The merits of the restaurants themselves and the fairness of their rankings versus Michelin’s (and personally, the striking dearth of female chefs), well, that’s debating material for somewhere else. Ultimately, what these lists and stars do is spur chefs to work harder and customers to explore more places, and in the end, doesn’t everyone end up winning?


Congrats you crazy kids



Filed under Uncategorized

Only the young


Kai kata at Srinakharinwirot University Market

I am supposed to be working right now, so of course I am Googling Kanye West albums and figuring out my own ranking of his top three. I am doing this because I have just read of the Kanye West-based matchmaking service, Yeezy Dating, launched by a kid named Harry Dry who (allegedly) believes that “Life of Pablo” is Kanye West’s best album. This is clearly, horribly, terribly wrong. Obviously the ranking goes: 3. “Graduation”, 2. “808s and Heartbreak”, and 1. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. OBVIOUSLY. What is wrong with kids today?

The thing that I have discovered about my bewilderment when confronted with modern music tastes is that I am offended by my own bewilderment. I am offended because this bewilderment makes me feel old. Like, okay, I am repeating myself like an old lady who tells the same story over and over again, but Drake sings like he’s got a clay mask on and it’s rapidly drying but he keeps trying to sing his way through it. And I cannot emphasize the confusion I felt when, while watching a rerun of the “Ellen Degeneres Show” (I know I’m old), I caught a Travis Scott performance and then spent all day listening to his music to confirm 100 percent that I absolutely hated all of it. I don’t understand this stuff, like how cavemen feel about lightning and fire.

Other things that make me feel old:

  • People who are fans of Harry Styles
  • People who know who Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert are and can tell the difference between them
  • People who can tell the difference between BTS and EXO
  • Having to take digestive enzymes if I’m having dinner after 9pm
  • People who can fit into jeans for sale on the sidewalk in Bangkok
  • Eating at university outdoor markets

Almost all Thai universities benefit from outdoor markets, and Srinakharinwirot University (referred to as “Saw Nor Wor”) is no exception. Its market is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so if you amble up on a Friday, like I did last week, you are shit out of luck. My friend Vincent told me about it when we were arguing about the state of Thai street food on camera one day, and although we agree to disagree re. all Bangkokians’ access to street food, we do agree that the SNW market is pretty awesome.

This place has everything, including an elusive yum naem sod (fermented pork salad) vendor who also serves khao chae (summertime rice) in season, a woman whom Vincent assures me is real and absolutely not made up like a unicorn or a mermaid.  Although I have yet to try this woman’s food, I did have some lovely khao yum (Southern Thai-style rice herbal salad) and some salad rolls that I immediately regretted purchasing. There was Thai-Vietnamese-style kai kata (egg in a pan) with corresponding kanom pang yad sai (bun stuffed with Chinese sausage and steamed pork loaf), as well as some harder-to-find offerings like mee kati (noodles in coconut milk) and something called Hong Kong noodle, which is reminiscent of the “complicated noodle” at Greyhound Cafe.


There are also old-fashioned Thai desserts and sweet snacks like tako (pudding with coconut milk topping) topped with flecks of steamed taro or mango.


There were also fresh fruits and vegetables, drinks and even fancy items like organic melon, grown via university project, Vincent says. The only drawbacks, I’d say, are the dozens of fried items on sticks sent to torment me into abandoning my diet and the blaring, intense summer heat, which might be the worst it’s ever been. Of course, the university students continue to munch outside unruffled by the weather, unconcerned about the coming apocalypse — another great thing about not being old, when you start sweating profusely and embarrassing your dining companions.

I’m so gifted at finding what I don’t like the most. So I think it’s time for us to have a toast.  Here’s to the Travis Scott generation.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Let’s Eat


Dak galbi the way Soo-kyung would have had it

Something was going on in my life, and it was becoming a problem. So much of a problem, in fact, that my husband and friend would have intervened, if not for the fact that there are only two seasons of it. I am referring, of course, to the South Korean drama (?) “Let’s Eat”, which is ostensibly about a sad pathetic young divorcee named Soo-kyung (season 1), but is really about Korean food. You see, she loves food (specifically Korean food, this is important), but she is so sad and pathetic that she has few friends to eat with. In her quest for finding food partners, she ends up meeting friends and even eventually getting a love life. Oh, and busting an evil serial killer and helping to fix up a troubled young man’s life and … you get the picture, maybe. Season 2 is about a different young woman in a different Korean city, but the same ingredients are there: the woman is sad and pathetic and loves food (specifically Korean), a sinister subplot, a seemingly perfect guy who is good on paper, a cute dog, an extremely cute young woman, a catty female co-worker, a convenience store, a dry cleaner, a food blogging mansplaining male protagonist who is inexplicably irresistible to all women, and truly incredible shots of Korean food.

“Let’s Eat” is valuable in that it shows you what the definition of sad and pathetic is in South Korean life, and that definition definitely fits me. Haha, jk. What is truly love about “Let’s Eat” is that it is food porn in its purest form. You know how you are watching a porno and the plots are the most useless, flimsiest contrivances possible, useful only in connecting the various sex scenes together? Pizza delivery guy when the husband is away, pool cleaning guy when the husband is away, cowboys going camping, blah blah you get the picture? That is “Let’s Eat”, where the scenes are just excuses for making the characters sit and discuss food, with a particular focus on the eating. I mean the actual eating, the slurping and exclaiming and chewing (mansplainer is an especially loud chewer), with close-ups for the food that are so detailed that I swear they use a special filter for them. It is here, not in Seoul, where I learned about black bean noodles slick with soy glaze, gelatinous cartilage coated in red chili sauce, octopus shabu. When I watch these scenes, I have to put my hand over my mouth, to catch the drool.


Fried chicken, one meal featured in season 1

Like all great art, “Let’s Eat” can be interpreted in different ways. Trude, whom I’ve forced to watch every single excruciating/drool-worthy episode, sees “Let’s Eat” as an ode to female pleasure. I see it as a nationalistic celebration of things that are unabashedly Korean.* The food is perfectly tailored, George R R Martin-style, to each specific situation and character: sad-ass onigiri from a convenience store when the main character is stressed and alone; overcooked slices of liver at a dingy Korean BBQ spot when the mansplainer is sad; boiled chicken stuffed in glutinous rice, floating in broth on a rooftop with garden-fresh veggies when characters are just starting to get to know each other. Western-style steak at a stilted and pleasure-less meal with the losing suitor for the female protagonist’s affections. A molecular gastronomy dinner with a different, ill-fated Prince Charming. A “Thai” meal (which includes that most iconic of Thai dishes, PHO), where mansplainer gets to show off his Thai language skills. And in one of my favorite scenes, a bizarre Korean-Italian feast consumed almost entirely by a woman who has decided to give up on her diet because WHAT IS THE POINT (me every other day). Foreign food is invariably expensive and the settings uncomfortable, putting the characters in situations where they are ill at ease. It’s the Korean food — specifically the sort of down-to-earth food featured in bars and shophouse restaurants — that make the characters their happiest.

*(There are also more unsavory interpretations, like how it’s a cautionary tale about what happens when you’re female and single).

I have just spent 630 words blathering on about “Let’s Eat”. That is how much I love this show. I haven’t even gotten into how its examination of Korean food has given me an appreciation for the variety and freshness of Thai food.  It’s also given me the strength of character to open the boxes of kimchi we carted back from the Kim Chi Museum in Seoul LAST JULY.



In fact, I love this show so much that I’ve run out of steam writing about what I originally intended to write about, and which I’ll save for next week. If you desire a taste of something more Thai food-related, why not check out a Thai cooking masterclass run by Spice Vagrant? I initially turned on the first season of “Let’s Eat” to help jog my memory for this post, but now I find myself yet again sucked in, and will have to sign off in order to re-re-watch it in earnest. Send help, someone, please.


Filed under Uncategorized