Thursday, July 23, 2015

We know nothing about Thailand

We have been in Chiang Mai for two days. We have had meals at street vendors, tin roof restaurants, and 7 Elevens. It has all been amazing, but all we can do is point. We know none of the food names. We can only guess at their ingredients. We did a bit or research before we arrived on various food blogs but are unable to match what we found there to what we find in the street. In short we are having to confront the fact that we know absolutely nothing about northern Thai cuisine. We are only being led by our eyes and stomachs. This had led to fantastic meals but the growing fear that we could never repeat this and that we have so much to learn. Here are a selection of images of highlights from the past few days described as best we can.

These sweets are filled with carmalized coconut and surrounded by a glue rice gluten. As good as any nonya cake we had in Malaysia but they come in much cuter packs of three.

Green mangos sliced and served with a sweet and sour shrimp sauce. The sauce is thick with dried shrimps and Thai chilis.

Pork rib soup. The broth was an intense citrisy broth, very likely lemon grass but stronger than I've ever tasted lemongrass before.

They called it Snake Head Fish on the menu. And it really looks like a snake head. It was grilled to perfection. I wish I knew what it really was so I could order it again.

A pork neck salad. Big hunks of pork neck and jowl mixed in a spicy vinagrette and served with more fresh herbs than you shake your fist at.

Unripe mangos mixed with shallot and dried fish. This we spiced up with a heavy dose of pickled chilies.

Quail egg wontons. They are really creamy. My hunch is that this dish is also available in Burma and that crab rangoon is a poor American imitation of this regional food.

Stewed pork served with pickled cabbage and chili sauce. This was perhaps of the simplest food we had in terms of flavors, but its hard to turn down a plate of fatty pork with vinegar. All good food cultures have figured this out.

This is still one of the more baffling things I ordered. In a mortar this woman mixed three kinds of stale bread, peanuts, peppers, dried fish, and raw cabbage. She then worked it all into a mushy ball. It was actually quite mild and pleasant. Sorta like a Thai panzanella.

This was deep fried leaves identified as "ivys." They were accompanied by a sauce of minced pork, dried fish, chilies and huge hunks of shallots.

Blood sausage sliced and deep fried. This was served with a kind of spicy ketchup.

We will have more to report soon but no promise that we will be any savvier about knowing what we are putting in our faces.


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