Category: Bangkok

When pork is the perfect accessory

mobile crackling unit

Can you see it now? A headline on Style.com, no? Well, never you mind, perhaps it’s just me who thinks this guy perfectly accessorised. But then again my idea of a perfect Christmas present is three pounds of bacon from the Grateful Palate catalog.

I found him peddling little bags of deep fried pork crackling as I wandered the Ta Prachan market in Bangkok with Austin.

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Look! Shoop! Look Shoop

Lookshoop

Another snapshot of a Thai dessert from my trip to Bangkok a couple weeks ago. These little colorful bits are called Look Shoop, which is roughly translated as ‘dipped balls’. No, I didn’t make that up. I swear.

Presumably the name came from the process of making the desssert. The little balls (look in Thai) made of sweetened yellow mung bean paste are formed into miniature fruits, painted bright colors, and then dipped in agar-agar (dipping = shoop in Thai) to make them shiny like in the photo.

Doesn’t this remind you of marzipan in the european dessert repertoir? I wouldn’t be surprised if this is yet another example of the Portuguese influence in Thai dessert making, which I spoke of before but got the century off by one or two. (Thanks Austin for correcting me.)

Unlike the other desserts I’ve rhapsodized about earlier, this Look Shoop stuff I am not so keen on. They are pretty to look at, just like marzipan, but don’t exactly taste like much by themselves, you know, sort of like marzipan.

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à ma recherche de temps perdu

Kanomkai

When the Portuguese arrived in what was then the Kingdom of Ayudhya (the predecessor to the Kingdom of Siam, which is Thailand now) in the early 1800′s, they brought with them many culinary techniques that would remain until today in Thai cuisine. Perhaps the strongest influence was in dessert making, where Foy Thong, Thong Yip, Thong Yod, and other desserts made with egg yolks cured or cooked in syrup remain in the forms recognizable even in today’s traditional desserts in Portugal and some parts of Spain.

The Portuguese also left a primitive form of oven baking with the Thai, as seen in this particular dessert in the photo above. It’s called Kanom Kai (Kanom means, simply, desserts, in Thai, and Kai means eggs). It’s made of egg and sugar, beaten together into a cake-like batter, then baked in a cast iron pan with ridges (like the back side of a Madeleine). The pan is heated over a charcoal fire, with more smoldering charcoals filling the lid of the pan, providing heat from bottom and above.

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I am a Bangkok driver

Bangkok Traffic

I am a Bangkok driver. I no longer flinch when I see a motorcycle come barging at me when he is supposed to be in the opposing lane. I’m far bigger than he is. It’s his job to get out of my way. I no longer miss my turn just because I cannot find my way into the proper lane. It’s all a game of chicken, and my losing days are behind me.

I am once again a Bangkok driver; the rules of the game have all come back to me. Turn signal is a sign of weakness. One must not show signs of weakness. Determining the right of way is simply a matter of will. Whoever wants it more gets it. And I want it more. Even traffic lights have different meanings. Yellow light is a sign to hurry up, not to slow down. Red light is merely a suggestion.

And, perhaps most important of all, there is no breaking traffic law. Not until you get caught. But then again, there’s always the phone number of your uncle the police general in your mobile.

The only problem about all this is, I am now back in California. I guess I’d better be taking the bus for a while. Heh.

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Odds and ends from Tha Prachan market

Oddsandends_1

It’s been said that one could buy pretty much everything on the streets of Bangkok. I suppose I have a proof. I found a book called "Story of My Life" by someone who called herself Marie, Queen of Romania, in French, no less. The book was neatly laid out on a paper mat, next to the Illustrated History of French Literature, and amidst other odds and ends that proved more than a little odd and quite near the end of their respective lifespans.

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