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Saturday, December 27, 2003

Bangkok Report IV, part 1: begging for food

December 27, 2003

Today was somewhat slow. I woke up late, spent far too much time on the web, and didn't manage to get out of the house until after 12.

Lunch was taken at a restaurant near my house. The place is called Klang Soi, right next to Smitivej Hospital, deep inside the labyrinth that comprises the small streets of the Sukhumvit area. The restaurant used to be one of my favorites. They serve simple, home style food, but very well done and presented.

Unfortunately the restaurant has gone quite a way down hill since I'd been gone. We ordered a few dishes, and they were all mediocre. I'm not even going to bother tell you what we ate. I was starving, but I was so disappointed I couldn't eat anything.

Our next stop was at the house of some relatives, to say hello and drop off some new year presents before they go away for the holidays.

The old cook, who has known me since I was a little baby, came hustling out of the kitchen when she heard that I came home from the US. She was happy to see me, but I made her even happier by telling her I was starving. She told me to wait in the dining room and she would see what they had in the kitchen that I could eat, but I insisted on following her there to see for myself.

I love the kitchens of old houses. Such a kitchen is usually open-air, and in the back of the house as the fume and smell from Thai cooking could be nearly fatal. This particular kitchen was a good size, with stoves and huge mortars and pestles, and giant cleaves stuck on wooden butcher's blocks.

The preparation for dinner hadn't quite started yet, so all they had were leftovers from lunch. There were some rice, a bowlful of stew of five-spiced duck eggs and pork (Moo Pahlo), and some Pla-dook foo, crispy fried catfish. The catfish was an accompaniment to a relish, which unfortunately had been finished earlier.

I was ready to settle on just some rice and stewed eggs and pork and some crispy fish, but the cook insisted that I waited a bit so she could fix up something quick to accompany the fish.

She decided on Sreng Wah, a spicy salad of shrimps, ginger, shallots, chillies, julienned lime leaves, lemongrass, and charcoal grilled shrimps. The dressing is made of tamarind, palm sugar, and some fish sauce. Sreng Wah is traditionally served with Pla-dook foo and plenty of fresh vegetable garnishes. It is an old Thai dish that is so hard to find these days. I was on cloud nine! I promise to write a recipe when I get home to San Francisco.

The meal was so fantastic I wanted to stay there for dinner. Unfortunately, I had to go to a party at the club with my parents.

(to be continued)

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