“The only time pineapples are acceptable in Thai food is in pineapple mussel curry (แกงคั่วสับปะรดหอยแมลงภู่; kaeng sapparot hoi malaeng phuu) or sweet and sour dish (ผัดเปรี้ยวหวาน; phat priaow waan),” said Mr. P insisted, who is adamant that fried rice and pineapples are a mismatch. “Pineapple fried rice are only seen on menus in MBK and places with lots of tourists. Have you seen your Thai gal friends ordering this dish before?”
Like any love affair, the early days of my Thailand obsession—which is into its ninth year—saw me taking to well-known Thai dishes; but as the relationship goes on but with a bit less sizzle, I started seeking out lesser-known comfort dishes, such as paak paet thort (fried duck beak), a low-key Isaan dish that not many people knew about. My food-loving Thai colleague, Sai, introduced it to me one day while we were having lunch at a street-side Isaan stall beside a petrol station. I never knew that duck beaks could be eaten, but Sai assured me that it was yummy. After sampling this chewy delicacy, I was intrigued—and hooked.
I love seeing a hawker’s dedication to his trade. It doesn’t matter if he’s just peddling lime juice along the streets of Yaowarat, but he makes the best out of the tools available—and his creativity—to come up with simple yet ingenious ways to display his citrusy drinks. At this humble roadside store, the limelight (pun intended) was shone on its sole product: limes. A row of limes, with their skins peeled into segments, folded and tucked inwards, were perched atop wooden sticks, resembling lotus flowers emerging from a sea of ice. There were no shortage of lime juice sellers—and presentations—in the vicinity, but none could beat the work of art showed by this particular vendor. Thumbs up to Thai creativity!
One of the thrills of living in another country is discovering something from your homeland that you have absolutely no inkling of. When I first came into contact with lot chong Singapore* (ลอดช่องสิงคโปร์), a Thai iced dessert of green noodle-like strands doused in coconut milk, I remember feeling a slight embarrassment of not knowing my native cuisine well enough. But I’d quickly assumed that this pseudo-Singapore dessert was a Thai variant of the famed cendol that we all know so well in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. After all, this being Southeast Asia, there are lots of dishes, which are, in regional speak, ‘same, same but different’.
* This dessert also goes by various names, including lot chong naam kathi and lot chong thai, which are very similar desserts made of different ingredients. However, the impression I get is that most Thais use the different names interchangeably—and rather loosely.