“Sweet potato leaves were very common in our kampung. We ate them so often when I was young, until I got quite sick of them,” my dad revealed. “But as I grow older I start to miss these leaves and I wish to eat them once again.” I noticed that he became rather obsessed with this vegetable of late, often requesting for hanzi ye (蕃薯叶; Hokkien for sweet potato leaves) whenever we dine out.
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.
Mr. P has been telling me about eating hoi khom (หอยขม), or snails, for the longest time. Whenever we pass by a stall selling snails in Bangkok, he would say, “Oh, how I miss the snails made by my mum!” But when I requested to taste them, he would turn me down, citing safety reasons. “You don’t know where these snails come from. They may be laden with pesticides. Let’s get my mum to make them the next time we’re home,” he urged.