Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'll Have One, Please

I'd like to take a moment to step away from my ground-shaking reuminations to address one of the most important, and favorite parts of this trip: FOOD!

This has been a constantly changing and delightful experience throughout my travels, but especially in Southeast Asia. I have always been a fan of Thai and Vietnamese food, just ask my parents. So to actually get here and taste the real thing has been so much fun and astronomically different from any gastronomical experiments I've had in my life.

To begin with, food here is cheap. $2 max for a meal if you look beyond the restaurants created for tourists. One time in Bangkok I paid 10 baht, about 30 cents for a bowl of noodle soup, but that's the cheapest by far.

Food is also mysterious here. By this I mean I usually don't know exactly what I'm going to get, or what I'm eating (beside the fact that it is 99% of the time rice-based and delicious). There are plenty of restaurants with menus in English, which is really nice sometimes. Standards are fried rice or rice noodles with veggies, meat and egg or some kind of delectable curry over, you guessed it, rice. But there is a completely different side to dining here that I feel is under-utilized by a lot of tourists because we have no idea what is being offered or how to order it.

There are food carts or tables on the sidewalk with mysterious metal pots or trays covered in plastic everywhere. They usually result in a fantastic bowl of noodles, a nice cold dessert with sweetened condensed milk and sugary egg parts or a banana pancake, but it is difficult to know what you're going to get because all you see are the parts of the whole before they have been combined. So I have found that I can either wait and watch a Thai or Cambodian person order something and if it looks good (it pretty much always looks good) I point and ask for one. Or, if nobody else is around, I just ask for one and see what I get. So far so good! Even if it doesn't look good, trying it with an open mind is always a good first step, and it usually tastes delicious. Ha, this coming from the toddler who wouldn't try ice cream!

There are all kinds of things to try here, and sometimes the ingredients on the cart lend themselves to hazarding a guess as to what is made, like the ones with baguettes and cream cheese and veggies means a sandwich, while the ones with packets of instant noodles and veggies means fried noodles, and the ones with eggs and containers you cannot see into and sweetened condensed milk and bananas mean banana pancakes (thank you, whoever cerated these!). It ust takes a bit of practice to recognize what makes what. It's a lot of fun, sometimes not quite so much fun, but mostly a lot of fun.

I would consider myself a brave taster, but there are still things I do NOT have any inclination to try, such as the large black spiders piled high on a tray in the market, marinaded in something...or the insolent tongues sticking out at anyone passing by from the meat carts. But for the most part an open mind and fingers crossed on not getting food poisoning, being adventurous and eating from street carts is the cheapest and tastiest way to go!

Market in Siem Reap


Fried noodles with veggies and egg. Who knew?
Diep, my motorbike driver in Angkor Wat, with palm sugar
Meat carts. Check out those tongues in the middle of the tray. Mmmm.
Fried noodles for 50 cents

Thank you Cambodia for accepting the French baguette! Western breakfast in the hostel.
Paella Neil made at the farm in Thailand
Women at the farm making us Pad se-ew, fat noodles with veggies
Mmmmm fried ice cream!
Favorite restaurant in Phuket, about $1 for a great meal
Making spicy papaya salad in Thailand
Food court in Bangkok. Cheap and choices.
Fish at the street market in Bangkok

1 comment:

  1. You had me at FOOD. Mmm...

    P.s. You're so poetic! Insolent tongues... ha!