Monday, January 17, 2011
Food for Thought
Mexican or Thai food? When I went to China I decided that Mexicans came from the Chinese. Many similarities. But after being in Thailand I am convinced that Thais and Mexicans are almost one and the same. Sweet, generous people, with an ingrained resistance to saying no, an almost masochistic penchant for extremely spicy food and many similar tastes. I bought a bag of delicious tamarind balls rolled in salt, sugar and chili, just like the tamarindos we eat in Mexico. I saw women selling quince with chili and salt. What more evidence do you want. You give up? The picture above is of cochinita pibil, the best I've had so far, at restaurant Azul y Oro at the campus of the National University in Mexico City.
Fried goodness. These little balls are crunchy outside and gummy inside and a little sweet.
Oodles of noodles. Siem Reap market, Cambodia.
Classic Chiang Mai curried noodles. The broth has turmeric and the noodles are both soft and crunchy. Like in Pozole, you can add your condiments: coconut milk, squeeze of lime, fiery chili, banana, shallots, fish sauce and pickled something. Delicious, although I ordered everything not too spicy. Which brings me to the problem of total lack of nuance when a foreigner asks for not too spicy, which a Thai interprets as no spice whatsoever. I could never communicate that I can tolerate a little spice. It was all or nothing.
More fried goodness. I could subsist on spring rolls.
In the market in Siem Reap you could see this gorgeous freshness...
...or fried tarantulas. To this day, I choose to think they are only for show. We also saw humongous fried cicadas, silkworms, and barbecued snake on a skewer, no doubt seasoned to perfection.
At the excellent La Noria in Siem Reap (the town next to Angkor Wat), we had a tasting menu of Cambodian food. The first course was green papaya salad, much milder than the Thai version, summer rolls and banana flower salad. Who knew bananas had flowers and you could eat them? A very delicate taste. By the way, the best bananas I ever had, I had in Cambodia. Incredibly flavorful, sweet and a little tart.
Second course was the two most famous national dishes, Amok, the subtle and elegant fish green curry, steamed in banana leaf, and a delicious beef stew. The third dish was a pedestrian chicken with cashews.
Dessert was passion fruit sorbet, warm coconut, coconut jelly and some other green jelly made of an exotic plant. They like gelatinous deserts. This meal, together with two fresh fruit juices, set us back $15 each. Super expensive for Cambodia.
I don't know what is worse. This, or this:
Though the name is genius. Either a blend between a pizza and a quesadilla, or a pesadilla, which is Spanish for nightmare.