Beyond Pad Thai

OK, people. Pad thai is NOT everywhere in Thailand. In fact, we’ve been here for more than two weeks and I haven’t seen it anywhere. Granted we’ve been mostly eating communal vegetarian meals but we’ve hit some markets up too. The food here always seems so fresh and light – so many vegetables, and everything is quickly cooked so that the veggies still have a bit of crunch. Fragrant, clear broths either with vegetables or with noodles seem common, and curries can be soupy and mixed with coconut milk, or are more on the pasty side which gives it a lot of kick. The spices and herbs are fresh, there always seems to be lemongrass and ginger and garlic lurking. And of course the chilies. (for breakfast one morning I had a run in with a raw garlic clove and a chunk of fresh chili in the same bite. I cried.) The variety of vegetables is also really nice, with many varieties of greens from bitter to herby to sweet and different types of squashes and eggplants. I don’t think I’ve eaten such a variety of vegetables in my entire life.

Lots of things are wrapped in banana leaves or pandan leaves with sticky rice and then steamed. My favorite is a sticky rice/banana/fresh peanut steamed wrap thingy that’s just the right amount of sweetness. I loved trying the wrapped/rice ball items at the market, some stuff I had no idea what they were and some that I thought would be sweet were savory and vice versa. Lots of desserts involve coconut milk or shredded coconut, but tend to be on the sickly sweet side for me. And everything comes in plastic bags puffed up with air and sealed with twisty ties! What is up with that? Sauces, dumpling like things, drinks, vegetable mixes. I guess it makes the product look more attractive?

At the market there always seems to be a lot of meat on offer, like fried chicken or what appears to be fried pork chops. However it all seems to be room temperature and I haven’t felt the desire to try any of the fried stuff, as it seems unappealing. The other common meat item is ground meat, either in the form of sausages or balls on wooden sticks. The sausages are apparently fermented. I tried the fried pork balls at a bus stop/cafeteria type place and it was…gross. Room temperature, overly oily and full of gristle but with little flavor. Maybe my mistake was trying it at a bus stop rather than the fact that they were pork balls, but either way room temperature meat on a stick just doesn’t do it for me.

Drinkwise, I’ve fallen for young coconuts that you hack open with a machete. The coconut juice (which is now apparently all the rage in the States) is very refreshing and cooling with a subtle taste – it doesn’t really taste like coconut at all. Then at the end you can scoop out the coconut meat or jelly depending on the age of the coconut. Delicious. There’s also this soy milk that comes in an old fashioned glass bottle that you can get everywhere that’s the perfect drink when it’s super hot out. Fresh fruit shakes are the bomb, they’re made with coconut milk and mysterious powders and little stands that make them seem to be everywhere.

I’m not really missing food at home. Er, perhaps that’s a bit of a lie. I miss breakfast foods like yogurt, sometimes a savory breakfast like noodle soup is…weird. And yes I miss cheese. But that’s about it.

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9 thoughts on “Beyond Pad Thai

  1. Andrew Gwozdziewycz says:

    I think "Drink in a Plastic Bag" is my favorite thing from Thailand. I see you discovered it as well. 🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    YUM. I’m jealous. And I’m glad you’ve tried the whole drinking-a-coconut thing after what we had in Singapore the first time around. When you get to Europe, I will try to have a good selection of cheese for you. Oh, and can I just say this: NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM. Sorry, had to do it.

  3. Julie Lee says:

    I have the same thought as Sannie about the coconut juice; I don’t think we ever try again after Singapore. I am glad you had a better tasting experience than last time. Food tasting is always the best part of the travel; to be able to taste different type of food I am always for it. Maybe Pad Thai is a different region food; or it could just be American Thai food.Now you make me want to go out and get some Thai food!!

  4. stepha says:

    you just made me so hungry! mmmm veggies, rice, chillis… i’m so psyched to read your posts about everything! The sustainability "back to the land" movement is really interesting. I wonder how common it is- can it be called a movement or is it just a handful of farmers? did you say it was connected to buddhism? how?yeah i’m not sure about drinks in bags. they had that in mexico too but i just imagine making a huge mess and embarrassing myself.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Noodle soup for breakfast is not weird. I really missed it coming here to the US. =) Back in the SoHo office, I would have congee or noodle soup in the morning in Chinatown before going into the office.

  6. Tracie Lee says:

    we had vegetarian thai food for breakfast yesterday at this weird Buddhist vegetarian restaurant – yea fake roasted pork and fake pork sausage! it was muy delicious. and dude it was so cheap, for two giant plates of food and 3 buns it cost us like 70 baht, which is a little more than $2.

  7. Tracie Lee says:

    re: the sustainability movement, i would definitely say that there are a lot of people interested in it beyond a handful of farmers, but it’s not like there’s a central person/figurehead who’s leading it. A lot of people have seen that the rate of consumption of natural resources is totally out of control and are trying to do something to counteract that. But they are taking different approaches to it, it seems very grassroots. We met so many people just in the two weeks that we were at Pun Pun who are interested in learning as much as they can about sustainability, and they’re from all over the world. and as for how it relates to Buddhism, groups like the Santi Asoke are trying to strictly adhere to the five precepts, so they are vegans – plus if they make all of their own stuff and do everything themselves, they know exactly where it came from and that it hasn’t hurt anyone/thing – so it’s a moral choice.ok, somehow i still have not had a drink in a bag yet. everyone uses cups in Chiang Mai.

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