Friday, January 14, 2011

43 Thailand #2: Thai Condiments

Growing up, I could always tell when Dad had a cold because there he'd be, huddled at the kitchen table over a steaming bowl of soup noodles (guay teow rhua) with a box of tissues at the ready, and his jars of sliced peppers in vinegar, sugar, and pepper flakes. It's a cold remedy that I have used over the years since I started living on my own (and of course is delicious even when I'm not sick).

The three additions of sugar, vinegar peppers and red chili flakes were an indispensable part of this ritual. For years, and to this day, the peppers in particular were a reliable sight on the second shelf of our fridge, typically stored in an old marinated artichokes jar. Besides soup noodles, we also added them to rad na (click here for a description: it's closest to #95 on the list).

In Thailand, those condiments are a ubiquitous presence on the tables of restaurants and street stalls everywhere. Our first morning in Bangkok, I proudly ordered two bowls in my rudimentary Thai, and felt completely at home slurping happily away and sweating in the heat. Our order quickly arrived, each bowl containing thin rice noodles (sen lek) plus fish balls, sliced of roast pork, beansprouts, and something I hadn't encountered before: pieces of deep-fried wonton skin, which soaked up the broth and added interesting textures to the bowl. It cost 50 baht for two bowls (about $1.60 USD).
It was after this picture was taken and we finished our meal that we ran into my Thai brother on the street, coming to find us at our guesthouse! We had our reunion (it had been 8 years since I'd seen him last) there on the street north of Khao San road. If we hadn't decided to stop for noodles at that particular time, we would have missed him.

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