Sunday, January 18, 2009

Street food looks ... interesting

Food vendors are everywhere on the street, from fresh fruit to grilled chicken skewers to whole blackened fish, but I have yet to work up the nerve to try any of it. Maybe tomorrow after I check in at the train station (leaving for Chiang Mai) I will develop some courage to try something I at least recognize (there are many items I don't).

Still I've had some good food – and also some … interesting food.

Breakfast at the hotel consisted of a curious blend of Western and local cuisine. Braised cabbage was a surprisingly light and delicious way to start the day, and the coffee is black, bitter and strong – just the way I like it. But another bitter item – some sort of steamed scallion-like root – was a little strange.

Also strange: On Khao San road at a tourist spot (called, according to the menu, O! Hungry) I ordered what looked like a local specialty, but turned out to be Western-style spaghetti noodles tossed with bacon and scallions that was served with a shaker of Parmesan cheese. The chef's attempt, perhaps, to please his American guests? Whatever the intention, it was an awkward blend of cross-cultural flavors and one I will endeavor not to repeat.

But, last night at the hotel, I ate the best Pad Thai I've ever had. Simple and perfectly cooked, it came with shrimp and a tray of fish sauce, chili flakes, pickled hot peppers and sugar crystals – all of which I sprinkled generously on my dish. I couldn't have been happier, and I devoured it on the outside patio while the fountain gurgled and the sounds of Bangkok drifted in from the street.

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