Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Story Jar - Crispy Fried What?

The Story Jar is a bi-weekly column published in the Patriot, Cuba, NY
copyright 2007 Elaine Hardman
It couldn’t have been what I thought. When we walked through the night market in Sukothai, Thailand, the light was poor - everything in shadows. A florescent lamp hung above the stand below a lamp post sprouting a spaghetti-tangle of wires that would have made an American electrician run screaming.
I was moving quickly in the crowd and didn’t look closely. My eyes flew over something fried golden brown and crispy –maybe some kind of noodles – but they looked like…never mind.
I could have stopped or gone back to look and erase the image from my mind. It would be good, maybe, to know that they were cookies or cheesy squiggles but I didn’t stop. We hurried on that night but today we are at the Antique House Restaurant in Chaing Mai and the image returned to me in living color while reading the menu.
The Antique House is an upscale restaurant. Meals cost about $10 instead of $3 as in other restaurants. There are many attentive waiters and the tablecloths are silk. There is always live music and the menu - in 2 languages -is 20 pages long.
It offered fried vegetables with pork served in a taro cup and that sound great. My choice was settled so I just whiled away the time browsing the menu and waiting for Rick to choose and that’s when I found fried fish stomach with oyster sauce. Well, if I had grown up here I would think that was dandy but given my background fish stomach was out.
Reading on, I found crispy fried worms. It seems that the light at the market had been adequate that night. The inadequate was my knowledge of Thai cuisine. Those little bumps weren’t wavy designs or fancy slicing but the remains of many appendages.

I ordered the fried vegetables and hoped that most of were yellow or green or orange and and that little would be brown, or wavy, or crispy. I didn’t think until now that everything was probably fried in the same oil. Well, that’s why travel is so interesting.

The next day we went to a huge outdoor market and found aisles and aisles of snack foods – dried fruits, cakes, donuts, cookies, banana chips and cashews. The cashews were wonderful - tasting of sweetness and coconut milk. We munched and walked past piles and piles of crispy, fried you-know-what.

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