My Quest for the Secret of Thai Cuisine, Part 2
Wherein I finally discover what it's really all about!
If you missed Part 1 of this article, read it here.
Yesterday, I wrote about how I love Thai food, but I’ve also been somewhat intimidated by it — like how I’m sometimes intimidated by jazz music. But living in Bangkok now, I wanted to know more about the cuisine so I could appreciate it better.
I began a personal quest for the “secret” of the country’s cuisine, and I was soon dazzled by its complexity, and also all its traditions and innovations.
But I still felt like I hadn’t quite figured it out. What exactly made it so special?
The previous week, Michael and I had such good luck with A Chef’s Tour tasting tour that we decided to go another round — the “dinner tour” this time, which takes place in Bangkok’s vast, famous Chinatown.
By now, I was much more comfortable with Thai cooking. I immediately identified the chives in the khanom guichai, and I knew that the sweet yellow filling in the foi thong pastries was made from duck egg yolks. And I realized that this tom yum soup was made without coconut milk — so it must be a northern version, right?
I also now knew that, Thailand being Thailand, there were “dry” versions of tom yum — cooked without any broth, and also with and without noodles.
Our new guide, Fon, told us that Bangkok’s Chinatown is chock full of food cooked by people of Chinese descent using Thai ingredients and styles — but also people of Thai descent using Chinese methods and ingredients, including soy sauce.
“How interesting!” I said. “So it’s not really Thai cooking?” I still didn’t understand everything about Thai cooking, but I at least knew that the base was fish sauce, just like the base of Chinese cooking is soy sauce.
Fon laughed. “Oh, we Thai people love soy sauce! It’s in lots of Thai cooking.”
I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.