Mission to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic + Personal Deviation to the Kingdom of Thailand, Day 5 (see previously 6.066 Salomon Zosui).
After spending the past few days in Vientiane for work, I flew into Bangkok last night–the route to/from MNL/VTE always goes thru BKK–where I’ll stay for a short solo food holiday until tomorrow afternoon.
On the second day of the Bangkok Diet…
To my great joy and honor, this evening’s dinner represented my first experience eating Thai food in Thailand with Thais*. We were hosted by a colleague–native Thai, based in Bangkok–who took us to Feuang Nara–owned by her friend.
Tom yum is a Thai/Lao soup. Consists of a chicken/fish stock, seasoned with fish sauce (salty) + lemon grass (sour) + chilies (spicy), as well as garlic + onion + galangal + coriander, plus various vegetables, such as mushrooms, bamboo shoots, eggplant, etc., often including shrimp (“kung”) or chicken (“gai”). After phat thai, tom yum is arguably the second most famous Thai dish around the world.
Living in Korea, I’d developed an intense aversion to tom yum kung (see for example 2.277 Tom Yam Kung), simply because it’s such a cliché there. Sitting down in a Thai restaurant and flipping through the menu, someone will casually suggest tom yum kung, as if it were a novel idea, and then everyone else will enthusiastically praise the suggestion, as if it wouldn’t otherwise have been ordered anyway. 9 of 10 tables will feature a pot of tom yum; while aware that other types of soup exist, diners would never dare to experiment, given the safe familiarity of tom yum, given the Korean fear of uncertainty. 9 of the 9 will be of the kung variety; as menus never offer anything but shrimp, diners are largely unaware that other varieties exist. The wife always insists on ordering it, denying that she does so just to annoy me.
The meal was amazing. In addition to the food, which was awesome** all around in terms of taste, quality, and selection, I appreciated the opportunity to discuss the dishes with our host. For example, I verified that both phat thai and tom yum kung are indeed commonly ordered by locals, not just tourists. Eating with the natives, ain’t nothing like it (see for example 5.278 Local Lunch Again!).
*Come to think of it. I can’t recall having eaten any meal of any kind anywhere with a Thai.
**Come to think of it, I can’t recall having eaten any Thai meal that was anything but enjoyable.
I had a light lunch, anticipating that dinner could be a major affair.
While Fifth Avenue was kinda fun, the portions were regrettably too big to allow for much experimentation on my own, not that the offerings were particularly intriguing–unlike, say, a hawker centre in Singapore (see for example 4.267 Chicken Rice).
Later, back in my hotel room–after lunch, after dinner, after postprandial victuals–I couldn’t resist ordering a few midnight snacks from room service.