27 (Sat) June 2015
Black Pepper Giant Prawns
Mission to Thailand + Personal Deviation, Day 4 (see previously 6.172 Sai Ua).
In Chiang Mai. Arrived Wednesday tonight. Here to support a workshop on tobacco and trade, Thursday and Friday. Hanging around for an extra day today. Getting back to Manila tomorrow evening.
No plans for the day, just walking about and taking in experiences as they came.
Starting in the Old City, the first order of business was lunch.
The khao soi was good. The broth, not spicy yet rich with aromatics. The noodles — uneven, indicating hand-made — provided a pleasantly rough/rustic mouthfeel. Nevertheless, I still don’t think that I’ll ever come to fully embrace this dish.
After 10 minutes of exploration, I was done with the Old City.
Outside the east gate, I discovered Madame Thai Cookery School down a back alley. I signed up for a lesson.
4 dishes for 700 THB (about 20 USD).
The food was pretty crappy — through no fault of my own, I assure you. The first problem was that the ingredients were skimpy and shoddy. E.G., the tom woon sen featured cheap hotdogs, uncooked, which I didn’t bother to eat — would’ve been better with nothing at all. More significantly, the technique was loose and lazy — dump everything into a wok, season with soy/oyster/fish sauce, done — could’ve done better just winging it. Rip-off, considering how far 700 baht can go in a restaurant here.
Still, the experience made for a mildly amusing hour, preferable to looking at temples.
Madame Thai was pleasant enough, though she did smell too much like stale cigarettes.
On a positive note, I discovered how simple tom yum can be to prepare.
The course came with a hand-bound cookbook.
By 2200, I still wasn’t hungry after my mid-afternoon feast.
On the verge of calling it a day, going back to the hotel, and featuring something from Madame Thai for this post’s spotlight item — which would’ve been fine — I happened across Mho-O-Cha.
Seeing this and other similar establishments in the area, I can now understand why people sometimes refer to this kind of set-up — e.g., Seafood Market in Manila (see generally 4.263 Parros Clams…) — as “Thai.”
Whatever the attribution, my favorite food in the world is fresh seafood, Asiatic in style — I mean, what is the appeal of boiling a lobster and dipping the rubbery flesh in clarified butter, as Americans are wont to do?
When I tried to order the prawns in white pepper sauce (see for example 6.044 Slipper Lobster in White Pepper Sauce), the manager vehemently refused and passionately insisted on black pepper (see generally 3.314 Black Pepper King Crab; see most recently 6.133 Black Pepper Slipper Lobster). Couldn’t refuse.
The black pepper giant prawns were AWESOME. Cooked to perfect precision, wok-seared with hints of charred smokiness. Heaped — to the point of wastefulness — with deep-fried aromatics and various whole peppercorns, mostly black and green. Every bite — even without actual peppercorns — intensely white-hot, but not at all spicy in the chili sense.
So, I stuck around for a couple more dishes, if only to finish off the SangSom. The rest was just okay, but it was a fine meal overall and a fulfilling way to end my first day of fun in Chiang Mai.