Eating My Way Through Southeast Asia
There's an adage in Jordan that my neighbor says to me daily while watching me eat with a grin on my face: Batin-itch ya-heb-itch. Your stomach loves you. In Thailand and in Cambodia, I indulged my tastebuds and stomach with everything spicy, sweet, and savory that I smelled and saw on the street stalls dotting these two countries. A list of everything that put a smile on my face:
Crepe with fresh coconut shavings and sugar
Fried potstickers and steamed dumplings – I remember my dad teaching me how to eat these. You must eat them in one bite, or else the juices from the pork and chicken run away before you have a chance to snatch them. Burnt tongues are an initiation rite.
Chinese pizza – also known as fried dough with scallions, but I prefer to call them by the same name my mom always uses.
Steamed buns filled with red bean, chicken and mushroom, or yellow custard filling
Steamed pumpkin dancing in a coconut milk broth
Curries of every color, every level of spiciness, and every array of fresh vegetables
Sticky rice with mango – This has replaced Grand Lux Café's apple pie as my favorite dessert
Pad Thai – The first and last dish I ate on my trip
Fried soft shell crabs – Julia and I were strolling back to our hostel one night when we passed a wedding that was about to end. The cook, taking pity on my wide and staring eyes, offered me leftovers of the soft shell crabs they had served as appetizers. It was the best seafood I've had since sushi in Houston.
Pumpkin curry – served conveniently in a plastic bag and sold by the kilo, authentic street stall style!
Fried bread sticks with congee – Reminded me of breakfast in Hong Kong
Noodles, noodles, noodles! – Your choice of egg or rice noodles, thick and flat or vermicelli style, flash fried with fresh veggies, and then cooked in homemade stock
Rice flour dumplings filled with black sesame paste, served in ginger soup
Khao Saoi – traditional Chiang Mai dish of egg noodles in coconut milk soup
Rotee – a crepe filled with your choice of banana, honey, chocolate sauce, sugar, egg, raisins, or condensed milk, fried in butter
Fresh fruit shakes – so much better than Jamba Juice
Bakery Delights – in Cambodia, Julia and I made bakery runs at 6 p.m., when all bakeries had half-price danishes, croissants, donuts, muffins, and loaf breads
Boston Cream Pie Donut from Dunkin' Donuts
Ice Cream – in 90* weather, all you want is some coconut or red bean ice cream
Fruit on a stick – 25 cents each, and your choice of pineapple, mango, papaya, dragonfruit, or watermelon
Fish Amok – traditional Khmer dish