I’m just grabbing a moment here in Florence to say a quick buongiorno, and to rub your nose in how very pleasant a time I’m having abroad.
Thailand was wonderful, peaceful, pressure cooker-hot and, most importantly for the sake of this little outpouring, utterly delicious.
For me, one of the major edible highlights were the wonderfully nuanced green papaya/green mango salads. Despite being mind-blowingly hot from the liberal use of the tiny malevolent chilies favored by the Thais, these are most refreshing in the cloying tropical heat. Served with steamed or sticky rice (the favorite in southern Thailand), these make a very pleasing meal- the sort of thing that just makes you happy.
The Thais have a very deep respect for rice. It is treated as the most important part of every meal. The myriad salads, curries, relishes et al that make up much of what we think of as the Thai cuisine are seen by Thais as mere seasoning to the real food event, the rice.
One of the best dishes I indulged in (or I should really say overindulged as I was already quite uncomfortably full at the time), was Kai Yaang, a fabulously simple dish of charcoal grilled chicken from the northern Thai province (famed for its food) of Isaan. Not exactly a local specialty in the far south, but staggeringly good all the same. It was only a stern glance from my best beloved that stopped me from ordering another plateful. Her stern glances keep me out of all kinds of trouble, you know.
Southern Thai curries can be the hottest in the whole country -the locals tend to be kinder on farangs (foreigners), but even these sanitised versions are still hot enough to violently drain the sinuses and scour the tongue (not to mention regions further south). Yellow curries are the commonest form in southern Thailand, which reflects the strong Malay influence of this area. The golden hue comes from a very generous hand with the turmeric. In such quantity the delicate, slightly resinous flavor of the spice (a variety of ginger) shines through. Southern curries are also decidedly saltier than the better known red and green curries of other regions, which are often sweet to the point of being sickly. I find the southern Thai approach brings a pleasant balance to the food.
As always, I spent a lot of time in the local markets, which were awash with the very best produce, almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Ok, this Italian keyboard is driving me totally barking, so bye for now.
Next time- more Singapore, London! London! London!, the generous pleasures of Tuscany, and more pictures too. I’m currently using the slowest internet connection I’ve ever encountered, so can’t upload more here. Arrivederci, V.