Friday, April 10, 2009

Thai-Chinese Cuisine

The very large proportion of Chinese Thais here influences many aspects of Thai culture: Medicine, finance, festivals, and, of course, food. While traditional Chinese food is quite different than Thai food, there is some overlap, but for the most part, it is easy to distinguish the two. Yesterday, as I walked through a part of the city where I lived twenty years ago, I came across a tiny corner open-air restaurant that I used to pass each day on my way to and from work. Unobtrusive, yet located in one of the most upscale tourist areas in Bangkok, in the shadow of gleaming five star hotels and beneath the sleek elevated skyway, it seemed to be unchanged by time. Rickety chairs nestled under plain wooden tables, handmade shelves piled with various utensils and food tins, lighting provided mainly by the daylight, and an ancient, shuffling owner, scowling and mumbling as we ordered from the menu that I know had been unchanged through the intervening decades (On its frayed and faded pages it still lists a beer that no longer exists in Thailand).

While the ambience may give a certain rustic charm to the dining experience, it is the menu itself that is the draw for me (Proclaiming Chinese, Thai, and European food). If one claims to be adventurous, and will "try anything" (You know the type), sit them down at this humble establishment and watch as they read through the "specials." For your gourmet enjoyment, have them try the "cow's stomach soup" or perhaps the "fried deer gut with red sauce." For those who prefer pork, there is the "fried pig bowel," or the "pig's ear salad." I am not making this up (And you thought it was only on "The Addams Family!"). If one is still undecided, I suggest trying the "Fried Eight Things."

So, the next time you are in Bangkok, drop in to the Yonglee Restaurant at the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi 15. And if you happen to give it a try, please let me know the identity of the "Eight Things." (I was tempted, but, no, I didn't.)

No comments: