Foodie Friday: Fish Food

I think I’ve found my new favourite street food. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. I have many favourite street foods, but most of them are calorie bombs that threaten to clog my arteries for life (hello, deep-fried bananas). Let’s call this my new favourite (reasonably) healthy street food. Introducing the whole roast fish, complete with eyeballs sockets and scales. These fishy fellows are conveniently available at the end of our street, but to my eternal regret, it took us almost 4 months to sample them.

So convenient that you don’t even have to get off your bike.

There was a good reason for our delay – we were concerned that they were scooped out of the local khlong, and frankly, nothing would induce me to sample critters that came out of that swamp. Fortunately, one of our health-conscious friends at school (thanks, Erin) assured us that the fish did not crawl out of the muck, and furthermore, they came with wicked-awesome sauce.*

She’s telling the truth, right guys?

We decided to make our first foray into fish paradise one evening. The cute couple that runs the fish stand seemed pleased and surprised that the farangs had popped in for some of their wares.

What took you fools so long?

The fish are jammed onto metal skewers, and slowly roasted over a charcoal fire. When you order the fish, the vendor asks you to choose the one you want (kind of pointless, because they are all the same size). He then uses a knife to gently ease your prize off the prongs and into a Styrofoam box. His adorable wife adds a bag of wicked-awesome sauce, a bag of fresh veggies, and a bag of rice noodles. Haul it all home, and dive into your prize.

Our fish overlooks the khlong behind our house – that wasn’t your former home, was it?

The whole haul.

To access the fish goodness, simply peel back the skin. Don’t throw it away, though, because it is covered in delicious coarse smoked salt that is perfect with the tender fish flesh.

Hmmm. This is a little creepy. Sort of like Body Worlds.

The fish is stuffed with an herb mixture – mostly lemon grass, I think.

Can’t decide if this visual crosses the line between delicious and disgusting.

There is an important method to eating this meal. First, flatten a large cabbage or lettuce leaf, and prepare to fill it with goodness. Layer rice/noodles, fish, herbs, and sauce on top of the leaf, roll it up, and mow down.

We usually substitute brown rice for the rice noodles.

Take a moment to peel yourself off the floor after collapsing in a fit of ecstasy, and repeat the process. I may have missed out on a few months of fish fabulousness, but I plan to mend the error in my ways.

Best 100 Baht (3$) I’ve ever spent.

*This may or may not have been her exact phrase.

Prototypes ‘n’ Progeny

Our little shack on the khlong has been filled to the gills this week with two of our favourite family members – Papa Dawg Dave (PDD) and Mama Jan (MJ). These two well-traveled Canucks produced my math-loving better half, and we were stoked for their visit.

 

And the stoked factor doubled when they gave me this little slice of Canadian paradise.

They’ve already spent heaps of time living in SE Asia, and they warned us that they weren’t interested in doing the tourist thing. This was fine with us, particularly when we discovered what they wanted to do instead. Let’s break it down.

Eat:

It has been a wild food fest of pretzels/curry/pizza/local bacteria around here. PDD and MJ had some old favourites from their years in the region, and we had a few “must eats” in mind. The combination of these two lists has meant some dedicated eating for this crew. It is hard work, but we were ready for the challenge.

Chopstick warriors ready for battle

Prepared to do our bit for the good of humanity

Shop:

I really hate it when people buy me Christmas presents, but for my in-laws, I was willing to make a sacrifice. While they admired my amazing hot-plate-stacked-on-a-microwave-stacked-on-a-fridge, they thought our kitchen was a little lacking, and bought me a rice cooker. It even has a setting to cook brown rice. The hippie region of my heart just warmed up by ten degrees. My simultaneously practical but strange husband asked for dirt and a pot. The man is all about back-to-basics. We’ll see what he finds under our non-existent tree.

Dang it, T-bone! Get excited about the hippie cooker!

 

Less practical but more fun than dirt and a pot.

Clean:

Sadly, my kitchen has never been as clean as it was this week. I make it a rule to always put my guests to work as often as possible, and I told PDD that I expected him to sweep our kitchen floors at all times. He took this task seriously, and even threw in some bonus dish-washing to mix it up a little. They are seriously upping the ante for any future visitors.

Get back to work!

 

Observe Excellent Home Maintenance Methods:

PDD and MJ’s favourite part of their visit has been witnessing the joy of our strangely constructed apartment, and the even stranger attempts to repair it. They noticed that the back of the toilet was leaking, and we reported the problem to the downstairs office. The manager sent someone promptly to fix it. When I peeked into the bathroom to check on the progress, though, the maintenance man was applying caulking to my shower. Nothing like a little welcome caulking to get the visit off to a good start.

They call this maintenance?!

 

PDD and MJ leave tomorrow, and we are anticipating a return to a life characterized by fewer calories, more brown rice, a dirty kitchen, and a pile of caulking. Sniff.

Foodie Friday: Super local! Super organic!

Eating locally/organically is a huge trend in North America right now. It has even hit my home city of Calgary, which is saying something, because A) Our growing season lasts for about 2 weeks and B) many Calgarians consider “redneck” to be the ultimate compliment. However, grow it has, and my mother, the original hippy/granola-girl is no longer alone in her obsession with all things home grown. I think this trend is generally a good thing – nothing wrong with using fewer chemicals and resources. The downside to the “locavore”/organic movement is how darned sanctimonious it often is.* Like, “lips that touch pesticides will never touch mine.” I  personally alternate between being a self-righteous organic foodie and wanting to puke a little.

These lips are touching doughnuts.

With this in the back of my mind, I was intrigued by my new neighbourhood’s food scene. It is as local as any West Coast tree-hugger’s kelp bed, without the moralizing. “Local and organic,” however, means something a little different here than it does in North America…

Starting my own kelp bed in my apartment’s pool

Exhibit A: The local fish and meat scene

It begins just outside our apartment courtyard, where the local welding shop produces tasty rabbit meat (ok, I have no idea if this bunny was destined for a bowl or pet-dom, but I’m guessing the former).

So soft. So tender.

One of the ladies at the shop was so excited by my amateur photography that she wanted me to take a photo of her cat. Pretty sure she didn’t realize the real purpose of the photo shoot…

Nothing like a big bowl of Pad Cat

Stroll a little farther down the road, and you hit the local khlong (canal), which is essentially the lifeblood chugging through the clogged artery of this neighbourhood. This is where most of the “sea”food in the neighbourhood is caught.

DSC01079

Continue walking along the khlong pathway, and you’ll come to an organic pork farm. I couldn’t get a good picture of the squealing piglets without blatantly trespassing, but they looked like they were having a grand time rummaging through piles of scraps and garbage.

All that fresh air and garbage makes for great pork

There are also a variety of good-natured ganders pit-pat-waddle-patting around in the muck.

Is it just me, or are ducks just so good natured?

Walk through the market and turn the corner, and you’ll come to the organic chicken farm. This is a critical operation, because deep-fried clucker is the cornerstone of Todd’s teacher-buddies’ diet.

If you squint really hard, the photo almost looks like it’s in focus

Should you wish to sample any of these meat products, visit the Samut Prakan night market:

Once again, the duck necks’n’bits

Or hunker down at a local restaurant:

Our favourite pork noodle joint

And there you have the Thai version of local’n’organic meat. Knowing where my food comes from fills me with a complex mixture of emotions, but “sanctimonious” and “hungry” are not among them.

* No, ma. Not you.