Food is adventure. While traveling the world where much of what we have done and seen is at least partially known to us through technology and review sites, the food is always a walk on the wild side. The local dishes in the places that one travels can excite, disturb, or on extremely rare occasions, sicken you. Putting that spoon full of nourishment in your mouth is going to have a different effect on you, different from anyone elses. Our tastes are our own. This is one of the reasons that I love trying new local dishes in each place that we have visited. I want to share with you three of my favorite Thai dishes that were real adventures for me. I hope that you will like them as well!
1.Yum Pla Dook Foo (Catfish Floss with Mango Salad)
When I first laid eyes on Catfish floss, I was unsure as to what it was. It looks like a deep-fried loofah. I would consider trying it at the night markets, but would sway to the booths with things that I knew would be good. There is nothing more disappointing for me than getting food that is inedible when I am hungry. And usually at night markets, there is a plethora of wonderful food choices.
After we had been in Thailand for one year, I finally tried it… and I LOVE IT! I am sure that it is not the ultimate of health foods, but boy oh boy, is it delicious! The catfish is baked, then the meat is pulled off the bone and fluffed with a fork and fried. It is salty and crunchy, and not fishy at all. Catfish floss crumbled over the top of a tart mango salad and I am in food heaven. The bitter green mango, the spicy chili’s, the salty catfish, and the sour lime juice makes for a dish that satisfies all the taste buds. This dish is a true example that looks can be deceiving. It’s beauty is all in the taste.
2. Sai Krok Isan (Issan Sausage)
Issan sausage was introduced to us when we were staying in Hua Hin, at the wonderful Sea Harmony Guest House. Our friends, Node and Indy, offered an Issan breakfast with Issan sausage, potato cake, and sticky rice that was an addicting breakfast. In fact we would trundle on down to their cafe, Yummy Corner, at least 4 times a week for the yummy sausage and good company.
Issan sausage is a fermented pork sausage that originates in the Northeastern part of Thailand. It is sold at most night markets, but I admit that it can be difficult to find someone who makes it to your liking. We have one lady here in Phuket that goes to all the night markets and we follow her around when we get a craving for the barbecued deliciousness. The reason that the sausages vary are the proportions that the people use of the pork meat, garlic, rice, fat, and rice. So make sure to try a few (or more) of these sausages at the night markets while you are here. There is bound to be one that will please your taste buds.
3. Som Tam Thai (Papaya Salad)
I have been to Thailand numerous times over the years, but admit that I stuck to the safe dishes for the first couple of trips. And I kick myself all the time for it, because I missed out on this dish. Som Tam is one of my favorite dishes in Thailand. It is my go to lunch on a hot day due to its fresh, crisp, cool, spiciness. The shredded green papaya is a perfect base to the lime juice, chilis and fish sauce. Add to that the salty roasted peanuts, chopped tomatoes, garlic, and dried little shrimp and you have a culinary circus that will delight the senses.
One wonderful thing about this dish, is that it is flexible. If you are vegan, change the fish sauce to soy sauce and leave out the shrimps. If you are allergic to peanuts, leave them off. You can also have them add fresh crab to the salad which gives it a real seafood flavor. The choices abound, so try this dish and make it yours!
Now it is your turn! Have you ever tried these dishes? Would you try them? What dish would you have included in this article? Leave a comment and join in the fun!