Thursday, August 22, 2013

To market, to market

The boys with Sawanee inspecting some special fruit.  these pears were and melons were imported and not for man-handling. Most of the produce and goods in this market were local or at least from within Thailand.
t didn't occur to us until after we got home that for many tourists, esp. western tourists the idea of going to the local market would be a big deal.  But coming from Z where market day is a regular (and often annoying!) errand, we had a bit different perspective.

That said, there are plenty of nuances to appreciate -- and LOTS of snacks.  Snacks are a novel concept. Street food is not common here -- and if it's offered, you had better trust your source.  (There are a few fritter/donut stands I have been known to frequent in Mondevu (yes I have eaten food there if it's cooked in front of me).

We passed on a few things like the fresh-frog parts, blood tofu bucket-o-eels but were honestly tempted by the 'birds in baskets' which you purchase in order to set free.  This is something people do in Zambia where the 'caged bird' trade is a roadside phenomenon.  In Thailand it's part of a spiritual ritual, in Z it's more of a social/ethical/environmental statement.

Let's carry on with the market tour:

Not your normal glazed donut.  While a regular ole fried dough is called Pa Thong Ko, these golden beauties are just slightly sweet with green onions (to balance the sweetness).  The surprise is that hiding inside a sweet-bean-curd.  You know your baker/fryer has done them properly if when you shake the fritter, it feels like there is a marble inside.
This smiley guy has the job of forming the curd ball and then wrapping it in dough.

Motorbikes in the marketplace

This is the list of chicken/chicken parts for sale.  I think the chicken breast - boneless/skinless is the priciest. Suwanee pointed out that no part of the chicken goes un-used.  Even the blood is used to make a version of blood-sausage or is used to make a tofu that goes into noodle dishes.  Americans (is this true?) seem to have a unique aversion to blood-foods, eh?  I will include myself in this category, tho the rest of the world really doesn't seem to share this feeling.

Our first stop of the day - we sat and had sweet potato fritters, ice tea and ice coffee, fresh juice and picked the day's menu.  Trying new things was difficult for our guys who, by this point of the trip had been told a hundred times, "just try it!"  The boys are going in for paternity/maternity tests - of all the food they have tried and love:  mexican, indian, ethiopian, japanese....thai food remains on the 'naughty list.' We are not sure how.  They were such troopers to do the cooking class tho -- very excited about the shopping and the cooking, comparing everyone's soup-subtleties (one chili vs. green/one red/none, more lime, less fish sauce), they just were fully not into the eating.  They both did find a few things that the liked which they ate for the entire trip when western fare was not available.  My new favourite is stir fried morning glory (water spinach). Yum. Yum. YUM.
SEASFOOD!  Brought up from the Gulf of Thailand and from the Indian Ocean/Andamans side to the markets up north, our host pointed us to 'more local' options for our menu. We did not end up with the seafood fest we'd dreamed of on this trip but were so distracted by all the other amazing food that we did not suffer or even notice until we got back and were quizzed about it in land-locked Lusaka.
The seeds of the lotus Nelumbo nucifera are eaten raw or boiled, mainly in certain Thai desserts. For sale at the market are these beautiful lotus fruit pods -- the seeds are inside (each one individually in a rubbery skin) can be seen popping out through the surface of the pods. (thanks wikipedia for settling this question! I knew it was from the Lotus but couldn't figure out for the life of me what anyone would do with them or what part of the plant I was looking at.)
Tiny birds, not for lunch...but instead they are ready to be set free in religious ceremonies.
For food or release? I must share this link to a supermarket tour I found trying to find out about the fate of these turtles.
eeeeeeek.  eeeeeels.  This just reminded us all of the Sargasso Sea book that O (and hence all the rest of us) memorized as a 3 year old: 

"...this inky place appeals to lots of slinky eels.  
They migrate by the millions to the bottom of the sea 
from both sides of the Atlantic for a sunless spawning spree.  
For miles they swim to say good-bye, 
to  shed their eggs and then to die...
so babies by the billions hatch, and seem to know 
instinctively exactly what to do and where to go.

They drift to where the rivers meet an angry salty sea.
It takes one year for those going west, to Europe it takes three.

European fisherman catch tons of gleaming eels 
whose fate it is to then become....delicious gourmet meals."

(yes.  THREE years old...and this is just from the last 2 pages of this huge long book.  see how much trouble we knew we were in by this point?  And the book that Thing 2 couldn't put down? Screwtape Letters.  ah, man - really? crazy boys. God Bless Great Aunts who give crazy books like this to their nephews.  never question an aunt. They know what kids can handle despite what's 'appropriate'.  This is me, speaking from my Auntie-pedestal, as a mother and the grateful recipient of much awesome aunt/great aunt advice.)
What's going on here nestled in with the eel/turtle/fruit and fish? a FROGGER! Is that do you call a frog-butcher?

'O to be a frog, lads, and live aloof from care'  (from the greek poet Theocritus, who obviously never traveled to Thailand!) 

One example of something a typical tourist might not notice or care much about -- aside from the beauty of this 'wall-o-shallots' ... we don't have shallots in S. this market stall allowed for a brief but wistful moment for me and the allium family.

Why.....Hello, Temple!
Keeping the crazy lychees happy and beautiful.  They look suspiciously like they come from Dr. Seuss's truffula tree.  I'm not sure how MANY different kinds of lychees we saw and ate in Thailand but I know we can't wait for lychee season here, even if we only have one boring (but delicious kind.)  They don't come out in Z until around Nov/Dec -- I know b/c of the year CS brought a big huge branch DRIPPING with fruit and we hung it up outside for the kids to grab while they waiting for our Thanksgiving feast.

The famous DURIAN.  Known for it's distinctive small...which for some reason...I actually could not smell.

"The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as pleasantly fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as almonds, rotten onions,turpentine, raw sewage. The persistence of its odour has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in southeast Asia." (again, Wikipedia -- does it make me lazy? for always using/trusting wikipedia?) I had to include this bit of text as 'proof' of the strangeness of the fact that I couldn't smell it.)

O, took the camera...for some reason the kids are both obsessed with padlocks and keys and safes.  Secondary school kids have LOCKERS, maybe that is why Thing 1 is so excited to get back to Z for the school year?  One safe at our beach resort decided to keep my wedding rings...refusing to accept the pin-code.  Eventually they were released. (I'm just glad we remembered they were in there when we checked out - I stashed them so they wouldn't slip off and get left behind on some salty snorkelling reef.)
red curry paste....enough to flavor an olympic pool full of noodles.

I love this set of photos -- mostly done in black and white --- but when I peaked out from behind the lens I got a shock!   (which is live-view and I was looking at the steamy scene in black and white)  It was a surprise to see in living color the subject of my photography!  It's some sort of slightly-sweet steamed rice/coconut confection).  

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