Khun Dow, my host here at the homestay, continues to impress me with her excellent cooking. Everything she makes for me taste like it’s the original recipe. The massaman curry she served the other night was just superb. A simple yet so full of flavor, aroma and texture. What I enjoy most about Thai food is how relatively uncomplicated it is – and should be – both to cook and to enjoy.
I took a cooking class up here in the north once (I’ve probably taken 3 or 4 around the country, all-in-all) where a Thai chef politely pointed out the immensely popular misconception that Thai cuisine has to be super spicy. According to him, nothing could be further from the truth and only the ignorant serve food so hot it can’t be eaten without breaking into a sweat.
To this chef, the fundamental philosophy should be – for anyone trying to make Thai food – to create an equilibrium between sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness – and umami, when meat is involved.
While eating dinner tonight, I noticed a tall wooden bowl sitting next to me. It was teeming with dark green fruits of some kind. The dining room was dimly lit and my eyes don’t exactly excel in poor lighting. I figured it was a local fruit I’d not yet tried. Khun Dow sat down opposite me and asked how I liked the Pad Thai Tofu she’d made for dinner. I told it was very tasty and that she should really consider opening up a restaurant in or near her homestay. She laughed and said she might just do that one day.
As I continued to grab noodles and tofu with my chopsticks, my host took one of those green oval shaped fruits and cut it up with a small knife. To my surprise, it turned out that those green things were avocados, grown locally on the hills that surround Chiang Mai.
Avocados have always been somewhat of a luxury item here in Thailand. You can get them at most supermarkets where western goodies are sold, but they’ll usually cost a lot more than in Europe and are nowhere near as flavorful as in the US, Mexico or Indonesia (where, for example, on Bali, there’s an abundance of avocados).
Anyway, I told Khun Dow enthusiastically how ridiculously popular guacamole is in America and Europe and then asked if I could have a bowl, a lime fruit, some salt and chili flakes.
As soon as she provided me with what I needed, I showed my host how to make a rudimentary version of my famous guacamole. She liked the taste and totally understood the potential if she one day did open a restaurant. Her only qualm was pronouncing guacamole. But I broke it up into manageable syllables for her and we practiced for a few minutes. Before I left for the evening, I wrote down “gua-ca-mo-le” in her paper notebook. Khun Dow looked up at me, smiled and said, “Homework!”. Tomorrow she’s promised to buy all the ingredients needed to take my guac to the next level.
Considering the aforementioned bad lighting situation, I am amazed at how well I was still able to grab the shot above with my iPhone X Max S. The camera (and related software) is freakingly usable, even in really shitty light.