Once you are staying in the village, as opposed to your staying in your farang (foreigner) oriented Bangkok or Phuket hotel food becomes something which you begin to focus on a bit more. You'll be wondering something like; exactly what the hell will I be eating for the next couple of weeks or more?
Don't get me wrong here, please. I love Thai food, and my lady is a wonderful cook ... of Thai food and Isaan cuisine, but after a while, maybe a month or so, you do begin to crave some of the food you are more used to, or at least your innards do.
I love hot food, the spicier the better, but my guts sometimes rebel after a steady diet of hot peppers and curries and fermented fish heads and such stuff. What to do, what to do? Well, since you are in the middle of bumfriggingricefieldsinIsaannowhere moo baan village it helps if you can cook a bit yourself, and to try to teach your lady to cook a bit of your own country's fare. This isn't as easy as it may sound though. No matter what you try to show her to cook for you she will try to put in some flavorings of her own tastes, because of course she is hungry again, and wants to share your food, and eat for the tenth goddamned time in a day. I've never seen such little people who can eat so much, anywhere.
Plus I have yet to see an oven in Isaan, a western style electric or gas oven. Everyone here cooks on these movable gas rings, set up on what looks to be a wrought iron potted plant stand connected by a rubber hose to a natural gas bottle, and the only thing they have to cook in is a wok and a boiling pot, and the ubiquitous electric rice cooker. It's very hard to cook a roast beef in a wok, or even a grilled cheese sandwich. So one of the first things I bought, once I realized this, was a flat bottomed frying pan or skillet. Believe me, this comes in handy when your lovely cook offers you yet another plate of rice or noodles, and you gag just at the thought of eating one more grain of freaking rice.
Always remember before heading to the village to stop and stock up on some falang food to bring along with you. Keep in mind that once you are in your lovely Isaan village, an hour or more from anyplace that sells anything remotely resembling something you would normally eat back home, that you are at the mercy of the village larder. In the village you will find no butter; no bread, no beef, no olive oil, no croissants, or bacon, no milk, except that sickeningly overly sweetened stuff the kids drink ... yeeuuuck, no hamburger, or ham and biscuits, no franks and beans, no potatoes, (mashed, baked, french fried or scalloped) nor lettuce, no lamb chops and apple sauce, and no freaking cheese either. So stock up if you are staying awhile, because you are not going to be eating anything your gastro-intestinal system is normally so fond of.
What you will be eating is rice and noodles with some sort of mutant veggies, and lots of pork, chicken, fish, squid, and shrimp, and maybe some pang pawn (mongoose). Just kidding, at least my family doesn't eat mongoose, not around me anyway. You may even find yourself asking where the hell that mangy old cur that is always marking his territory by pissing on your truck's tires has gotten himself off to lately. Oh yeah, and you'll be being offered an innumerable variety of fruits, fruits like you've never even guessed existed on this planet. You may even get to taste that gastronomical delight ... Kermit ... the frog!
Just a little tip for those of you thinking of going up country to the village for a family stay and visit with the new found love of your life, or those of you exploring the less touristy areas of this lovely and interesting country. Outside of the tourist areas there is not much of the kind of food and meals you are used to dining on. I hope you like Thai food, because that is what you'll be eating out in the countryside, and nothing but. Oh, did I say they like to eat bugs, all kinds of bugs? It's a delicacy, and you will be invited to have a taste. I still have not indulged.
There is a secret mysterious clay pot in my village house the top of which is covered with cloth that is bound by rubber bands onto the rim of said pot. I made the mistake one day of opening this clay pot to see what was inside. Once the cloth was off the smell alone nearly killed me. Later, after going outside, holding my breath, and replacing the cloth while my breath was held while NOT looking inside to see what the hell could possibly smell that goddamned bad, I asked my wife, "Darling, what's in the huge crock covered with cloth sitting in the corner of the kitchen? Whatever it is I think it's dead by now, seriously and long time dead, at least it smells that way. Please don't put whatever the hell that is on any of my food okay? EVER!”
Her answer? “Eat everyday. Is salt.” Which it turns out is the fish sauce they put on everything, this is their “salt“. The crock was full of fermenting fish heads. You've likely never smelled anything even close to this in your life, and hopefully never will.
(The Central Scrutinizer)
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