The over arching principle behind Thai food is harmony; the delicate balance between sweet, sour and spicy. The first time I cooked for my wife I failed miserable. Too salty, she said, with good reason, as a westerner the first condiment we usually reach for is the salt. Pass the salt is sometimes our only dinnertime conversation, either that or pass the remote.
Thai’s love to eat, my wife can’t skip a meal and she wonders how some days I can go without lunch or without breakfast. It’s against some law here I think, punishable by something worse than death. If you don’t eat in Thailand, or you eat alone, or at your desk you’re a social out caste, shunned by society, and you may as well just go live in a cave.
There are a few dishes that the Thai’s can’t or won’t live without. While many of us in the west grab a bag of something fried and salted, and pour ketchup on it, while eating it in our car, the Thai’s take a much more leisurely approach to eating. This is the difference between what we call ‘fast food,’ and what the Thai’s lovingly refer to ‘street food.’ Street food is fast too, but in an entirely different way. Fast, meaning you order it, you get it, and then you can sit for the next fifty minutes of your lunch hours and ponder the universe, talk with your friends as they ponder the universe, or talk with your family as they do the same. I’ve never once seen anyone in Thailand walking down the street eating their lunch from a bag, or worse, someone driving while shoveling French fries in their mouth, something that I have been known to do.
I told my wife that when I lived in New York I would order a slice or two of pizza and stand up while eating it. On the street? She asked. No in the restaurant, I told her. She laughed because she thought I was joking, I mean who stands up while they eat…
Street food. We all know about Pad Thai, sure the poor backpackers favorite meal, a board game answer to the questions—Name a Thai food. What about Khao Moo Krob? The food that will make you forget about getting fat, they say, even though it’s loaded down (or up) with calories, Moo meaning pig, crispy pig, pork belly deep fried in oil and served over a bed of rice, topped with a bit of cilantro and served with a sweet sauce.
One of my favorites, and like Khoa Men Ghai (Chicken and Rice) very easy to make, as a matter of fact the word Moo is also the Thai expression for ‘so easy,’ as in easy to make so you have enough time to enjoy it while sitting down. That’s the beauty of it, street food, why didn’t we think of it? You can cut down on the calories by baking your pork over a ceramic bowl in a hot oven, then frying it. I guess that would cut maybe five calories from the finished dish and would take much longer to prepare—so forget about the pondering part. Better yet, just sit and enjoy, life’s to short to eat standing up.