January 22, 2010

Fried Bananas (or The Day I Almost Drowned)




My apologies for going so long without posting. Sickness descended upon our house, writhing its tentacles into almost every nook and cranny. (Mr. Coffee escaped, as always, with nary a slight tummy bubble, but the rest of us were laid low.) Apparently it's going around Brooklyn, this norovirus, flu-like thing. I personally haven't been that sick in years.

It's taken me almost a week to feel like myself again, and during that time I haven't been cooking, really, so I didn't have much to post about.

But today, feeling guilty, and wanting, needing, to post for my own sanity's sake, I dug out some pictures of fried bananas from our visit to Thailand this summer.

In case anyone who does not know me happens to be reading this blog (and I encourage that), my family—parents, brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews—lives in Bangkok, and semi-regular visits to Thailand are part of our summer. We try to go every other summer, alternating with a summer in which they come here.

Thailand (like Italy, where my family used to live) is one of those cultures that, in a sense, is perfect for me, as the Thais are obsessed with good food and eating well. We can't travel anywhere without my Thai sister-in-law making a short detour to a locale renowned for some gustatory treat. If we're returning from Ko Samet, there's the obligatory stop for the best sweet sticky rice steamed in bamboo tubes. In the Kanchanaburi area, it's fried taro chips and honey.

So on this trip, we went for the weekend to a beach resort very close to Bangkok, north of Hua Hin, where the water and beach are still kind of muddy. (not a spectacular beach by any means, but fun nonetheless) We had decided to head out to a nearby river for a rafting trip. (in which I, and the Soccer Monster, and the Vegetarian, were swept away by the current and scared witless like big sissies nearly drowned, but that's another story).

Of course, as soon as we got in the van, my SIL and her friend began having a discussion with the driver about good eats in the area. This was, as always, a passionate discussion. Nothing excites my SIL quite like the prospect of something delicious.

The local specialty turned out to be kluay kaek—fried bananas, and the van duly made a detour to stop at this stall, the best kluay kaek stall around.



And boy were they good. Hot and crunchy, sweet and salty. The bananas are coated in a little coconut and some kind of flour or batter—perhaps rice flour or taro flour (the photo shows the bowl they are coated in) and then fried and piled into little bags made from old newspapers or book pages.

We gobbled them up in our innocence, not knowing that death waited for us mere hours later. Those were the bananas of Eden, enjoyed in the time when rafting down a Thai river still seemed like a decent pursuit, before the knowledge of inept boatmen, abnormally strong currents, and an overloaded raft full of arachnophobes would conspire to rob us of our love of rafting forever.

Or at least until next summer.



And in case this post has given you an unshakeable jones for kluey kaek, video tutorials/recipes can be found here and here, though I warn you that neither of these look as delicious as the ones we had. Of course, that's both the beauty and heartbreak of Thai food in Thailand. You're always searching for the incredible version of something you had in the place where it's a specialty, and no version anywhere else will ever compare.

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

God these look amazing. Have you ever tried recreating these at home? Would one need a "Fry Daddy"? I think Andy and Pam may actually have one I could borrow...

avisualperson said...

amazing ones can be found in elmhurst, at the southeast asian grocery called Ally's, who share some ownership with the people from Ayada, diagonally across the street on Woodside Avenue. Upi Jaya, the indonesian place, is also across the street. The bananas are $5 for a box, and sold on the counter, and are amazingly. They look just like the ones in the picture, except with thinner slices of banana and dare I say it; even darker and crunchier! I usually eat at least two or three right out the box. scary.

http://www.eatingintranslation.com/2008/02/allys-grocery-s.html

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