July 8, 2010

Thai Food #3 (Seafood)

Apologies for going so long without posting. My family arrived from Bangkok, Mr. Coffee's mom came in from the Midwest, the Soccer Monster graduated from 5th grade (gulp!) so June was one long emotional and logistical jam, where I barely had time to think, never mind post. But the Soccer Monster, who follows my blog religiously (Isn't that why we have kids—to have some fans?), has been bugging me about posting, claiming that if I go over a month I will lose all my readers and will never be able to make a fortune off my blog. That kid has dreams of glory and I hate to tell him that I only have about four readers, all of them related to me (It's better if he finds out on this blog, isn't it?), so, sufficiently chastised, I have sucked it up, wiped the sweat off my neck, and settled down at my furnace-like desk to post.

So I'm back. And, as promised, here's the last of my three posts about Thai food. This one focuses specifically on seafood, which we eat a lot of in Thailand because a) my SIL is crazy about seafood, and b) Thais in general seem to eat a lot of seafood and so there is a lot of it around.

The pic above is of garlic stir-fried langoustine-type shrimp. Utterly delicious. We got them at a restaurant near the beach where we took our fateful, near fatal, rafting trip. The food was so good, we ate there for lunch and then again for dinner. This is the place I was talking about in my last post (oh so long ago) when I said that two of the three great meals from last summer were in the same place.

The restaurant was set over a manmade pond and had lots of bins with live seafood sitting around, waiting to be cooked. Here are a few of them:
Shrimp/Langoustine/Crayfish Thingies

Crabs. My personal favorite. Curried crab is one of my top fave dishes of all time.

Small clams, mussels, snails. I don't like the snails too much, but I love the clams and mussels.

Here are some of those items, cooked:
The mussels are those crazy green-lipped new zealand ones, which is what they have in Thailand. The first time I saw those was almost 20 years ago on Koh Phi Phi (one of the most stunning islands in the world, though it's been ruined by overdevelopment) and I was blown away by the electric green color bordering their shells. They are beautiful to look at and quite delicious, but I think a tad less tasty than the Canadian mussels we get here in New York.

The clams are sauteed with chili and basil, which is not my favorite prep, but is still good. 

However, what I really want to point out are the two small bowls of dipping sauce in the lower right corner. This sauce is known as nam jim and is the most scrumptious thing in the entire world. Seriously, you could eat nails with this stuff. Which is crazy, since the sauce is incredibly easy to make and consists of about 5 ingredients: fish sauce, lime juice, chilis, garlic, and a pinch of sugar. Try making it and tossing some freshly cooked seafood in it. You'll think you died and went to heaven.

And here are some other seafood/fish dishes we had at this same restaurant. Just thinking about them now, almost a year later, is making my mouth water. Maybe all these Thai food posts were a bad idea.

Curried crab. Not the best version I've ever had, but not bad. To me, curried crab is like a hamburger. There are good one and there are less good ones, but there really are very few bad ones.

Whole fried fish. Or is it steamed? I can't tell from the pic and I honestly can't remember. But either way, a forkful of the fish flesh dipped in the nam jim is sensational.

Another crab dish. We order this kind of thing for my dad and my older nephew, who have what we call soft mouths, ie. they don't like/can't eat spicy food.

And here are many of the dishes all together, in their glory, half-eaten on the table. I wish I could transport myself back there right now.

That stainless-steel volcano-looking pedestaled thing is how they serve soup at most places in Thailand. Inside was a very delicious tom yum soup, a bowl of which is now my masthead.

So there you have it. Thai seafood is a) plentiful, b) delicious, c) in general, prepared fairly simply (curried crab and tom yum being exceptions), and d) always good if eaten with the world's most delicious dipping sauce.

Next up, Indian food! It's been too hot to cook around here, so I will be trotting out some old photos of Indian meals and discussing them. And, if I remember to bring my camera, perhaps some pics of the Indian meal my mom is making tomorrow night in cool, air-conditioned New Jersey.