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Caramel-Glazed Pork Cracklings and Peanuts (กากหมูถั่วหวาน) from Baan Varnakovida (บ้านวรรณโกวิท)

บ้านวรรณโกวิท
Choosing where to eat in Bangkok is never easy; we’re talking about a big and diverse city, teeming with choices. But if forced to identify only one segment where I think the city’s best food is found, I would point to the homes—specifically the homes of old families who cook from recipes passed down for generations. A close second would be restaurants that serve traditional Thai dishes based on family heirloom recipes.

I never understand—or like—the whole unless-it’s-found-on-the-streets-it’s-not-good-or-authentic sentiment, which I’ve noticed from time to time in travel writing or travelers’ comments about Thailand, especially Bangkok. It doesn’t reflect the reality of how Bangkokians actually eat or the way they see their own food. It’s objectively wrong. It minimizes the importance and contribution of the restaurants in the city many of which seek to preserve local traditions and support responsible farming as well as small-scale artisans. It affects me the same way fingernails on a chalkboard do. And I find it just as irritating as the assertion that royal Thai cuisine is the only authentic Thai cuisine.

There’s nothing wrong with being excited about street food or even loving it to the exclusion of others. I, too, love street food. It’s fun; it’s convenient. The streets are where you’ll find lots of things that even the most able and dedicated home cook won’t/can’t make at home. But when that excitement turns into blind, broad-stroke deification of cheap street food and disparagement of more refined establishments, it becomes problematic. Continue Reading →

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Saksith Saiyasombut and Baby Back Rib Satay, Peanut Sauce, and Cucumber-Onion-Sweet Pepper Salad

Saksith Saiyasombut and Pork Rib Satay
Ask Saksith Saiyasombut about Thai food in Germany and he’ll probably heave a sigh. I know that, because when I recently raised the subject to the Hamburg-based freelance journalist and political commentator, his immediate reaction was exactly that: a heaving of a sigh—soft and sustained. It didn’t strike me as one of displeasure; if anything, it was more of an acquiescent, faintly audible shrug. Then again, it was the only sigh Saksith heaved during our phone conversation, and perhaps I shouldn’t be making too much out of a hapax. Continue Reading →

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Akrapol Suetrong and Chicken ‘Mistake’ Stir-Fry

Chicken Stir-fry by Kong Akrapol Suetrong
A couple of years ago, I was planning on starting a new series in which I ask people what Thai dishes they like to eat or make. But that didn’t happen back then, because my life was pretty much taken over by my book project. But it looks like it’s going to happen—no, has happened—now. Back in February, I asked writer Mike Sula what he liked to eat, and he said turmeric egg rolls. Today, I’m chatting with Akrapol “Kong” Suetrong, a London-based Thai national who is a Cordon Bleu-trained pastry chef, cooking show host, TV personality, theater enthusiast, avid home cook, and proud owner of a very cute French bulldog. As difficult as it is to pick just one, Kong has chosen an easy home-style dish that he makes at home all the time, the so-called “Mistake Stir-fry,” to share with you.

But, first, I asked Kong a few questions. Continue Reading →

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