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The Rice-Curry Shops (Ran Khao Kaeng) of Bangkok: Take Them for What They Are

Bangkok Rice-Curry Shop-SheSimmers.com

It was only five-thirty. But dark. Then I remembered that the sun set early in the winter in this country. Looking across the full parking lot towards a brightly lit building in the distance that was packed with people, I knew if there was a right place to come to, this must have been it.

Moments later, a plastic tray in hands, I found myself in a new world. I’d never seen it in Hollywood movies or American sitcoms let alone experienced it in person. Memories of the random photos I’d seen in my mother’s American cookbooks and the random American food names I remembered from my English classes growing up came back in waves. Believe me when I say I was emotional. Continue Reading →

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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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A New Book

SheSimmers BookI was at my condo in Bangkok eating grilled giant prawns dipped in palm sugar-tamarind sauce with blanched neem buds when, suddenly and inexplicably, my mind went, “This is my next book.” And next thing I knew I was exuberantly jotting things down on a piece of paper—mid-meal. I still have that piece of paper; it looks really gross with caked-on prawn juices and sticky sauce.

My first book, Simple Thai Food, came out in the spring of 2014, and it was warmly received. What a humbling experience. The process of making the first book has taught me so much; feedback from journalists, critics, fellow writers, and my readers has taught me even more. I was proud of and grateful for what Ten Speed Press and I had created together, and I’m happy to announce that we are teaming up again to bring you another book. Continue Reading →

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