Thailand, Cambodia and Food

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One of the favourite topics of all times. And with good reason. Thailand and Cambodia are no exception to the rule. Actually, they are way beyond the rule.

 

It’s 2:00pm and I arrive home from work.

It’s starting to feel chilly outside as autumn approaches gently into the Mediterranean. I have decided just two weeks ago that fresh vegetables and fruits are the best option to my diet, obviously, and that I would try a little experiment: living without a refrigerator. After all, they are to be eaten soon enough before they go rotten. I might even be able observe their *actual* and natural path, not extending their life with machines.

Week #1 seems easy-going. I am not going hungry and my diet feels great. Cooking is easy, tasty and nice. I even begin to sense a nice aroma around my tiny narrow kitchen: the smell of fresh fruits in the air. Citrics, bananas, kiwis. All inviting me to a nice breakfast as I wake up to the alarm every day.

Week #2 makes me feel something though…something that makes the house feel like lacking a homie beat. But it’s fine. Just a quirky thought. It gets me thinking about all the appliances we’ve been learning to use within the years. I wonder too if my electricity bill will be marked by this experiment. I should keep going then and find out at the end of the month when the next bill comes through my mail box.

-“Two more weeks. Let’s make it a month and see what happens. You can do this, Mariana!”

Asia changed something inside me.

Made me think, rethink and value different things. Which consequently made me feel lighter and happier inside. The no-fridge experiment is clearly related to this. Might come to no surprise to some, but I wonder how many people have ever thought of this and *ACTUALLY* tried it. When most people might think Why?, I think to myself Why not?.

I have found myself in the *new* experimental kitchen craving Thai soups with quite some frequency.

With the fresh aroma there is now all around – garlic, ginger, tomatoes, sweet peppers, cilantro and tender onions – I decide to put my hands to work and into some cooking creativity: in search of those flavours I still have saved in my mind and tastebuds from the exquisite soups I enjoyed in Thailand and Cambodia. I might even get cocky and try to cook some Khao Soi (traditional dish from Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand) and beyond.

Khao Soi: Traditional dish from Chiang Mai, Thailand. The softest and tastiest dish with just the perfect quantity of lemon in it. Yum!
Khao Soi: Traditional dish from Chiang Mai, Thailand. The softest and tastiest dish with just the perfect quantity of lemon in it. Yum!

 

I feel relaxed and thoughtful.

Every time I am in my flat and I suddenly feel Thailand inside me (because it flows just like that), I find myself feeling light and  smiling, not with my mouth but with my entire body: a body smile. The feeling is outstanding. Days keep passing by and I feel it even more and more every time.

I walk into the kitchen and fill a pot with water.

Next, I grab ingredients from my fresh-vegetable bowl on the tiny cornered cupboard. Everything so fresh. I move them towards my nostrils and take a deep breath. This smell wouldn’t be possible *at all* if these products were coming from inside of a cold fridge. I know that now.

My instincts and memories take me through a path where my hands take control and walk alone into a recipe in my head as I can recall from the aromas and flavours. I add a few ingredients here and there. Spices, lots of them too.

And of course: sugar and smashed peanuts. The top two ingredients catching my attention everywhere in Thailand.

-“Wait, what? Sugar into the soup?”

-“Hell yes!”

One of the most memorable things in the drawer of my food memories. Aaah, this feels nice indeed.

Common set of spices in every thai table: sugar, peanuts, vinegar and hot peppers.
Common set of spices in every thai table: sugar, peanuts, vinegar and hot peppers.

 

My thai soup attempt #1 in Barcelona. Not bad.
My thai soup attempt #1 in Barcelona. Not bad.

Soup is ready now!

After doing this several times at home in Barcelona, I understand now when Jodi (soup expert and travel writer at Legal Nomads) said, when talking about french fries and comfort food, that soup IS her comfort food. Yeh, I can now see why. I am starting to feel the same way.

I grab a bowl and the serving ladle, gently taking a few spoonfuls of my homemade soup into the bowl. With sugar of course!

 

I am now ready to sit on my couch, comfortably and mindfully while I transport myself to a humidly sunny afternoon of October in Chiang Mai. I land at a small place down into an alley, where a few plastic tables are sitting on the side of the road and where an old lady in a blue dress and old plastic sandals is sitting behind her cooking-metal-car, hiding from the sun under a huge and dirty outdoors umbrella.

 

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Smells like soup all around, like cilantro and lemon and spice. It’s warm and the sun is hitting hard. I smile to the old lady as I point to the ingredients for my soup. It’s quite simple every time. She’s nice and smiles back at me. She speaks no english and I speak no thai, but we manage to have an entire conversation as she cooks me the food she is used to cook from her entire life. To me it’s a whole new world and it feels great to be there, watching her doing her usual thing as she goes unnoticed, mindlessly.

I keep taking small sips off my bowl.

A ray of light hits me on the face, just to bring me back to my couch in Barcelona. I take one more deep breath and smile.

It’s quiet and lunch time was just glorious.

There’s still some more soup remaining in the kitchen, which I will carefully save for tonight or tomorrow (even better, as grandmas use to say, if soups are left to get a bit old until the next day).

I have no fridge so I have nowhere to put my soup away. But there’s no need. Everything is working fine just like this and tomorrow my thai soup attempt will taste even better. Maybe it will take me again into a different alley-kitchen around Chiang Mai, or Bangkok, where a nice old lady will be cooking and sharing a meal with me as we enjoy the sun or the rain or the clouds together.

Cant’ wait!


For some more inspiration, check out the next slideshow with amazing foodie images from Thailand and Cambodia. | October 2014 |

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