Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tastes from my Childhood

Inspired by this post on my daddy cooks

1) I'm Thai, so eggs and rice is number 1 for me. Fried eggs with a runny yolk and crispy on the white bits, fried in hot oil in a wok, and omelettes seasoned with fish sauce and msg (eek!).

2) Peking Duck - On our summer holidays "back home", we were always treated to Peking Duck – crispy slices of duck skin rolled in thin pancakes. No pieces of meat stuck to the skin, just the skin itself. It’s probably not served this way anymore, but that’s how we used to eat it. We were supposed to have cucumber and spring onions and plum sauce with it too, but I used to eat mine without.

It was a family tradition to visit a certain restaurant in Bangkok to have this dish. Certain people had to be invited. The meal had the feeling of a religious ritual – with the same sense of reverence.  A hush did fall over the room when the servers brought the platters of food in. The elders were allowed to pick their morsels of duck skin first, which always made my brother and I squirm in our seats. We were always afraid there wouldn’t be enough left for us, but there always was, though usually not for seconds. Other dishes were made with the duck meat for later, but nobody ever ate much of them.  Sadly this tradition was stopped when the cholesterol levels of many of the adults was unable to deal with it!

3) There's a Thai chicken dish (khao man gai) which literally translates as oily rice chicken except it tastes better than it sounds. The dish is served with cucumber slices and a light clear broth. The broth could also be served with cubes of pork blood, which I always declined, but which my brother loves. It's something that's never on the menu of any Thai restaurant I've ever been to outside of Thailand. It's very much a street food sort of dish.

To see a photo, click here:

4) There are these things called "patongo" - more street food - a flour concoction which puffs up when deep fried. We (my Dad) used to have to get up really early to buy them from the guy who sold them off the back of his bicycle stall up the road. We used to love dipping them in condensed milk. The disappointment when he'd already sold out could ruin our whole day. 

For a photo, click here:

5) My aunt used to work near the President hotel in Bangkok where they made the most delicious bread rolls. Sometimes she'd bring some home for us, put them in the freezer overnight and put them in her toaster oven the next morning. They were crisp on the outside, soft on the inside and lush with butter. No bread roll I've eaten anywhere else has ever lived up to the taste of those ones.

6) There's a Thai drink (olieng) we were allowed to have as children which was sweetened iced coffee. I can't believe we were allowed it, and it's weird that I liked it cos I really dislike coffee as an adult. It was probably heavy on the sugar and light on the caffeine.

Those are all good tastes. The one absolutely disgusting taste is something my Mum used to force us to eat on weekdays before going to school. She'd drop a raw egg into hot ovaltine and stir it up. That was breakfast and it was supposed to make us strong. YUCK. I'm amazed I never puked it up.

There are other tastes from the countries we lived in.  Like the kosher roast chicken my Dad got from a certain supermarket in Jerusalem, grilled goose liver from an out of the way restaurant somewhere near Jaffa in Israel, the first hummus I ever had in a hotel in Syria, the first kebab I ever had in Damascus, souvlakia and souvla in Cyprus, the chappatis our landlord used to make in Pakistan - I can still remember exactly how all of these foods tasted.

Less happy memories arrive when I had to fend for myself during my first years in the UK as a university student - tinned 'happy shopper' potatoes, Smash (reconstituted potato powder to which you add water / milk / margerine to make instant mashed potatoes) frozen pork chops and packets of savoury rice mix. Unfortunately, I can also remember exactly how all those things taste! 

But the foods from Thailand listed above were the tastes that were the constants throughout my childhood and the ones which I yearn for most, especially as comfort foods.

What are the tastes of your childhood?


tree shadow moon said...

Agh, I only just finished lunch, but already I could eat all the things you mentioned - lucky you growing up with such lush sounding food!


Pagan Nun said...

That's such a great idea, food memories. I like the idea of sharing some of the most memorable *meals* of my life, too. One of them is just a simple salmon sandwich I shared with a friend in California. We were both students and pretty much broke hence the sharing. Somehow the sharing made it all the more delicious and I remember the taste to this day. xxx