Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I'm leaving for Isaan to meet my honey's family!
I've got my train tickets and I'm ready to go! I'll be leaving Hatyai around 5:00 p.m. and arriving in Khon Kaen at 5:50 in the morning on the 14th. Mam and I will spend a good two weeks together, before departing together on the 26th, to Hat Yai.

I'm really looking forward to meeting Mam's family, but it'll be a challenge as they don't speak any English and probably nothing more outside of their local Isaan dialect or Lao.

But Mam speaks not only traditional Thai, Lao and Isaan, but also English. She's excited about the train ride back, as she's never been on a train before, and we're going first class all the way.

We'll be back on the 28th, so look for more posts then...


Monday, October 03, 2005

Eating weird stuff...101.

To carry on with my past theme of “eating weird shit in Asia,” I’ve gotta say that it’s a never-ending episode here.

Having changed my routine somewhat, and beginning to head out later at night for my daily victuals run, I’ve happened upon an interesting food stand that offers very “different” sorts of food. Some of these “different” sorts of food are pretty nasty, like the preserved, salted egg in oyster sauce…but others are not only good, but actually entertaining!

I’d eaten at this place maybe three times, witnessing their nightly fireworks display, as they dumped a dishful of vegetables into hot, flaming oil and stir-fried this mixture for maybe three minutes. Flames shot up three feet from the frying pan as the woman winced, spatula in hand, while stir-frying this mixture.

Finally, a Thai friend in tow, who speaks good English and even better Thai, found out for me that this flaming mixture was actually stir-fried morning glory.

Yep, you heard me right. Morning Glory.

But hold on…before you start envisioning blue conical flowers, climbing vines and hallucinogenic seeds, it’s not like you think.

I’ve done my research, but as with any research done here in Southeast Asia, it’s all subject to change upon the “more reputable claims” by other groups.

Morning glory…or “Asian water spinach,” is very different than the climbing vine variety that you are thinking of, however, it’s from the same family of plant.

An online news article states: “Ipomoea aquatica has become a significant invasive species in the waterways of Florida, and is therefore illegal in that state.”

…..Well, maybe you should employ some Southeast Asians in your local restaurants!

Upon final discovery, I cautiously ordered some stir-fried Morning Glory. The woman chopped up my meal, added a dash of mystery sauce, a dab of diced chilies, some soy sauce, and who-knows-what-else and all of it went flying into a huge ball of flame.

The result?

Absolutely delicious! Crisp, hot, spicy vegetables in a semi-oily base, with a spicy snap to them!

In my research, the Cambodians claim initial rights to this dish, called “Ta-Koung” or simply “Takoun.” But…this popular dish is known in China as, “keng xin cai,” or ‘empty heart vegetable’ because of the hollow stems. It’s also known as “ong choy” in parts of China, “pak hung” in Thailand, “kangkung” in Indonesia and “rau muong” in Vietnam. Just in case you were wondering.

Many of you might scoff at these “language lessons” but believe me, they are “SURVIVAL” here in southeast Asia.

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