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Good Food, Good Fun in Central Texas

Jamie let me spit as an exhibition at the end of the contest, which I embarrassed myself by not getting even 30' at. That was OK as a number of the past champions weren't able to get very far, either. However, after the contest, a number of us were spitting, and a couple of us got in the 50' range, myself included. I was taking the seed too high before, so it wasn't carrying. The white painted concrete makes it easy to see where you are landing and skipping to. I know it is a lot of $ but it is fun to compete at a contest with a lot of good spitters. I may be able to get on the past champions list in the future, if I go back again. Otherwise, I'd have to win a spot from the lottery to spit for real.

Jul 03, 2009
jnsx in Texas

Good Food, Good Fun in Central Texas

The next town from me over has a watermelon festival that has been going on for some number of years. They put in a watermelon seed spitting contest a few years back. Last year I won with a spit of 54'7". I just wanted to see how things were done in Texas. The BBQ was great, also. See: http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.com , http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.co...
. By the way, that is a great spitway.

Jul 03, 2009
jnsx in Texas

Good Food, Good Fun in Central Texas

Last week I went to Luling, Texas for their Watermelon Thump. The red-eye from LA to Houston was uneventful and after 2 hours of driving I got to Flatonia. I ate at a little diner in town - OK food, friendly locals. Flatonia has Joel's BBQ, which some say is good, but I didn't check it out. After being able to get my room an hour early and resting for a couple of hours, I headed to Luling.

It was crowded in town, but OK. Parked, went into the Thump grounds, checked out the spitway, then headed out and went to Luling BBQ. The combination plate of ribs and chicken was excellent. Went in and watched the watermelon seed spitting contest. Around 44' took it this year. Afterward went out, enjoyed the sights and smells, got a turkey leg (also excellent) and talked with a few of the old ranchers.

Drove back to Flatonia and called a friend. I told her about everything including the turkey leg, and she said she wanted one, so I drove back and got her one. Airport security took the small amount of barbecue sauce I has packaged up off of me when I left the next morning. All-in-all it was a fun trip.

Jul 03, 2009
jnsx in Texas

Help needed finding type of Cambodian Sausage

The sauce sounds like Thai naam prik . Are the sausages like any of those at these sites?
http://www.frizz-restaurant.com/cambo...
http://kaylabbq.blogspot.com/2008/01/...
My wife sometimes makes Lao sai gawk sausages at home.

May 18, 2009
jnsx in Los Angeles Area

Thailand report Winter/Spring 2009

I am going to post a number of parts to this post over the next weeks, since writing everything at once wouldn't work. The trips were in January and April.

My first subject is som tam or tam mak hoong or tam bak hoong. In two trips to Thailand this year, I had som tam a number of times, always with pla ra (pronounced paa laa by most in Issan - my wife is from Issan). The best I had was at a som tom maker's roadside table along the road from Ubon Ratchathani to Amnat Charoen about 6-8 km from the intersection of 231 and 212.

My brother-in-law had brought 830 kg of papaya (malagor pronounced malagaw) from a farm in Loei province, and had sold 500 kg in Roi Et the day before. He was trying to sell the last 280 Kg in 10 kg bags, and the som tom maker bought 3 bags at 75 - 80 baht / bag. He took one of the papayas in the back and quickly skinned it to check the quality.

Since he had got it ready for use, I decided to buy an order of som tam from him (15 baht). He made quick work of julienning the papaya. I requested it with paa laa, and only one "super hot" ("super hot" seems to have replaced phrik khi nu, pronounced pik kee nu in Issan, almost everywhere) pepper and only a very small amount of sugar (my wife likes som tom very sour, I like it somewhat sweeter) with the ubiquitous black crab.

When it was ready, everyone (there was 6 of us) had some, but I fortunately got a lot of it since he had used two handfuls of papaya shreds. The crunchiness and moisture of the papaya was exquisite. I suspect that it was so good because of the freshness of the papaya and that it was somewhat chilled.

I ordered two orders of som tom from him several days later and took it back to where we were staying, but even though it was good, it wasn't quite as good as the first time. In those, I got a total of 4 peppers, spicier, but still not at a level that I am OK with. After buying the last 2 orders, the som tam maker ordered the two bags of papaya my brother -in-law had left.

I had som tam that my 8 year old niece made several times, that was quite good, but also on the sour side. I had some som tam from a restaurant across the street from Bangkok Nurses Hospital and on my several day trip in April, I had som tam from a street cart vendor behind the TukCom building in south Pattaya. Both times, the som tam was excellent but didn't have the extra provided by the farm fresh papayas.

For those that haven't tried dishes with paa laa, it's blending in food isn't what one might think. It has a mild flavor that accents the other ingredients, instead of overwhelming them. It is also slightly sweet when combined. It is pickled, a process that is used to preserve many foods.

May 17, 2009
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

Where to buy really good watermelon?

Go to the Sunland-Tujunga watermelon festival for seeded watermelon that's free and good (admission to the festival is $1). This year (2009), it is August 14, 15 and 16. Go to http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.com . Last year you could get 30 pounders for $5 to take home.

May 17, 2009
jnsx in Los Angeles Area

Question about Bangkok street food

I see you got your unattributed quote from about.com. My sources were the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health among others. Maybe I should have used sometimes instead of often, but both warn of unsterilized utensils.

Sterilization of utensils is hard to do for street vendors. The ones used in cooking are often in contact with hot water, hot oil, hot food and heat given off by coals or gas flames. The ones used in eating the food are more suspect as the washing is usually done with water and most of the time soap, but not hot water. You are right in that natures call during the business time can lead to uncleanliness. A friend told me of a cart vendor disappearing into the jungle for a few minutes, and then reappearing and continuing to serve food without washing his hands.

The interesting thing is, even in regular restaurants, clean personal utensils and serving dishes are not assured. In the US, great care is taken due to strict laws. The typical large restaurant dishwasher is a large stainless steel affair that heats water to boiling or there about during the cleaning cycle. It may not get things spotless, and once in a while small food particles get through, but everything has been heated to a very high temperature. In third world countries, such precautions may not be taken. Utensils can be hand washed, and then rinsed in water that is too cool to kill all pathogens.

I prefer chopsticks made of plastic to ones made wood in restaurants that don't use disposable ones. Lacquered wood is OK. Actually I don't like disposable ones either as they don't slide across my tongue and lips smoothly. In all cases they should be cleaned with hot soapy water. Chopsticks with smooth surfaces have less places for pathogens to hide.

I see shawarma, something I knew nothing about before I looked it up, has hot ingredients, but many ways to come in contact with contaminated foods, hands and utensils before it is eaten. I do know gyros and tacos al pastor.

These pathogens are enteric, but the final transmission may not be from direct transmission. Supposedly fecal mater is on the surfaces of many things, such as airplane seats. Washing of hands and clean food preparation and serving should stop the cycle of infection. If you cannot be sure of the cleanliness behind the scenes, make sure you get hot food that has a limited number of ways to get contaminated and consider fruits and vegetables that you can clean and peel yourself.

Jan 03, 2009
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

Question about Bangkok street food

Had those shots, but not sure I needed them. Hepatitis is often found on unsterilized utensils. If you eat with your hands and clean your hands properly, you probably won't get it, but make sure the cooked food is hot. I did get a mild case of typhoid from a restaurant in Nakhom Phanom on my first trip to Thailand in 1988 before I knew much about street food. I got treated at a hospital clinic in Bangkok after I flew out of Issan due to the dysentery.

Jan 02, 2009
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

Question about Bangkok street food

The food looks excellent. That type of food cart can be found all over Bangkok and in many other cities in Thailand. I'm flying on the 4th of January and will be having breakfast in Bangkok on the 6th. Maybe a way-after-midnight snack first. I'll be staying first at my sister-in-laws place on Sukhumwit Soi LaSalle almost to Samut Prakan. The itinerary this year includes Bangkok, Pattaya, Phibun Mangsahan (rural village outside of the city, Ubon Ratchathani Province), Loei (rural ampur), Ko Lanta (Krabi) and maybe a side trip to Burma or Cambodia. I also may be going to a Thai wedding in Phrae. There is always interesting food at a wedding. We stayed up all night at the last one I was to in Nakhon Thai (Phitsanulok). The food was partially prepared in the wee hours of the morning and finished for wedding at various times during the day.

Dec 31, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

Bangkok Visit - please critique my (long!) list

guanubian,

For the most part, I think restaurant food is cognate. Some Laotian foods will show influence of French cuisine. As far as home food, there will be variation according to location. Different areas have different base foods available, so the local cuisine, especially in the homes, will reflect that. A small number of home cuisines may be available at local restaurants.

I would expect the provinces away from the Thai border to have cuisine that is somewhat different than the areas along the border. There is variation on the Issan side of the border, so I would expect as much or more on the Laotian side. The greater the ease of traveling from one area to the next, the more likelihood of similar cuisine. Of course, restaurants are trying to be profitable, so they will sell food that is what their clientele expect. I would expect a Laotian restaurant in Bangkok to have recognizably Issan and Laotian food (same foods, with a variation on ingredients and preparation), as well as some Laotian specialties.

My only reference is Vientiane (Wiang Chan) and rural areas around there and several Laotian weddings in California. Sam Fujisaka would probably be able to give a complete answer since he has been all over those areas.

Nov 28, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

Myanmar/Burma recommendations?

Been there, done that as far as the rat and field song bird eating. It was many years ago in northeastern Thailand. Everyone came up from Bangkok to harvest the rice, that is all except my wife and I came from the US. It was hard work, bending over with a sickle all day. We threshed the rice against a board after placing the rice in a stack near the field hut. The rice was later taken to a mill to grind the husks off. The songbird was very sweet and dripping with fat from the barbecuing. The rat was good also. Let me emphasize, the rats to be eaten come from the fields far away from human habitation, and subsist on mostly a rice and insect diet. The ones near houses are unclean. Rats and songbirds are ordinary foods in the countryside. People there eat them themselves and share their bounty with guests.

Oct 06, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

[Bangkok] Want to take a Manohra cruise cooking class on August 15th?

I believe Lina left a week ago:

http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549396

jnsx

Aug 26, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

[Bangkok] Help me get some street food

I know,Sam. My wife of 18 years is Lao/Issan. I speak passable Thai and know some words in Issan (northeastern dialect) and Nua (northern dialect) - due to taking lessons for years at Wat Thai Los Angeles in North Hollywood and traveling to Thailand for a month each year. The travel to Thailand helps on the pronunciations as well as getting really good Thai food.

The first time I had a meal with Thais was less than a week after arriving in Thailand for the first time. I was invited to eat with a group of newly acquired friends in the city of Rayong. The style of eating was new to me, but I caught on quick enough. This style of eating is also the same in the north, at least at the homes I have been to. The central part of Thailand and the south may do things differently, but there are many people from the north and northeast (Issan) in those places. I have even seen it in the south where my sister-in-law has a boyfriend. The dishes were served and eaten Issan style.

For those in the know, I talked about several Issan dishes, which I like a lot. I like palaa (pa daek) in my som tom. The "l" after the p is many times silent, so I didn't include it. The "r" character (raw reua) is actually an "l" (law leua) sound in Lao/Issan, so you can track the influence of Lao on the language as it's spoken in various places. I have also had larb (laab) several distinct ways. There is cooked larb, then there is larb luet made with raw beef and raw beef blood, then there is the same thing, but made with raw pork. I have had it all three of these ways. The ones made with raw meat are extra spicy. Eating larb luet is probably the quickest way to let others know that you appreciate the cuisine of Issan/Lao.

I've had a lot of other dishes from Issan. Two years ago, I almost got to eat red ant eggs, but they were such a delicacy and it was assumed I wouldn't want any, they were gone before I got some. I have had other insects before , some I found to be so-so and others I found to be good. When I was in Issan in January, I went with my wife's in-laws to a Korean barbecue type place, but the food was the local food and the marinades were the local marinades. It was very good, all of us stuffed ourselves.

jnsx

Aug 23, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

[Bangkok] Help me get some street food

It's be a couple of days since the last post. Have you had excellent food since? I am curious about what you have sampled? Have you had the boiled peanuts for a snack yet? The vendors who sell them usually have a small in can to measure out 5 or 10 Baht worth. Be careful, they can be somewhat addictive. Have you tried spicy foods or are you sticking to milder foods?

On my first trip to Thailand, I had som tam once or twice and ate with Thais several times, Thai style. By Thai style, I mean everyone gathered around a circle of bowls containing various foods, with each person reaching for a pinch of the food they want, usually with a ball of sticky rice and always with the right hand. There are finer points of etiquette, such as only touching what you are going to take, not taking too large of an amount and deferring some of the more popular food to the elders by only taking a small amount. Have you experienced this?

Have you noticed that Thais use the spoon to eat and the fork to help place food on it? Of course this is when the situation dictates a fork and spoon. Have you noticed that chopsticks are used mostly for eating kway tiao. Have you noticed Thais eating KFC chicken with a knife, fork and spoon? Things are so different. Enjoy the sights, the smells and the flavors. Good luck.

jnsx

Aug 20, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

I have 2 days off in Bangkok--where do I NEED to go?

Go to Chinatown known as Yaowarat. There are many gold shops there and seeing them is interesting. Go to Pratunam http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratunam... . If your into computers, go to Pantip Plaza http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantip_P... (near Pratunam). Take a ride on the Sky Train. Go to Baiyoke tower at Pratunam and see Bangkok from above. For the backpacker crowd, go to Khaosan Road. Go to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo. Find street vendors and food courts everywhere.

Aug 16, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

[Bangkok] Help me get some street food

There are several rules to eating street food and not getting sick. One is if it is hot and was cooked before you, it should be OK. Another is, if you don't trust the water, don't trust anything washed in it if you are going to eat that part, i.e. salad. Peeled fruits are OK and other fruits can be washed with bottled water. I drink the water that Thais do and don't have problems. Not everyone is used to the water. Another point is if there are a lot of Thais at a street vendor, the food should be good and quite possibly authentic. Thais, in general, will not buy food that doesn't taste good and if a vendors food makes them sick, they will tell all of their friends.

Vendors make a limited selection of food. Some food requires specialized equipment. If a vendor doesn't make what you want, go to another vendor. A pot of boiling water may indicate a noodle vendor, a wok may indicate a vendor that can make fried rice. A vendor that sells barbecue chicken on wood splints (gai yang) should have sticky rice.

Buy fruits at the market. You will be surprised how good they taste. Try ones that you aren't familiar with. Get a half a kilo - 1.1 pounds (krung lo), at first to find out if you like them. Wash them if necessary. there are many varieties of bananas, try some of each type. Try the mangosteens if they are in season. They are dark purple, orange sized and have a rough skin.

There are a number of street vendor foods I would suggest. In the morning I like to eat moo ping, which is barbecued pork strips on a stick and sticky rice (khao niew). The ones I usually get are 3 baht or 7 for 20 Baht. You may get smaller ones for 2 Baht or larger ones for 5 Baht. Along with that I get a small bag of sticky rice. I usually wash it down with water. Some places have it in the morning, others at other times.

Another food for various times of the day is kway tiao. This is rice noodle soup and usually can be made with beef, pork, beef balls, pork balls, fish balls and/or seafood. You also have to choose the type of noodle. You can get by by ordering the same as someone else. See http://www.foodsubs.com/NoodlesRice.html for some types of noodles. Kway tiao is usually 25 Baht to 50 Baht.

Another food that is good is gai yang. It is barbecued chicken, but it doesn't have barbecue sauce. It is quite tasty. A reasonable price would be 25 Baht to 40 Baht. Since it takes time to cook, it usually won't be found first thing in the morning. Preferably get it right off of the grill, or if it has been off a little while, have the vendor put it on the grill to reheat. If you get it from a vendor that gets on at a stop while traveling on a bus, look at it carefully, to make sure it hasn't got a lot of dust on it from going on too many buses. Gai yang is very good with sticky rice. Pinch a small ball of sticky rice with your right hand, then pinch off a small amount of chicken to go with it. Yum.

I also like chicken liver made in the yang style, as well as gizzards and hearts. These are not available everywhere, much less often than gai yang. My wife calls them tob as in tob yang, but this may be slang of Issan/Lao. Fortunately, I can get them at home once in a while.

Another good category to go for is the food served hot from a grill on a stick and in a bag, usually containing a sauce that is both hot and sweet. The barbecued squid is good as well as various meat and fish balls. Large beef tendon balls are part of this group.

One thing that I use as an old standby is fried rice (khao pot). The Thai style is to use fully cooked rice that is very tender. You can have it made with beef, pork, chicken, shrimp and seafood as well as many other ingredients. It usually comes with cucumber slices, green onions, a lime wedge and soy or fish sauce. It is almost always good.

jnsx

Aug 16, 2008
jnsx in China & Southeast Asia

Where to buy really good watermelon?

Sorry, I found chow.com after this year's watermelon festival. That is why I gave information on where and when to check.

Aug 16, 2008
jnsx in Los Angeles Area

Where to buy really good watermelon?

Go to the Sunland-Tujunga watermelon festival for seeded watermelon that's free and good. It usually is around the second weekend in August. Go to http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.com/ You can get 30 pounders for $5 to take home, also. If it's late on Sunday and they have a lot left over, you may be able to get them at two for $5.

jnsx

Aug 14, 2008
jnsx in Los Angeles Area

Whither the Watermelon

Go to the Sunland-Tujunga watermelon festival for seeded watermelon that's free and good. It usually is around the second weekend in August. Go to http://www.lionswatermelonfestival.com/ You can get 30 pounders for $5 to take home, also. If it's late on Sunday and they have a lot left over, you may be able to get them at two for $5.

jnsx

Aug 14, 2008
jnsx in Features