Daily Archives: April 11, 2008

Actually, I love songkran….

The thing is, I actually love Songkran. The way it once was (I imagine), the way it should be. I love playing Songkran water fights with my students in the school yard, getting drenched all the same, but without ice cubes, in gently warm tap water. No rashes the next day, no two days of sneezing. We share buckets and water and jokes and gang up against the Prathom 1 teacher. We scream and laugh and have a great time.

After a while, when the school yard is swallowed up by the shade and the skinny girls start shivering, we put our buckets aside, go get changed, warm up a little, walk out, with our hair still wet, but not for long in the scorching heat. – I love that a flicker of an eye can stop a bucketful of water. I love that the Prathom 2 teacher can stay on the sidelines and cheer us on without getting wet at all – she is expecting a baby, does not want to get wet. I love that the sneaky security guard “attacks” students walking out with a water bottle with a tiny hole on it, and he gets bucketfuls in return, standing there dripping wet.

I love the parade of the Buddha images across the streets of Chiang Mai. The scent of saffron-coloured water floats in the air. People throw water over the flower-adorned images, then try to catch a cupful of it streaming down, blessed by the Buddha, and use it to bless each other – but did you know? it leaves saffron-coloured stains. If you have problems aiming at a moving Buddha sitting a floor up on a float, go and pour water over Buddha images in the temple yards.

I love the way middle-aged man come up to me, the farang girl, and wait for my nod. I don’t even mind the occasional ice cube down my back if they smile and wish me a happy new year.

I love the giant sandcastles built in the temple yards, watching the people flocking in to place their vibrant coloured flags in the sand and praying, away from the water fights, in a peaceful haven.

I love watching the families building their own small, elaborate sand castles, then going to the temple to make merit and receive a blessing.

I love taking pictures of the traditional Lanna, Hmong, Karen, Shan, Lisu costumes and folk performances in the temple yards, listening to music, absorb the rhythm, dream about the beating of the drums.

If I think about it, yes I even love the elephants spraying water all over us near Thapae gate. Maybe the fire engine was over the top though!

I wish we had the chance to choose when to get wet in the scorching heat and when to stop. I wish that nobody drowns in the moat this year. I wish no girl was harassed any more under the excuse of “Thai traditions”. I wish Songkran was a happy time, sharing laughs and jokes, playing with friends, visiting relatives, making merit and simply cooling off, and not a four-day drunken haze for so many. I wish everybody got home safely at the end of the day. I wish Thailand had their Songkran back, not for myself, selfishly: many, many Thais are missing it badly, the way it once was, the way it should be.

Lunchtime Thai Menu 15

Sour Soup with Vegetables and Shrimp (gaeng som)

Prices of food have been going up by about 20% and so it is now even more difficult for us to stay within budge for our Friday Lunchtime Thai Menu. The price of rice has also increased. At the local supermarket, in order to stop rice hoarding, a notice says that we are only allowed to buy two bags of rice per family. Though there doesn’t seem to be a shortage yet. This first dish is an old favourite sometimes called orange curry though really it should be called sour curry. The word “som” can mean both. The chili paste for this is made up from red chillies, chopped red shallots, shrimp paste and steamed fish. To cook, use either a chicken stock or a shrimp stock. Bring this to a boil and add the paste. Season with fish sauce and tamarind water (which makes it sour). You can also add some sugar if you like. Now add the shrimp and vegetables. This bowl cost us 25 baht.

Stuffed Omelette (kai yad sai)

A nice accompaniment to a sour curry is an omelette. It is easy to cook this yourself. However, this version is slightly different as it contains a surprise. It is a bit like a crepe wrapped around another ingredient. In English we would call it a stuffed omelette. When you cook the egg, you need to make it thin by spreading it all around the pan. Once it is cooked, remove from the pan and then prepare the ingredients. This can be anything you like. This one had minced pork with tomatoes, onion, string beans and mushrooms. Once cooked, put the mixture onto the middle of the egg sheet and fold it into a square. This cost 30 baht. It is not always meat inside so you will need to ask “sai a-rai”.

Sweet and Sour Pork (pad priao wan)

This sweet and sour dish is a favourite among foreign tourists. Sometimes you will find it is just stir-fried vegetables. This one has pork. Other ingredients include onion, cucumber, tomato and spring onion. Stir fry this as normal though don’t use garlic. Instead add some water. Once done add some ketchup and season with sugar, soy sauce and vinegar. To make the sauce thicker, mix some water with some wheat flour. This is easier enough to make yourself. The meat version cost us 30 baht. Like I said, prices are going up and this was only 25 baht before. But, it is still good value for money.

Candied Cassava (mun sam-palang cheaum

The dessert today is made from the roots of a cassava plant. First you have to prepare the syrup by mixing together sugar and water and boil slowly until all the sugar has dissolved. Strain this through a sieve and then bring it back to the boil once more. Reduce the heat and then add the cassava roots which have been peeled and cut into two inch sticks. Once it is cooked through it will have a glazed look as most of the syrup would have been absorbed by the roots. You top this with a mixture of coconut cream and salt that has been boiled together and then allowed to cool. I have never had this before as it never looked that attractive. It also looked very sweet. But small amounts was very tasty. Try some yourself. This dish cost only 20 baht.

Come back to thai-blogs.com next Friday to find out what we ate next!