Arriving back to Pattaya I was met with a few problems. I was only away three month. The restaurant cafe was deserted. The house had people living in there who I had no idea of who they were.
Pattaya is a holiday resort. Therfore jobs are available for the thai people. Money is important to any family. Working in a shop is alot easier than farming and most of the thai people are farmers.
At that time the main produce in Thailand was rice which you really can only grow twice a year as you need rain for the fields. Some farmers do use water pumps or channel the water to a field. The people who have land next to a river have the best land. Simpley for water supply. Some farmers drill water wells to obtain the water. Therefore if the farmers who do not have water then the family will look for alternative work between the rainy seasons.
These days,Thailand has many different forms of produce. Even potatoes are grown. We call them water potatoes as they full of water nothing like the european potatoes. However they fit the purpose and everyone is eating them. Mashed thai potatoes in my opinion are okay.
Of course working away from home you have to rent accomodation to live in and this can be expensive. In some of the thai provinces, the soil is not suitable to grow vegetables and the people have to rely on something else to make money.
Silk is common in the provinces because the vegetable the silk worms eat are easily grown. You will find they do the rice for themselves to eat and the silk to sell for money.
This reason is why the people were living in the house. Apparently the ladies family were silk farmers. Once the rain started they would look for work as you cannot keep the silk worms in rainy season. It is to wet and cold for them. The rice only needs a few people to farm and two people can do 5 rai in a week. 5 rai is about the standard size for a family to grow rice to eat until the next rainy season. Rice is havested and bagged. It is left to harden in the rice store before its cooked.
Her family were sending the relations down to Pattaya to look for work and using the house as place to stay until a job became available. The family back in the province would receive aticles of food from the relations for helping them and having somewhere to live in Pattaya free. This is why so many people were living in the house. Funny enough the next day everyone dissappeared and I never seen them again. The odd one now and again would turn up but only stay one night.
The cafe had money problems. The main cause was the size of the servings. The customers were not going so often as before. Because the servings were less.
However they were still charging the same prices. I understand prices for stock can go up and because of this you have to serve less to keep within the profit margin. Every thing was down. Even the famous steak pies were now half the size. The chips were replaced with frozen chips not the real macoys of previous.
The main reason was caused by the cooking method. They had changed the method for cooking the food. It was more expensive doing it their new way. At the end of the month when the bills are paid less profit was available for salaries. So they idea was to cut the size of the servings down to account for this.
When thai people cook food in the villages it is mostly on hot coals. Gas ovens and hot plates are not used as they find them difficult in controlling the heat and are expensive to buy. The odd gas burner is used but most of the time cook on hot coals. Just the way in which they feel comfortable cooking. The coal was three times the price of a bottle of gas and did not last as long. This was the reason they ran out of money every time.
After this everything portion was weighed for every serving before cooking and kept at the same standard. Everyone in Thailand can cook food and they all do it the same way. Thaifood is not about amount. It's about taste. The amounts are standard for the rice wherever you go. A small soup plate is generally used to serve rice as a standard measure. Europeans eat potatoes to fill the plates of food. Thai people use rice.
The thais eat alot of bamboo. (Nom mai). Bamboo is grown wild all over Thailand. Many species of bamboo are available and all have a different taste. The best taste are the bamboo shoot that has just started to grow. Every morning just as the sun comes up. You will see a thai person with a small spade looking for bamboo shoots growing around a bamboo tree. Just as the shoot is coming out of the ground they dig it up and eat for breakfast. The best time is when it rains early in the morning. You will find many shoots.
I like a dish called, Gan omm nomai (Bamboo). Gan omm, is powdered chilli and dried garlic (kor) with watered down Phala to create a soup. Fish or pork are the main ingredient with sliced nomai. Its best served with a sliced banana. Eat with Coniow.
The Issan people eat different food to Thai people. Mainly because Issan is country. Whereas Thai people live in cities. One dish is, Kai Mott Deng. (Red Ant eggs) is a favourite of them. They are armed with a puffer bag of chalk powder. Climb up a tree that has an Ant egg nest. How you spot the nest, the Ants bend tree leaves over into half a circle and close them together. You will see the Ants in masses around the leaves. They puff the powder onto the Ants and the ants dissappear given acess to the nest where you grab handfulls of eggs. A variety of dishes are made from the eggs. Gan Omm and Laab, Kai Mott Deng.
Unfortunately all who dare to mess with the ants all receive bites, which take a few days to heal and stop stinging.
Chicken is another food mainly eaten. You can buy two types of chicken. Chicken after laying eggs and chicken before laying eggs. To me their both the same taste. However to the thai people it matters as the chicken bought before laying eggs is more expensive to buy.
Another favourite of the thais is Bhala. Bhala is a form of Kimchi or fermented the same way. Whereas Kimchi is mainly vegetables. Bhala is fish or small shrimp fry. The smell of Bhala to us foreigners is disgusting. The taste is fantastic. Many styles of Bhala are available in Thailand, Just depends on your own particular choice.
The traditional meal of Issan people is Somtam Pho Bhala. Pho as in crabs which are also fermented for a period of time. A vegetable used is somtam. Best way I could describe somtam is a cross between a melon and a cucumber and around the same size of the melon. The somtam is sliced into very small strips. tomatoes added. Sugar cane paste, chilli's, lemon juice, salt, Bhala and the fermented crabs. Sometimes noodles. The whole mix is pounded together to release the juices. Getting the correct mix is the difficult part and the people who can, sell more than others.
Thai people also have a similar dish. Just no crabs (Pho) added. Peanuts are used. This dish is called Somthai. Whatever its is you can guarantee the dish is very hot and spicy. As chilli is the number one vegetable used in Thailand with food. In some cases 20 chilli,s go in the somtam. Im okay with 10 chilli's. 20 pet mak maak. (Very Hot).
Most of thaifood is made from the plant vegetables as per the weather seasons. You will find some grow at different temperatures of the year and some all year. Whatever is fresh at the time is used for cooking. Therfore when ordering food. If the vegetables used at the time are different from previous, its because of the season.
Another favourite of mine is Nurr (Beef) Tott. You can use pork (Moo) also. The beef is sliced up marinated in garlic and soya sauce and baked in the sun. After 3 - 4 hours, the beef is fried in oil and cooled. Doing the beef this way the taste of the beef is very similar to roasting but more crispy. Eaten with Coniow. Aroy mak maak. (Delicious).
Us europeans have all kinds of electrical equipment to cook our food. The thai people can produce very similar tasting food if not better with the use of different techniques and flavourings with charcoal as the heat source.
Ive always wondered where charcoal comes from. Its quite simple to do. They dig a hole in the ground. light a fire. Put in all the dead wood they have found lying around. Cover the burning wood back up with the removed soil. Put in a chimney and let it smoke away until the fire goes out and cools down. Remove the soil and there you have charcoal to burn for cooking. Charcoal gives a higher temperature than ordinary wood for cooking.
If you ever get the chance to walk around one of these massive household item stores where you can buy anything you can think of. Its worth checking out the cooking utensils on sale. Most of them are manufactured in China but the ideas are unique for cooking the food. It takes a while to fathom out how they are used for cooking.
Tom Yam is another traditional food of Thailand. Tom Yam is a Spicy soup. You can use anything in Tom Yam but the best is Sea Food. Prawns (Gung) Squid, (Pamook) and mushrooms (Phet). The main vegetable ingredient is Lemon grass, which is grown wild and I see every house in Thailand has it growing somewhere around. Take care as the soup is very spicy (Pet).
Tom Yam is served in a ring pot with a candle heat sauce in the middle. The food is cooked and then placed in the ring pot for serving. The lit candle keeps the food warm. Issan Tom Yam use only water and chicken stock. Thai Tom Yam use, Chicken stock and carnation milk to flavour. I myself boil pork bones and use as the stock instead of chicken. Plus I add potatoes instead of mushrooms. More filling this way.
Steaming pots come in a variety of shapes. Either stainless steel, tin or bamboo. I find the bamboo pots the best to use. In fact some of the food is made and sold in bamboo trays ready to steam. Pattoo. A fish first boiled in salt water. Left to cool. To reheat the Pattoo it is steamed. Dumplings are another. Just a pot of boiling water and 10 minutes later ready to eat.
Bamboo in this country is used to make almost anything. Table and chairs, beds, brooms, roofs, houses, baskets, decorations, scaffolding, fences, cooking utensils. goes on and on. Mostly skewers for cooking on the hot coals. Flat chicken is, a chicken where the rib cage is cut and the chicken opened. Bamboo skewers are split and hold the chicken while it is cooked on the hot coals.
Thaifood is mainly sold from carts. One idea is a mobile cart. The cart is attached to a motorbike. You will find any type of food you wish to eat from mobile carts. The photographs attached shows a motorbike food cart which sells fruit. The other being a mobile drink stall. Coffee or cold drinks. A favourite cold drink other than beer, is Char Nam. The same as iced tea really. You often see motorbikes with a hot coal barb-que attached to the cart for cooking or a gas ring with gas bottle is used. Many styles of food are available from the carts anything that they can store on the cart and keep it fresh. (See Photographs).
Another type of cart is the banana Pancake served with thick syrup carnation milk. This cart is unique as the shape and finish of the frying pan can only be used for this type of food.
We got the cafe back up and running with european food and soon the customers started to return. The thaifood menu was extended with more choice of sea food. Living on coastal areas sea food is available fresh all day and some fantastic thai dishes can be made anytime of the year. The european food was reduced .As It is not easy for thai people to cook european food when they do not know how its supposed to be or taste in the first place. By introducing specials through the week for european food and the pie sales would be easier for them to run. Fish & Chips sold only on Fridays in order to reduce stock size for fish and free up space for prawns and other sea food storage. This time with the addition of a liquor licence to sell alcholic drinks