Friday, August 28, 2009

The Strange Tastes of Thailand 2

In addition to ice cream-in-a-bun-sprinkled-with-corn, there are plenty more strange tastes to be found in Thailand.

Bag on left: garlic soft-shelled crab flavored potato chips
Bag on right: hot chili squid flavored potato chips


The clever big snack companies (Lays, Pringles, etc.) have done a spectacular job catering to local tastes. The above pictures shows two pretty normal looking bags of potato chips--until you take a closer look at the small picture and read the Thai. For people who live hundreds of miles inland from the sea, it's remarkable that all seafood ranks high on their list of "most desirable flavors." It's even more remarkable (to me) that many of the creatures we think of as saltwater, ocean-going creatures are also found in fresh water ponds hundreds of miles inland such as shrimp, crab, clams and mussels.

Here we go with another snack to spice up
your all-night slumber party!

Last night I dropped by the local bakery which has the normal looking stuff--cookies, brownies, cakes-- along with a number of Thai oddities. I bought what looked like a normal sweet bun filled with something (I expected Bavarian cream of course). When I got home and cut it open (I've long learned not to bite first) out poured warm, translucent mayonnaise and shredded pork, which has the consistency of very coarse cotton candy.

Looks innocent, heh?

Mayonnaise and pork from a bakery? Yup. A cold cooked hot dog wiener buried in what looks like a Danish pastry is pretty popular too. So be careful when you buy that Danish to go with your morning coffee. You may end up looking for the ketchup for dipping your Danish hot dog.

Sorry, all breakfast pastry chow hounds in the West.
That's a wiener buried in that Danish
(with a little ketchup tossed on top).

And the adventure goes on. . . .

Monday, August 03, 2009

The Strange Tastes of Thailand

One of the exciting things about living in a new culture is the chance to sample never-before-imagined combinations of food and flavors. Now, here's a popular yoghurt from the 7-11 convenience store here in Thakhonyang village. It's made by a Thai-Japanese company (CP-Meiji), but tailored for the Thai palate.

The flavors tossed into the yoghurt? Corn, red beans, and lotus seeds. Don't knock it (or gag) 'til you've tried it!

Reminds me of my first week teaching in Thailand.

I noticed that the college's canteen had a little ice-cream kiosk, and I hadn't sampled it yet. Picturing a little sundae dish piled high with vanilla ice cream (and maybe a spurt of chocolate syrup with nuts sprinkled on top) I used my fledgling Thai to place my order.

"Ow ice cream krahp!"

My eyes widened as the vendor-lady pulled out a hot dog bun. Yes, a hot dog bun. Then loaded two scoops of semi-hard vanilla ice-cream into it, and sprinkled the whole affair with cooked corn kernels and a few peanuts!

Well, couldn't complain, it only cost me 10 baht (30 cents) and all of the components appeared edible. Never to waste a penny or a baht, I tried it. Not bad! Not my first choice, either.

Photo from

That same year, I was part of a review panel for hiring a new vocational college president in a nearby province. We were served lunch midway through the day, and for the drinks they served what looked and tasted exactly like warm canned creamed corn (but just a little soupier).

What is it with the CORN?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Supernatural Thailand

By Patrick Winn (Source:

"Despite its modernity and deeply entrenched Buddhism, Thailand remains under superstition’s sway. Astrologers double as celebrities. Protective amulets purportedly worn by car wreck survivors sell for big money. Even the highly educated turn to fortune tellers for advice on love and money.

"But these old-world beliefs also guide much bigger decisions in Thailand. Many within the ruling class of politicians, protest leaders and military chiefs seek supernatural guidance for rulings of national importance. Even armed coups have been scheduled — to the minute — for auspicious times on the astrological calendar.

“It’s very embedded in the culture,” said Chris Baker, a Bangkok-based author and Thai political expert who has studied the role of supernaturalism in Thailand. “Most people don’t really question it. It’s like asking (Western politicians) if they believe in the Virgin Mary.”

"Thai astrology often directs the timing of political endeavors. When deputy agriculture minister Supachai Phosu took office in May, employees born under the sign of the dog — the astrological rival to his sign, the monkey — were ordered to stay away from ministry headquarters. On his first day, his staffers were told to avoid wearing purple, red or orange and the minister stepped into his office at precisely 7:09 a.m., which carried some starry significance."

Rituals are also used to ward off bad fortune or enemies. After a 2006 coup to oust former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra proved unpopular, the coup generals and their wives conducted a two-hour chanting rite and allowed monks to loop a long sacred thread around their heads.

Less hygienic was the good-fortune ritual led by Sondhi Limthongkul, the powerful leader of a pro-establishment street movement — commonly called the “yellow shirts” — that helped topple the government late last year. On live TV, he announced that female followers had smeared maxi pads stained with menstrual blood on the monument of a 19th-century Thai king — all to supernaturally protect his faithful from enemy attacks.

In the eyes of some, Sondhi’s mysticism was vindicated in April when assassins dumped more than 100 bullets in his personal minivan. He survived the ambush. And now the amulets supposedly worn by Sondhi are advertised as “soaked in blood” talismans in Bangkok’s streets.

[To see original article, click title.]