26 December 2012

Hot Chilis, Entrails and Drinking in the Street: Merry Christmas, Bangkok!

Hello, pretty l'il chili bowl

Don't get me wrong - I love Nepal. I love Nepali people and food and culture - but (and baby, that's one big but) when the dirt, dust and dahl baht get a bit oppressive I need something shiny and nicey nice. Something clean and Western and shamelessly overindulgent but still wild and exciting and a wee bit dangerous. As I have mentioned before, Bangkok is my kind of town.

So, on my way to Sri Lanka for a Christmas holiday I booked myself a two day stop in the City of Angels - and my Kopan pal Jess decided to join me. It was an exercise in esthetics appointments, Starbucks peppermint mochas and, of course, eating ALL OF THE THINGS

Grills Gone Wild

Christmas Eve is a pretty big deal in my household, as part of my family is Ukrainian and it's the traditional time to have the big supper and open gifts. I had just spent an hour the previous day trying to explain to my Bangladesh-born Aussie friend Aritro just what the big deal about Christmas is in North America.

"Well," I said, "it's this weird time of year where everyone is crazy nostalgic, but also super sad and kind of feeling inadequate and frantic and there are lots of boxes of chocolates and people listen to music that both upsets them and reminds them of their childhood and you can't make normal life plans for a month, but you are allowed to respond to every hesitation about overspending and gluttony with 'but it's Christmas!' And it lasts 6 weeks." He didn't get it. I told him to listen to John Denver's Christmas album, consume too much butter, attend obligatory awkward parties and drink for 30 days in a row and he would.

But d
espite the hectic yet (mostly) pleasurable mindfuck of a proper Christmas Eve supper due to the timing of my retreat and limited flight availability my mum and I weren't able to meet until late at night on the 25th. This meant that my main Christmas supper was to be spent on the loose in Bangkok, which frankly, suited me just fine.
Jess and I donned our prettiest dresses (ones that we could most certainly NOT ever wear in Kathmandu without being mistaken for prostitutes or somesuch) and wandered around soi 11 gathering a streetfood feast fit for a couple of Canadian Ukes.

What a hot piece of meat - and them skewers don't look too bad, either
(See what I did there?)
 We ended up back at the guesthouse with a collection of steaming plastic bags and spread our Christmas bounty out on the table (on plates! Like fancy ladies!). We had som tam (spicy papaya salad), a selection of pork, chicken and beef skewers and some Singha beers from 7/11 - dinner and drinks was about 6 bucks and spicy enough to set my mouth on fire in an almost hallucinatory way.

If the van is a'rockin... knockin' is fine and you should probably help this wee Thai man mix drinks

After punishing our tastebuds and bellies with chilis, we decided that it was time to go and find some dranks: Bangkok-style. Every evening a series of V-dub vans that have been converted into bars line soi 11, slinging drinks to a mixed crowd of backpackers, high-end travelers, locals and expats. Jess and I pulled up a little plastic chair, lit a Marlborough Light (tastes like traveling!) and sucked back a few Long Islands. We were content to schlep around Sukhumvit, maybe check out Q Bar and then call it an early night when our friend Mischa, a crazy lawyer from Moscow, messaged us. Within minutes we were in a tuktuk racing across Bangkok for drinks on Khao San with a group of crazy Israelis and Russians. The night got a bit messy and a little late, but we were tucked into bed back on soi 11 by 2am. Merry Christmas hangover!

 I'll never go back to french toast and leftover turkey again.

The next morning we woke up by 9, craving watermelon and strong coffees. Wandering down the street we approached the cart pictured above, and I was lured in by the sight of skewers and palm leaf packages. Once we smelled the gorgeous charcoal-y aroma of cooking chicken innards our breakfast destination was decided. We ordered some skewers of livers and intestines and my personal favourite, a thing I think is chicken anus. I'm not kidding. I'm pretty sure it's the glands around the butt, and similar in texture to gizzards. Man, it is so good. I'm thinking about it now and salivating like some kind of avian zoophile, but it really was delicious. Perfect for Christmas morning breakfast.

 How? How are you so good?
A comfort food akin only to poutine and perogies.

The gal and I also shared a plate of one the world's most deceptively simple foods: chicken rice. Beloved by Singaporeans as their national dish, it is also a staple of Thai street food culture. Looks like no big thang, right? Wrong. Shredded boiled chicken, lightly flavoured rice, ginger and chili sauce - it's as basic as it gets, but man, it is the perfect food. Something about the way that these few ingredients blend together makes chicken rice the kind of toe-curlingly good comfort food that Thais and Singaporeans alike will wax poetic about in a "Canadians talking about poutine" kind of way. I'm hooked.

It was a very Merry Thai Christmas indeed, and I will be dreaming about late night street cocktails and delicious Bangkok food for many holiday seasons to come.

And chicken anus. I will be thinking about that, too - and drooling. 

Merry Christmas, Violet Dear. Enjoy your butt.

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