- To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
- Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
- To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
- Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.
I quickly fell into the habit of eating out when I moved to Thailand. Street food is cheap, crazy good, and literally everywhere. Over time, I learned my way around and developed an impressive list of favorite restaurants, too, including Italian, vegetarian, Middle Eastern, and Burmese. And then there’s Meals On Wheels 4U, a delivery service that brings food from 120 of Chiang Mai’s best restaurants directly to my door for a 90-baht service charge (about $2.69). Best of all–I can pay with a credit card and earns miles or points. You know I love that!
In my defense, the thought of cooking was overwhelming in the beginning. My little Thai kitchen was poorly equipped, and grocery stores freaked me out. So I went for easy. Fried chicken, khao man gai, pad thai, mango sticky rice, Thai iced tea, banana blossom fritters, and khao soi became as familiar as a burger and fries.
Well, it’s been six months now and I’m tired of eating the same things over and over. Besides, I don’t always know exactly what I’m eating. Until my Thai improves, that’s not going to change. MSG? Probably. Blood products? Could be. Chopped-up baby critters (shell and all) with gray pincers in my salad dressing? That happened.
The Tipping Point
Not long after noticing that my jeans were getting a little tight, I serendipitously stumbled upon Siri Wattana Market, ‘Kad Thanin’ to the people of Chiang Mai. Here under one gigantic roof was a breathtakingly wide range of fresh food–vegetables, fruits, and cooked foods, including northern Thai dishes, desserts, and snacks. Amidst the festive vibe of a state fair, I found enough fish, poultry, and meat to stock a cruise ship. The atmosphere was open and friendly, the isles wide, and everything was beautifully organized and displayed. A feeling of nostalgia overcame me as I recalled many happy childhood days in my father’s grocery store, The Green Front.
By the time I found Kad Thanin I had developed a serious love affair with the fruit available in Thailand. In the early days, I didn’t know a dragon fruit from a purple mangosteen. Now, routinely enjoying things like durian, mango, passion fruit, papaya, rambutan, lychee, kiwi, and custard apples, I had found a market that had them all!
I’ve slowly picked up the kitchen things I need (steamer, stock pot, tea kettle, sharp knives) and have a Thai housekeeper to help me. As I write this, I’m sipping a delicious drink of jiaogulan and safflower and cooking a batch of fat-burning soup (because jeans). I bought the ingredients at my newly-discovered market and only made one mistake. I accidentally bought lemongrass, thinking it was spring onions. How’s that for irony?