16 September 2008

A picture of tenacity

One of my favorite things about living overseas is captured in this picture: spontaneous discovery of how other people live and work. 

C and I were out for some early morning mommy/daughter time. We were strolling along, snapping pictures together (she brought her fantastic, new V-tech camera given to her by some of the best friends one could ever ask to have!) and came upon a street we've crossed many times in central Bangkok.

On this particular day, with cameras in hand, we lingered a little longer on the raised platform overlooking the street. Rush hour was building and we witnessed the best of Bangkok traffic. A huge melting pot of transportation options... the train zoomed overhead, tuk tuk's raced by carrying tourists, cabs every color of the rainbow (hot pink, bright orange, lime green, purple, yellow) zipped through the "lanes", motorcycles jockeyed for positions and my favorite... the mighty street vendors pushed their carts right along with their gas guzzling, fume spitting companions. 

I have so much respect for Bangkok's street vendors. They work hard and are experts at what they do. They start their days early and work later than I have stayed awake to witness. All the while, constantly chopping and frying and preparing some of Bangkok's most critically acclaimed local food. Look at any list featuring places to eat in Bangkok and I challenge you not to find several food vendor stalls listed right along with your typical bricks and mortar restaurants. Often described as the cart on the corner of XYZ road across from XYZ landmark, vendors seem to find a regular location and reap the rewards of familiar customers.

But it is the tenacity, which the picture hints at, that I respect the most. Pushing huge movable feasts, Bangkok's street vendors set up shop from scratch every morning. An early walk through our own neighborhood reveals little more than a few wooden stools cleverly stashed in trees. A few hours later, full restaurants will be set up with folding tables, stools (taken out of the trees!), condiment trays and, in some cases, brightly printed vinyl table clothes. With the cart's propane hissing and oil bubbling and the chef's knife chopping on a huge wooden block, it's hard not to be in awe of how dedicated people in this profession are. Their persistent determination to serve high quality food, from recipes that have been passed down for generations, (after pushing a heavy cart and setting up shop each and every day in Bangkok's heat!) has made me redefine my former definition of hard work. 

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 12:
Yellow Harvest Curry
A sweet and mildly spiced curry, this brightly colored combination takes advantage of Fall's wonderful harvest ingredients.

1 tablespoon veggie oil
Yellow curry paste, to taste (approx. 2 tablespoons)*
2 cups of coconut milk
1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar, optional
1 whole bird's eye pepper, optional
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 squash, cubed (use your favorite locally available variety)
1 carrot, cut into large rounds
2 potatoes, cut into large cubes
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
2 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces, stems and leaves included

Place the oil and onion and celery in a large stock pot. Cook over medium heat until the onion is completely caramelized (add a little bit of water once in awhile to keep the onion from burning). Add coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, and fish sauce. Bring to a simmer and taste. It should be very strong in flavor. Check the level of spice and add a whole pepper if desired. Add all remaining ingredients, turn heat to low and cover. Simmer until the squash and potatoes are soft. Serve hot over rice.

*Look in the Indian foods section of your grocery to find yellow curry paste. If you can't find it, you can either use red curry paste and add a large pinch of turmeric or you can use the yellow hued curry, sold in your store's spice section, and add extra fish sauce to your curry base.

1 comment:

  1. I used to live in Bangkok and I couldn't agree more. The street vendors should be appreciated for their work ethic. The food is pretty damn good too.


Looking forward to hearing your comment!