02 January 2009

Food in trees

Throughout the city, it is common to stumble upon plates of food and drink set out in front of a shop, vendor's stall or, even, perched in a tree. In the Buddhist religion, of which 95 per cent of Thais are, it is believed that the tiny shot glass sized beverages and single serving items of food provide sustenance to the Gods. And, when the Gods are happy, the person, their family and their colleagues providing the offering will be well taken care of too. 

The offering ritual follows a similar pattern: an employee or member of the family will leave a plate of food outside their home or place of work (sometimes in a nearby tree, sometimes outside of a spirit house and sometimes just outside the front door on the nearest available piece of ground). After lighting incense and planting it nearby, the individual will clasp their hands in a prayer position and begin their morning prayers. The plates and glasses remain until either the close of business or until the ritual begins afresh the next morning.

As we wander the city together, my children like to think of the small plates and beverages as food for tiny fictional characters. I hear about the teeny person who may enjoy the satay and rum later in the day. Or, I listen in as my daughter tells my son about the little mouse named Stuart (can you tell what we're reading right now?!) who will sample the mango tart. Personally, I enjoy wandering the city, sighting a plate and thinking about the commitment such an offering takes. Each morning, someone must prepare that plate and place it outdoors with thought and care.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no. 29:
Beef Satay
Satay is one of the most commonly seen items left on the small offering plates throughout the city. This version of satay produces a delicious and satisfying beginning to a dinner. Or, serve as the main dish, along with rice and a refreshing fruit salad.

1 cup of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of red curry paste
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon worcester sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as sriracha
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 green onions, cut into small rounds
1 pound of lean steak, cut into thin strips

Combine all ingredients in a large container. Cover tightly and marinate overnight. Just prior to cooking, string each of the strips of steak onto a bamboo skewer. Place skewers over a charcoal grill and cook until done, approximately 1 minute per side.

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