05 March 2009

The Ice Man Cometh

As the temperatures begin to rise in Bangkok, a brigade of newly needed street vendors wheel their roadside carts out of winter storage.

These days, people are beginning to move slowly again, perspiration forms on one's brow and parasols to protect from the heat are raised beginning in the late morning hours. While we are not yet at the hottest period of the year, one can tell that it may be just around the corner. So, when I laid eyes on a woman carrying a Styrofoam cup of freshly crushed ice loaded with neon syrup, I quickly scanned our side street to find its source. 

The rickety wooden cart had a crowd of people milling about and staring at the bottles of brightly colored syrup. The man behind the cart was methodically scraping a big glistening block of ice across an extremely sharp blade embedded in a wooden plank. He held a disposable cup below and caught micro-fine crystals of shaven ice. With no more than ten scrapes across the blade, he had a giant cupful of cooling goodness. Next, customers ahead of us chose their preferred flavor and the vendor generously dumped swirls of blue or pink or green or yellow across the frozen mound, followed by optional toppings of lychee fruit and sweetened condensed milk. As my kids contemplated what color to select for their shared helping, I worried that the vendor may lose business while they worked their way from blue to yellow to pink to red and back to blue. 

Two days after our first encounter with the frozen ice, my son spotted the "ice man" from about a mile away. "ICEEEEEEEE!!!!" he yelled. And, being dragged towards the cart, we were about to experience our second encounter with the grrrt, grrt, grrt of the ice shaver's blade. I am certain we will be responsible for consuming huge blocks of Thailand's ice in the hot months to come. Now, if my kids could just decide what flavor they'd like at a little more business friendly speed, I think we'll be welcomed by the ice man.

Cooking in Thailand, entry no 35:
Cashew Salad
An incredibly easy salad that makes a great unique side dish. You don't want this to sit long though before serving-- the cashews will lose their crunch. I suggest making the dressing and then combining the salad ingredients in a separate bowl. Toss together just before serving.

1 cup of cashews
1 cucumber, finely diced
1/2 carrot, grated
1/2 red pepper, finely diced
2 green onions, finely diced
1 small hand full of cilantro, roughly chopped

1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon white or rice vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1 fresh red chili, minced
pinch of black pepper

In a serving bowl, add the dressing ingredients and stir to combine. Add the salad ingredients and toss. Serve immediately.

Yield: serves four generous side dish portions

1 comment:

  1. I'm so surprised that it only takes 10 pushes across that blade to create enough ice to fill a cup. I would have thought it would take a long time. Regardless, it makes the guys at our beaches with the big electric machines churning out ice to make our Australia shave ice look like sissys. Next time I order an ice I'll think of the "rickety wooden carts" of Bangkok! I love your blog. I just wish I could read it every morning since it always makes me smile and think about you living a "normal" mama existence in a completely different country. I look every day in hopes that something new is here!


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