I’m sitting here watching Anthony Bourdain’s newest travel show, Parts Unknown, courtesy of CNN. The premiere shows him traveling throughout Myanmar (aka Burma), experiencing its people and culture, learning about its tumultuous history (one in which my Pap was part of in the 1940s), and indulging in its culinary delights.
Food. Delicious food. One of the best reasons to travel because, let’s face it, you really haven’t had Italian food until you’ve been to Italy or Chinese food until you’ve been to China. Plus, I agree with Bourdain: food is a uniter. So often when I’m out and about, wandering the streets of Haiyang, I feel a disconnect. There’s only so much communication that can happen between myself and the average Haiyangeser (an actual word? probably not.) due to the language barrier. The communication channels open a little when I’m at a restaurant, though.
Case in point: learning how to eat candied potatoes at one of our favorite restaurants last week. Our waitress couldn’t even understand Mandarin, but that didn’t prevent her from teaching us how to eat the stickiest, sweetest potatoes I’ve ever had. Imagine potatoes and cotton candy coming together to create a perfectly sweet confection. At first, our xiaojie instructed from a distance using her Haiyangese and hand motions to show us. Then she leaned over us and tried to mime the steps we should’ve been taking to not look like such idiots. When that failed, she just grabbed one of our sets of chopsticks and gave an actual demonstration — deftly using them to pry a wedge from the steaming heap of potatoes and then dunking it into the small bowl of warm water sitting next to the platter. Ah…we finally got it and no longer had strings of warm, syrupy goo hanging from our lips and chins after each bite.
All of which brings me to Thai food. I loved everything we ordered. Unlike Chinese food, Thai was satisfying every time mainly because the Thais use a lot less oil in comparison to the Chinese. Plus, everything was so fresh from the fruit to the fish. I think that’s all I really need to say. The photos can explain much better than I.
A fruit shake a day keeps the doctor away. After testing out papaya, pineapple-banana, and just banana, I stuck with the banana.
Mr. Good’s Seafood: one of many restaurants lining the tourist (mostly Russians) filled streets of Patong Beach, which came highly recommended to us for obvious reasons.
Fish, Fish, Take Your Pick. Pretty much every restaurant in Patong displays its daily catch on the sidewalk, along with a waiter or two, who also happen to be skilled in the art of reeling in a different type of animal…which would be you. Some offer nicer selections than others and the majority of restaurants (kitchens and seating) are outdoors. After seeing the bountiful catches night after night, it’s hard not to think about the ecological implications of all that seafood plucked from the ocean and displayed on the street. Literal food for thought. Just saying.
A few more highlights of our nightly Thai dinners…
Let’s not forget the street vendors who walk the streets and stop in the middle of traffic to make you whatever have they have on offer — from various kinds of meat to noodle dishes to pancakes filled with nutella and your pick of fruit. We weren’t adventurous enough to try any of this. But, hey, we were in Phuket to learn how to scuba dive and didn’t want to take the chance of getting sick. More on scuba diving in the next post.