Tag Archives: food

Challenge: Eating ALL the Burmese Food!

In case you don’t keep close track of my schedule (and why not?!), I visited Burma/Myanmar a few weeks ago with my buddies Sarah and Melanie. One of the reasons I was excited to visit Myanmar is that I just knew that Burmese food was delicious. All the Burmese food I’ve had in the States and in Thailand has been fantastic, so I was really excited to go to Myanmar and eat ALL the food.

Well, no thank you, Burma, I will pass on most of the Burmese food you presented.

Look, I’m sorry, but sometimes somebody has to speak the truth: Burmese food in Burma is not the most delicious stuff I’ve ever eaten. The Indian food was crazy good, though, so that’s positive!

Let’s recap:

Burmese food in Burma: No, thank you.

Burmese food outside of Burma: Yes, please!

Indian food in Burma: Yes, please!

Indian food outside of Burma: Yes, please!

Conclusion: Indian food is awesome.

And now some pictures!

My favorite meal of the trip:

See, it’s Indian! Fried bread cut up, samosas cut up, chickpeas, mint, tomatoes and potatoes, all covered in broth. It cost about 40 cents. I will dream about this for the rest of my life. Really.

This was supposed to be our last breakfast, except that a plane ran off the runway at the Yangon airport and we had one more night at a very nice hotel in Yangon. Air Asia actually came through; they took care of all the hotel stuff and then had a special extra flight the next day for all of us to get back to Bangkok.

That has nothing to do with food.

Final Score: 

Eating ALL the Burmese Food: 0   Sarah, Melanie, Megan: 1

We tried and tried and tried. I say we win!

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Challenge: Eating ALL the Thai Food!

This one is for my family and friends back home who ask me what I eat over here in Thailand.

On a daily basis, it’s not too exciting. Usually I have a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich for breakfast, although I tried for a couple of days to eat oatmeal before I realized that involved neither peanut butter nor Nutella. What kind of breakfast is that?

Pipe down, nutritionists.

Lunch and dinner depend on where I am and if I feel like going out, but if I eat at a street stall I’ll spend about $1 for dinner. At a restaurant, without drinks, I might spend $3-5. I’d say I eat Thai food about 50% of the time

Most of the food above is from Phitsanulok. SO. GOOD.

Most of that is from Surat Thani.

Mostly from Surat Thani also.

I was on a kick for a couple of weeks where I wanted to document everything I ate for a week. Then I would forget for a day and decide I needed to start over. So, you know, repeat that a few times and you get a very incomplete view of what I ate sometimes when I was away for work and Thai people were ordering things for me, which means I got the most delicious food always.

Most of that food is from Hua Hin.

What I’m constantly struck by is how much variety there is in Thai food. Back home we only see the same noodle and rice dishes over and over, so I had no idea how many different kinds of food there are.

Oh, and by the way, I’m never paying $14 for pad thai again. Are you kidding me? It’s ONE DOLLAR. people. I’d pay up to $5 if I was at a fancy restaurant, but come on! $14? Seriously? It’s noodles and some sauce!

Final Score

Eating ALL the Thai Food: 1  Megan: 0

Let’s be honest, I only branch out when I have somebody else ordering for me. Plus, I routinely crave pizza and Western food…does that make me a bad ex-pat? *Sigh* So many ex-pat rules to remember!

 

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Challenge: Eating Spicy Food

If you’ve been to Japan, you may have been asked these questions:

“Can you use chopsticks?!”

“Can you eat raw fish?!”

They’re always asked with a fair amount of incredulity, like there is no way it is even possibly possible that somebody who is not Japanese (or Asian, I suppose) can use chopsticks or eat raw fish.

I can, in fact, use chopsticks. I can also have been extremely young and tan. Holy. Cow.

I don’t get it. I mean, sure, I didn’t grow up using chopsticks to eat, and I still get a little cramp in my hand when I use them for a long time, but I can get by pretty well. I even used to cook with them, just like the Japanese. Whenever I was asked the chopsticks question, I was always kind of like–Uh, literally billions of people use chopsticks every day. So, um, yeah, I can use chopsticks.

The raw fish one is trickier, but I’m not going to spit it out and curse the Japanese for their tradition of uncooked food just because I’m white. You know, sushi and sashimi are very popular around the world. But, again, yeah, I can eat raw fish, especially if I’ve ordered it. And I can enjoy it.

Look! I'm eating raw fish AND using chopsticks! It's a double trifecta! Wait. What?

I’ve touched on this before, but the Thai equivalent of the chopsticks or raw fish question is:

“Can you eat spicy food?!”

Lovely, sweet, amazing Thai people: You are not the only people in the world who can eat spicy food. I thank you for your concern, but I will be fine.

If I had been asked this only once or twice, I might put it off as an anomaly, but it happens all the time. All. The. Time.

A typical conversation might go like this:

Me, in Thai, pointing to something because I don’t know the name of it, but I want to stuff it in my face and eat it: That, please.

Person, in English: Spicy! (If they can’t say this in English, they will find somebody who can tell them how to say it in English.)

Me, in Thai: Okay. I can eat spicy.

Person, in English or Thai at this point: Spicy! Very spicy!

Me, in Thai: Okay. I CAN eat spicy.

Person, in English or Thai, and gesturing that if I eat this food I might have a mouth heart attack and spontaneously combust and die a slow, painful death by chili right in front of them, which would really be a nuisance: VERY spicy!  (p.s. “Death By Chili” would be a good band name OR murder-mystery book title.)

Me, in Thai, starting to lose my patience and gesturing back very emphatically that if I don’t get some food somebody’s going to get cut: OKAY. I CAN EAT SPICY.

Get in my mouth, food!

They give me my food, totally doubting that I will be able to handle the spice. And, I’ll be honest, Thai food is often spicy. Very spicy, even. It’s the truth. But the normal things I order aren’t so spicy that I have a problem with them. My nose runs a little bit and my lips burn for a few minutes, but that’s about it.

When I was in Phitsanulok last week, I went out for lunch every day with a group of Thai people. The first day we went out to lunch, they asked me, “Can you eat spicy food?”

“Yes, I can. No problem!” Smiley face.

“A little spicy?” This is another typical follow-up question.

“No, it’s okay. Thai spicy is okay!” Then I always try to make the same pathetic joke. “I’m strong!”

Everybody laughed at this point, but clearly they didn’t believe me. They ordered regular food, without concern for the spice, but then watched me the entire time for signs of mouth heart attack or spontaneous combustion. Throughout the whole meal, they would point to things and say, genuinely concerned, “Very spicy!”

Yes, those are chilies. Yes, it's very spicy.

I’m proud to say I was fine. Even their very sweet concerns about stomach problems in the morning were unfounded. For the most part, I’ve moved past that.

When I first arrived in Thailand in August, I had to get used to all the hot food. I’m from the Midwest. The spiciest food we have out there is Taco Bell’s Fire Sauce, which is to spicy what Thai “winters” are to real winters.

I had to power through the pain and the mouth burning and the tears (literally) and the stomach (ahem) problems the morning after when I first got here. It took me a week or two of hardcore chili pepper training, but I made it through to the other side victorious.

Yeah, it can be a little warm up in my mouth. And that’s what she said? (Too much? Wait, come back!)

Now I’m afraid I’m a spice junkie. I put chilies or hot sauce on virtually everything I eat, and I have to keep ramping it up to notice anything. If you eat a lot of really spicy food, you get a pretty big rush, apparently from (WARNING: Science stuff coming up) endorphins kicking it to stave off the pain.

Pure delish spiciness.

But I keep thinking (and don’t tell me if you’ve heard this one before, because I already know I’m repeating myself) about what the equivalent to the chopsticks, raw fish, or spicy food question would be in Western countries.

My examples aren’t as satisfying, though, because some of the examples I could think of are really gross and (to me) bizarre food that I wouldn’t eat unless I was starving, and even then I might think two or even three times before I put it in my mouth.

In France, you could ask: “Can you eat stinky cheese?” (I LOVE stinky cheese. The stinkier the better, actually.)

In Germany: “Can you eat sauerkraut?” (Yeah, sometimes.)

In Australia: “Can you eat Vegemite?” (Somehow I’ve managed never to have tried it.)

In England: “Can you eat blood pudding?” (GROSS. NO. WHY IS THIS A THING?)

In Argentina: “Can you eat blood sausage and innards?” (AGAIN, STOP THE INSANITY. True story: I stopped eating meat for several years after I saw somebody eat blood sausage.)

In the United States: “Can you eat ridiculously large portions of really greasy food?” (Uh, remember how I said I grew up in the Midwest? Also, half my family is Ukranian, and as a people we’re not exactly known for health food.)

Final Score:

Eating Spicy Food: 0  Megan: 1

Yeah, Spicy Food, take that! I’ve heard that food in the south of Thailand is crazy hot even for Thailandians, so I’ll be interested to take up that challenge soon. And I’ll be honest, I did have something called jungle curry last week, which made my mouth really angry at me. I lost some major street cred at that point, because I was hurting bad. Still, for the most part, I’m fine (Ed note: She is so old now she has to take heart burn medicine to make it okay).

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Challenge: Still Eating ALL the Chips!

One of the proudest moments of my life was in February 2010. The East Coast of the United States was hunkered down after having been hammered by days of record-breaking blizzards. School was out for 10 days. Public transportation wasn’t running. People were without electricity; more importantly, people were without the internet.

Take a deep breath. I know it’s hard to imagine.

Cabin fever had set in chez Megan, as I lived alone in the suburbs, and I went into a major cleaning frenzy in case I went all Shining on myself and major news outlets came to film my apartment. My mother would just die if my apartment was a mess on national television.

On about day 3,489, a realization began dawning in my mind; a realization about how strong I was; a realization that I had a reserve of endless willpower I didn’t even know about; a realization that I had been snowed in for several days with a family-sized bag of my favorite Utz sour cream and cheddar potato chips and had not even finished them.

Sometimes it takes a difficult time to find your real inner strength, people.

Snowmaggedon 2010.

The real point of all this is to say that I really like potato chips. I detailed my previous experiences with Thai potato chips here, in which I discussed blueberry-hazelnut Pringles and hot chili squid chips (NO!).

I now present a series of photos of the chips I have had over the past month and a half or so. The photos aren’t great, but since everybody takes great photos I’ve decided to distinguish myself on the basis of my terrible pictures.

Not bad. Couldn't taste the sesame at all, but the lemon was quite pronounced. I would probably buy them again.

I think these are cheddar chutney chips. Not bad. I would probably buy them again.

Steamed pork bun chips. Must not have been very offensive or memorable, as I have nothing to say about them besides that they exist.

Hot chicken lemon chips. Hot? No. Chicken? Absent. Lemon? Check!

I'm not sure, but I think these are some kind of fish with dipping sauce. The ridged chips are the fish flavor and the smooth chips are the dipping sauce. VERY strong flavor. Not bad, but not great.

I think these are a kind of Thai sausage. Again, VERY strong flavor. I ate them late at night after being out and still had the flavor in my mouth in the morning. Gross.

So, not that I’m a hypochondriac or anything, but I’m pretty sure I’ve caught narcolepsy from somewhere. Yesterday in class I fell asleep with my head on the desk for about 40 minutes–after I’d had an iced coffee. Finally, I gave up and went out to the lounge to sleep in a chair. Then I took a nap in the afternoon. I mean, seriously?

Final Score

Still Eating ALL the Chips: 0    Megan: 1

I might even eat some of these again!

 

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Challenge: Ordering Noodles from a Street Stall

I eat from street stalls at least once a day because the food is ridiculously cheap ($1-2), fresh, and amazingly delicious. Before I started Thai classes, a mere 8 days ago, I was reduced to grunting and pointing at the food I wanted, much like a middle schooler in the school cafeteria.

Sometimes I miss those little heathens.

I don't miss them THAT much.

Anyway, yesterday I was honestly able to order some food at a street stall and have a sort-of conversation.

The Noodle Lady is super nice and says hi to me every time I walk past, and as a bonus, her noodle soup is amazing. This is a transcript of our conversation as recorded by my brain. Keep in mind this is all actually in Thai, people.

Noodle Lady is on the right. The lady on the left thinks I am HILARIOUS for just existing.

Me: Can I please have noodle soup? Please don’t add meat.

Noodle Lady: Muttermuttermutter don’t add meat. *Points at some thin noodles with a questioning look.*

Me: *Shake my head.*

Noodle Lady: Big noodles?

Me: *Nod my head vigorously!*

After I eat the soup, which had some meat in it,  Noodle Lady comes over to me.

Noodle Lady: Blahblahblah?

Me: *Deer in headlights. What would be appropriate to say here?* Delicious!

Noodle Lady: *Notices I have left the meatballs and other pieces of meat she added.* Blahblahblah?

Me: Ummmm…I….umm….no like! *Realize all of a sudden this could be an insult, then frantically try to gesture that it’s MY stupid farang (white person) fault, not hers.* Ummm…I am….I am person…

Noodle Lady: *Takes pity on me.* You’re a vegetarian?

Me: *Relieved!* Yes! A little! *This makes no sense! But I don’t care!*

I then paid and walked away from the conversation feeling as though my grasp on Thai was such that I should pretty much be able to run the country.

Today I went back and she made the noodles perfectly, with no meat, and I didn’t even have to say anything. However, I totally ruined my street cred by choking on some chili that got stuck in my throat and I was like, No! I like spicy! Crap! I look like a stupid farang again! Insert sad face here.

These noodles were all like, "I'm delicious!" And I was like, "I KNOW, noodles! That's why I'm eating you!"

I provide hours of amusement for the street stall people. When I walked back by later this afternoon, the guy who also works there said, You’re not hungry?! But I don’t care–at least I’m starting to understand when they make jokes about me, and at least I can eat their delicious food with much more minimal effort, and that’s all that matters.

Final Score:

Ordering Noodles at a Street Stall: 0   Megan: 1

I came, I saw, I ate the noodles I ordered. And I’m going back again because now I don’t have to say anything.

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Challenge: Eat ALL the chips!

I consider it a duty when I’m in another country to try out all of the potato chip flavors.

It’s hard work, but somebody has to do it.

My two all-time favorite potato chips are Utz Cheddar and Sour Cream, from the lovely eastern part of the United States, and Calbee Kimchi, from the lovely country of Japan.

I like to buy a bag of these and eat them until my teeth hurt, at which point I throw the bag away. Hmmm...that sounds very unhealthy when I type it out.

If I had to have Lay’s or Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream, I would, but I personally think Utz is the best. (Oh, hai, Utz people! Yes, I am available for commercials and other advertisements!)

We bought these for $3 in Malaysia, and they were worth every penny. Even though they are Ruffles, it's okay. God, I love cheddar and sour cream chips.

Calbee Kimchi chips are also indescribably delicious. That is, they’re delicious if you are the kind of person who likes delicious things. They were hard to find in Japan, and when I did find them, I would buy several bags at once. “Family size” doesn’t really exist in Asia, so it’s not like I was being all crazy by buying a bunch of bags. Greedy, yes. Crazy, no.

I’m still searching for my favorite chip in Thailand, but right now the frontrunner is called SHOCK! They put the exclamation mark there, not me, and I assume it’s because they’re so addicting; the spicy chili and fake tart lime add up to a freaking amazing bit of junk food.

Okay, turns out they didn't put the exclamation mark there, but I think it would be much better if they were called SHOCK!

Sometimes I’m really happy to perform this experiment, like when I get to eat SHOCK! chips. Or when I find something unexpectedly yummy. Then I’m like, Eat ALL the chips!

I was sure these were going to be awful--hello, seafood chips?--but they were actually quite good. I don't like being wrong, but sometimes it's okay.

But sometimes I’m like, Eat ALL the chips?

You, hot chili squid chips, are a disgrace to chips worldwide.

Why, oh why, did I think I would like hot chili squid chips? Oh, that’s right, because I’m always thinking, You know, I’m a woman of the world. I like things that other people would find awful. I’m sure these are going to be an interesting and delicious experience. I will love these and then I will be able to feel superior to the other foreigners who think they are gross.

Yeah. That never really works out for me. I always think the thing is disgusting and then I feel terrible about myself because it turns out I’m not a woman of the world, after all. Then I remember I’m actually kind of picky about food and I don’t really like things that other people would find awful. That means I can no longer feel superior to anybody. I’m just as bad as everybody else, if not worse, because I’m also Judgey McJudgerson.

Yes, it’s true, a bag of hot chili squid potato chips can make me think all of these things.

Sigh.

Anyway, as far as chips go, the biggest abomination of all time has to be this gem:

Stop freaking out. You didn't have to eat them.

We bought them in Malaysia, but I recently saw them in Bangkok, as well. You Asians and your crazy chip flavors!

But, seriously, folks, these things were disgusting. As you would expect, really. I was holding out hope that they would be truly fantastic and that I would go the rest of my life rhapsodizing about the blueberry and hazelnut Pringles I had in Malaysia, and earnestly saying, No, seriously, they were amazing. You just don’t know, when people looked at me with doubt in their eyes.

Uh, no. They tasted like compressed, dehydrated potato (like Pringles, in other words), sprinkled with the fake blueberry flavor of a Pop-Tart. It was a very disturbing sensation, one I hope never to have to repeat.

So far I’ve found some really delicious chips and some really awful chips, but honestly, nothing beats those good ol’ cheddar and sour cream chips. I wish it were not so, but there it is.

I just want to point out, for no reason at all, that it’s probably perfectly legal to send cheddar and sour cream potato chips through international mail. Also, completely related to nothing, you can email me for my address, and I do accept gifts.

Final Score

Eating All the Chips: 1         Megan: 0

I haven’t had the time or the energy to eat ALL the chips, and I’ve been really gun shy since the hot chili squid incident. Unfortunately, the chips are winning right now, but I plan to keep at it and give them the smackdown soon.

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