Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goodbye Thai... Tea

The other afternoon, with a heavy heart, we just about finished our stash of Thai tea. Since moving away from Thailand about eight months ago, we've more or less been without anything Thai. A quick explanation of my feelings on this issue can be read here.

Before leaving Thailand, our friends in Saraburi bought us a bag of Thai tea and a sock for brewing. Seeing the end of this bag arrive gave me pause. It's not that we can't buy the same or a similar product here in Oakland, it's that we can't enjoy it with our friends in Thailand at some morning market or side of the road somewhere. Our location has changed, and we've moved on. Once and a while this fills me with great sadness.

This tea here was a bit unorthodox, but it was still wonderful. While the tea and coffee sock works fine, I use a french press for the tea, as it works just as well and clean up is very easy. Instead of the traditional sweetened condensed milk, I used what I had: a dollop of sweet whipped cream went into each glass.

After a very strong glass of tea, I did something questionable: I brewed a second press with the same tea. This time I used lots of sugar and fresh Meyer lemon from the tree in our back yard.

It tasted something like a hot version of iced lime tea from Thailand. It tasted great, but no matter how good it was, I dare say it did not nor will it ever be quite good enough.


Robyn said...

You really should try cooking Thai at home. It's not at all difficult to get a close proximity to what you'd get in Thailand... I say, if you can perform the intricacies required for baking you can definately cook Thai!
Happy New Year, BTW.

a said...

Thanks Robyn. I think I will follow your advice. On a related note I just ate my first passable thai meal in America. Wow, I sure have missed thai food. Happy New Year.

Xander said...

Not to ambush you with the same opinion, but I agree with Robyn. With the massive Southeast-Asian population in LA, I knew I'd be able to get/make decent Thai/Viet/Khmer food in California-- but I thought I'd be out of luck in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Thankfully, I found a grocery store in town where I could find everything I wanted-- green mangoes, sawtooth coriander, tamarind, a good selection of fish sauce, etc. As luck would have it, on the day I visited there was a Thai chef doing a three-day cooking class-- seeing him cook made me realize I wouldn't have any problems doing the same. I've been enjoying mainly local food here in New Mexico, but for New Years Eve I looked back to Southeast Asia-- and made banana flower salad, grilled beef spring rolls, and a Cambodian catfish sandwich. Hindered as it was by my cooking skills, it came out pretty well, I think. And if I can do that in New Mexico, you should be find in California. -X

a said...

Yeah, I hear you. It's not that I never cook thai, it's just not the same, and there's so much other stuff to eat where I live.

It's hard for me to explain this. I linked to an older post where I said "My advice to you is to eat what you can where you are, not what you wish you were eating if you were somewhere else." I feel pretty strongly about this. In Thailand I ate noodles, durian, and drank coffee from the street outside my door. When I cooked, I mostly used local ingredients to make the best food I could. Here I've got fresh garden vegetables to contend with. I live near a mind blowing bakery. The taco trucks in East Oakland are incredible. I miss the streets, I miss the color and the vibrance, but I love all the diverse and local California produce that often leads to things other than Thai. Usually I feel grateful, but on this day, I just wanted to be at a morning market, drinking my coffee and tea, watching the world go by. I can and do this from my very cute breakfast nook, but sadly, it just isn't the same.

Xander said...

Maybe just to punish me for making it sound so easy to get Asian food, I had a really mediocre Thai meal yesterday-- a bland yam nua packed with shredded lettuce, and a paenang curry that was for some reason a mild soup. Ah well.

I certainly understand what you mean about eating locally-- I've been taking full advantage of the roasted green chili and fresh tamales while I've been in New Mexico. But at the same time, I don't see Asian food as just a remnant of where I used to live, but as part of my life-- no matter what continent I live on. Thus my excitement at finding shrimp paste and holy basil in Albuquerque. -X

a said...

Yes, I certainly agree.

Finding holy basil has been much more difficult than I had expected. Most restaurants try and substitute with sweet basil. The horror, the horror.

Josh said...

it really never is the same. thai restaurants here are awful, and for holy basil i just have to grow my own, or wait until summer fridays when the same people who grow illegal phak bung bring their produce to the thai grocer.
but, local food here tends to bore the shit out of me, so i just do the best i can. and if i can make pretty decent thai in alabama, i should think that in california you ought to be able to do amazing things. in which case, it's not the food, it's the place that deserves to be missed, na.

a said...

Well said josh.
I do know a place or two to buy holy basil, but it blows my mind how many thai places substitute sweet basil. Un-fucking-forgivable. There's no better way to say it.

Yes, I am fortunate enough to be handy in the kitchen and have access to a dizzying array of local and imported ingredients. I can and do make a dish now and then. what cannot be recreated is the place: that complicated mix of sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that just aren't the same in my kitchen.

Robyn said...

Hey A - get yourself over to Allemany Market in San Francisco. I've heard there are lots of Hmong farmers there selling amazing SE Asian produce. That would still be eating what's grown where you are, and it might inspire you to explore Thai and Lao food in your own kitchen.
OK I'll shut up now. :-)

a said...

don't shut up. I'm wrong about things a fair bit. I'm open to any and all suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Cheer up, You can get the tea leaf in New York or by mail order at www.patsongroup.com. I am a Thai food lover and love the taste and the smell of Thai iced tea. The order come quickly and the price is very reasonable.