Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Papaya Pok Pok

Som Tam

As craters are to the moon, so the delightful dish Som Tam is ubiquitous to northern Thai cuisine. Just about every street vendor, open air market and restaurant serves Som Tam and if they don’t, they can direct you to the nearest place that does, which is generally less than five minutes walk away, regardless of where in northern Thailand you are! Otherwise known to foreigners as ‘Papaya pok pok’ owing to the sound its preparation with a pestle and mortar makes, Som Tam is a delicious crunchy salad made from green beans, tomato, dried shrimp, garlic, fresh lime juice, Thai bird chilies, carrots, roasted peanuts and green (unripe) and julienne-style papaya fruit (paw paw). Owing to its incredibly popularity amongst the locals and foreigners alike, there are fresh food vendors dealing in Som Tam to be found in every single market-place, be it open-air or indoors; during the day or nighttime.

Half the fun of enjoying Som Tam is watching its preparation! It’s appropriate nickname ‘Papaya Pok Pok’ is derived from the sound the cook makes while thumping away with his / her pestle and mortar at the whole garlic cloves, chilies, palm sugar, tamarind juice and various other spices that are used to great the flavor and aromatic base of the dish. The use of fermented fish sauce to taste is a deeply-entrenched habit in Thai-style cooking and Som Tam doesn’t escape this addition, so foreigners might have to wrap their taste buds around its pungent aroma. Yet, behind the stigma of a sauce created from fermenting fish, there is an incredible palate of fresh, zingy and spicy flavors and crunchy textures to be greatly relished. Many Thais love their Som Tam with “bpuu” (phonetic pronunciation), or fresh raw river crabs. Many vendors prepare Som Tam this way, so if you don’t make any specifications you might find yourself getting raw crab in your plate!

So, if you are planning a trip to Thailand, make sure you try this incredible testament to the colour and complexity of Thai cuisine and if you are wary of eating raw river crab, just say “Mai sai Bpuu!”… don’t put crab!

Monday, 2 August 2010

A Taste of Thai

Welcome to all those wishing they were somewhere else! - Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for people in the UK and nearly everyone who has visited the land of smiles has been left with a very special connection with the Thai people and their culture. Returning from such a wonderful, amazing place can leave you feeling a little empty and disillusioned.

But there is a quick fix. With the UK Thai festival season in full swing there are lots of opportunities to experience, once again, the wonderful foods, music and cultures of Thailand. With over 30,000 Thai Nationals living in the UK it is hardly surprising that there is a healthy Thai Events calendar and their popularity is growing year on year. To experience the Thai culture in the UK you simply need to know where to go and when.

Taste of Thai is a website in the UK which has details of all of the Thai events in the UK as well as contact details for Thai consulates and some useful links to Thai resources. You can visit the site at www.tasteofthai.co.uk.

Initially set up to showcase some useful Thai resources, Taste of Thai, has over the last few years become one of the most visited UK sites for people wishing to find out about Thai festivals and events. The summer months are packed with events and what could be better than being six thousand miles from home at a Thai festival sharing a Pad Thai or a Tom Yam Kung in the summer sun in the UK? Being in Thailand - Yes we agree - being home.