Cooking Thai – the Asian grocery store where I live.

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I know, I know – I’ve neglected my blog(s). Quick update to my little adventure of learning to cook Thai (vegan Thai) and yes we are still eating pretty much strictly Thai. I won’t add the latest recipes to this post, but I will be adding them to the blog shortly. It’s been a month now – my – a month has passed since I began converting us to vegetarian. I’ve been cooking vegan Thai recipes for a month now. Thai cooking is not meat free, and I have been using the vegan Thai recipes at Vegweb. No sense adjusting to Thai food with meat only to remove the meat later, so this is what we now know to be Thai cooking – the vegan way. (No, it wasn’t my plan to go vegan religiously; vegetarian yes, but not vegan, so this is more the convenience that Vegweb offers in providing recipes from people who are vegans!)

Update 1) I made Spring Rolls, which are NOT egg rolls, although I wound up also making egg rolls because initially I had purchased the wrong kind of wraps. So egg rolls are egg rolls and the wraps include a combination of flour and eggs and the recipes for the fillings vary, but essentially you wind up cooking the little dumplings in hot oil. I wondered as I was dipping them into the basket of cooking oil how this isn’t much different than french fries or fried chicken parts.
And yes they were good, tasty and I enjoyed the egg rolls, but I digress.

Spring rolls are not cooked. The wraps are actually tapioca based and flat like a tortilla. To make the spring rolls, the basic recipe is a use of a mix of vegetables (carrots, onions, bean threads, cooked tofu, mint or cilantro) wrapped in a lettuce leaf or two, then the whole thing is wrapped in the tapioca based shell. The shell is set into water for a few minutes to soften, then removed and kept softened between two clean, wet dish towels. Whle still soft, the vegetable combination of ingredients are wrapped into the shell in a kind of burrito fashion.

It’s quite ‘artsy’ when finished, the green lettuce shows through the transparent shell. The taste is fresh and the mint or cilantro add to that sense of ‘freshness’. The Spring Rolls can then be dipped into a peanut sauce and it’s a quite lovely eating experience. When I sent these along with Sweetie for his lunch, he came home and reported there was a lot of ooohh la la- ing from his work buddies and I think Sweetie was kind of impressed that his wife had sent along a ‘specialty’ for his lunch.

Update 2) The Asian grocery store where I shop. Obviously I have made many more vegan Thai dishes since I last blogged, and the Spring Rolls get special mention because they were a labor of love and ‘art’. So I have been back to the Asian grocery store for the second time now to replace some ingredients and get some new ingredients. It is still a bit of a time consuming experience as I continue to learn the various ingredients. I spend a lot of time reading what lables I can that are in English, and asking about labels that are in Asian languages with no English anywhere. It is a pleasant experience.

The Asian grocery store called Ping’s Market also has a ‘restaraunt’ area and a limited menu of items that the store owner cooks and serves. I had the Pad Thai noodles and Spring Rolls in my first shopping trip which inspired me to actually make Spring Rolls at home. In my second shopping trip, my granddaughter (15 yr old Emo kid – by her own description of herself) was with me. I shared the ‘lunch’ experience with her and she was Not impressed – more like ‘ugh’, but it’s okay, because someday when she is 35 or 48 she will remember this lunch experience with her grandmother.

The store owners are quite elderly and a younger woman, one of their daughters, was there the first time I went and again this second time. I asked her if they had the dvd that was playing on the tv the last time I was there – it was a series of Thai dancers and singers. I wanted my granddaughter to see the dancing. She went to see about the dvd, and came back with one (I don’t think it was the one I wanted to see, but that is okay) which she put in. I began asking some questions and that generated conversation with her. She shared with me that her parents were, in fact, refugees, having left Laos at the time of Vietnam war, to Thailand, where they remained in refugee camp for 5 yrs. Then they crossed over as one of the many ‘boat people’ to America on a sponsorship by the many churches that were sponsoring Asians at that time.

She relayed to me a tad bit of a story her mother tells her. Since she was already born, and her parents were escpaping with her when she was but a baby, her mother explained how desperate survival was for everyone. Mother explained that had baby made sounds or noise, the others accompanying them would have felt compelled to drown both mother and baby. I felt empathy for how terrifying that must have been for the mother. I am not a stranger to these kinds of stories, as in our little remote community several families that are refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam have settled here. The region where we live has a sparse population of people and only a few communities among a county full of trees, wetlands, mudflats, rivers, sloughs which all feed into or out of the Willapa Bay, which meets up with the Pacific Ocean. A bit of a quiet life for war-torn refugees. I spent 16 years as a case manager with our State social services programs, so I have had my share of interviewing and helping refugee families over the years, including here where we now live.

What was intriguing to me about the story as the daughter told it is that the daughter relates more to her life in America than her life as an infant and child in the refugee camps. As Daughter shares the story with me, it seems to come across in a tone that implies the story seems a bit unreal to the Daughter. I am reminded again that now that I am into those mid-elderly years of 55, how important passing along the heritage stories are to not only my childrens’ generation but their childrens’ generation. I don’t know what my 15 yr old granddaughter will remember about the lunch, but I hope when she is herself an adult and past the ‘teen’ dramas, she will remember the Daughter’s story.

How fortunate I am that Ping’s Market exists in the small town communities that have so little in the way of choices to offer. It wouldn’t exist here in this remote location except that some of the refugee Asian families chose to move here and remain here. I live in a fishing village, population of a mere few hundred. Nearby towns have population of a few thousand, but nothing of the size that warrants the ‘shopping mall’, ‘strip mall’, ‘box stores’ type businesses. Nor would I like to see these communities catch up with ‘progress’ enough to desire or want to attract such businesses.

Deersong

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