One rainy morning in Ko Samui we were on our porch working on the computer as our German friends trotted off for their early morning swim.

As they passed down the coconut-lined path to the sea, a coconut fell like a missile, barely missing one of their heads. After they recovered, they picked it up and took it to the restaurant a few feet up the path where the crew lopped off the top for them. The Germans marched off to the beach sipping the milk and carving off the meat.

We looked on this little pantomime with relish, and wished that we had one of our own to enjoy. (It's that Alaskan need for "subsistence" — hunting and gathering from the land to fulfill our basic needs.) We were rewarded a few minutes later when another loud crash indicated a gift from the trees. We grabbed it and repeated the Germans steps to getting the top cut off. Then we savored the milk and fresh creamy flesh (really fresh coconuts have a fleshy consistency of overcooked noodles) with the remaining neighbors in our little bungalow world. It doesn't get much better than this.

Food in Thailand

Thai food varies from North to South. The southern cuisine is more related to Malaysia and concentrates on subtle spices like lemon grass and coconut milk, and less on the hot spices so typical of the Thai food that we knew before our travels. (It seems that in Anchorage, all of the old Dairy Queen fast food joints have become Thai restaurants.) No matter where you are, Thai food comes with a condiment tray containing small containers of dried crushed red chilies, chopped green chilies in a vinegar sauce, a fishy chili oil, and granulated sugar.

The most common of all dishes is "Pad Thai Noodles"—with as many variations as there are cooks. But basically, they are pan-fried noodles, crunched up peanuts, small bits of seafood or chicken, probably onions and or garlic, something hot (chilies) and a bit of soy sauce and/or sugar. They can be the cheapest, most filling and probably the safest street vendor food to get—and they can be had in expensive restaurants.

Our favorite venue for them was when our friend Fiona led us on an expedition in Chiang Mai, starting with her favorite alley-way Pad Thai vendor where we each ate a filling and good meal for about 35 cents, followed by a jaunt to the Muslim crepe stall (sorry to say, I've also lost the name of these wonderful confections) a little way up the street. The cook whips up eggs and sugar, spreads it out on the pan, tosses in a chopped up banana and lets it all cook. Then she'd fold it over and ask if you wanted canned milk, chocolate and/or sugar to top it all off. Delicious!

In the south, we grew addicted to "banana shakes," basically a banana whipped with milk, or ice or both; and sate', flattened meat on skewers (chicken or beef or pork) marinated in lemon grass, and spices, then grilled and dipped in a chili-peanut sauce.

On the island of Ko Samui, Samantha became fond of garlic pepper chicken (small pieces of chicken prepared in a mild sauce of garlic, lemon grass and black pepper) served with rice, and Cassidy's favorite was "pineapple fried rice," which had bits of chicken, pineapple, garlic and whatever else they felt like. Both were good, and had a variety of subtle flavors. Unfortunately, I didn't think to get the recipes before we left.

When I asked Sorn about getting recipes for noodles (Pad Thai and others), he said that they didn't adapt well to Western kitchens because you need the heat of the street vendor's open flame, or a commercial (restaurant) stove. To try to prepare them with a normal western stove is to court a mushy disaster. However, he graciously gave us his recipe for Chocolate Mousse, another of the girls' favorites.


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