stories are told.
A true story from an event that took place long time ago. An introduction to
a Chef-Me-Not!! tips&techniques article Fried Rice Extra.
I grew up very close to my maternal grandparents, my grandmother, especially.
That's because I came from an extended family - on the extreme side.
My parents and I lived in the "house at the end" on a large piece of property,
among many fragrant flowers and big, beautiful fruit trees providing
cool shade from the hot sun. This place belonged to my grandparents.
Theirs was the "main" house and sat at the front of the property.
There was also the "middle house," where my eldest uncle and his
family lived, which- naturally - sat between the front house and
the house at the end. All were far enough apart so that none of
the residences felt claustrophobic. At least I didn't, perhaps
because I was only a little girl.
All my best memories as a child come from here. I'm talking about only the first
four years of my life, but for me these are the most memorable - and, as long as
my memory allows, I will cherish them forever.
My grandparents loved to go places. Everyday they would come up with a traveling
plan for a day trip and would take me along against my parents' wishes. At the end
of these days my mother and grandmother would exchange words. My mother was concerned
that my grandparents were taking me out of school too much, and my grandmother would
respond, "Don't be so uptight: she's only going to the next door nursery school!"
My mother would storm off, and when the next morning came my grandparents would take
me again on our daily excursion as if nothing had happened. In the evenings the argument
would take place again, and again, and again.
Should the world of the Internet and hi-tech have been the world in which my grandparents
had lived, they would have had huge blogs about their short trips, daily excursions,
traveling on the "red" buses daily, and "where to eat today."
They were true restaurant experts, even food connoisseurs, with a specialty in Thai food.
In fact, this must have been the reason they traveled everyday - to seek out good food.
One day, they would have yellow curry and pork satay in the Little India district in Old
Bangkok; the next they would take a boat trip on the Grand Chaophraya to the old capital
Ayudthaya, to eat grilled fresh water prawns along with the most delicious, out-of-this-world
sauce. I loved going with them. They'd order several dishes to share and encourage me to
try all kinds of food. As a kid, it was a wonderful adventure, and I loved every moment of it.
Chicken Indian Curry
My heart was broken when I found out - and finally grasped the concept - that my grandparents
had sold the wonderful place where I was raised. Before I knew it, there was a huge commotion
of packing and moving. We moved along with them to another large property on the east side of
the river- the modern Bangkok, as it was called. My parents built our house at one end of the
property but the atmosphere was neither magical nor wonderful. There were no more shady trees
and no small canal in the back of the property. We did have many banana trees, but little good
did that do for me - I hated bananas, and I couldn't climb on the trees. There were also several
papaya and coconut trees, but I couldn't climb those, either. I must say, though, I enjoyed
tremendously drinking juice from a freshly cracked-open young coconut. The taste was sweet,
and so refreshing that it seemed to cool down the high temperature in the middle of Bangkok;
and the aroma, that was just divine. After I would drink the juice to the last drop my grandfather
would use a sharp kitchen spoon to scrape the thin, soft white meat off the lining inside the shell.
That, too, was heavenly. Still, simply drinking coconut juice could not replace the way I had felt
when we lived at the old place- nothing would replace that. But my grandparents still took me along
with them on their exciting food adventures. To my dismay this was not as often as I would have wanted,
but every moment counted, and I was very happy and appreciative.
Pradichaya and her grandparents
Time flew by, and I was no longer a little girl. Intentionally or not, my grandparents were responsible
for having laid the groundwork for my passion for food and adventures. I am forever grateful for the time
they spent with me.
Then came my very first overseas trip. (The trips by car to Penang, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos,
and Myanmar border towns were too close to home for me to call them outside the country.)
My parents turned a 10-day business trip to London and two first class airline tickets into a
one-month trip to France and England, and five economy class tickets. My grandmother, sister
and I went along. My grandfather didn't come with us on this trip.
Here is where my title comes in.
Finally, you sigh...
I was nine, and my sister was not yet five. It was the first time we ever flew on a plane,
as well as our first time traveling to the Western hemisphere. Imagine the excitement!
The trip to Paris took just under 30 hours, with four stops along the way.
View More Photos in
My Food Gallery
I can understand that when one travels with young children food can be a problem- even
a disaster. Even though I didn't like the taste of the food I ate on the trip I dealt
with it. My sister was cranky, too, but then my father discovered if he'd just give her
ice-cream with a meal that she'd be her happy self again and leave him alone for awhile.
My grandmother, on the other hand, and to my surprise, had the roughest time of all with
the food, starting as soon as the meal was being prepped to serve during the flight.
"What is that awful smell? If these people don't know how to cook lamb why serve it on the
plane?!?" She gagged and my father scrambled for an airsick bag. Luckily, my grandmother
didn't need it, she had only gagged to make her point.
During our first "French" meal after we had landed in Paris she remarked, "Oh, what's this?
Such a slimy looking thing still dancing on my plate. No, I won't have it." She ended up
having a lot of bread, which was a good thing, since the French are famous for their "French" bread.
In a hi-class Vietnamese restaurant, where my parents had ordered pho for her:
"What is this? This is not pho? Where's the kapi? No pho is pho without kapi!"
(Kapi is shrimp paste - a must-have in pho, and widely used for many famous dishes in Thai cuisine.)
She was right!
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And then, there were other minor incidents:
"Aghh! And you think farang would know how to make a good steak!" (To us Thais, anyone
from the western part of the world is a farang.)
"Mawh," this was my dad's nickname, "ask for ketchup. Uh, you, excusez-moi, s'il vous plait.
Voulez-vous, ketchup. KETCH-UP. You know, uh, kaplonk-kaplonk." Sorry, grandma, this French
restaurant was not equipped to provide service to you.
"I wouldn't ask if you knew how to make good steak!"
And as to the variety of cheeses that we came across on this trip? I'd rather not talk about it!
Back then, Thailand and Taiwan were the same to most westerners. They are still the same country
to some, even today! Everywhere we went in the countryside of France there were cute little old
ladies pointing at us shouting, "Chinois, Chinois" It was clear that Thai food was non-existent
London was slightly better as far as the people were concerned, probably because of the long
friendship between Queen Elizabeth II and our beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. But this didn't
help in the food department.
My parents, still sore from the French "episodes" felt terrible that, so far on the trip,
my grandmother could not stomach any food. "Way too bland," she would say. As soon as we
got to London, we headed to Soho in the hopes of finding "authentic" Chinese cuisine.
We chose a restaurant based upon its blinking neon sign in the shape of a noodle bowl and
a pair of chopsticks. My sister and I each had meatball noodle bowl; and, although it was
very bland, we polished off the whole thing without any complaints. My grandmother ate
quietly after her request for a nampla-like sauce - which turned out to be some dark liquid
that she added to her noodles. She didn't look happy and that made me feel very bad.
I remember taking her hand into my much smaller one and holding it for a long time.
We stayed at a small boutique hotel. My parents got us a suite so that we all could be together.
I appreciated the large space, high ceiling, and the white walls with a lot of fancy lights and
beautiful paintings. The one thing I had to put up with every morning was the breakfast at the
hotel. I could never grow used to having porridge instead of kaotom- boiled rice- or having
scrambled eggs that smelled unpleasantly undercooked. I missed eating platonggoh - the fried
"twin dough" - alongside a bowl of hot congee. Spending four weeks eating food with which she
was unfamiliar was torture to a child, and to her grandmother, as well! One evening, my parents
thought it was time to re-visit Soho. They took us to a crowded restaurant where the menu was
quite substantial. They thought this would be good for my grandmother since she always preferred
a variety of dishes.
She spent a long time studying the menu, then placed her order with a very patient waiter.
"I just want something simple. Fried rice please: plain, normal, and simple fried rice."
The waiter took her order. My mother started laughing and commented that after having
put up with food that she didn't enjoy, my grandmother finally had her chance. But she
chose fried rice? What about duck? Or chicken? Simple fried rice? Anyone can have
fried rice at anytime!
It was indeed a busy night for this restaurant. We waited a long time for our food.
My grandmother had to wait the longest. She was very hungry when the waiter came out
and asked her, "Flied lice, yes?"
If looks could kill, hers would- and I wouldn't have blamed her! Our food had already
arrived, and the guy had come out just to confirm grandma's order.
"What? You mean fried rice? Yes, that's what I want. Why? Didn't you hear the first time?"
I was inspecting the man's face, and I realized that he might not have understood my grandmother.
Neither did I, back then!
Then came an older man. He stood next to my grandmother, bowed politely to her.
"Pardon me, madame. You order .."
"Fried rice!" My grandmother interrupted him, impatiently. "Just fried rice! How many times
will you ask me?"
This time, even my parents were irritated. The man disappeared. No one talked for a while.
By now, my grandmother's face had grown dark with anger - either that, or she was about to faint from hunger.
Finally, the same waiter came out with a large, covered platter. Another man walked in front
of him and set a table between my grandmother and me. The same older man was behind our waiter,
who carefully placed the platter in front of my grandmother. She nodded and smiled for the first
time since we got there. "This must be a large portion. Mawh, you will help me finish the food,
right? It must be delicious."
But the smile faded from her face as soon as the large silver cover came off the platter. At first
we couldn't see the food because the cover, still in our waiter's hand, was blocking our view.
A second later, as the platter was revealed to our own eyes, my grandmother spoke, loud and clear:
"Is this what you call fried rice?!?!"
And the world stopped.
My grandmother took a spoon and dipped it in a pile of yellowish and oil-soaked rice. She raised
the greasy spoonful high enough so the waiter could see it up close. As we all watched my grandmother
in horror, the grease started to drip onto the platter.
"You call this fried rice? What! This is your fried rice?," she yelled even louder.
Grandma pushed the platter so hard that it made noise, knocking down my teacup and causing me to bounce
back to avoid the spill.
"Take it back. I won't eat it!" This, she spoke out loud in Thai - and I'm glad that nobody understood
her - and in familiar form, very familiar form, which means I cannot print it here!
What happened afterward was just plain crazy. Workers came out from the kitchen and they all tried to
say something to us at the same time, which made no sense because it was in Chinese. My father laughed
so hard that I thought he'd wet his pants. My mother looked very intense - and I didn't know what that
meant. My sister and I first pretended to be busy with our food (the only proper thing well-bred girls
would do in such a situation). Then, we just burst out laughing.
I don't remember how the disastrous evening ended. But no one in the family ever let my grandmother
forget the incident. Later, it became a story to tell at every family gathering. My grandfather
wished he could have been there with us. And it didn't take my grandmother long to be the one who
told the story. "It's my story, let me tell it my way!"
My question is, how did that so-called fried rice taste? No one even wanted to taste it because of
its presentation. I wish I was old enough to know whether it was just rice, fried in a lot of oil,
or if there was more to it than that. It's so long ago I can't even imagine what was on that platter.
Was it really what they (restaurant people) called "Fried Rice?'