stories are told.
"Thailand is the land of smiles,"
is the famous saying that makes its way across the oceans and around the world. It
started with some foreigner many decades ago, who, evidently, was very impressed with the smiles and friendly
" from females and "Sawaddeekrub
" from males everywhere he went in Thailand. Being raised in
Bangkok for the first years of my life, it became my understanding that "yimSayam
," or "Siam smiles
," was the way of a
I never really looked deeply for the reason underneath the smiles until my sister and I traveled abroad with my
parents, starting when I was in grade school. The best part of this was that I got to take 2-3 weeks off from school
because I had to "accompany my parents on their business trip abroad." Back then, as long as you had a legitimate
reason, and, without exceeding the days of absence limit, you could take off all you wanted. Exploring the world and
seeing many different cultures was legit enough a reason, so my sister and I were always excused- and with blessings
from our principals. But I never returned empty-handed. I always had my notebook with me in which I wrote down
interesting things that I found, along with my drawings. At the end of each trip I'd put together what I called "My
Travel Magazine," and I would ask my teacher's permission to show and tell my journey to the class. "Publishing" my
magazine was a business I took seriously since I was able to put all the alphabet and my, at-the-time, limited
vocabulary down in writing.
My father would write "A note from the editor" on the first page inside the magazine. I
wish I had been grown up enough to save my early "publications" with my dad's writing in them! I was nine when I made
a magazine about our France/England trip which included our crossing The English Channel in a hovercraft. Now, of
course, there's a tunnel thirty miles long, but one of my best memories was of the mighty hovercraft that floated
above water! In this magazine, my dad commented on the illustrations that were my drawings of "smiles" from people
representing different nationalities. I drew a "Thai smile," an "English smile," a "French smile" and "others" -
those I saw who did not resemble French, English, or Thai. He noted that the world according to young Gafaae was that
the Thai smiles were the happiest smiles, and that other smiles were serious, constrained-restricted, or just plain
not happy. Hey, I was nine. I don't remember, now, if my drawings of people were anything close to my dad's
observation; or, if so, what prompted me to draw them that way.
a few meals ago, having inhaled the aroma of chicken, seasoned with herbs and spices that say to me "Thai
and deep-fried to perfection (which does not come by often in my cooking history,) heightened my satisfaction and
contentment and resulted in a very happy smile of my own - a "Siam smile
Having come to this brought me closer to an understanding
of what makes my fellow contry(wo-and)men smile. It's food-
and the never lacking thereof. The old saying is that no one goes starving in Thailand, that "There's always fish in
the water and rice in the field.
" - Nainammeepla nainameekao
. Thailand is fortunate that it is rich in natural
resources. And, I believe that we view food and eating as an art, judging from many factors, including how food is
created and put together with just the right balance of things (very Buddhist-like) and the focus being the flavor of
If your experience of Thai food
Mai-Tai Thai Silk Side Dish is a category especially designed to complement our Coffee Kitchen whence the famous Chef-Me-Not!!! dishes and
recipes are created. Our recipes complete themselves only when the behind-the-scene stories are told. Each story will be a side dish to its
was having it outside Thailand, or from the convenient "heat and serve" packages from
store shelf or freezer, this article will be a little more complex to digest. And, having lived, worked, and raised a
family in Bangkok for thirteen years, I sadly admit that nowadays only a smaller fraction of Thais understand the art
of Thai cooking and eating. It is not complicated, since it's all about putting your mind into it, yet people feel
that they are too busy to pay attention to delicate details. I also need to say that I am still searching for an
eating establishment in the United States that I can say proudly represents Thai food.
While living in Bangkok,
Why is Thailand the land of smiles? The famous saying is that Siam Smiles, yet what connection does this have with
Thai food or its cooking recipes?
Battered deep fried chicken
on a few occasions I had the great honor and privilege to dine at the royal table. The food
was always exquisite and was often the talk of the society for the next few days. I couldn't help but notice, though,
that Thai food was never presented. I was very curious and asked one of the ladies-in-waiting whom I ran into during
one of my visits at a jeweler. She explained to me that sometimes the top Thai chef at a hotel at which the royal
event was taking place happened to be out of the country at the time. Since it would be very disrespectful and
insulting to present any Thai dish not prepared by the best chef, the culinary choice was made according to the
particular area of expertise of the top chef available at the time. But you know what, I think that was not true. I
think that somehow they did not trust in their own abilities of "owning" Thai food, and they did not dare present
their Thai dishes to the royalty - whom we Thais adore, cherish and put above us, and we only wish to present to our
beloved royal members the best of the best. I do understand where that comes from, but if the hotels and their chefs
already feature their "best" on the menu, they should be proud and confident that what they serve really is top-notch,
rather than making the (mistaken) assumption that the royalty has less knowledge what constitutes excellent foreign
Still, this makes sense.
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To do anything just for the sake of getting it done is a waste of an opportunity. It takes the
same amount of time to do a task and to do it well as just doing it to get it done.
To do something without knowing
how, and refusing to learn how, is also a waste of an opportunity. These sayings are from my parents that I hold in
my heart and pass along to my children. I am a learner. As I got up to write about my manner of food preparation, I
find myself searching all the knowledge within me while finding out more from my mother and obseving others, even as I dive into my
exploration and learn from all the overcooked, undercooked, too tough, too thin, -and so on- of my cooking.
This trait of mine extends itself outside the realm of cooking, too.
It applies to just about every aspect of my
life. I observe to learn. I take the information, and with adjustments go fearlessly
through a trial and error
process until I achieve the ultimate smile - the Thai smile, Siam smile or "yimSayam," which is when I reach the
pinnacle of that particular learning.
The smell of success is like the aroma of seasoned and spiced, perfectly deep-fried chicken!
Battered deep fried chicken drumsticks&Shrimps
What is your smell of achievement?