I’ve always said that the food in Thailand is the number two reason for living here. For sure anyone who knows me personally is reading this and thinking, “Oh no, please don’t let him get going on Thai food”. For sure I consider it to be hands down the best cuisine in the world, bar none. And I like to talk about it.
Last week I had launched into what was sure to be the beginning of a long and pontificating diatribe about the merits of Thai cuisine when my one-person new-to-Thailand audience interrupted and inquired, “So, what’s your favorite Thai dish?” I grinned like an idiot, took a deep breath and nothing came out of my mouth. I drew a total blank. I was gob-smacked. How could I not know the answer to that question?
I remember the first thing I ever ate in Thailand; Somtam Laos so packed with chilies I felt like I was eating the sun. And I still liked it. I remember the first time ever eating a fish served whole with the head on at a rustic seaside joint in Phuket. I remember eating fried grasshoppers in a bar in Soi Cowboy. How could I not just blurt out a favorite dish?
I remember my brother’s favorite dish is tord mon pla or fried fish cakes; and I mean the greasy little chewy kind with kaffir lime leaves, not the puffy tourist kind. I remember my sister falling in love with spicy and messy curry crab. And they both loved the meticulous ceremony of putting together the perfect bite of Thai food with Mien Kam, the Thai appetizer built inside a betel leaf.
I searched through all the food pictures on my phone (yes, it took a while), but none gave a clue to what might be my favorite. Frustrated, I excused myself and set off in search of the answer to this burning question. Stopping off at my favorite seafood place in Jomtien I was determined to go from one end of the menu to the other until I found the answer.
And then I smelled it. A waitress walked by my table with the masterpiece shown in the picture above. Pla Muk Yod Sai. Fresh squid stuffed with chicken sausage and pan fried with dried chilies. It is a complicated dish that is hard to understand unless you’ve had it. And, you don’t often see it on the menu. Tender squid cooked from the inside out as the fat from the sausage melts. I destroyed a big plate of it immediately. I do not possess one ounce of resistance to this dish.
So, here is the real question; is a dish your favorite just because you find it irresistible? There are certainly more eloquent and classier offerings in Thai cuisine. And, this isn’t a dish I often recommend to my friends. Pla Muk Yod Sai … my secret indulgence.