I love it when Peung’s mother travels outside the city because when she comes back she always stops for some sort of food or recipe along the highway that you don’t normally get in Bangkok. Thankfully it is always something delicious and not grilled rat on a stick (seriously). This week it was khao lam, sweet sticky rice baked over a fire inside a two-foot long, three-inch thick tube of bamboo. The funny thing is I had just seen a travel show episode on my flight to Bangkok about Malaysia, where they were making the exact same thing. (Well, not exactly, as Peung pointed out: “Not the same. This is Thai!”) We dug out the gooey glutinous rice mixed with coconut milk and some mixed with black beans as well. Catnip for humans.
Yesterday Peung and I met her mother for lunch at the cafeteria of Peung’s niece’s school. Cheap and good eats and a wide variety of food stations. I had a Vietnamese spring roll with its accompanying branch of fresh basil, and some fried chicken over rice. And for a sort of comfort-of-home appetizer and yet popular Thai street item, I chose the four cocktail wieners wrapped in bacon and deep-fried on a skewer. Bet you never saw that in an American Thai restaurant.
Peung’s mother offered me something to try. “What’s that?”
“It’s a kind of fried rice.” It looked like the Italian arancini di riso, the stuffed, deep-fried rice balls which I love. She had broken it apart on her plate and I scooped up some of it mixed with some seasoning and the rice noodles that were inside.
“And noodle pieces, too?” I was thinking how perfectly al dente they were as I chewed.
She looked at the plate, at the scattering of little semi-transparent rubbery strips. “Oh, sorry. No, that is pork skin.”
Only one person not laughing at the lunch table today.
How to Make Khao Lam:
Soak rice overnight and then drain. Add a pinch of salt and pack the rice into short lengths of bamboo. Pour in coconut cream and plug the tube with wadded up banana leaves. You can also add black beans. Cook the bamboo tubes over an open fire. When they cool, peel them open (or in the case of the big tubes we had, crack them open).