Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Still here in lovely Chiang Mai, the eastern hills a lilac blue against the early evening sky, and Doi Sutep looming large and blue to the west. I have some follow-up notes to the last couple of posts:
- My friend Cassandra liked the sound of the Chiang Mai Cosmopolitan (see my end of January posting), but is pre-diabetic, so avoids tonic water. She wrote to tell me that she infuses gin with real (as opposed to fake-flavoured) Earl Grey tea. Sounds like a good idea especially for people who find tonic too sugary. (By the way, Cassandra’s website is, an ongoing exploration of new ways for diabetics to enjoy food and eating.)
- I have heard from a number of friends who cry that buffer days are what they need, but can’t seem to structure into their busy-ness. Hmmm
- I had a comment from a woman named Bee, who with her partner Jai has a fabulous blog/website called jugalbandi, strongly anchored in South Asian food, but also very wide-ranging, intelligent, and generous. I loved their long exploration of oils and fats, at:

This morning’s trip to my Thai coffee "appointment" at Chiang Mai Gate market took me past a woman selling “miang”, fermented tea leaves, the specialty that Burmese overseas pine for and that they call “laphet” (pronounced lapay’). For five baht she sold me a small bag of olive green moist miang, topped with julienned ginger. She tossed a little coarse salt into a separate bag, to eat with it. I’ve been nibbling on it through the day, and sharing it with Fern, who is northern Thai and loves it.

The miang has a taste almost of sorrel, lemony. This is “miang som” which is pickled (“som” meaning sour). In nothern Thailand there is also “miang wan” meaning sweet. The third one in the family, the word for which I forget, is miang that has fermented a long time, so that it’s stenchy, at least to non-lovers of it. (I think of it as the miang equivalent of lustfiske, the fermented-in-the-ground fish of Sweden, or Limburger cheese or durian fruit: heaven to afficionados and “difficult” for everyone else.)

In Burma, laphet is the essential ingredient in a delicious salad called laphet thoke. The other ingredients vary but usually include fried garlic and peanuts and sesame seeds and soybean halves, as well as chopped fresh tomato and ginger. The ingredients are mixed and blended together, in one presentation, or they may be served in separate piles, so each person can pick up the blend s/he likes. It’s often eaten at the end of a meal, as a refreshing finish.

All of this is to say that I’m hoping to figure out an equivalent. It won’t/can’t be the same, but I would love to get that same mouth-watering acid-lemon taste, together with the lovely crunch of the fried ingredients and freshness of the tomato. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m increasingly thinking about how much recipe work and photo work lies ahead once I get to Toronto. I have at least backed up my photos onto a small hard drive (and I of course still have a film photographer’s reflexes, so I also keep my “originals” in the form of the miniature cards that go into the camera.) Once I’m back in Toronto I’ll do another back-up onto another hard-drive, and then hope that I’ve placated the e-gods sufficiently.

After that of course the images need to be sorted and labelled, the rejects tossed firmly into the trash bin, and the others tidied up. None of this is my favorite thing to do, not at all!

Compared to the computer and techie work on the photos, the recipe work and research feels extremely inviting, a great pile of yummy exploration for spring and summer. Hurrah!


Just JoeKing About Shoes said...

Hi Noam,
I love sitting in my Kindergarten room here in Laramie and eating my lunch while I read your posts. Thanks for the delicious lunch. Joe

naomi said...

Lovely to hear from you Joe, and to imagine you with al that snowy space and blue sky eating lunch and reading my thoughts from Chiang Mai. Hands across the sea and all that!

justme said...

Sounds like you need a good merlot and me to hold your hand while eplaying with your images... :)

justme said...

Sounds like you need a good merlot and me to hold your hand while eplaying with your photos... :)

bee said...

thanks for the kind words, naomi.

Meaghen said...

I had lahpet thohk in Mae Sot, made from boxed ingredients (Yuzana pickled tea). The internet tells me it's available in the NYC area so I'm hopeful it'll be there in Vancouver or Toronto as well. I'm staying with Burmese friends now and we were speculating about why, with the strong tea culture in so many other places in the region, it's only in Burma that pickled tea is eaten - you'd think it would be in China too. But maybe it is?