Thai Traditions Gone By
Air Date: Week of July 13, 2007
Banana leaf packaging. (Photo: Pim Techamuanvivit)
Food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit remembers the natural food packaging of her childhood in Thailand. She laments that plastic, styrofoam and staples have increasingly taken the place of natural containers such as banana leaf and bamboo tubes.
CURWOOD: On the streets of Bangkok, Thailand food is on almost every corner. Pim Techamuanvivit grew up in the city eating the delectable treats. Pim now lives in California, but when she returns to Bangkok for a visit, she sees changes in the way the food is being presented.
There used to be charcoal-grilled chickens sold at practically every street corner. Each chicken is spatchcocked--the backbone is removed and the chicken is flattened. It's then kept in place with a tricky maneuver of splitting a thick stick of bamboo into two layers of connected prongs. The chicken is slipped in between the layers, with the strong bamboo prongs securing the chicken in place. When you buy one, you can take home the entire chicken-on-a-stick, no extra bag needed.
Another old favorite of mine is Kanom Jaak, made of the meat of the Jaak palm mixed with coconut milk and flour, then wrapped in the leafs of the Jaak palm itself and secured with little sharpened sticks. Kanom Jaak is cooked on the grill, with the elongated Jaak leaf not only giving a unique aroma, but also making it easy to hold on to the ends while turning the package over the fire.
It's only a matter of time, I suppose, before these beautiful traditions disappear completely. Meanwhile, I am savoring every one that I come across. I'm never sure if it will be the last time I'll ever see it.
CURWOOD: Pim Techamuanvivit writes a food blog called “Chez Pim.” To see photos of some of the delicacies she mentioned, go to our website, Living on Earth dot org.
[MUSIC: Architecture in Helsinki “One Heavy February” from ‘Fingers Crossed’ (Bar None – 2004)
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