[Ben sez] Landing at Bangkok International Airport, the one thing filling my myopic agenda for the near future was the procurement of curry. Sadly, it took over 12 hours before I was able shovel my first spoonful of curry into my mouth - the unavoidable result of a flight landing at 11pm.
Curry, much like in India, translates to sauce. So saying I wanted curry might be a bit of a generalization, but after the subtlety and balance of Japanese food, the "you expect us to cook it for you?" barbarism of Korea, and the two weeks of "Closed for Chinese New Years!" of Taiwan, I was ready for a punch to the face of aromatics and flavor. Thai curry did not disappoint.
I will even (slightly shamefully) admit that even the curry on Thai Airlines flying from South Korea to Taiwan was enough to send me into cries of pleasure after the overly-pickled week that we spent in SoKo. Coconut milk and lemongrass have never tasted so good.
There are of course the normal classifications: Red, Green, Penang, Massamun, and Yellow. Of course at about 30 to 50 baht a plate, you'll find me on the shoveling end of way too many, somewhat indistinguishable, yet different curries - and identifying these properly becomes somewhat difficult.
[nate sez]: Sufficed to say, they all are heavily aromatic and delicious, some significantly more coconutty, some rocket hot, some sweet and lemongrassy, some with shrimp, some with pork, some with chicken. Bamboo shoots seem to accompany a red curry more often, and coconut shoots (which are crunchy delicious) go with a fishier yelllow/red fusion curry. The variations are as numerous as there are fat, white, balding lechers in Patpong. Every Mom running her hole in the wall restaurant has her own way of making each type of curry, and they vary, of course, regionally.
The single most important thing I learned from Joseph's curry-stained technicolor dream plate is that the Thais are overwhelmingly, and by far, some of the best cooks on the whole damn planet. The driving concept is balance. In 86/87 curries (yes, I counted) the hot/sour/salty/sweet balance was always working toward a equilibrium that we rarely come to expect but in the finest dining establishments. The only exception in my book is super-salty shrimp paste curry which outright sucks ass. It's soooooooo salty and rotten shrimpy. You have to taste it to believe it... ::shivers::
The best of the best highlights of curries: Bamboo shoot red curry at Suan Lum night market in Bangkok, The shredded pork lemongrass coconut curry at Suan Lum, the spicy curry soup at Wireless Road across from Lumphini Park (that was a serious good meal, we saw like eighteenhundred thai cats piled into this place every night we walked by - not a gringo in sight - and so we were on it like Sticky Rice on my face), and loads of plates of Shrimp sautéed in curry paste. What curry paste you ask? How the fuck should I know? I've unsuccessfully negotiated for an affordable Tuk-Tuk ride in Thai, I know how to say "just mangoes, no rice", but I am faaar away from actually getting some real information off of these sauce slingers about their amazing dishes.
I'm working on it I swear.