This story begins with me…in Thailand…with an overwhelming curiosity about Thai cuisine but without a plan for how to begin.
Growing up in the suburbs of a midwestern city, crab rangoon was the epitome of take-out goodness. Forget the crab – most of the best rangoon was cream cheese in a fried shell. While maintaining the illusion of the exotic, it was irrefutably, undeniably, sinfully…good.
Even as an adult, any “Chinese” food worth my time has been identified by the presence of crab rangoon on the menu. To be clear, I never believed that crab rangoon existed in Asian cuisine outside of American take-out. I just liked it.
This year I moved to Bangkok – a city of endless possibility for a curious cook (not to mention curious patron). As I’ve heard from many visitors to this city, I was almost instantly struck by the abundance and ingenuity of food sold by street vendors at all hours of the day. The street food in Bangkok is inspired. It is also intimidating.
Without knowing a word of Thai, I covertly eyed the exchanges that occurred between vendors and passersby. I watched as buyers pointed to various toppings for noodles, soups and produce and discussed the price of their selected dish. I wondered at the contents of fried items served on sticks and lovingly placed in plastic bags with sauces of every color. I planned my first endeavor into the world of Thai street food – would it be fried bananas or perfectly formed balls of pork? Would I bravely point at a noodle dish or batch of fried rice and allow them to serve it to me with “the works”?
And then it happened. I saw the crab rangoon. With its signature four-cornered shape and puffy base that signaled a warm cream cheese filling, I would know it anywhere. My midwestern heart fluttered at the though of a warm fried shell drenched in spicy sweet sauce.
I approached immediately. Passing over the 20 or so other choices on the cart, I pointed straight at the crab rangoon and smiled at woman selling them. As if sensing my rangoon expertise, she nodded and dropped four of them into a bag, then pointed to a covered bowl in front of her. My confidence was further boosted when she poured a ladle of the contents over my rangoon. It was the pink, spicy/sweet sauce I remembered from childhood.
The first rangoon went straight into my mouth and was everything I remembered. Crunchy, sweet, spicy with a hint of creaminess.
On rangoon number two, I sensed something unusual.
On number three I thought it best to examine the structure a bit more closely. Gently biting the rangoon in half exposed, not cream cheese or even processed imitation “crab”. No…inside of that rangoon was a very small….hardboiled….egg.
This blog is dedicated to exploring the unknown, even when the unknown masquerades as something exceedingly familiar.