There are moments where you taste something and it makes you want to delve even more into that style of cooking or that cuisine. This may sound pretty pedestrian to some, but it was an eye-opener for me: Thai food. It was only a plate of pad thai, but it was amazing. A little tangy, a little sweet, a little bit of heat, crisp and fresh bean sprouts on top along with the crunchy peanuts. I'm not even sure how authentic it was, but it blew my mind and I want more! I live in rural Iowa with not many ethnic groceries to be found, other than Hispanic stores. The closest I'd ever come to Thai food before today was reading about it on Chow, or watching it on the travel or cooking shows. So close yet so far away!
Fortunately, my roommate got a new job in a nearby town that has a pretty diverse Asian community. On a whim, we decided to step into the restaurant advertising Thai food and try it. It was a little hole in the wall restaurant that looked like it used to contain a KFC, with a sad-looking buffet against one wall. One look and my roommate and I decided to order off the menu instead, and we were glad we did! She ordered tom ka gai (sp?), since she likes spicy, and I opted for pad thai, being in the mood for noodles. The portions were huge for such low prices and I nearly didn't have anything to bring home for later. My roommate, unfortunately, mistook a chunk of green thai chili for a green bean and spent a good amount of time in the bathroom trying to cool her mouth. Her entire face was bright red, eyes and nose running. The girl running the front of the restaurant was very apologetic, but we were laughing our backsides off at the entire situation and told her that it was alright. I also got a few giggles out of my bubble tea, which was extremely sweet but a lot of fun.
Before today, I was one of THOSE people. The one who thinks that eating sushi rolls containing smoked salmon and cream cheese is pretty darned exotic and who would probably prefer just a burger or a plate of questionably Italian pasta. Hopefully this is the beginning of a long and happy relationship with ethnic food.