On Sunday I headed to Half Moon Bay to take part in the Buddha Day celebration at the Burmese monastery. My first stop when I arrived at 12:15pm was the front table to make a donation. I was dismayed to see that things were already wrapping up with tents and tables being broken down. Nearly all the food was gone, the only stand still open was the fry station shown on the upper left. The two young women were battering and frying slices of opo squash (upper right) and a bowl of spicy and sour sauce was offered as a condiment. Hot out of the fryer, the squash was tender and almost creamy under the crackly thin crust. The tart sauce was a good foil for the oily richness.
Many were still working on their plates heaped with what looked like some tasty home-style food and for a minute I considered mugging one of them. Luckily, ThaDu came to my rescue, taking me into the kitchen to see what might be left to eat. Soon I had my own little buffet lined up on the kitchen counter (lower left) for me to help myself. Just like at home, I popped the curry and the soup into the microwave myself for a few seconds to heat them up. Many pairs of Burmese eyes were tuned in to see if I liked the food. I did, it was all good.
I had a spicy chili-red chicken curry with some steamed white rice; a gumbo-like vegetable soup chockful of tomato, cilantro, onion, opo, okra, chicken, and fish; yellow peas (similar to garbanzos) with garlic and fish sauce; and dry braised chicken and coconut noodles. Everything was freshly prepared and made with a lot of love. Also a lot of fish sauce and garlic, with these strong flavors making a bigger statement than the restaurant Burmese food I've tried. ThaDu said this was the authentic taste.
The matron of the kitchen (lower right) who cooks for and takes care of the resident monks was as sweet as could be in making me feel welcome in her kitchen and clucking over me. She had prepared each of these dishes. I tried to wash my own dishes, but she wouldn't let me. She also invited me to come back for a bite to eat any time. Neither Burmese nor Buddhist myself, I was especially touched by the monastery's hospitality.
The next festival day is July 24.
Theravada Buddhist Society of America
17450 S. Cabrillo Highway
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019