On Sunday I was privileged to attend my first chowhound gathering. It certainly did not disappoint. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and relaxed, creating a truly warm and welcoming atmosphere. All the better to fully enjoy the delicious thai delicacies, you would think.
A little bit of everything was contributed by all. To give you some idea, in a single parade line the table held: steam tray goodies galore (cellophane noodles, pumpkin, tofu with bacon, more noodles, rice, etc.) sticky rice with perfect mangoes, longan drink, thai iced tea, fried chicken, a whole fried fish, a chicken curry wrap, two papaya salads of varying intensity, kannom krog (the coconut milk medallions), a box of pork-filled tapioca balls... am I missing anything? It seemed to stretch for miles.
The tofu and bacon dish, which also had a whole egg, was supposedly for Thai tastes only, which is what the serving woman told Melanie Wong. Though the tofu had soaked up the sauce nicely, I couldn't detect any strong flavors that might justify the woman's reluctance.
As for the tapioca balls, they did indeed look like little clusters of translucent fish eggs. Popped into the mouth (as I had them) or wrapped with lettuce and cilantro (as I should have had them), they were a startling blend of chewy tapioca, sweet pork, and chopped peanuts and peanut sauce. For me, the most challenging dish.
The tastiest? Outside the kannom krog, it was the whole fried fish hands down. Though the skin softened by soaking in the sauce, the dish itself had a surprising slow burn that added to what I'm guessing was a soy or fish based sauce with red and green peppers. Simple, but flavorful as well.
There's just my small sampling of what stood out to me. We seemed to prove the conventional wisdom about Thai Temple- avoid the steam trays generally, know the way the papaya salad tends to be made (short on spiciness, and perhaps lime) and don't be afraid to urge your preferences.
At this point I should confess, my attention wasn't entirely focused on actually eating the food. Instead I coveted a bit of everything, wolfed it down to make room on my plate for more, and basked in the company of my newfound chowhound elders.