After my usual routine of passing out fully clothed, a few hours later I awoke to find myself still much too full. My body seemed to be rebelling against eating ever larger quantities. I would need to take a break.
I didn’t go to the morning market, or to the shops. After napping until about 3:00pm, I ventured out to the 7-11 for some iced tea and ate a tangerine. By my standards, I was fasting. While I was gradually feeling better, my resolve to abstain would soon be tested: it was time for dinner.
Chiang Mai has many riverside restaurants catering to tourists, and tonight we visited one whose sign was only in Thai. The menu indicated the name Khuey Chiang Mai. Because the restaurant has a reputation for slow service, Kasma ordered in advance, and she challenged us with numerous unusual dishes. I restricted myself to firsts only, which was about all I could manage with my troubled tummy.
Our first dish was a fried fish with choo chee curry. The meat had been removed and fried in chunks separately from the skeleton, then presented on top of the crispy skeleton and doused with an unusually peanutty variant of this curry. Extra fatty pork ribs, a sour curry with fish eggs and fish, and hot and sour beef tendon soup were some of the dishes Kasma feels at liberty to order with this adventurous crowd. We can handle it. Two new vegetables joined our parade of greens. The first is a “slippery” vegetable prepared with long, thin slices of sour sausage. I can only recall eating this vegetable once before, in our first week intensive cooking class where it was wok-fried with eggs. Both preparations reduce its “mucilaginous” quality. The other green was prepared as a salad in place of green papaya, so the salad is named som tum and then the word I can’t think of for this vegetable. Bracingly spicy.
For dessert, the restaurant presented plates of intricately designed sweets. The core is mung bean paste, but they are dipped in colored gelatin to give the appearance of a carrot, a mangosteen, a mango, a mushroom, a slice of watermelon, and so on. I can’t imagine the patience required to make these. Just remember that they all taste exactly the same.
After dinner, we got our briefing: we depart at 6am for Hmong New Years at Mae Sa Mai.
While wrapping up notes on the laptop, at around 8:40pm, I learned that tonight (!!) was karaoke night. Due to our early departure tomorrow morning, no one seemed inclined to join me, so I took off with Sun and one of the hotel bellhops to a restaurant across the river where the KJ rotates through the tables, two songs per table. We brought our own bottle and purchased table service involving ice, purified water, and soda water, and a pretty waitress to keep refilling our drinks. We ordered a plate of French fries (ho hum) and crispy fried chicken skins with crispy basil leaves (more interesting) to help pass the time. I sipped and nibbled as little as possible.
It took about 3 hours to get through two rotations, which was as much time as any of us wanted to spend there. Desperado, Handy Man, Eight Days a Week, and Hotel California are all songs I’ve performed before, but Hotel California appeared to be the crowd favorite. The gravelly rock and roll voice still needs work, but all the late night practice in my living room (with apologies to my neighbors) must be paying off.
I set several alarms for our early morning departure. Time will tell whether I make it.