Thai Language Lesson:
Kin: กิน (pronounced: ghaen); to eat.
Aa-hăan อาหาร (pronounced: aar-haan); food.
I just returned from a weeklong homestay in the Mae Chaem district; part of the Chiang Mai province in Northern Thailand. It was quite a winding drive to get there, but after only 3 short hours we arrived in the most beautifully serene village, nestled in a small valley up in the mountains.
Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain (8,415 ft high) is also located in the Mae Chaem district and I was able to see it clearly during our trek outside the village one day.
Aa-hăan (food) in Mae Chaem was pretty delicious!
I felt extremely spoiled to have 3 home-cooked meals prepared for me everyday for 5 days. Upon arriving in the village, our group of 27 students was divided into groups of 3 and introduced to our host families. Jennifer (32 from Pitzer College in California) and Victoria (19 from Simpson College in Iowa) were my roommates for the week. We hardly knew each other when we arrived, but we left the village closer than we imagined I am sure. I loved getting to know each of them and I’m excited to have made a few more friends here in Chiang Mai.
My experiences in Mae Chaem were incredible. I learned so much from my host family, Maw, Paw, Grandma, and Pimm (their eldest daughter, 37). The 7 of us lived together, in close quarters for the week we stayed, but every moment was priceless! I should also mention that no one in my family spoke any English. We relied soley on sign-language, Jen’s Lonely Plant Thai-English dictionary, and our few Thai phrases that we had learned to communicate everything. It was a huge challenge, but it taught me to be patient, observant, and gracious in manner.
Pimm (in the background of the above photo) was our main chef for the week. We all woke up around 6:30 when the rooster crowed: consistently, loudly, and obnoxiously. Pimm would then answer to Maw’s call to make breakfast, roll out of bed, and heat up the wok. The entire “kitchen” and dining area was outside, typical in traditional Thai homes. Jen, Victoria, and I would lay in bed until around 7:30; smelling the waft of eggs and pork frying from our open windows, hearing the oil crackling, and listening to Maw and Paw laugh at Grandmaw (who was usually still drunk from the night before). Finally, after what sounded like a call for “Kin or Aa-haan,” we would roll off our beds (mats) and walk downstairs to a table full of hot plates and huge bowls of rice for each of us.
This was the same routine for dinner around 6 pm each night; only we were usually just finishing our showers or lying on the ground trying to escape the heat. We also tried to stay upstairs as long as we could before dinner because rice whiskey shots began around 4:30 in our house, and we learned real fast that we couldn’t keep up unless we waited until around 6:00 pm for shot-time.
There was actually little to no variation between the food served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast almost always consisted of one large omelet plate, stir-fried bean sprouts with onions, and either some form of stir-fried pork with garlic or another side of stir-fried greens with garlic.
Lunch and dinnner varied from an assortment of stir-fried vegetables, fried or grilled fish, fried chicken, stir-fried pork and eggs, fried hard boiled eggs with sweet and sour sauce, or a soup made with meat, greens, and herbs.
Scrambled eggs with larvae? I seriously struggled to eat this but Maw and Pimm were so excited by the delicacy of this dish that I had to stomach a few bites to avoid being rude.
This is one of my favorite “prik” (chili) sauces. Paw would make it fresh each night by simply slicing green chilis in fish sauce with fresh lemon or lime juice and crushed garlic.