Maybe it’s unusual to think that today’s post is about one of my favorite desserts in the world.
Sure, when I want something sweet, I mean really sweet, it will be from Türkiye. And if I want something pseudo-healthy, it will be an Indian mango lassi.
But when in Southeast Asia, I can’t get enough of those Frankenstein’s monster’s bowls of goop, slop, and ice.
Although I didn’t know the name for the dessert until doing a little reading about, I found out that the Thai name, รวมมิตร (ruam mit), means “get together + friends.” Makes sense, because you’ve got your fruit, tubers, roots, gelatin, syrup, beans, legumes, and weird colors you may never have expected to see in a dessert, all coming together for a saccharine dalliance. So, grab some friends, grab some ladles, order a family-style — I just made that up, but try to order something that contains a little of everything — and then walk it all off in the heat.
Craving that pad thai or green curry again? Why? Thai food is so common these days, you can find Thai cuisine — or even ready-made meals– all over the place.
But it’s good, too, right? It’s all subjective, of course … if you like it (as I certainly do), perhaps the mere mention of eating something from Thailand momentarily transports you to an exotic land, where mango sticky rice trucks are on every street corner, Thai iced tea flows out of apartment faucets, and butterfly pea’s coloring and binomial nomenclature never goes out of style.
And where food doesn’t expire.
Wow, now there’s an expiration date I can get behind. Not only will it outlast me by a loooong shot, but also most living things, most dead things, and even a French transportation strike, but not term limits in the U.S. Congress. You can’t win ’em all.
Jokes aside, let’s dissect the date of expiry on the Caffa Coffeemaker package.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way for my fellow U.S. folk– January 29th. That’s how the majority of the world does it, day, month, year. OK, I feel very sheepish now (At least we’re making slow progress on the metric system).
Now, the fun part, the year. Short answer? To calculate the “Western” aka Gregorian year, subtract543 from the Thai year.
For example, to comprehend the year in the above photo–
2566 – 543 = 2023.
Darn, I thought that lemon tea would’ve had a bit more staying power!
However, as I eluded to before, there are still some lunar calendar elements in the modern Thai calendar (and no matter which you own, no food — ok, maybe Spam — will last that long). Wan phra, “monk day” in Thai, are roughly four days per month where Thai Buddhists would visit temples to provide food for monks. These days are based on the four principal quarter phases — new moon, 1st quarter, full moon, 3rd/last quarter — of the moon.
And before you ask, yes, I do know that this is a food blog.
So … go get a moon pie or something.
You may now know how to understand Thai calendars, but let’s none of us forget to inspect the expiry dates no matter where in the world we are!
Moreover, the snow ear – as it is referred to in various East Asian countries – is a common ingredient in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cosmetics, thought to combat wrinkles and help moisture retention in the skin.
But, let’s remember that this is FindingFoodFluency. Though the snow fungus is basically tasteless, due to its gelatinous texture, it is popular in both sweet and savory dishes in southern China and Vietnam. Indeed, I can recall trying it while living in Shenzhen, China, in a dessert porridge with red dates and nameless flotsam.
One of the truly wonderful aspects about traveling is introducing your taste buds to new and/or fresh flavors. Southeast Asia is no stranger to my passport; consequently, nor is its diverse array of foods nearly unknown outside of the region.
Today’s entry is about the gấc (roughly pronounced “guhk”) melon, also known as a “baby jackfruit.” This fruit is originally from Vietnam – the second part of its Latin name, Momordica cochinchinensis, refers to Cochinchin, or what some foreign countries used to call Central/Southern Vietnam. However, the gac has also come to be planted in tropical and sub-tropical parts of Australia and China; in Chinese, it is called 木鳖果 (mùbiēguǒ), which unusually translates as tree freshwater soft-shelled turtle fruit.
The gac is a tricky one, because it doesn’t ripen off of trees, has a toxic exterior, and only the reddish aril (the extra flesh surrounding the black seeds) is edible. Not to mention, the orange melon is typically harvested in two months of the year, December and January, thus it’s not always the easiest to find, nor the cheapest to try.
It was in Chiang Mai, Thailand where I first heard about and tried the gac, due to a menu calling my attention to it.
Yet, in order to make the gac fruit palatable – on its own the gac has more of an avocado/cucumber taste – other fruit juices have to be added.
In spite of its nearly unsweetened flavor, the gac has a couple of things going for it. It is extremely high in beta carotene, good for your vision and immune system, and lycopene, an antioxidant; consequently, it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Additionally, it’s orange and red, red being a lucky color in its native region. Thus, you would likely see a plate of xôi gấc, or red gac sticky rice for Tết, the Vietnamese lunar new year.