My friend, Linda, and I decided that I would stay at her cabin in Bear Valley Springs, and that we should have a sleepov
er with our fabulous girlfriends. I’ve known these women for fifteen years. We’re a tight group. We accept one another’s foibles, give support when needed (even if it’s not asked for), share what we have, applaud our successes, drink wine, smoke a little, and we laugh. A lot.
Since our gathering was a pot luck, I decided to make Tom Kha Gai, or Thai chicken coconut soup. I would shop in Los Angeles Thai Town for the necessary groceries. I hadn’t been there for several years, but how different could it be?
I drove around looking for the small grocery store I used to shop at- 7-10 years ago. I nevert did find it, but I found a larger Asian store a few doors from the Harvard House Motel that advertised: adult movies, color TV AMFM water bed, and the Crispy Pork Gang restaurant, a name better suited to a rock band, or creative LA gangsters. A Mexican security guard stood watch at the front entrance to the store, maybe so only a few of the Crispy Pork Gang could come in at a time.
I needed coconut milk, galangal (kha orn). a root similar to ginger, lemon grass/citronella(ta-krai), kaffir leaves, (bai ma-grood), fish sauce, (nagom pla) and this could not be derived from shell fish which some fish sauce is, black chile paste, (nam prik pow), cilantro leaves, and green Thai chile peppers (prik khee noo). I could buy the other ingredients anywhere: sugar, chicken, and lime juice.
I wandered around the messy store stepping aroound bags and boxes of dried fish, rice, noodles, cooking utensils and other unidentifiableThai imports. I marveled at how many ways bamboo can be prepared and preserved, from back scratchers to pickled snacks. Dozens of bottles of fish sauce and countless variations of hot chile paste lined the shelves. Coconut products: milk, cream, and juice, in cans, jars, and boxes took up two shelves. Coconut cookies, pie, and puddings jammed the dessert aisle, and different varieties of fresh coconuts filled a bin in the produce section.
Thailand is not called The Kingdom of a Hundred Fruits for nothing. Even in Los Angeles there were fresh and canned durien, a big melon or maybe squash thing that smells like it’s rotten as it ripens. When I was in Thailand, residents of the hostel were forbidden to have it in our rooms. Jack fruit, bitter melon, mango, mangosteen, longan, lychee, papaya, pink, thorny rambutan, and several different types of fresh and preserved bananas were stacked high in crates and on shelves.
I blazed through the snack food, picking up garlic green peas, dried okra, pickled cucumbers, and lychee. I bought my friend, Mary, a can of mangosteen because she believes in its abilities to heal. Wandering into the health and beauty section, I had to restrain myself. Since I’ve just moved to Lake Isabella where temperatures can rise to three digits during the summer, I was tempted to buy Snake Brand Prickly Heat Powder, but I was even more captivated by the variety of beauty products. Since I am a woman of a certain age I bought a small bar of Firmly Face Soap. I’ll keep you posted on the results.
I added mushrooms and some white wine to the chicken broth. An hour or so before we ate I put in a fillet of Latham link cod in with the chicken. Ot was delicioius. Ask anybody.