Greetings from Carrboro,
The handwritten signs didn’t help. I’d point and then pronunciate in awkward slowness, “chick – en?” Like that really helped. He always nodded encouragingly from the other side of the divide. And optimistically, I went along with our little practiced charade, mostly aware that I could have enunciated “wom-bat?” and received the same solicitous response. Not that wombats actually live in Thailand. Or are, you know, ever thought of as dinner.
The vegetables were a bit more self-explanatory. As was the egg. Thankfully. So, with all the ingredients assembled on a tray, he lit the burner. It sounded like a jet engine coming to life as a monstrous blue flame shot three feet into the night sky. He dropped a well-used, thin metal wok on top of the flame and then slowly introduced my soon-to-be dinner to the sizzling steel. Swirling the wok with one hand, he quickly stirred the food with a flat-sided spoon with the other. We continued our culinary charade with me basically agreeing to whatever sauce or spice that he amiably proffered to add to my food. What the hell. It was delicious the night before. And, to be honest, the night before that.
I sat on a bucket and ate happily at a long table that I shared with two families. My now chef buddy squatted next to his stall and smoked a cigarette, his apron stuffed between his legs. So many other food stalls lined the street. And so many people! The brightly colored tuk-tuks made their way through the crowds, a few slowing to see if I needed a ride, calling out to me, “buddy.” What were they thinking? This was just my first plate of the night. I was just getting started.
The Acme Staycation. Bangkok street food in all of its glorious excess. Green papaya salad with poke-style yellowfin tuna. Fried red curry fish cakes with herbed spring rolls and cucumber dipping sauce. Pan-fried noodles with shrimp, egg, snow peas, and sweet & hot ginger/lime sauce. And Thai iced-tea pudding with boba pearls, citrus caramel, and whipped cream. Oh, and I made a batch of lychee, dragonfruit, and thai basil sangria if you really want to go all in. Because it is Friday. And you deserve it.
Well, that’s all the news from Carrboro. The staff at Acme look forward to serving you soon.