Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cooking Ruins Restaurants

One of the things I try to do when I travel is learn to cook something.  Bronte helped to nurture this in me - about halfway through my first year in Korea I asked her if she knew somewhere I might learn some Korean cooking, and she volunteered to do it herself.  I'm pretty sure the time we spent together in her kitchen, cooking sundubu, cucumber kimchi, mandu, and many other things cemented our friendship.

Since then, I've taken cooking courses in Jordan, China, Nepal, and here in Mongolia, as well as picking up Greek dishes from Bronte after she moved to Piraeus.  In fact, not learning to cook any Thai cuisine when Curly Sue and I went in 2006 was one of my great travel regrets, and I decided that I really needed to rectify it when I went to Chiang Mai last winter.  Baan Thai was recommended by Lonely Planet and had brochures at my guesthouse, and when Dougie Poo spoke glowingly of the cooking lesson he once did, I decided I had to go for it.

 It was heaven.  I learned to make pad thai, spring rolls, tom ka gai, panaeng gai, and fried bananas.  They also gave us a cookbook with all our recipes, all the other ones that were offered, and ones that weren't offered but that I'm incredibly grateful for.  Once upon a time I went to the Thai place in Yuldong and ate bananas in steamed coconut milk, and thought it was a dream, because I'd never seen them anyplace else.  I now know how to cook them.
However, there's a caveat to this story.  When I was younger my cousin used to talk about how she could make alfredo better than any restaurant she knew.  I found this obnoxious because - hello! - it's a restaurant.  If it wasn't good at what it serves, it wouldn't remain open.  I didn't get it until after I came back from Thailand, and considered going to Bangkok for dinner, until I realized I could make a better pad thai than they could.

It stopped me in my tracks - I had become that food snob who didn't want to go to a restaurant because my food is better.  The ironic thing is, I don't really "like" to cook.  About once a month I invite my friends over so that I have an excuse to thoroughly clean my apartment, but if I don't have someone to tell me how delicious everything was, all the effort of getting ingredients and putting them together only to have to clean it all up seems like too big a hassle.

And that thought helped me to get over my food snobbery.  In the end, my laziness is my redemption.  I may be able to cook a better pad thai, but on any given day, it's less work to order on Songo.

WHICH REMINDS ME!  Sorry, I haven't been much of a blogger lately, but ohmygosh, one of the bestest things to happen in UB in a long time is the arrival of our own Sherpa's!  In Shanghai, Sherpa's was a company that delivered food from a variety of restaurants, and it kept my lazy ass from starving on more than one occasion when it was too cold (haha) to be bothered going outside.  Well, here in UB it's Songo, but the fact that I can get lunch delivered to the school from somewhere other than Round Table0 is a lifesaver.  Apparently Pizza Hut and KFC are both coming to Zaisan, but why would that matter when someone will bring me sushi from Miko?!?

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