Restaurants here aren't like ours. Usually there is a glass case featuring prominent ingredients (which may be vegetables, fried chicken, roasted duck, or cartons of eggs), and a couple huge cooking pans (that look like woks) on burners off to the side. If you're lucky, there will be a sign in English (of course, then you're probably in a touristy area and the prices will be twice what they should be). Otherwise, you just have to point to what you want.
Anytime I see a glass case shredded green papaya and tomatoes, I know I'm in the right place for one of my favorite Thai dishes of all time... Som Tham (or Papaya Salad).
The peanuts sprinkled on top were beautifully toasted and made this salad PERFECT. A delicious mix of salty, tangy and spicy, with the tomatoes to provide cool, juicy contrast to the crunchy green papaya.
The man I ordered it from on this particular occasion spoke some English.
"Spicy ok?" he asked skeptically.
"Yes! I love spicy food!" I enthusiastically replied.
He just kind of looked at me with glimmer of doubt in his eyes. I'm sure countless white people before me have declared the same thing, only to take one bite and protest, tears streaming, that it's too hot.
But since I've been "practicing" eating spicy food for months in preparation for this trip, I thought the level of spiciness was perfect. Of course, he probably toned it way down for me...but I still felt hardcore.
I loved the plate of vegetables that was served on the side of the salad. I'm not sure what I was supposed to do, but I basically just tore them all into bite-sized pieces with my hands and stirred them into the salad. It was delicious.
A few days ago I posted about ordering an iced coffee and being served the cup in a bag. Well this time, at one of the markets in Chiang Mai, I ordered an iced coffee and the person behind the counter scooped ice into a bag, poured coffee and milk over it, and handed it to me with a straw!