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My First Thai

THE THAI REVOLUTION. First of two parts.

June 24, 1993|BARBARA HANSEN

I'd just gotten off a freighter. The weather was incredibly steamy, the way it usually is in Bangkok, and I stumbled into a small, air-conditioned restaurant to escape the heat. That was the Garden Room in Oriental Lane, somewhere near the Oriental Hotel. It was there that I first tasted Thai food. I had chicken supreme in ginger sauce--chicken mixed chop suey-style with shallots, tiny peanuts and shavings of ginger root and spooned over rice. This, with a glass of limeade, cost $1.05.

I had my first Thai meal in the United States at The Orient, a restaurant that flourished in the early '70s on West Third Street in Los Angeles. Here I marveled over mee krob-- irresistible, sticky-sweet, crisp rice noodles that I instantly renamed Thai Cracker Jack. I also had a spicy salad of ground beef mixed with ground roasted rice--how strange that seemed--and mint leaves; chicken with peppers; beef curry with bamboo shoots, fried fish cakes, stir-fried Chinese broccoli and, for dessert, delicately perfumed cubes of green gelatin topped with salted coconut milk. "Fascinating, superb food," I wrote at the time.

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