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Our maid had only a few tools in her back patio kitchen: a machete, a stout clay charcoal stove, a coconut grater, a mortar and pestle, and a large red and white platter. Perhaps you’d also find a blackened wok, a couple of cheap aluminum pots, and a cone-shaped straw basket (with lid) for steaming sticky rice. But when she got to work with her basic complement of cooking equipment, our mouths watered.
My siblings and I had decided long ago, even back in the village before our move to a town near the Mekong, that we didn’t like American food. Oh, the occasional hamburger and hand-cut french fries would do for birthdays. But Thai food–not limp, stringy stir-fried bean sprouts–but real Northeastern Thai food that you could crunch and savor, like green papaya salad, won our full approval.