On the way home from school Monday Teacher drove Jim past the Hmong Amer-Asian store that’s around the corner from our house. Jim had taken a long walk Sunday afternoon – over two hours which was long enough to make me worry that he’d gotten lost or been mugged not that muggings are common around here – but he hadn’t seen it. The first thing Jim did after taking his school things up to his room was grab Jo-Bear and walk over to the store.
He came back very excited, telling Teacher that it was “All Thai food there.” I didn’t understand why the Hmong store would have Thai foods until Teacher told me that Lynn had said many Hmong lived in refugee camps in Thailand. Ahhhh, makes sense now! Jim brought home a bag of goodies: two jars of coconut gel, a pouch of chili paste, and a ton of Thai noodles – like Ramen but spicy. Wasu, one of the Thai students, had already gone through the stash of Thai noodles he’d brought from home so Jim replenished his supply.
While Teacher worked on our spaghetti supper, Jim opened the chili paste and found the leftover rolls from the previous night’s dinner. He encouraged each of us to take a taste. I was more than hesitant – it looked like ground up beef jerky, but I could see from the package that it was made of fish and seafood. I asked if it was hot and Jim shook his head “Is OK” he said.I broke off a small bit of bun and tentatively dipped it into the particles and took a bite. Spice… and… fish. Not my cup of tea – I didn’t mind the spice, but could have done without the fishy taste.
As the kids were setting the table Jim opened the jars of coconut gel. I’d thought it was jelly, but it was actually small slightly translucent squares of gelatinous coconut swimming in a clear liquid. “Sweet” Jim said, pointing at the gel and smiling. He poured both jars of gel into a bowl then put the bowl in the table along with the chili paste. As everyone dug into the spaghetti Jim sprinkled chili paste over his portion then passed the coconut gel. I gamely took two spoonfuls, figuring that if he could eat our food the least I could do was to try his.
The coconut gel squares weren’t as sweet as I’d imagined, but I’m learning that American “sweet” is much sweeter than Thai “sweet.” The consistency was like Jello Jigglers, if you used 4x the amount of Jello – very firm yet gel-like. As I chewed, the gel just disappeared into juice, yum! I’d imagined that it was made by adding gelatin to coconut milk, but since each piece tasted slightly different I realized it was made from the coconut flesh. Little Guy gobbled his up and had thirds, but Z-Man wouldn’t even try his. Definitely showing their ages!
Jim outside the Amer-Asian store.
Jim poses inside the store. He seems very happy to find something Thai in America.