This post is dedicated to my dad who passed away about one year ago. He would have loved this experience. Also, for my father-in-law, Mike, and any other seafood lover out there.
We are currently staying on Sriboya, a predominantly Muslim island in the South of Thailand. We are travelling with our friends Ant and Keri, who have family on the island. I’ll write more about the island and people later, because they are both lovely.
We are staying at a smallish resort, with several ex-pat owned bungalows (mostly French I think. It’s about the only tourist accommodation on the island. But there are only a handful of people staying here right now – it is quiet and lovely, we are awoken under mosquito nets and fresh air to the sounds of the jungle.
The other night, we asked, Tuom, one of the very friendly staff, for other restaurants on the island. He suggested his brother’s restaurant. “But, only seafood!” was his terse review.
“Seafood?? Yeah baby, let’s go!” Ant and I agreed.
Mia and Porter were like, “What the…” and “But…” before being scooped onto the back of the motor-scooters.
We arrived at the other end of the island, and saw that the restaurant was floating about a hundred feet off the pier – a platform of wooden planks, supported by blocks of foam, tied in place by heavy ropes falling off into the depths. The planks surrounded large pens and nets all sagging into the water. The place had a sense of decay to it, the same feeling I get in any working fishing village: wooden boards sun-bleached and warped, discarded bits of the sea dessicating in the sun, smells of salt and drying fish permeate the air. You’ve probably been to seafood restaurants where you pick the food from a big tank. In this case, we literally picked it right out of the sea.
The menu was essentially indecipherable. Ant and I ordered by pointing at something, the owner would pull up a net, throw some on a scale – “more?”
Clams. “More?” “Yes, we’ll take a few more clams.”
Snails. “You want?” Oh yeah, gotta try snails. “Kap, mak-mak” (Translation: yep, more, I think).
We also ordered crab, clams, crab in curry sauce, fried fish and deep-fried crab.
The food was lip-smacking delicious, although the crabs were small and did not match up to our Pacific Northwest Dungeness. I’ll attach some photos, but once I got into the crab, there was no chance I would touch my camera with sticky curry-fingers. So, unfortunately we did not get all of the food.
The snails were particularly interesting. The shells were small, with a small little tough bit sticking out (a toe? an antannae?). I would grasp it, then pull out the rest of the meat. It was a long, curled up thing, meaty at first, but gradually becoming more gooey. I mixed a bunch of green chilli sauce with it, and yum! It was less chewy than clams or squid, really quite tasty. Mia could not watch. If you want to experience it with me, I’ll attach a youtube video link at the bottom.
While I was enjoying my maritime gastronomic adventure, at the other end of the table, Mia was struggling. She knew this dinner was a favor for dad, but she was also super hungry and needing some food herself. She ate some rice and a couple pieces of fried crab. Porter was also so-so, but at least he likes crab.
When we returned to our bungalow in the dark, the adults were tired, happy, and full. A full seafood extravaganza for about 7.5 diners for around $50, total! Unfortunately Mia and Porter were still not content. So she and Porter decided walk down to the restaurant and order a Thai pancake with banana (basically a fried Indian bread rotee with sliced banana inside. Wow, delicious).
The next morning, Tuom and Lok kidded around with us, “why don’t their parents feed them?” Laughter all around. Obviously, no grandmas had come with us on this trip.
We talked about how grandpa Mike would have reacted. We agreed his response would be something like:
“This is so freaking cool! This is so freaking COOL!” Over and over, as his rapture with seafood would take on praise in Allah-like proportions.
My dad also would have loved every bit of it – from “talking” with a salty old fisherman in body-sign language, to fishing from the restaurant, to getting his fingers crusted with crab juice and curry sauce. Good food, good times.
Here is the snail-eating video: