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从寡淡甜腻到五味调合:在美国寻找正宗泰国味

更新时间:2017-10-13 11:32:38 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

On the (Rising) Trail of Thai Food in America
从寡淡甜腻到五味调合:在美国寻找正宗泰国味

SAN FRANCISCO — Crunchy hearts of palm and giant shrimp stir-fried with holy basil and the perfect ration of red chilies. A green papaya salad, freshly shredded and mashed with an extra portion of tiny Thai limes.

旧金山——香脆的棕榈心和大虾炒圣罗勒,搭配比例完美的红辣椒。新鲜切碎的青木瓜沙拉上放着小片泰国酸橙。

There was a downside to living in Bangkok for a decade as a New York Times correspondent and being surrounded by great Thai dishes like those: It really raised the bar for when I moved back to America.

身为纽约时报驻曼谷记者,我在这个城市生活了十年,缺点就是身边总有这样的泰国美味。结果回到美国之后,这大大提高了我对泰餐的标准。

Last year, a few weeks after my family and I arrived in the United States for a new posting and a new life, we went to a Thai restaurant in New York City where my son, then 9, casually rattled off an order of one of his favorites, pad see ew gai — stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, garlic, leafy greens and a mixture of dark and light soy sauce.

去年,我接受了一个新岗位,打算开始新的生活,于是和家人返回美国。回国几周后,我们去了纽约的一家泰餐厅,我9岁的儿子随口报出了他的最爱之一:豉油炒鸡河——就是把米粉制成的面条与鸡肉、大蒜、绿叶蔬菜与生抽、老抽混合的酱油放在一起炒。

The Thai waiter, having not encountered many U.S. children who speak Thai, was charmed. He doted on my son, and after he had delivered the food made a standard Thai inquiry: Is it delicious?

面前的泰国服务员没怎么见过会说泰语的美国小孩,简直被迷住了。他宠溺地对待我儿子,上菜之后,他像标准的泰国人那样问道:味道还好吗?

We had just encountered the bland and sugary food found at so many Thai restaurants in the United States, and other places outside Thailand. Ever since, I’ve been preoccupied with a mystery: how one of the world’s most sophisticated and flavorful cuisines can be reduced to such a starchy and insipid mess.

在美国以及泰国以外的地方,我们在太多的泰餐厅里只能吃到寡淡甜腻的菜品。从那以后,我就一直在思忖这样一个谜团:世界上最为精致复杂、口感丰富的美食之一,为什么会退化成这种充斥淀粉、淡而无味的一团糟?

I’ve heard lots of explanations. One is the persistence of a belief — not unfounded — among some Thai chefs that Westerners like their food sweet and can’t handle spice.

我听过很多种解释。其中一则是一些泰国厨师一贯坚持的信念——并非毫无根据——西方人喜欢泰餐中的甜食,但却受不了他们的香料。

When I was living in Bangkok, a Thai friend told me she had worked in the kitchen of a Thai restaurant in Austria. I asked her whether it was difficult to cook for farangs, the term Thais use to describe Europeans and Americans.

住在曼谷时,一位泰国朋友告诉我,她曾在奥地利一家泰餐厅当过厨师。我问她为西方佬(farangs)——这是泰国人对欧美人的称呼——做饭是不是特别困难。

“It’s easy,” she said. “You pretend you are cooking for children.”

“很简单,”她说。“假装你是在给孩子做饭就行了。”

Thai food is not the only cuisine to have been transformed in the journey across oceans. But I’ve made it my mission to track down good Thai cooking in the Bay Area, where I am now the Times bureau chief. I quiz every Thai person I meet, trade tips with diplomats and scour the streets for high-end and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that hold promise.

泰餐并不是唯一一种漂洋过海之后就被改变的美食。但是现任时报湾区分社长的我,已经把在这里寻找美味泰餐视为己任。我询问遇见的所有泰国人;和外交官们交换信息;走遍街头,搜索各种有希望的高端餐厅或路边小店。

What I’ve found has been encouraging. A number of restaurants here serve dishes that respect the complexity of Thai food and its balance of sweet, sour, salt and spice. They’re part of a sea change that in recent years has produced ambitious and acclaimed Thai restaurants around the country, particularly in West Coast cities like Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon.

我的发现令人振奋。这里许多餐厅提供的菜肴都尊重泰国食材的复杂性,注重甜、酸、咸与香料的平衡。近年来,全国各地涌现出不少有抱负、有声誉的泰餐厅,特别是在洛杉矶和俄勒冈州波特兰等西海岸城市,我探访的这些餐馆也是这股潮流的一部分。

“It’s a golden age for Thai food,” said James Syhabout, a Thailand-born chef and cookbook author who owns Hawker Fare, a San Francisco restaurant that specializes in dishes from that country’s Isaan region. “Restaurants serving good Thai food, as they do now, didn’t exist two decades ago because there wasn’t the community to support it, besides our own community.”

“眼下是泰餐的黄金时代,”泰国出生的厨师和食谱作家詹姆斯·希亚波特(James Syhabout)表示,他在旧金山拥有一家名叫Hawker Fare的餐厅,专营泰国伊讪地区的美食。“20年前,根本没有像现在这样提供精美泰餐的餐厅,因为只有我们自己的社区会支持它们。”

“Now diversity is more celebrated. And we are more brave, more proud of showcasing our ethnicity,” said Syhabout, who also owns Commis, an Oakland, California, restaurant that has two Michelin stars.

“现在多样性受到更多鼓励。我们也开始更加勇敢、更加自豪地展示自己的民族,”希亚波特说,他还在加利福尼亚州奥克兰市拥有米其林两星餐厅Commis。

When his parents opened their first Thai restaurant in the late 1980s, they made their dishes milder and sweeter to attract diners unfamiliar with the cuisine. “The last thing any chef wants is to get the food sent back,” he said. “You want to play on the safer side.”

1980年代末,他的父母开了他家的第一个泰餐厅,当时,为招徕不熟悉泰餐的食客,他们把菜肴的味道弄得更清淡、更甜。“任何厨师最不想看到的就是食物被送回后厨,”他说。“你希望一切都安全稳妥。”

In California, the change has come in part because the Thai population has reached a critical mass: The Thai Consulate in Los Angeles estimates that there are more than 200,000 Thais in the state, enough to have restaurants that cater only to them.

在加州,这个变化的一个原因在于,泰裔人口的数量已经足够多:据泰国驻洛杉矶领事馆估计,加州约有逾20万泰裔,足以让餐馆面向满足他们的需求。

San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, the epicenter of the down-and-out in a city that has become largely unaffordable to all but the very wealthy, is also home to some of the city’s best Thai food.

在只有大富豪才不觉得物价离谱的旧金山,田德龙区是穷困潦倒者的集中地,也是这座城市最好的一些泰国餐厅的所在地。

There I met Narupon Silargorn, who came to this city as an art student and in 2008 opened Lers Ros Thai, where most of the early customers were Asian.

我在那里遇见了纳鲁旁·斯拉贡(Narupon Silargorn),当初他来这座城市学习艺术,2008年开了Lers Ros Thai餐厅,早期的顾客大多是亚洲人。

“I didn’t care whether farangs liked it,” he said. He also didn’t care that many customers couldn’t properly pronounce the name (layre rote tie), which means “excellent taste.” Now he has three branches, and two-thirds of his customers are not Thai. The image of farangs with unsophisticated palates is out of date, Narupon said.

“我不在乎欧美人是否喜欢它,”他说。他也不在意很多顾客不知道餐厅的正确发音(应该是“雷尔罗特泰”),意思是“超级美味”。现在,他开了三家分店,三分之二的顾客不是泰裔。纳鲁旁说,欧美人不懂美食的观念已经过时了。

For years, Thai chefs in America pointed out that fresh ingredients were not available; they were forced to buy Thai vegetables frozen or out of a can. That has changed with the intertwining of immigrant groups in California.

多年来,美国的泰菜大厨们抱怨买不到新鲜食材,只能购买冷冻或罐装泰国蔬菜。但是随着加州移民群体的融合,情况已经发生了变化。

Thai chefs today describe an informal partnership with ethnic Hmong refugees from Laos who came to America after the Vietnam War. Many settled as farmers in California’s Central Valley.

如今的泰菜大厨们称,他们与越战后来到美国的老挝赫蒙族难民达成了非正式合作关系。许多赫蒙族人在加州的中央谷地定居,从事农业生产。

It’s a classic American and Californian story: The Hmong farmers grow herbs and plants essential to Southeast Asian cooking, and the Thai chefs rejoice over access to freshly plucked Kaffir lime leaves; calamansi, a small citrus fruit akin to a kumquat; unripened papayas ready to be shredded into som tam; and the chickpea-size Thai eggplant found in dishes like green curry.

这是一个典型的美国和加州故事:赫蒙族农民种植东南亚烹饪所必需的香草和作物,泰菜大厨们欣喜地得到新鲜采摘的泰国青柠叶;类似金橘的小柑橘类水果“calamansi”(酸柑);用于切碎做成青木瓜沙拉的未成熟木瓜;以及鹰嘴豆大小的泰国茄子,用于制作绿咖喱等食物。

One avid customer for Hmong produce is Pim Techamuanvivit, the Bangkok-born owner of Kin Khao (Let’s Eat), a Thai restaurant wedged between the Tenderloin and Union Square.

曼谷出生的皮姆·特查姆安维维特(Pim Techamuanvivit)是赫蒙族农产品的狂热拥趸,她是泰国餐厅Kin Khao(意为“我们吃吧”)的老板,该餐厅位于田德龙区和联合广场之间。

Kin Khao breaks the mold of Thai restaurants in a number of ways. The staff is a mix of Thai and non-Thai. There are no wooden elephants and pictures of Thai landmarks; in an otherwise sparse wood-and-white dining room, Pim has chosen a Thai accent mark, mai toh, as the restaurant’s icon.

Kin Khao餐厅在很多方面打破了泰国餐馆的模式。它的工作人员由泰裔和非泰裔组成。店里没有木头大象或泰国地标的图片;在简洁的木色和白色就餐区,皮姆选择了一个mai toh,一个泰语中的音调符号,作为餐厅的标志。

My favorite dish there so far is a yam som-o, which is normally made from pomelo, a citrus fruit the size of a cantaloupe that grows in the tropics. This version is a medley of citrus fruits — pomelo, grapefruit, blood orange — mixed with small fried shrimp, cilantro, peanuts, shallots, mint and toasted coconut.

到目前为止,我在这家店最喜欢的菜是“yam som-o”(柚子沙拉),它通常是用热带地区生长的一种哈密瓜大小的柑橘类水果——柚子制作的。而这家店的这道菜是柑橘类水果的混合——柚子、葡萄柚和血橙——再加入小炸虾、香菜、花生、青葱、薄荷和烤椰子。

Sometimes an item on the menu is followed by this: “Warning: This is not Thai food for beginners.”

菜单上的某些菜的后面有这样的备注:“警告:这道菜不适合初级泰餐食客。”

And, often, authenticity can be painful. When I beseeched a waitress at Daughter Thai Kitchen, in the Montclair neighborhood of Oakland, not to hold back on the spice, she asked me to estimate my heat tolerance on a scale from 1 to 10.

而正宗的往往可能是会令你痛苦的。我在奥克兰蒙特克莱附近的闺女泰餐厨房(Daughter Thai Kitchen)恳求女服务员不要少放调料,她让我按照1到10的级别评估自己对辣椒的承受程度。

I told her 9. And I nearly cried my way through a three-alarm southern curry.

我说是9。结果,我几乎是哭着吃完那道有三个警告标志的南方咖喱。

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