My mom and I were holed up in her little apartment, cracking open brittle, plastic takeaway containers from a Thai restaurant down the street. She was getting over jet lag from the New York flight to Melbourne, and I was just starting to feel like myself again after an ungodly bout of Bali Belly that sent me fleeing to Australia–a souvenir from months in Southeast Asia. ‘Try it–it’s not spicy at all’. I passed her my green curry. A few seconds later she had a coughing fit and I realized I’d nearly poisoned my poor mom with what probably tasted like lava. A month in Thailand will have you eating fire.
Thai food wasn’t at the top of my eats bucket list when I left for Southeast Asia. I dreamed of crouching on a tiny plastic stool again on Nowhere Street, Vietnam, over steaming bowls of salty-sour Pho and vinegary, crunchy salads with exotic herbs and mountains of cilantro. But my second trip to Thailand converted me to a fanatic, in no small part thanks to a woman I met, named Yui.