What did you grow up eating? Everyone’s idea of comfort food differs, some think of mac ‘n cheese, some think of mashed potato, and some think of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. One of my most comforting dishes is fried chicken. And , no, it’s not any good old fried chicken. I’m talking about “Sri trung” (ศรีตรัง) chicken from Hua Hin, Thailand.
This fried chicken is special to me, not only because it’s extremely juicy and flavorful from all the herbs that are fried with the chicken, but also because it reminds me of my childhood. It brings back memories of me as a little kid being fed the chicken at poolside since I would refuse to get out of the water. My parents and my nanny would have to roll the sticky rice into bite-sized balls and topped them with small pieces of chicken, sushi style. I would play around the pool and come to the side to get fed the delicious chicken and off I went again. BLISS!!
The first thing my family does when we go to the beach is make a stop at the Hua Hin market to buy the chicken from Sri Trung. A trip to Hua Hin is not complete unless I get to indulge in these tender pieces of heaven. So imagine how upset I was last year, when I found out that they stopped selling the chicken! I went back three times throughout 2009 to early 2010, hopeful for the return of my beloved chicken with no success. My dad knows then owner pretty well since we’ve been their customers for more than 20 years. They informed him that they hadn’t been selling so well, and that they were considering closing the shop.
Last weekend my family and I went to Hun Hin. As the car drove passed the market, I couldn’t help but look for the chicken stall, knowing that it was closed. We compensated by buying lots of other stuff, but nothing could quite replace it. Nothing had the history like the chicken did. Nothing reminds me of swimming around the pool in my Flintstone one piece swim suit with the ugliest goggles known to man. Yes, I know I’m being very dramatic about the chicken. But this is an integral piece of my childhood I’m talking about, people!
As I woke up from the second night at the beach house, I was greeted with a very familiar scent – a mixture of garlic, pepper, and other spices. Without thinking, I rushed outside, not even stopping to get my contacts lens, to be greeted by my childhood chicken!!!! I was SO delighted. I think it’s funny how happy my whole family was to find out that “Sri Trung” had moved from the market and opened their own restaurant! And they were so happy to see my dad to. As the owner saw my dad, he beamed from ear to ear and took his whole family out to greet him and grabbed him a lot of new dishes to sample.
Having said all that, I don’t think that this chicken would be so extremely delicious to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really good. But people’s tastes differ and I don’t want you guys to have a culinary anticlimax because of this entry. However, I believe that people’s relationship to food doesn’t just start and stop at its taste. It’s the whole experience, the memories that you associate with the scent of the dish, the familiarity of its texture, and the whole sense of nostalgia it brings. This chicken is not just any old friend chicken to me, it’s a piece of my childhood and a reminder of what family is all about. So, please, if you have a dish like this…I would love to hear all about it.
P.S. I forgot to mention that we went to the restaurant 3 times in four days and bought at least 20 pieces of chicken =)
Bann Sri Trung
Opposite Sai Lom Hotel
Near the entrance of The Lapa
Hua Hin, Thailand