What Did President Obama Eat in Thailand? All of This.

Mee Krob

You have to be able to read Thai to know that the second item on the menu is none other than Mee Krob (standard romanization: mi krop) made famous by Thai restaurants worldwide and even more famous by an episode of Sex and the City (Mee Krobilicious!). This dish represents what people love so much about Central Thai cuisine: the interplay of sweet, sour, and salty that is not spicy.

Thin rice noodles are fried until thoroughly crispy before being coated with a sticky tamarind and palm sugar sauce. Permeating the crispy, sticky noodles are bits of chicken, shrimp, and fried tofu. More refined versions of Mee Grob often include Chinese chives, bean sprouts, and, as you can see here, thin slices of pickled garlic (single-clove elephant garlic, in this case). A squeeze of lime serves as a substitute for the kind of local citrus fruit, a sought-after ingredient, that adds a nice, finishing touch to this much-loved dish.

Leela Punyaratabandhu

Like most Thais who like to keep up with what's happening in American-Thai relations, I was interested in every detail of president Obama's brief visit to the country of Thailand a few weeks ago.

I wondered what he and the king talked about when he was given the royal audience. I wondered what he and the abbot of the famous Wat Pho talked about when they walked around one of the largest and oldest temples in Thailand together. I wondered what issues came up during the press conference he gave jointly with Prime Minister Shinawatra. I wondered...

Mee Krob
You have to be able to read Thai to know that the second item on the menu is none other than Mee Krob (standard romanization: mi krop) made famous by Thai restaurants worldwide and even more famous by an episode of Sex and the City (Mee Krobilicious!). This dish represents what people love so much about Central Thai cuisine: the interplay of sweet, sour, and salty that is not spicy. Thin rice noodles are fried until thoroughly crispy before being coated with a sticky tamarind and palm sugar sauce. Permeating the crispy, sticky noodles are bits of chicken, shrimp, and fried tofu. More refined versions of Mee Grob often include Chinese chives, bean sprouts, and, as you can see here, thin slices of pickled garlic (single-clove elephant garlic, in this case). A squeeze of lime serves as a substitute for the kind of local citrus fruit, a sought-after ingredient, that adds a nice, finishing touch to this much-loved dish. Leela Punyaratabandhu

Okay. Fine. Who am I kidding? More than anything else, I wondered what the President ate. This is of utter importance, people! I wondered, no, I needed to know what the government of Thailand, a country known for taking food very seriously, served Obama at a special dinner in his honor.

20121130-ObamaMenu2.jpg

Tipped off by news anchor and TV host Prinya Ruenprapan I got a hold of the official dinner menu which was taken by vocalist Mary Ungrangsee who was one of the guests at the state dinner along with her renowned conductor husband, Bundit Ungrangsee.

Somewhat surprised by some of the dishes, I wrote a post on my blog about it, listing out my random thoughts.

Rambutans

But I was lucky enough to speak with chef Vichit Mukura of Sala Rim Naam who was in charge of executing the dinner. Executive chef of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, he's long been the trusted person by the Thai Government House for these important dining events. According to him, the prime minister had her own idea of what she wanted on the menu and these suggestions were communicated to the kitchen. The goal: to create a meal that represents what Thai people actually eat. And many of the dishes can actually be found at your local Thai restaurants, which means you too can dine like a dignitary (well, almost).

Check out all of the dishes from the Obama dinner in Thailand, which I recreated at home. Stay tuned for some of these recipes to appear in my weekly Thai column.