A few years ago, I had the good fortune to study incense and martial arts under the tutelage of a Shingon Buddhist monk. During our sittings, he explained some of the customs that were practiced in Southeast Asia. It seems that in Laos, Vietnam, and particularly Thailand, they take their Buddhism
very seriously. He explained that it was a serious offense to expose the bottom of one’s feet to the master during a sitting. In the past you would have been seriously caned for that indiscretion. It was also illegal to touch a monk’s saffron robe without his permission, even worse to touch him on his bald head.
Both would get you several years in prison. After about a week of intense training, the Venerable Daijo would board a plane and fly back to California. We, as students, were allowed to briefly embrace him as a gesture of goodbye. Imagine my consternation when once, in the process of doing so, I inadvertently shoved my hand up the sleeve of his robe and practically into his armpit!
The folks in Thailand take their food pretty seriously too. Thai food utilizes aromatic and exotic herbs and spices, sometimes combining sweet and salty elements into the same dish. The flavors are complex and the dishes range from hot to very hot curries all the way to mildly aromatic desserts. Here are a few of my favorite Thai restaurants in St. Louis:
The King & I 3157 South Grand (314) 771-1777 This several block section along South Grand is sometimes referred to as the St. Louis Little Vietnam. There are a number of Asian restaurants, food stores, and martial arts supply shops in the area. The King & I has been one of the most popular restaurants in the area for a number of years now. Try the pork and chicken satays-marinated and grilled meat on a skewer with peanut and cucumber sauce. The Pad Thai has stir fried rice noodles flavored with garlic, chilies, and Nam Pla, which is a fermented fish sauce. The service staff is friendly, the prices reasonable, and the portions are large. This makes The King & I “A Perfect Place To Thai One On.”
Vietnam Star 8080 Olive (314) 991-8820 Despite having Vietnam in its name, this restaurant has some of the best Thai food in the area. It also has a huge menu of over 289 different menu items. Everything from Pho soup to eel, frog and duck dishes. Try the Ga Xao Lan-chicken stir fried with coconut milk, lemon grass, and curry sauce. The spring rolls are also very good and the staff excels at trying to explain the large number of menu items to you.
Thai Country 6223 Delmar (314) 862-0787 Down on The Loop and not very far from Washington University, this restaurant is a popular hangout for the college crowd. The large portions and very low prices are sure to appeal to those on a budget. Thai Country has all of the standard fare and the best iced Thai coffee that I’ve ever had. The owner must be a big fan of the American western movie, as there are two huge wagon wheels hanging in the middle of the dining room. Go figure.