Category Archives: Thai

Boat Duck Noodle Soup

ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ Boat Noodles

“Louis, What do you want for dinner?” This was the question my Thai friends, for all intents and purposes, family, asked me.  I requested Duck Soup with noodles. It was special, I was just getting to town. The only places they were sure had Duck soup were not open yet. Once I said duck soup it became the objective. Two hours later, no matter how much I said, “lets find something practical”, we were still looking for duck soup. My family there is 180 degrees out of phase with “practical”.

Soup with rice noodles ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเรือ kwuaytiyo rya  is a common street food throughout Southeast Asia. In Thailand it is often sold by vendors with pushcarts, and folding tables and chairs. I particularly like the duck variety although I often eat the pig variety or chicken. เรือ Rya means boat and these were traditionally served from boats on the canals and river in Krung Thep. The first part of the name appears to be Chinese or Malay, I am not sure.

It is hard to understand how important food is in Thailand. Even a rushed lunch location is an important decision. There is almost always a sauce, or three, available and often there is customization, do you want innards or not? Extra meat? The special version or regular? And then in places you can ask for all sorts of things. Some dishes always come with the same garni and/or condiments. A few dishes always come with clear broth.

But kwauytiyo is relatively simple except that I can never hang onto how to say it. You can order it without liquid, but it normally is with broth. You get to choose the kind of noodle in most places.  Normaly you would get rice noodles. But even these come in three plain varieties, wide, small, and round, There are flat 2 inch square noodles served in other dishes. Then there are bha mii, a wheat noodle with egg, woon sen, a bean thread, and mama noodles, the instant ramen noodles.

Where I stay in Thailand there is a noodle cart permanently parked on the sidewalk by the bridge over the highway. These bridges are called floating spans. Anyhow this cart is only open nights. I suspect that the owners use it to suppliment income. They only serve the pig variety. In my opinion it is pretty plain, but makes a great 10pm snack.

The meat is usually inexpensive cuts sliced thing. In first quality beef soup there is usually some tendon. It helps make a great broth. There are often “fish balls” or other protein concoctions, usually round. There can be liver. Since it is not broiled, this is something I usually do not have a big problem with. A friend commiserates with me about liver, he says he would rather eat the oil filter. I can relate. If the dish is served in a fish variety it is usually with luuk chin pla, Thai gefilte fish.

I cannot speak to to the seafood version of kwautiyo I never order it. I seem to be the poster child for food poisoning from clams. I stay away.

Namtok, meaning I believe “waterfall” at least literally refers to adding blood to the broth. This makes it much richer. It is not always available.  If you are European they might assume that you do not want it.

Once you get it on the table you have condiments to fix it up. There is Naam Pla Phrik or Fish sauce with peppers, usually there is some coarse grind of red pepper, sugar sometimes, salt, plain fish sauce and ground white pepper. Chopsticks and soupspoons are stored on the table in a long stainless box. After you add your customization you stir it by picking up some of the noodles breaking up the wad of them.

After a couple of hours of driving around we finally got to a chicken noodle place. It was on the route home which is good. They were great.


rice noodle  ก๋วยเตี๋ยว Ǩwyteī̌yw
boat เรือ Reụ̄x
duck เป็ด Pĕd
fish sauce with pepper น้ำปลาพริก N̂ảplā phrik
fish balls ลูกชิ้นปลา Lūkchîn plā
waterfall น้ำตก N̂ảtk

Red Curry Mildish

Basic Recipe from Hot Thai Kitchen, a great site for Thai recipes. They also have a nice Facebook page.

I wanted to turn down the heat, and still have it reddish.
Dry Ingredients ground in my coffee grinder (spinning blade type). I clean it out by grinding some dry rice twice.
1t. Salt
1/2 t black pepper
1t lemon zest
4 makrut Thai lime leaves
1 ancho pepper
3 dried chinese store peppers  They look like ripe serannos but dry. You can use Thai chillis or anything other than red sweet pepper. If I had ripe serranos or Thai chilis I would use them.
1T Korean pepper powder.
1t Dry cilantro seed

Wet ingredients, if not already chopped I turn them into 1/4 inch size pieces first then process them in a food processor until smooth. This takes opening it and mixing many times.
3T chopped lemongrass. I buy this chopped and frozen.
1t frozen or fesh Galangal (aka Laos or Ka)
1t fermented shrimp paste
1T vegetable oil (aids food processing)
2T Cilantro leaf
Add ground dry ingredients and process until well blended and smooth. Sometime I have to blend by hand.


พอเพียง Paw Pieng translates as “enough”, or “sufficient”. It is one of the mottos and goals for the Thai People put forward by Rama IX, HRH King Bhumipol The Great. When he came to power there was a great deal of poverty and he wanted development projects that would provide enough for the people. His plan calls for reasonableness (or wisdom), moderation, and prudence. He said that the underlying conditions for this must be knowledge and moderation. Over the years before and during his reign its often been clear that there must be an economy of self sufficiency, that the country should be able to live without the outside world, be able to shield itself from the valleys of the world economy. In my mind I have decided that the word “sufficiency” is a better translation of this idea than “self sufficiency” because it stresses “enough”. Learning a little about this philosphy gave a new context for an old friend of mine, one of my personal heros, Uncle Glass.

Uncle Glass is a very funny, joyous man. He is fast to smile, crack a joke, pull your leg, and smile again. He is not “well educated” but is very smart, and it would be mistake to underestimate him. He has a bad leg. I do not remember how his leg was hurt, his calf broken, but it was when he was a young man, maybe in his teens. He was put into a cart and taken to the doctors. The doctor said that his leg below the break would need to be amputated. The monks from the local Buddhist temple said that they could heal the leg. They took care of him, bathed him, changed his clothes, and fed him. I was told how long this healing took, but I remember only that it was most of a year. Lung Gaeow (Uncle Glass) can walk, but for most of his life he found a bicycle a better mode of travel at least for distances more than about 20 meters.

Until he retired, Uncle Glass lived in a shack. It had a tin roof and short posts, and a wood floor. The walls did not protect from the wind much. His first wife got ill and he cared for her until she died. He remarried someone that he knew from school. I think he was in his fifties when this took place. She developed diabetes and became bed ridden. He cared for her until she died. His third wife he married only so that the village would not talk. She was already in bad shape and he could not care for her without there being gossip unless they were married. She was still alive in 2008 if my memory is correct. The world could use more people like him.

When I visited him back then he was going to the river every morning on his bicycle, maybe about a 1 km ride. He would park and climb down the banks. At the river he set some hooks with bait and then wash. He carried water up the bank (maybe 20 feet down) and watered his garden. After several loads he would pull out the fishing gear. When I was there he caught about 5 skinny 4 inch fish. Up on the bank he put them directly on some leaves he set on fire. Then he sat down, got out some glutinous rice and spicy vegetables, and a shot or two of whiskey his son in law packed for him. The fish, now cooked dry, were packed in paper and he rode is his bike off to the pottery to make water jars. A good person helps people in need. A great person does this again and again.

Lung Gaeow appears in my Thai Pottery Video in the height contest( 02:57 ). After I returned to the US I was asked to write for grants to bring Thai potters to The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Conference in 1991 in Tempe Arizona. Suwanee was to deal with all the arrangements in Thailand. I first asked for Uncle Good. I thought that he was nice, and had a love for making pots. He had a nice way with the traditional forms. He decided that he could not come because he was afraid that we would not have rice in the US and he could not eat bread. The word “eat” in Thai is really “eat rice”. The bread they sold in his part of Thailand was used as a desert dish, sort of like ultra-sweet Wonder®-type bread. The second person on our list had no birth certificate so they could not get a passport. Suwanee asked around. Finally two men agreed to come, “Craftsman Shotglass” (Chang Jork), and “Uncle Glass” (Lung Gaeow).

Lung Gaeow and Chang Jork (now deceseased) had a problem with alcohol. They were not anyone’s first choice but they were brave enough to come. My sole job at the conference was to take care of the 5 Thais, Suwanee (who could take care of herself) her sister (who stuck close to Suwanee), Mae (mom), and Chang Jork and Lung Gaeow. My Thai was rotten back then, but things worked out. So the morning after they arrived I went to see them. Gaeow says, “Louis, great to see you!” We are talking,,, how was the flight etc. “Louis, the flight was very nice but the airplane was cold, they brought us blankets.” “And you know Louis, they do have alcohol on the plane, I was worried. But it is so expensive and bottles are so little. Is it that expensive everywhere in America?”. I said, “no” .”You know Louis, we have alcoholism. Could you take us to buy some?”

So, I took them to the local alcohol store about a mile from their apartment. They walked in behind me. Gaeow grabs my arm kind of hard, it hurt a bit, “Louis, (he swings his arm to point across the store) Is all of this alcohol?” I answered, “No, that case over there is soda and Coke”. He said, “Louis,America is a great country!”.

He said, “Which type should be buy?” We finally settled on cheap beer. I picked up a six pack. They picked up two each. I showed them how to pay for it and we took it back to the apartment.

A couple of days later I stopped at the apartment. “Louis, we need more beer.” So we went back and got more. Gaeow told me that Jork could not read. Jork said,”Gaeow can’t read”, show us how to do this, then we won’t have to bother you.”
A few days went by. I was looking for them. They were not at the studio, not at Kurt Weiser’s house and not at the apartment. Then it dawned on me, “They are at the liquor store”. So I drove over to get them.

I walked in and they were not there. I turned to ask the cashier. He recognized me, “Its you!Where are those to guy’s from?” “Thailand”. “What language do they speak?” I answered “Thai” although really talking with each other its the local dialect. The cashier asked, ” Do you know what they did?” I am half already amused and a bit fearful.
“The rolled a big cigar with newspaper and a bunch of tobacco I think. The do smoke tobacco right?” I nod. ” You know, you can’t smoke in here” . I said that I would tell them. “After they lit that cigar, they squated in the back of the store in that language, What language did you say that was?” “Thai”. “Yeah, thats it. After a few minutes they came up to the counter, put thier hands on it and said, “Alcoholism, Alcoholism”. “I sold them some cheap whiskey. “You might want to tell them that they can’t drink in the store”. I thanked the cashier. As I was leaving he said, ” tell them the should not drink on the street either”.

So I head back to the apartment. “Louis!” Gaeow says,” I guess you were looking for us” . I said, “yes”. “Did you go to the liquor store?”Gaeow looks at Jork. “Yes” I said.
“I guess that the clerk said to tell us not to smoke in the store” I said, “Yes, it might explode”. “And we’re not supposed to drink in the store either?” “yes”. “Why not?” . “They don’t want drunk people in the liquor store”. Gaeow says something like, “how do they expect to make any money”. I tell them not to drink on the street. “They ask, “If we do, how much do we pay the police?” I explain that it is probably a mistake to try and buy off the police.

Chang Jork stopped by at Umdang Pottery when I was there in the early 2000’s. He gave me his Saw Duang ซอด้วง. This gift was probably the most significant of my life. He was not long on possessions. This was a return gift for bringing him to the US. He died a few years later.

I see Lung Gaeow nearly every time I go to Thailand. He is my elder. If I am to visit him I need to bring a gift. Normally this would be fruit, but he is an alcoholic so whiskey is what is expected. I no longer bring a full bottle.
Anyhow, I went to visit him about 15 years after his trip and he said, “Louis, Thanks for the whiskey. The neighbors don’t believe I ever was in America. Do you have any pictures of me there? And can you bring them here tomorrow?

I did not really understand this request until I stopped for another bottle of whiskey on the way the next day.

Lung Kaeow is retired. I saw him a few years ago.

Chip, Arrival, Thonburi,

I met Chip at The University of Michigan where he was the support staff for Ceramics and I was a new undergraduate. I was his work study. He liked what I did for him probably because I worked. If my memory is right, he came in and told me to be ready to help him unload the truck and I said, “another one?”. I had already unloaded a truck, counted the bags and cleaned up.

Kurt Weiser was a graduate student at the time. I used to sit and watch him work. He was an innovator in the field. He was always looking for some new tool or process. I am not sure that there was a direct influence, but it would be easy to look at my work and infer one. I am certainly not sure that there was not a direct influence on me. If I had to guess, I would say that there was. Kurt took me aside one day and told me I should go visit The Kansas City Art Institute. When the end of the semester came I got ready to go. This was Spring Semester 1975. I was an art student, it was my first semester in art school, and was taking an Asian Art History Survey with the late Professor Walter Spink as well as a ceramics course with Kurt, a figure drawing course, a 3D design course with Professor Georgette Zirbes, and a 2D design Course with Professor Ted Ramsey. It could be that one of these courses was taken the next semester but 18 credits was a normal full load.

The Asian Art History course feature thousands of slides, all shot (except where noted below) by Walter Spink. These were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, China, Japan, Tibet, Nepal, and Korea. I do not remember images from other countries of Asia, but there could have been some. The course was special. It was personal, he shot the slides. He was an expert on the Ajanta Caves but I remember all the big sites of India. There was a lot of memorization. But he started any section with culture, and his explanations were those of someone who had a lot of experience trying to give the sense of a culture to someone with no experience in that culture. How do you explain Buddhism to someone or how people relate to a Hindu Sadhu to a young Jewish kid and make it not silly, comprehendable. He had a hard task and did a reasonably good job at it. He was also funny.

The final exam was on material that was not from his own slides. It was on a traveling exhibition, “Recent Archaeological Finds of China” . I was going to try and get to Kansas City before the end of the semester. I had only a few days to hitchhike there so I brought my backback to the final. In the backpack I had my normal gear. For food I decided to bring peanut butter, it was cheap. I also brought some homemade granola I had left over.
From Ann Arbor I went south to Indianapolis. Indianapolis was always hard to get through but still easier than Detroit or Chicago. I made it to Kansas City the next morning. I got dropped off in front of The Nelson Atkins Museum. On the front of the museum was a show banner, “Recent Archaeolical Finds of China”.

The Nelson Atkins has free admission. But the Blockbuster show was not cheap. I paid for it anyways. When I got inside I met a young woman my age. She was attractive, at least I was attracted. But she seemed to be on drugs, I stayed with her in the museum and ended up giving her a guided tour. About halfway through she said, ” I thought you were making all of this stuff up about the work, but what you say matches the labels.’ The exhibition was great to see. I remember The Flying Horse. It is spectacular.

Kurt fixed me up a place to stay. I remember that the guy I stayed with had girl friends. I liked the school.
But really walking in the studio, everyone’s work was better than mine. There were a bazillion people in the studio late at night.I did not meet the teachers.

I left Kansas City and hitched to Yosemite. I never hitchhiked out of Denver. It was illegal to hitchhike in Colorado so I would take the bus. I have a hard time detailing the trip because I hitched out west so many times but I think on this trip I took the bus south and got dropped of in Albuquerque. It was hot. People at the bus station told me the wrong direction for the freeway. I walked about five miles. It did not look right. I asked again. I was told another direction. It too was not right. This time I knew it right away. I had not crossed an east west freeway coming in from the north so I know if I walked south I would get there. I got picked up by a guy in a sports car and dropped off in 15 0r 20 miles, a much worse place to hitch from. Then a VW stopped and picked me up. The car was full so I sort of got packed into the back seat. There was a Spanish speaking man in and a woman in the front. The woman told me that she was a prostitute and that the man was an illegal alien. A we approached Flagstaff I started smelling gas and the prostitute said that the gas gauge was dropping and the car was running terribly. Some screw came out and gas was coming out of the whole. I thought we were stuck, but then I thought of how we used to fix canoes that had lost a rivet at summer camp with bubble gum, and that it got stiff in the cold. Well that would not work because gum almost certainly dissolves in gas, so I covered it up with aluminum foil and jammed and the screwed it into the hole. The first gas station was about 20 miles away. We pulled in, I showed him my repair. He said “This looks first rate, what do you need me for?” I said that they were driving into LA and gum was going to thaw. He said, “thats a real shame”. The driver and passenger spent the night in a hotel and I hitched in San Bernardino and spent a night on my Uncle Leonard’s coach. It was terrible hitching out of there. I went north. My peanut butter was really not in a very good container so I mixed it with the granola and it formed a sort of stiff peanut bar. At some point I mixed in a pound of rasins. It was really pretty good. I bought a cabbage. They keep well out of refrigeration, especially if you eat the outside leaves once a day.I do not remember if I went to San Francisco that trip or not. My brother Dave, and my good friend Dave both lived there.I htiched to Yosemite and spent the first night in Yosemite Creek Campground. In the morning I got a permit to go up the back of Half Dome.

I had crummy equipment and it was May. I think I stayed at Little Yosemite Campsite. There were some yahoos drinking beer there. I spent a night, left my camp set up, climbed the back side of half dome (its a walk up, not technical) came down and stayed the night again. In the morning there was snow on the ground and my cotton sleeping bag was insufficient. I left cold, and a little wet and hitchhiked to Berkely California. It was slow getting out of Yosemite and I remember sleeping in a field and waking up surrounded by cows. It was scary. and stayed the night I think anyways with my cousin Ellen. In the morning I walked to the REI store and spent nearly the rest of my money on a Polarguard sleeping bag. I left town and hitchhiked up the coast. I stopped in Fortuna and stayed a day with a high school friend Carmen. She was living in an old funky house in a grove of redwood stumps. There were people who had built houses on top of the stumps and were squatting on the land. I think it was all owned by Carmen’s husband. Carmen had a daughter who I was introduced to as Indigogo.

My memories from there are not very filled out. There was bees nest in the wall of the bathroom and you could hear them buzz if you banged the wall. There was a fridge full of frozen cider. I have a vague memory of picking apples, but it was May. Maybe we only went to look at them. Now I think Carmen described cleaning up the dead apples then shaking the tree. They had a little press and it was two fridges set to as cold as they would go, mostly frozen.

I think that Carmen drove me into Eureka.I left and hitchhiked up the coast. I did not get far the first day. I think that I had gotten too much sugar from cider,,, its hard to know. But I walked down to the beach at Eureka State Park and made some mussel soup and ate it for a couple meals. Noon the next day I packed up and walked out of the park. I had little money but I though that a cup of coffee would be good. I went into a restaurant that had a view of the park and ordered a cup. The man running the place brought me a coffee, and asked if I was the guy eating mussels on the beach. I said yes. He brought me a sandwich and gave me another wrapped up for the road.

Mid June each year 1973, 74 and 76-79 I worked at Camp Tamarack, a Jewish camp for children near Flint Michigan.



Suwanee’s mother, who I call Mae“mom” picked up the phone. I needed to get hold of Suwanee so that I could get an invitation in Dankwian for Fulbright Grant application. Mae (the vowel here is similar to the “a” in Dad, and the syllable has a falling tone) did not speak English.

We had a converstation. It took a long time. She told me to call back in one day. I confirmed that I should call back in 24 hours, she said yes. The only word she used in English was bye bye. I was thrilled.

There are a few things that I feel like I have done really well at during my life. This phone call was really well done. I prepared. Prior to the preparation I knew how to count to ten, ask where something is, but not understand the answer, and a few simple words. I checked out a phrase book from the library ( there was no internet to speak of in 1987). A Googleplex was a large number, but the “Search Engine” had not been invented.

I got a very big sheet paper and wrote a chart. The first column was my introduction. I am calling from The United States. I do not speak Thai. Is Suwanee Natewong there? The next column had possible responses with key vocabulary underlined.”not here”, “who?”,”I don’t understand”, “Could you repeat yourself?” “please repeat” etc.

The next column was a list of vocabulary and phrases for my responses. I had a list of time terms, tomorrow, hours, week, and other phrases like different number. It worked. Suwanee’s mother was not particularly “well educated” but was smart as they come, but could read and write well, and raised incredibly smart children. While we are on this topic the phone call was quite expensive. I do not remember exactly how expensive the call was, but $8.00 per minute seems about right. It could have been $3. I really am not sure.

When we did get to Thailand Mae was very helpful. She had no idea what we knew and did not know so she showed us how to do many things. It was really rather amazing. She was in someways clueless and in otherways so full of welcoming gratiousness, nam jai, literally “liquid of the heart”. She showed Gail how to use hangers. She always smiled.

When we arrive Suwanee’s father was still alive. He grew up in a family of farmers. He was smart and was small. So instead of becoming a farmer he decided to study and studied law. He became a federal judge. It was a remarkable achievement to come from the Northeast in those days and rise to the level he did. Being a judge did not keep him from playing cards, gambling or drink. I have not asked about he met his wife, I have learned little things, but Mae was a beautiful young woman in her photographs she had delicate graceful hands, and her smile was penetrating and captivating. She was always busy until the last few years of her life, when she was just mostly busy.

It is such a different culture. There were people who had some international experience and people that did not. Some of them understood that we had different cultural norms, some did not. Some could deal with it, some could not. For Mae we were what we were. She was always nice, mostly tolerant, welcoming, and often amused by us. I said something off color once. She took my hand, held in in hers bracing on her hip, and brought the other one around in a long arc with a constant accelleration and smacked the back of my hand. It raised a welt. I think she really liked that I smiled. I thought it was funny. She probably thought I was practicing “mai pen rai”, the philosphy of letting go of things that you cannot change. I am not sure.

Mae, like her husband like to play cards, and talk with other women. While I was away, she was bitten by a snake. It was a white lipped pit viper,Trimeresurus albolabris, The Thai translates as “Green snake with wooden tail”. We went to visit her in the hospital. She was in a public ward. A private room would be too boring. When we got there she introduced us, and then went back to talking. The beds had been rolled to the middle of the room. The patients were enjoying themselves.

My best memory is supported by video. It was my birthday, and yes, a party was thrown. I was the excuse for the party. In the video she says, “Mom comes already”
Today is the birthday of Louis, Young Suwanee come translate for me, Ask for Louis and Family and child, progress or something like it, as a government worker (professor) and every kind, more riches, better than time past, much much. Do you understand? I said a little (its all easy now).Suwanee come translate so we can here.
Suwanee repeats the Thai, but she does not repeat exactly what was said, she includes “enjoyment”, but repeats success at work.

There is another video of he singing a song “come dance with me” at the botanical garden in Arizona.

Archie 2

I heard that there was a Thai woman coming to the Archie Bray Foundation.  Some people thought she was from Taiwan. This confusion is pretty common. But Kurt Weiser said Thailand.
I was working in the Summer Studios, a part of the old brickyard that used to sell building supplies but now is used in the summer for summer residents. It is built of hollow clay tile and has a roof with little slope. At the time the lighting was pretty dim and there was no heat.

Anyhow, someone said that the Thai woman was at the old studios so I went over there. I started into the kiln room and there was a very short Asian woman standing there. I could not quite see her that well. I put my hands together in a wai and said, “sawat dee krap” the greating has Sanskrit roots in the word sawat, meaning goodness, fairness and prosperity. Dee pronounced similar to the letter ‘D’ means “good”. She greeted me back. I felt the need to use up my vocabulary, so I counted from one to ten, asked where the bathroom was, and then asked if she knew where the village of Dankwian . It was more like “Have you met the village of Dankwian”. She asked me why I asked. I said, “Its a little pottery village, do you know about it?”. She said, I own a pottery in Dankwian Village. I had to go.

I knew that I should learn Thai. I seemed to already have some interest in it. Its a tonal language ,with some sounds not in the English phonemic inventory, to a singer, it captivated my motivation.  I went to the library and checked out “Spoken Thai”. It is not a very good book and it had no tapes. I had Suwanee read a chapter into cassette tapes. I am not sure that it helped much with vocabulary but became critical in terms of me getting to Thailand and getting a grant. Suwanee still makes fun of the archaic and formal vocabulary of the tapes,  That said, without the Helena Public Library it would have been much harder to get to Thailand.

Then 10 days Suwanee was in Montana were very busy. I was working mixing clay and I believe we were getting ready for The Archie Bray Bash, a celebration of the purchase of the brickyard. Each day at around 5 Suwanee would come around with a “lets go dancing” to the residents or some other activity. Near the end of her stay we all took a whirlwind trip to Yellowstone, including geysers, Boiling River, Old Faithful, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and drove up to the Beartooth Pass so that she could see her first snow. It was August, there was only a little bit of a snowfield left near the road. The snow was dirty from dust. Suwanee said it looked like the ice in her refrigerator. She was not all that impressed.



Thailand 2019-10-25 Suwanee Natewong – aeng (spelling?)

(Ghost written bio for:
Suwanee Natewong.)

My name is Suwanee. I come from the Northeast of Thailand. When I grew up we had water buffalo and oxcarts. My father was an important federal judge and my mother a country woman. I had five brothers and a sister.

When I went to college I went into law but only stayed in school for two years. During that time my sister Sudarat and Jum, now my brother in law, and I used to take trips out of town to the village of Dankwian. Dankwian means oxcart station. It is about 30 minutes from the provincial capital of Nakorn Ratchasima where my father was then a judge. Dankwian is a rice farming village where during the dry season the farmers made pottery, mostly water storage jars and mortars and pestles for cooking. When I arrived in Dankwian to start working there were only a few families that made pots.

In Danwkwian I began carving the unfired wet water jars that the village potters made with patterns and images and selling them on the side of the road to passersby. My sister and brother in law moved there with me. At first sales and life was slow, and we would play guitar, talk, and carve while waiting for sales. It was a wonderful time.

The business, Umdang Ceramics, grew. We bought land and started to make more products and sell them more widely. The products included commissioned murals for the King and Queen’s upcountry palaces, hotels and government buildings. We also made ceramics jewelry and tiles.

In 1987, the Thai government organize a trade fair in Edmonton Alberta. It was our first trip out of the country. We brought lots of samples and sold them to pay for the trip. At the fair, I met an artist visiting from the United States named Kurt Weiser. He told me of a place called The Archie Bray Foundation where lots of potters worked and invited me to visit. My family decided after the trade fair to visit Las Vegas, a big dream for them. I called up Mr. Weiser and asked him if he would meet me at the airport in Helena Montana where the Bray is. I stayed at the the Bray for fourteen days and met many wonderful artists. The Archie Bray Foundation was a lot of fun and Edmonton taught us how to do international trade.

The next year I was invited to work at the Bray for 6 months. It was scary to be at such an important place with such great artists. I had to make friends before I could make work. Once I got to know everyone and got started it was easier. I lived there with Josh DeWeese, Gail Busch, and Louis Katz.

My business continued to grow. When we started if we sold one or two pots a day it could seem like a success. At the height of our business it seemed like we were counting semi truckloads a month. The Asian monetary crisis that started in Thailand in 1997 took all the air out of our business. Now our children are starting to build it back up.

Dankwean village has grown from just two or three kilns in the 1960’s to well over 50 now. There are also people working in other materials such as stone, fake stone, wood carving, and painting. Nearby we have villages that do bronze casting and Ikat silk weaving. Every day trucks leave the village with pots.

During this time, between meeting Kurt in1988 and today, I have been able to travel to many countries, and have been a visiting and resident artist in many places, most recently my second residency at LH Projects. I feel lucky to come from such a small place and have friends all over the world.

notes: write about father, mother, politics, sister, jum, santi asoke.

Thailand BE 2531-11-08 Ajahn Poonarat


This is going to be hard to start. It is hard to know when the beginning really is.

I walked into high school in 11th grade.  A scoial studies teacher, Chuck Domstein handed me my schedulre. I said, I have to change my math class. He said, “we can’t change your math class. I said, “No! I have to change it.” He said, “We can’t change it.” … I can’t take math with this teacher. He said, “Look, I told you we can’t change it just cause you don’t like the teacher.” I said, “She’s my mother”. He said, come lets see if we can change it. ”

It was complicated, I wanted to take Electronics, I needed to take choir, there was not much flex. So I tried to get into Drafting. It was full. Metals shop, full. Welding, full. Every foreign language either did not fit the schedule or it was full. Finally I ended up signing up for something. I really think that I was not sure what it was, it was called “Ceramics”.

Once a week I was taking piano lessons. I did not like the music. The teacher was trying to turn me into a concert pianist. It was not happening. I was practicing Ragtime, or at least playing it daily.  The lessons did not go well, but they were kitty corner from the Detroit Public Library and I started checking out books on ceramics. I started with 2 or three a week and finally started checking out the limit of 5 on one subject. By the time I was done with 12th grade I knew a lot about clay. Over the summer I worked at a Jewish summer camp with an endowed ceramics shop. We had a salt kiln. I became involved with atmospheric surfaces. I built a wood burning raku kiln in my back yard and a wheel in the basement.

I started college with the intention of going into architecture. I was going to The University of Michigan School of Engineering.  I felt like I kept getting kicked for trying to hard to learn and not taking the easy way out of assignments. After a little over a month it was clear that I was not going to hold out for four years. I was confused. A very smart friend gave me a matrix to use to straighten out priorities in  complex and difficult decisions. Since this decision was driven by future employment/vocation this was the first column. I suggest that you do this.

In the first column write down all the jobs you ever wanted; every one. This might include garbage truck driver, sledge hammer operator, ceramic artist, computer programmer, hair dresser. Anything and everything. It has to really include everything you ever wanted to “be”.

The second column a list of positive attributes like: makes a lot of money, gets to pull those cool garbage truck levers, my parents would like it, get summers off, work outside, varied work, not challenging, very challenging.

The third column are the  negative attributes. Note that some positive attributes might also be negative, not challenging, too challenging, parents will hate it/love it. Makes little money, no advancement, smells bad.

Then you have to rank the positives and negatives. This is the hard part. You have to use your motivation, your ranking.  If you think lots of money is important to your parents but not you, then rank it low unless how your parents feel is very important to you and add it as another positive, “parents will like the high rate of pay”.

Then do the negatives. Then associate the numbers with the jobs. Please don’t try to add up numbers or anything like that. Things are way too complex and nuanced for this to work. It will however clarify motivations. It helped me clarify motivations surrounding earnings and risks. I probably would have come up with other choices by age 30, but that was 12 years later, I could not have found those motivations at age 18.

At the University of Michigan in the Art Department  I took a variety of courses. They all seem tied to my future now although outside of ceramics I wondered about why I was taking them. There already seemed to be a hierarchy,, but I was immersed in clay. Kurt Weiser was my first college ceramics teacher. I was a work study under Chip Clawson. I also took a class with John Stevenson. Georgette Zirbes was my advisor.

Kurt suggested that I check out the Kansas City Art Institute. Finishing my first Art History final exam, I had my backpack with me. The Art History Course was An Overview of Asian Art History taught by Professor Walter Spinks. For almost the entire course he used slides that he shot himself. The last test included in the final was on a traveling exhbition called “Recent Archialogical Finds of China”. I left the final and hitchhiked to Kansas City to see the Art Institute . They were still in session.

About this class, the first test could have been a killer. It was designed to get you thinking. You had to identify half a bizzilion ( I remember 12 carousels I think holding 1000 slides total) images of the head of the Buddha by style. It was impossible to do without actually finding stylistic similarities.  By the end you recognized the style by the eyes, the ears, the hair, the shoulders, the chin, the libs, by every detail. This had a big impact on me, but the most important part of the course were the descriptions of the cultures that produced the art.  The course was my first exposure in any significant way to Ch’an, Zen, Taoism, Hinduism(s) Jainism, and Islam. I was taken by the political impetus for the stylistic changes in Chinese painting between Northern and Southern Sung dynasties. I became a fan of Mu Chi, Fan Kuan, and Li Cheng, but there were so many others.

The class was taught in a huge room with hundreds of seats. Along with a group of others I sat in the front row.

On the way into Kansas City I told my ride where I was going and he decided to drop me off. As I had never been there before this was great. He dropped me off next door at The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Over the limestone front entrance was a banner, “Recent Archaeological Finds of China”.  I ended up giving a young woman  my age a guided tour. The Art Institute Ceramics shop that year had 50 ceramics majors. Most were transfer students. Each brought with them experience, skills and knowledge. It was vibrant, exciting, energetic and expensive. I did not think that my parents would monetarily support my going there. I finished by trip and worked another summer teaching kids ceramics at camp.

The next year was my second at The University of Michigan. I was not an easy or model student although I worked very hard. I rarely worked on assigned projects. I was unable to work on things in ceramics where my intrinsic motivation was not really high. What I needed was a really good psychological examination. It would have turned up ADHD although I think it had a different acronym back then, and Dysgraphia (essay later) It would probably have turned up the frequent bouts of depression. They were still mostly seasonal back then starting in mid February but by then cropped up in small bits all the time.  At the end of the year I decided that if I stayed at the University of Michigan I would not gain the skills I wanted or needed in order to succeed in the field. I do not know if this was true although it seemed to be and still does. The program was fine for others.

I told my parents that I want to go to Kansas City. They said I could if I earned the difference in tuition over the summer. I found a job that would come within $30 of earning the  difference this if I spent nothing over thesummer. I went to work. The first day I came home asthmatic. My memory of this was that I was almost unable to walk home. I probably should have been hospitalized. I told my parents I was quitting. My father went ballistic.  I started looking for other work. Nothing stood a chance of making the difference. A friend road her bicycle over to tell me that I was going to be offered an “Assistant Manager” position at Burger King. In one of those flash decisions that happen when you are really tuned in, I decided and told her that I was leaving town in the morning. I hitchhiked to a friends house in Cincinati.

I did eventually get to school in Kansas City under the arrangement that my parents paid tuition and I covered everything else. I learned to cook good food inexpensively using “The No Fad, Good Food, 5$ a Week, Cookbook” . I bought very little food that was not unprepared. Exceptions were non-instant dry powdered milk, margarine, and very occasionally cottage cheese. One schoolyear I kept track of food costs. Not counting some beer it cost $3.27 per week.

Beyond the art history from the U of Michigan, thinking back a short lesson in 5th Grade with Ms. Cohen(?) seems important.  We learned about the word ethnocentrism. It took root. The idea that how we see the world is controlled by how we are brought up, that from inside a culture cultural practices seem to make sense, that from outside the culture they often seem wacky. Its been important.

This idea, ethnocentrism, really naturally occuring disease, was studied at the college level in the courses “World Ethnography” and “Language and Culture” taught by Professonr Anderson at the KAnsas City Art Institute. I am lucky to have had the ability to take these courses.

One of the interesting things about pottery, especially as taught in the 1980’s and perhaps before is that most of the models, stories, and information that we learned was about Asia. We learned about Japanese, Korean, and Chinese Ceramics. Its not that there were not a few strong European models, we and our teachers were mostly not interested. Consequently information was scarce and hard to find. The big exceptions  were information about The Leach School, The Bauhaus, and some Mediteranian ceramics and Majolica.

I became enamoured with wood fired raw  unglazed surfaces. I did not know the Japanese word Wabi Sabi, but others would categorize my interest as paralleling this concept. We fired a low fire wood kiln using a very coarse brick clay. We decorated mostly with slips, and the glazes were volitle and sensitive to temperature and atmosphere. After a year of this you either were in love with these surfaces or hate them.

One January before the start of the semester I went to Kay’s Rockhill Bar. It was a small neighborhood bar. There were always a few locals. There was a pool table, and Kay, a friendly owner/bartender. The ceramics department had 60 students and many of us hung out at Kay’s.

There was a girl with long hair, beautiful eyes, and stripe on her pants, cook’s pants. Shy, mostly, especially with girls, I did something unusual for me. I walked up to her, stuck out my hand and said, ” Hi, I’d like you to meet Louis”. She looked around thinking that there was someone else. Her name was Gail Busch. She had a nice smile.

A few days later I was out in front of his office and Ferguson, the KCAI Department Chair, a large gruff man with a huge reputation, walked up and said, “Louie, come here, sit down.” So I sat in his office across his desk from him.

“Louie, you gay?”
Louis: No Ken.
“You want a girlfriend?
“Sure”. I was thinking , ‘what, you got one in the closet, whats this about/’
Ken: Clean up your act, you knwo the drill, comb your hair, clean clothes, you know.
People sometimes think that I don;’t know how to take advice, but this is often not true. I thought, ‘nothing else is working’, so I gave it a try.

I bought new jeans at the Levi seconds store downtown. I started combing my hair. I wanted a good scientific test. So I carried a comb with me. Everytime I moved from one place to another I took my comb out. I brought a toothbrush to school. I decided to iron my clothes. Pants, shirt, underwear. My socks had creases. I polished my shoes, and my belt.
So Gail and I was working out well. We went out, drank coffee ate pecan pie late at night, and made pots all the time. I was not really allowed in her dorm room and the doors going in were locked so she would throw the key out the window. One time the cord it was on got stuck in a tree. I had to borrow a ladder from the janitor. He was highly amused. Gail made me omlettes, I made her kasha.

I ended up with alot of experience  talking with people from other cultures. It probably started with my grandmother whose English was iffy. My best friends mother spoke with a strong Cuban accent. Growing up in a 90% Jewish neighborhood there were loads of people from Eastern Europe. In high school I worked in a Chinese Restaurant. The cooks and the owners English was fragmentary and the pronounciation was poor. In KAnsas City I took classes from MAdame Chu. Students would ask me for explanations after class. I could understand every word.

Summers I worked at a Jewish camp for children. One summer after thousand of refusniks had been allowed to emmigrate and many came to Detroit. Lots of children ended up at camp. I had one as a camper. He was a year older than the other campers. He was smart. He had good schooling in the sciences. His English language skills were poor. He was just learning. The other campers treated him poorly at least in part because they could not communicate well with him. I asked the camp social worker what I should do and he said, “put him in charge of something every day”. This did not work well so I put him in charge of teaching me Russian,,, just a little. We worked on it most days during the afternoon swim.  I learned how to say, “How is your belly button, Your mother wears army boots. It is only 5 Kilometers to Kiev” and to count, not much else.

Learning some Russian normallized my helping him with English. Having the lessons go bidirectionally made it more like help from a peer and less stressful. I learned Thai, just a little as I helped him. It also gave me another experience communicating with someone whose English was not so good.


When we got to graduate school we met Poonarat Pichaiyapaiboon. He is Thai. Poonarat, was short, friendly, had an interesting sense of humor, and clearly was from another culture. He was fascinating and we became friends. His English was not hard to understand if you could make out what words he was saying. Like most Thais of his generation who learned to speak English he failed to pronounce final consonants and most consonant clusters. FInal ‘l’s often were pronounced “n”. “Liked” became “lie”.  Hotel was pronounced hoe-ten . Lips was pronounce lip but with a very short, dropped “p”. Once you got a handle on that he was easy to understand.

However, this was Middle America. Most people had little experience with listening to such bad pronunciation. He said that had I not be friendly with him, shown him some respect that he would have left the program and returned home.
One day he decided to cook for us. This was well in advance of the great profusion of Thai restaurants. He made us a dish based on Beef liver. You have to understand that liver in Thailand is a special food as it is in many places and times when animal protein is scarce. It is high in vitamins B6 and B12. It has a lot of cholesterol. When I was a child, liver was the one food I despised. I could eat anything else I was given, even if I did not like it. Liver I had to force down. It was vile. The last time my parents made me eat liver I asked to be excused from the table. I was told that I could not eat anything else until I ate my liver. I was determined to starve to death.  I woke up in the morning put on my clothes and walked to school without breakfast. When I came home for lunch there was lunch at the table for me. I guess liver was not so good for you that starving to death was a reasonable punishment for not eating it.
Anyhow, the first step was to put some oil in a pan and fry a ton of peppers. The air because so hot that we sat on the floor by the door while Nui cooked.  It was rather intense. I was able to eat a little.

Soetsu Yanagi, Shoji Hamada, and Bernard Leach went on a tour of the United States, giving lectures, and demonstrations in December of 1952. I went to graduate school and found a copy of Yanagi’s lecture in a trash can.  Yanagi coined the word “Folk-Craft”. Like William Morris, only later and  half way around the planet, Yanagi saw the demise of hand skills, and the plain work and products produced by local craftsman as detrimental to society and aimed to help preserve them.  He talked of plain Korean wooden bowls, Ongi, and other “rustic” ware designed for use.

Rather than join academia, Leach set up a pottery and taught apprentices.  The apprentices became famous potters, really most of them. One was Michael Cardew. Cardew also had apprentices, but first he went to Ghana on a British Government grat to set up a stoneware pottery. There he had contact with the robust earthenware pots used in the villages, further strengthening the Yanagi/Leach tie to folk pottery. Cardew had Mark Hewitt as an apprentice. We will circle back around to Mark later.

Cardew’s pots and his pottery aesthetic was something I put in a pigeon hole that I call Majesty of form.  His pots often have the fullness and grace of Sung Dynasty Chinese pots. The tend to be large, robustly functional, and show strength and vitality. Of the Leach School potters he is my favorite. I got to meet him in Wichita at a conference of educators. He said that you cannot learn to make good pots in a university.

At school in Kansas City, we were given the opportunity to buy books about Japanese pottery published by Kodansha. We ordered the books and they were picked up and shipped by Akio Takamori who was in Tokyo at the time. Akio has influenced us all. He was a great man, and a great friend to so many. But it may be these book orders where he had his biggest influence. We were wildly infatuated with Japanese pots, but could get only limited information. These books could not be read by us. But they contained large pictures, high quality. When they came we devoured them. I have had them 40 years now and they still are the books with the pictures I want to look at. I think that these books changed a generation of potters, at least the ones from the Kansas City Art Institute.  I think I bought 5 books, I was broke. Gail, now my wife bought another 5. I wish that I could have bought the two sets. I think that there were 70 books. So it goes.

Gail and I got married and moved to Rhode Island to set up a pottery. We did not have the skills, and my brain would not let me do this. I could, and really cannot stay focused like that. It has never worked. I was fooling myself.  I ended up deciding to go to graduate school. We went on a tour of schools and applied together to five. I am not sure what they all were but they included Alfred, Illinois State, and Montana State. We both got into Illinois State and Montana State. Alfred turned us down. I go to their receptions at the annual conference to rub in the mistake. They serve good food.

My life at Illinois State in Normal, was not good. Lots of things were wrong. I was one of them. When things got tough I did not make them better. However the real blame seems to lie on my instructors, both of whom are now dead. I am mostly over it, but they were not nice to me. I started hanging out with the Glass students. They were nice. The glass instructor, Joel Meyers, was great to me. It was an escape for me. I started making some good work there. Poonarat took a glass class with me. We had a lot of fun. Thinking about it I can hear his laugh, see his smile and his voice.  He says that I was important to his staying in Normal, thinking about this makes me realize that he may have been just as important to me, only I ended up leaving.

Sometime Poonarat brought a sheet of slides. If you are young these are transparent images of photographic film. They were a inexpensive way to get images that you could project on a wall. The images were of a village in Thailand, Dankwian. There was an image of a kiln, another of firewood, and images of dark clay pots, fired to vitrification with no glaze. These were Mingei, not fake folk-craft made by the college educated or designed by people with marketing degrees. There were pots of the people, made for storing water, basins for washing, mortars and wood pestles. The surfaces were amazing with spots of melted woodash from the fuel, scars from where they stuck together. I was amazed.

By Thanksgiving our first semester in graduate school it was obvious that the choice of schools was a mistake and we got on a bus and went to Montana. Greyhound was going on strike. The bus company told us, “no matter what we will get you to your destination”. In Chicago we saw our luggage on a cart as we were leaving the station. We got them to stop so that we could get it.  In Minneapolis they said that they could no longer transport us but that they would get us to our destination. We got on the train and got to Havre, Montana. From Havre we took a small bus company to  Billings. In Billings we were left stranded. Chandler Dayton drove her pickup truck  3 hours and picked us up. She took us to Bozeman straight into the Montains to camp, have steaks cooked on an open fire, drink beer, and whiskey, and smores. No one in Montana said “yes” to anything. It was always “You bet” or “You betcha”. It became our mantra.

Somehow we returned to  Illinois. It might have been Greyhound, I do not remember it.  But once we returned anytime one of the instructors asked us to do anything we answered, “you betcha”.  We were leaving but decided to finish the year out. This was a terrible mistake in many ways but I did make some great work. I invented slipcast glass. I started my series of kilns. I coated welded wire fencing with slip. I made some pots that I prize.

When I finally left Illinois I was almost not sleeping. I would sleep maybe four hours and wake up and worry. Sometimes I would get back to sleep. I was a mess. While I did not cry much, I was a man and we are supposed to take it. I should have, I think tears carry some of some stress out of your body. Oh well.  We left with friends who helped drive.

I do not know that I will ever feel the same joy ( its different when a child is born, not the same) that I felt when I crossed the border into Iowa. It was the lifting of weight, a thousand brick. We stopped and saw Clary Illian, a Leach apprentice, fantastic person, a maker of quiet beautiful pots and a great friend that I see only rarely. We spent the night in a campground and in the morning one of the tires on our 16 foot box truck was near flat. We did not have much money to spare.  Truck tires can be wicked expensive. We also did not have appropriate tools for dealing with it. We borrowed a small bicycle pump and worked for an hour pumping it up and then quickly drove into the city to get it repaired.  That done, we got back on the road.

The truck stopped running like it was out of gas and I pulled to the side of the road. John got out and said, “I think its the carbuerator. We were lucky to have him. As we were taking the top off the carbeurator  I finally started to cry. These were big tears. My nose dripped, they just about squirted from my eyeballs and Jack Kirkpatrick try to console me. “Louis, it will be ok. No worries everything will be fine, we will get it running”. Well he was right,  but we had no money to spare but I was not really upset. The tears were joyous. I was out of f-ing Illinois. I was elated! I could walk to Montana. The truck broke down again in Livingston Montana, just the other side of the pass into Bozeman. I thought, “no worries, I can push the truck into Bozeman with a pry bar.

We rolled into Bozeman with the engine running and air in our tires. I remember very little about the time until school started.

We lived in Married Student Housing. Rent was cheap, I think when we started it was 98$ per month. We had to pay our own utilities. The houses were WWII housing that had been moved to school. They had been given new windows and lots of insulation. They were about 1/2 mile from ceramics.

We met great people. Sheila and Halleck and Bobcat, our professors, Mike, Rick, and Jay, Allan, and Stephanie. I took a class on technical photography from Dick Molina who worked in the sciences. He introduced me to good chocolate. Of the grad students Chandler and Frank stood out. Josh DeWeese was an undergrad about to leave for Kansas City to go to the Art Institute.  It seems like all of his teachers went there, or almost all.

I do not remember being signed up for classes in the first summer, but I probably was. Gail took a graduate English class. There were some hiccups in the fall. The graduate dean sent Gail a letter saying that her undergraduate English classes were not acreddited by an organization that the University could accept and that she would have to take leveling courses.  It seemed like a joke. I could hardly write a paper. Gail went and pointed out that not only had she taken and passed a graduate English course at the Montana State, she had earned the highest grade and all the rest of the students were English Graduate students.  Further we pointed out that most of his art faculty went to that Undergraduate School and he accepted their transcripts when they were hired.

Unfortunately graduate school in Normal Illinois traumatized me. I had a hard time getting along with my teachers in Bozeman. They did not really help things, but I should have been able to tolerate more.  It was very hard for me the last few semesters. Still, I made work I am still proud of. I picked up skills I did  not have when I got there. I also made tons of work fired to cone 8 in residual salt that had surfaces that are much like Dankwian or Bizen surfaces. I learned to throw fast. I started become irritated about “Art” History, and its narrow myopic view of what art is. I should probably thank it for its myopia because it really became the subject of my work for decades.

From Montana State University we moved the 100 miles to Helena Montana, The Queen of the Rockies. Helena, is right under the continental divide. It is dryer than Bozeman and the scenery is less dramatic. You could easily say Bozeman is more beautiful. You might be wrong, but you would not know without being there a while.

I dropped out of undergraduate school for a year and half. During that time I lived in San Francisco with a friend. At the beginning I had a hard time finding a job so I played ukelele on the warf for change. One day I noticed this little hunched over old woman with a can walking towards me. I was playing “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone”, and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue”. Both songs have the same circle of fifths cord progression so they blend easily one into another. She hobbled up under my chin, looked up and said, “you sure are older than you look.”

One of the things that I have learned to do is to play the ukelele sing and balance a broom on my chin. I can do all three at once. I have not worked at it much but I have substituted an accordian for the Uke. Its a bit more difficult.  On the street I prefered music to the show. Others with more show than music did better.  But I cannot say my music was exceedingly high quality. It was just better than my main competition. He was earning a real living, but I heard he had been  arrested for non-payment of taxes.

One June I hitchhiked to Montana to visit The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena from San Francisco. Kurt Weiser was my first college ceramics teacher was the Director. He hired Chip Clawson to run the clay business. I ended up on a bus from Denver to Helena. I called Kurt from the bus station in town. He was busy, so he told me to walk to the Bray. It was 5 miles. He said to “be careful of the wolves”.  Well Kurt is known to be a leg puller so I did not think much more about it.

As I approached the Bray, it was dusk, the howls of the “wolves” was really intense. A neighbor of the Bray raised sled dogs that were part wolf. I was scared, but not enough to turn around. Maybe that qualifies as stupid or foolish, I am not sure. The Archie Bray Foundation had a smaller footprint than it does now.


We had had our garage sale. Our things remaining were on 4 pallets. Both Datsuns were outside on pallets so that they could be picked up and moved around by the Archie Bray Foundation forklift. Our other belongings were in the old covered scove kiln storage building.

The video camera had come, we bought film and packed. It is hard to know if we brought too much stuff. Lots of things were hard or expensive to get. Pants that fit me were all imports or carried import prices. Shoes were unavailable in size 14.  We brought some books. They ended up being helpful. We got so short on reading material that anything in English was a prized possession. I remember that we called our families. Things were rather frenetic. We were excited.

Tom Yum Kung ต้มยำกุ้ง

This is the Thai national dish. When you say something is Tom Yum Kung, you are saying that it is authentically Thai.  Its like saying that something is “as American as apple pie”. The Asian Monetary Crisis of 1997 which seemed to start in Thailand is often referred to as “Tom Yum Kung”.

This is the start of a post on a recipe for Tom Yum Kung. My sources are memory, Jennifer Brennan’s (Hot Pink) Original Thai Cookbook and Hot Thai Kitchens youtube video and Thai Food Master
My memories are scattered but as always include Umdang Ceramics and a certain little whole in the wall place in Korat that kept upping the peppers every time we went there.

This page says to add 4 shallots This page also says to fry prawn brains in oil until golden. They add them late in the process to the soup and it adds an orange color. I will probably get headless shrimp so no prawn brains.
I have had shallots in Tom Yum but have never included them in my recipe. I am gonna try some this time.
I really like the oil that has had shrimp shells fried in it (the oil gets nice and shrimpy) so  I am going to use that part of the Hot Pink cook book.

2T vege oil I like the way it looks if it goes red.
8 cups quality chicken stock using skin and feet if possible
1.5t salt
1″ of galangal fresh from my garden sliced in rounds.
3 stalks lemon grass 1″ length. from my garden, bruise before cutting.
Kaffir Lime leaf 4 slivered from my garden
1/4 t kaffir zest, but other limes OK, from my garden, maybe fresh
2 green chili, serrano, or one polano slivered (bruise first). I will  throw in a few pequins.
4 shallots
2 pounds shrimp peel de-vein and reserve the shells.
1 slivered red chili slivered (bruise first)
2 limes juiced.
1T Fish Sauce. Louis uses a tad of shrimp paste.
2 T coriander leaves chopped coarse
3 green onions chopped coarse from my garden
mushrooms, I am going shitake this time I think.
a small amount of vegetable matter but this soup traditionally has little to none. I am not sure what, but maybe a few bits of slivered root veges. Hot Thai Kitchen says maybe to add some Nam Prik Phao it adds some nice color. I may put in some powdered dry  ancho chili early with the shrimp shells.

Fry the shrimp shells in oil , add stock, galangal, leaf and rind of kaffir.  green chilli shallots. simmer the stock.
Bring to a boil add veges, mushrooms first, then shrimp. Slightly undercook the shrimp (so they do not get overcooked as you get read to serve. Remove from heat add lime juice fish sauce sugar coriander and green onion. Check for salt, sugar, pepper, fish sauce.  serve. Guests that are late get it cold. Do not bring this back to a boil.