My pleasant & joyful moment is not (window) shopping at Tiffany's, LV's, Hermès's, etc. shhh...I wouldn't mind receiving some of their collections as presents though;), but simply roaming at local markets wherever I am or travel, captured by varieties of food which come in all sizes, shapes, colours, fragrance and tastes! So when I am in my hometown, strolling around at the market is considered one of my most pleasant & relaxing activities!
There is something inexpressibly magical about the market where people from all walks of life are gathered for their sacred mission: selling & buying food! To me, the charm of marketplace is not only the aforesaid mission, but also the fact that we are all interconnected as human bonding through our webs of life as well as our shares with others. And one of the greatest sharing is via Food, which is one of human's fundamental needs!!!
I am a big fan of a 70++ y.o grandma who sells local specialties and Thai sweets in one of my hometown's markets. She reminded me of my beloved grandmother. Each time I buy 1-2 boxes of Char Bee Hoon, local style (rice vermicelli, fried with a bit of coconut cream, diced tofu, tamarind sauce, Taucheo (soy bean paste), s/w leaves of garlic chives (Gau choy), Mung bean sprouts and sprinkled with Thai-chili powder, the best fried noodles in my hometown!) + 1 or 2 boxes of her best-selling steamed cassava pudding (or Khanom Mun-Sumpalung) & cassava cake (or Khanom Bahbihn Mun-Sumpalung), which only cost 10 Baht each! I love everything Cassava! you just name it...;)
There was another thing about cassava cake that seized my curiosity: Why is cassava cake called "Khanom Bahbihn" in Thai?
"Khanom" means sweets "Bah" (adj) means nutty, mad and crazy (n) insanity, madness and craziness. "Bihn" (adj) can be translated as nicked or chipped. You will go nuts and have a chipped tooth if you eat it! Oh, I doubt that! ;) It does not make any sense to me, at all!... I couldn't get to sleep easily if this little "?" monster in me has not been pleased. After hours of information surfing and digging, I finally found what I was looking for...
In fact, Khanom Bahbinh is similar to the Portuguese cassava cake, "Bolo de Macaxeira com Coco" with slightly different ingredients. In Brazil, Portugal and in the Philippines, butter and grated Parmesan cheese are added, to enhance the rich and intense flavour of this sweets.
Cassava was the staple crop of the Amerindians of South America when the Portuguese arrived in 1500 just south of what is known as Bahia, Brazil. The Portuguese were also responsible for introducing cassava to East Africa, Madagascar, India, Ceylon, Malaya, and Indonesia by the 1700s.
My observations: baked cassava cake in Malay = Kuih Bingka or Kuih Bengka, in Bahasa Indonesian = Kue Bingka and in the Philippines, it's called Filippino Cassava Bibingka. Though it is called in different names and pronunciations, its meaning is the same! It is difficult to distinguish the origin of this sweets, due to its not-well documented recipe. Cross-cultural influence is very common. Therefore, Khanom Bahbihn could be derived from our previously colonial South East Asian neighbours, either Malaysia & Indonesia's Bingka & Bengka or the Philippines' Bibingka, adjusted to common Thai words, in order for us, Thais to be acquainted and totally at ease with our unique pronunciation and intonation. Whewwwww!!!
She disclosed her secret of delicacies to me...that she still uses charcoal to bake cassava cake with sweetly scented coconut flavour (from grated coconut) & its dark brown & crusty top. The ingredients of her noodles & sweets can easily be found in the region, provided on a daily basis and without artificial colours, flavours or preservatives added.Ahem...ahem Every human relationship begins with the first smiley hello, followed by pleasant communication. Food (plus chocolate) makes icebreaker much easier & smoother or when words fail!!!;)
We converse from time to time with our limited topic: Local Specialties! The conversations imparted to me that she began to learn how to make Thai sweets when she was 9 y.o. She has mastered her knowledge , inherited from her mother/grandmother since then, adding that she has no recipe cards...everything she does is by heart!
I'm impressed so much more when learning she does the whole work by herself: preparation, packing and selling!!! I wish I could be like her when I turn 70's, with sparkling eyes & bright smile. Speaking about what she loves, there is no stopping her...:)
What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.