Monday, 27 July 2009

Day 87A-Bangkok's Baskets of Beans

Last Sunday, I visited JJ or the Chatuchak market in Bangkok for my mini fix. We reached there at about 3pm and stayed for 3 hours because the market closed at 6.30pm. The 1st 20 minutes was spent on the phone with our Thai friend, SuWan, trying to locate where the other was in this crazy maze. We never found each other. For the rest of the time I was mainly squatting at a tiny stall, buying up enough minis to make my own mini mart.

I have learnt very soon after I started this hobby that miniatures were very much a part of Thai culture since ancient times. This is due largely to their beliefs and religion.

One of the first things a foreign visitor to Thailand notices soon after arriving in the country are the spirit houses which are present at the front of practically every house and business. Miniature temples or houses, these spirit shrines are a way of honouring and placating the spirits of ones ancestors or even the spirits of people who used to live on the property. By keeping the spirits happy through offerings, it is believed that good luck will be ensured for the house or business where the spirit house is located.

Do you know that the Thais even have house warming parties for their spirit houses? So of course, they furnish these houses with miniature furniture, exquisite dancing dolls and even food.

Only the best for their spirit houses and as much money as the host can afford for the party to do honour to the spirits. A robbery, a fire, or a spouse running away is a sure sign that the owner had skimped on the house-warming!

I believe that it is largely due to this rich and enduring tradition that handmade miniatures in Thailand, even those thrown in baskets or bins in heaps are truly well made and undeniable things of beauty.

I am sure Thailand must be the country with the most miniature houses per capita.

As I have mentioned earlier, on this day for about 2 1/2 hours, I bought enough miniature to make my own market place. So I need to split this day into 3 posts. Each post dedicated to 1 stall.

Today's post is about my lentils, beans and peas stall in my yet to build bazaar. This bazaar will be filled with colourful stalls meandering between my houses in the desert land of Rajasthan.

If you look at the 1st picture, they are of the 60 mini baskets of beans, rice, lentils and corns that I bought for 500 baht which is about S$20.00. Of course I could not get all 60 into the picture but they are there. Each basket is filled to the brim with real produce, immortalised in lacquer and standing at 1" high and slightly less than 1" wide in the most perfectly weaved baskets made of cane.

And of course, in my usual strive to be as real as I can, here are the more popular lentils, beans and peas of my stall:

Urad Dal (whole and Split)

Also called Black Beluga Lentils. Whole Urad dal/dahl is used more like a chili or stew than a soup or dal/dahl. These lentil-like beans have black skins covering creamy white interiors. Whole urad dal/dahl derive their strong, rich, earthy flavor from the black skins and have an uncanny ability to absorb flavors.

Considered the hardest to digest, this dal takes a long time to soften and stomach and because of its dense nature, often calls for a lot of spic
es and falvourings.

Mung dal/Moong Dal (whole and split)

Whole moong is actually a bean or pulse and is known as 'sabat moong' . They are small green beans fairly used in India, China, Thailand and Japan. Sprouted, they are called "Tow Gay" in Hokkien, which is my dialect group. This dal is ons of the most basic in northern India. Small and kidny shaped, this dal is available as whole green mung beans with skin on (saabut mung or green mung dal), green split mung beans with skin on (chilkae vaali mung) and yellow skinned and split mung beans (dhilli mung or yellow mung dal). All these are considered asy to digest, especially the skinless yellow variety.

Boiled with chunks of sugar crystals and coconut cream, Fafa makes the most fantabulous green bean soup dessert with these beans.

In India, Moong dal is used to make delicious dals and curries. Innocent as they look, these beans can be extremely fattening.

Rajma (Red Kidney Beans)

The kidney bean with its dark red skin is named for its visual resemblance to a kidney. The kidney bean is also known as the red bean, although this usage can cause confusion with other red beans. Red kidney beans (Rājmā in Hindi and Punjabi) are an integral part of the cuisine in northern region of India. These are available everywhere in supermarkets and apparently, Indian bazaars.

Over here, red beans are also made into soups and pastries and other mouth watering desserts. Not so long ago, I was actually addicted to breads made with these beans.

Lobiya/Chawli/Black Eye Peas

These are a subspecies of the cowpea, grown for its medium-sized edible bean, which mutates easily giving rise to a number of varieties, the common commercial one called the California Blackeye being pale-colored with a prominent black spot. Quite popular in the west especially South is often used in Indian Cooking as well. In North America, they are most famously known as a pop group with a lead singer called Fergie.

Not quite as easily digested, lobiya must be cooked well and for a long time with carmainative (gas-reducing) spices like ginger, garlic, ground asafoetida or ajwain seeds.

*burp and other offensive noises & smells. Yes, I emit them just from doing this post.


Sumaiya Mehreen said...

Wow! 60 baskets! Your palace will be well stocked...and it has to be with so many villagers to feed!

Sans said...

Oh Sumaiya, happy belated birthday!! I kept forgetting to zap the page I wanted to send you and consequently the failure to wish you promptly!! Keeping the book now in my bag so I will remember tomorrow. :)

Ara said...

Sans, your shopping trip sounds like a dream!!! Except for your missing friend... hope you all found each other in the end!! I can just see all your beautiful ladies bringing these baskets to the palace for a feast. Great info on the Spirit Houses too! Hope you're doing well!! -ara

Pubdoll said...

With 60 baskets it's a great idea to do a bazaar! Really a nice way of displaying all these wonderful miniatures!
They are all exquisite and I first thought they were real, and so they were too :-) An amazing technique!
I love the name Rajasthan by the way!

Sans said...

Hi Ara, we did not find him at the market. He gave up and went to the book section. We met after that at the train station :). Just to let you know, I have never felt better :) and thank you so much for asking!

Helene, I had to buy 60 because they are wholesale volume. Have always wanted to do bazaars because going to one is the highlight of my travels. I can forget everything about a foreign country but I always remember their bazaars and of course their people. The best ones I have visited are in the Middle East and yes,! I too love the name "Rajasthan" and "Amritsa" and "Kerala" and so forth..

Texas Belle said...

Wow! Lucky you to be able to see so many minis all at once! These pictures are beautiful - so colorful - and will look so great in a bazaar. Are the spirit houses and other Thai minis typically in 1:12 scale or do they use some different scale? Being such an ancient tradition, I'm guessing maybe they have their own scale.

Glad you had such a great time, but I'm happy to have you back!

*Now impatiently waiting for next two posts.*

Sans said...

Hey Belle :), so happy to see you here. I don't think the houses are 1:12 but miniatures in Thailand have gone international so there are many little things made in 1:12. Anyway, these are miniature shrines and as with real life they vary in sizes. I must say as compared to the one I built, these shrines are closer to 1:12 then say 1:36.

I now have an additional source to build my palace although I am not sure if I am comfortable when the spirits eventually do move in. I thought of you in Bangkok because I was saying to myself: Belle won't think of asking these craftsmen to custom build the house. She will just build it herself!! lol

Liberty Biberty said...

Wow!! You are in miniature Heaven aren't you?!

rosanna said...

This morning I had troubles with my pc and the comment didn' go but hopefully now it will works. You found such a treasure! I love the baskets, the beans ( both yours and cooked). your bazar will be the most sought for in town.

Sans said...

Oh yes, Mercedes, wait till you read more of what happened....

LOL, thanks Rosanna!! What I found was a treasure island!! :) I just expand my pictures of the stall and saw that I did not buy so many things!! lol.

Eva said...

Wow! What a beautiful things!!!
I love your posts fulls of colours!!!
Ah! Good luck in my give away ;-)

PS I am not in Italy...

Tallulah~Belle said...

Wonderful finds.

You know I've always wanted to visit Thailand...even more so now !

Katie said...

WOW!! That 3rd picture has me drooling...are thoose all minis!! I don't know what I'd do if I saw all those in one place....Might have to have a heart attack:) Love the baskets you have....can't wait to see the rest of this story:)

Sans said...

OOps Eva, I thought you were the one mentioned by Rosanna at her blog :). I was wondering how you looked really young for someone with a 16 year old son! I will mention your giveaay in my next post! Thank you for your compliments too! You know I always love it when you pop by.

Jayne, Thailand is a must visit if you can. I always tell my foreign friends, make Thailand your 1st destination in South East Asia. It has a most unique culture!And don't trust the reports about the demonstrations or strikes between the political parties. Nowhere to be seen in Bangkok when I was there.

Katie, Bangkok is your kind of destination. You will lose your heart for sure cos it won't leave Thailand even when you do!

Snowfern said...

ahhh i'm so envious! it was only after my foray into minis did i know that thailand was so abundant in ...well, MINIS! i heard that there's a whole section in chatuchak (sp? or JJ?) devoted to minis, no wonder you need to divide the post into 3 parts LOL!

anyway can't wait to see what else you've got for your palace...btw did you get the email? i replied to a question you left on my blog but wasn't sure if you'd received it (might have gone into your spam folder)

Sans said...

Hey Cindy! :) Good of you to visit me here!! I think I found out about this "section" in chatuchak (now known as JJ) from a link in one of your post.. someone said it's called zone 6 but no,I was at section 13 and you will find out soon enough (in my 3rd post maybe) how that is also not the mini

I don't think you have an email add in your blog. Do you mind mailing me again? :)

Snowfern said...

OH!! i goofed :O i thought you didn't reply, but you did! grr gmail sometimes marks the conversations as read even though i haven't read them -_-"

i'll go reply you now *blush*

wow, the flower post is soooo detailed too....i know i know the last one MUST be foods, right right?? hee

Sans said...

Alamak, Fern, you got read or not? LOL fun to slip into our own lingo, right? So.. aiyah, I also skipped large portions of my post sometime. Where got time, right ? :) I will reply to your email soon, Cindy. Just saw it in my inbox. My reply here is lunchtime treat :).

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