Eating Pork on a Hot Plate
Posted: 10th March 2005
Left to right: Don, Suthee (webmaster of www.ethaimusic.com) and Nattawud (webmaster of www.thailandlife.com)
This afternoon, a good friend of mine, who used to be one of my students many years ago (makes me feel old saying that) came to visit. His nickname is Don. I don't see him that often as he is at college in Nakhon Pathom learning to be a policeman. He has already done the two year prep course and the first year of the real course. However, he still has another three years of studying before he becomes a police officer.
Six years seems a long time to train to be a policeman, so I asked him about the newspaper reports that said 600 traffic policemen in Bangkok recently failed a test on traffic laws. Apparently they won't be allowed to issue any more tickets until they resit the test! But Don sneered and just said that they were mere non-commissioned policemen. He made it sound like that he wouldn't associate with them when he became a police officer. (To spot the difference you apparently need to look for the star on their shoulder to know that they are commissioned officers.) Done says that when he finishes his course he will become a detective. I told him that maybe one day he would probably arrest Nattawud! Everyone agreed.
As we were all getting a bit hungry, we decided to go out to eat. Our destination was Sompong next to Tesco Lotus Srinakarin. This is a "moo ga ta buffet". Basically, that means pork in a pan. I prefer to call it "hotplate". What you do here is cook for yourself on a hot plate! A very simple idea that is extremely poplar here in Thailand.
What you do is choose a table where you first order your drinks. They then bring out a charcoal stove with a hot plate on top. This has a trough around it full of water. This is for boiling your vegetables and seafood. While this is heating up you go and get your selection of meat and vegetables. It is a buffet so you can keep coming back as many times as you like.
Once you have chosen your meat, you then make a selection of the sauces. Actually, this is what makes or breaks a "moo ga ta" restaurant. There are now many of these places around Samut Prakan. But people go to the ones that serve their favourite sauces. If a restaurant has a secret recipe that everyone likes then they will be very popular. The place where we went must have had at least a hundred tables and it was packed! I have been to others but this is my favourite.
By this time the hot plate is really hot and you go back to start cooking. It is all very simple. Meat goes on top and the vegetables go in the water. You can also help yourself to fried rice, fried noodles, som tam, fruit and a large selection of other food in the buffet.
I brought some friends here from the UK the other month. I asked if they had anything like this in England and whether they thought it would be popular. They said they had never seen anything like it, but they were sure that the health inspectors would close any establishment that tried to operate a place like this.
I know you have to be careful with food hygiene but I think Western laws sometimes go a bit too far. OK yes, it is a warm climate and the meat is all on display. And yes I use the same chopsticks to place the meat and vegetables on the hotplate and then pick up the cooked food to put it in my mouth. But I have been coming here for many months and I have never had a problem with upset stomach.
Anyway, the whole experience is really worth it if you are ever in Thailand. The best thing is the price. It is all you can eat for only 69 baht - which is only US$1.80!
Don't forget to visit the forums to discuss Thai food!
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