The An­lan Style of Thai Food

Special Focus - - Contents - Liu Dongli 刘冬莉


“Basil Ul­tra­vi­o­let,” a wine with Basil leaves; “Tom Yum For­est,” a wine with lemon leaves and le­mon­grass which tastes like Tom Yum Soup; “Ruby,” a wine with rose snow....

All these fancy names came from a Thai girl at Red Basil Thai Restau­rant, who ren­dered the gi­ant menu her own creative touch.

This Thai girl, Wi­pawee Kru­akam, has a Chi­nese name An­lan. A decade ago, she had yearned to be in the city of Wuhan in China. In 2007, she stud­ied at Khon Kaen Univer­sity in Thai­land, where she met her Chi­nese teacher from Wuhan Univer­sity, from whom she learned about the vast East Lake, the beautiful ro­man­tic cherry blos­soms, and the cease­lessly rolling Yangtze River.

Dur­ing the sum­mer va­ca­tion in her ju­nior year, she came to Wuhan Univer­sity for the first time for a two- month ex­change pro­gram. In 2011, An­lan re­turned to Wuhan Univer­sity to pur­sue her post-grad­u­ate de­gree in busi­ness man­age­ment. Three years later, she learned by chance that a Thai restau­rant called Red Basil was open­ing in Wuhan. She ap­plied and suc­cess­fully be­came the “cul­tural am­bas­sador” of the restau­rant, act­ing as a trans­la­tor be­tween the Thai chefs and the Chi­nese cus­tomers and staff. Since then, An­lan has started a whole new life, and she has be­come de­ter­mined to in­tro­duce Thai foods to China.

In or­der to make the cus­tomers know and ac­cept Thai food, An­lan racked her brains. “Names of the dishes should be crystal clear in­stead of be­ing con­fus­ing or un­in­tel­li­gi­ble.” An­lan says this be­cause when she first came to China, she was con­fused by many dish names. “Where is the fish when the name is ‘Fishy Pork’?” “Oh my God, what is ‘ Cou­ple’s Lung Slices’? Is that even ed­i­ble?” “Are there Ants in ‘ Ants in the Tree’?”… An­lan still felt as­ton­ished when re­call­ing all these.

So, An­lan has been very care­ful with the trans­la­tion of dish names. She in­tends to make the names easy to re­mem­ber and un­der­stand, blend­ing Chi­nese cul­ture and Chi­nese peo­ple’s cus­tom­ary un­der­stand­ing into it, so that it sounds en­tic­ing and invit­ing. Not long ago, the restau­rant launched a deep­fried shrimp dish, which is made from “Tamarind” juice from the Thai fruit of the same name. The juice is added to the fried big shrimp, mak­ing the shrimp taste more de­li­cious. An­lan named it “Tamarind Fried Big Shrimp.”

An­lan un­der­stands that China has an ex­ten­sive and pro­found food cul­ture, which in­cludes var­i­ous ways of cook­ing such as stir- fry­ing, steam­ing, brais­ing, stew­ing, deep-fry­ing, fry­ing, roast­ing, and so on. There­fore, in or­der to ac­cu­rately trans­late the dish names, An­lan of­ten refers to her Chi­nese dictionary as well as her Chi­nese col­leagues over and over again. Some­times she also con­sults her guests and passes on ac­cu­rate opin­ions to the chefs so that a mu­tual un­der­stand­ing can be reached over the form and con­tent of a dish.

With her lan­guage pro­fi­ciency in Chi­nese, An­lan may eas­ily be­come a teacher and am­bas­sador for Chi­nese-Thai cul­tural ex­change in Thai­land, but that’s not what she hopes for. “I like the life here in China. I also en­joy

mak­ing friends with Chi­nese peo­ple. In the fu­ture, even if I re­turn to my home­town, I will choose to work in a Chi­nese fac­tory.”

We learned later that An­lan’s feel­ings to­wards China were ac­tu­ally planted at a very young age. Her grand­mother was Chi­nese, and she told her and her sis­ter a lot of Chi­nese sto­ries when they were lit­tle. To­day, her younger sis­ter has also learned Chi­nese well and is now a Chi­nese teacher at a high school in her home­town.

(Trans­la­tion: Lu Qiongyao)

An­lan (right) with Thai ac­tress Mo Amena (mid­dle) in Red Basil

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