I like stinky food. I like fermented things. Durian (a delicious but stinky fruit) chòu dòufu (stinky tofu), natto (Japanese fermented soy), prahok (Cambodian fermented fish), are all things I enjoy. I have yet to try some of what are considered the ‘stinkiest foods in the world’ – Surströmming (Swedish fermented herring) and Hongeohoe (Korean fermented fish) both which may well be similar to prahok, or terasi, fermented shrimp paste – a common ingredient in Indonesian cooking, so I’d probably like those. However, I think I’ll give Kiviak a miss – an Inuit dish of seabirds fermented inside the body of a seal, not really my cup of fermented sea bird. I would like to try Vieux-Boulogne, a French cheese considered the smelliest in the world, ‘as tested by experts.’ I really like stinky cheese. The smellier the better. One of the things I’m looking forward to on my Camino is the fromage, well on the French part of my Camino anyway. I don’t really know much about, or if indeed there is, a Spanish cheese industry, so please excuse my ignorance, and I’ll be very happy to learn otherwise.
I’m in Bangkok at the moment, and one of the joys of being in a big city, besides of course access to delicious Thai food, is access to luxury imported goods, ie: cheese. On my last visit a friend directed me to ‘the cheese room’ at Central Chidlom Department store. (When I mentioned I’d been there to the Thai girls in the office they commented on how ‘Hi Soc’ I was… ). It’s far from an extensive collection, but sure beats the processed shelf stable stuff in my local supermarket. One of the most delicious I purchased was ‘Camembert Coupe Caluados’, which according to my extensive internet research is a camembert from Normandy that is impregnated with an apple liqueur (caluados), then rolled in breadcrumbs that becomes a crumbly crust. The fermented apple flavor combined with the creaminess of the cheese tasted rather like durian to me. Curiously, not many passengers on my trips like the taste of durian, and not many of my Asian friends like the taste of cheese (in fact I’ve overheard some locals commenting that Westerners “stink like cheese!”) yet to me the flavours are very similar… And extremely moorish.
I have been warned may times not to mix durian with alcohol, yet the opposite is recommended for cheese. Central Chidlom also had a small wine cellar. They sell a ‘brand’ of wine called ‘Joy’, basically clean skins from vineyards all over the world relabeled and sold with a percentage going to a charity that supports the very poor in Bangkok. I like a product that can bring double joy – to me by drinking it and that some of the purchase price can bring joy to others too. The man behind the charity, Father Joseph (Joe) H. Maier, sounds like a good bloke. He is quoted as saying “Buddhists and Muslims taught me how to be a Christian” that kind of interfaith tolerance appeals to me. His charity supports “vulnerable children and families offering alternatives to and a haven from drugs, violence, sex abuse and prostitution in the squatter slums.” The wine was not a bad drop, a South African Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, and went well with the cheese. So you see, I spent the weekend ‘in training’. It can be hard preparing for the Camino.