Today’s exercise from your friendly Giant Golden Buddha…
“Um, jurjugee lam sazee and papyee?
“Lam sazee and papyee?” I repeated hoping to get my hands on some condiments.
“Daaad, what did I just tell you… it’s insulting to season the food here. You’re implying that it tastes bad.”
“Well, it needs salt and pepper,” I whispered back.
“Mister, no like?” the waiter said, confirming my son’s assessment. He took my plate and walked briskly toward the kitchen. I was uncertain what would happen next, but I was hoping he would return with my food on a tray and some salt and pepper shakers.
Instead, the cook presented himself. “No like?”
Trey smiled uncomfortably at the man, whose bulky, aproned presence was planted in a wide-leg stance beside me. His generous forearms were crossed over his chest and a mustache of considerable dimensions drooped at the corners of his mouth. He kept his chin level and his eyes directed toward the door.
“Neng eii jamgee! Jamgee!” No it’s good! Good! I proclaimed. I wasn’t sure what happens to travelers in Pjugsarkjan should they insult the chef, but I attempted to undo the damage.
He left and the waiter returned with my original plate, and I dug in heartily without hesitation. Despite the absence of additional seasonings, it actually tasted very good. Though I didn’t share this observation with Trey, salt and pepper would have ruined it.
The meal continued uneventfully, though my son ignored me for the remainder of the morning. We explored the marketplace for several hours, and eventually wandered into a busy tented area where locals were seated drinking mpranii from traditional stemmed cups and mopping up a pungent, red stew with spongy bread. Trey broke his silence long to warn me that he would do all the talking as we sat down for lunch.