At Chinese New Year kanom kaeng (steamed sticky rice flour cakes) are sold everywhere in Chiang Mai's Gat Luang neighborhod
Yesterday the alleys of Gat Luang, the Chiang Mai neighborhood centered on Don Lam Yai and Warorot markets, smelled faintly of caramelizing sugar and five spice. Last night and this morning they were thick with folks on their way to make merit at Gat Luang's two Chinese temples. Families paraded in bunches and in single file, toting five-spice red-cooked whole ducks and chickens, slabs of pork belly, platters piled high with fruit, trays of kanom kaeng (steamed glutinous rice cakes similar to nian gao) and other goodies.
Today is the first day of Chinese New Year -- which in this predominantly Teochew Chinese-Thai neighborhood means cooking for spirits, ancestors, gods, relatives and friends. It also means firecrackers and lion dances, and air thick with smoke from smoldering paper offerings and thousands of incense sticks. This year, for us it's meant the opportunity to observe Gat Luang residents at home in the kitchen and at temple, in worship.
This trip to Chiang Mai is the first of many we look forward to making in the Year of the Rabbit. In 2011 Gat Luang celebrates its first 100 years, and we're honored to have been invited to collaborate with several locals on a year-long project to document daily life in this historic and fascinating market-centric neighborhood.
The culmination of all of our efforts will be a beautiful book on Gat Luang -- its history and living culture (markets, residents, economy, and yes, food) -- photographed by Dave, with text by me to accompany the photos. The end of 2011 or early 2012 will see an exhibition of Dave's photographs from the project. (Both book and photos will be available for purchase.)
Throughout 2011 we'll occasionally update you on our progress here and on the EatingAsia Facebook page, posting glimpses of this wonderful community in the form of out-takes from the book (and perhaps a few recipes). We'll also alert you to centenary happenings in Gat Luang.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, everyone -- Happy Year of the Rabbit! Ours is off to a great start, and we hope yours is too.