Betel Leaves, Turtles, and Birdies

New friends were made here today in Grand Cayman: Leah befriended a turtle, I befriended some birdies, and Leah and my mama and my grandparents and I were all introduced to betel leaves by my aunt Yindee. These leaves grow in her garden, and she showed us how to make Miang Kam, a Thai snack in which toasted coconut flakes, fresh ginger, chile peppers, raw onions, peanuts, and dried shrimp are wrapped up in the betel leaves and dipped in a sweet syrupy fish sauce. I would have liked to have eaten Miang Kam all night long; the flavor combination exploded in my mouth in a unique and exciting new way.  As the multi-course Thai dinner that Leah and I had helped Yindee prepare wound down and my tummy was getting too full, I took to eating the Betel leaves on their own, or wrapped around a little pinch of sweet sticky rice, just because I didn’t want to say goodbye to that betel leaf flavor. Fresh and green tasting like basil, but citrusy-peppery too… the flavor is hard to pin down exactly. Fingers crossed I will be able to find my new betel leaf friends somewhere in NYC once I leave the island.