Photo by Jarrett Wrisley
To try the dish described in this post, click here for a spaghetti with Thai anchovy recipe.
"Same-Same, But Different."
If you've visited Thailand, you've heard this expression before, probably chirped through a wide smile. Like bowls of sour tum yum soup and baggy fisherman pants, these four words seem to delight tourists. The Thai people know this.
"Same, same, but different" usually means, "Yes, that is what you'd thought it was, but then again it's not." I've heard "SSBD" used to describe Thai sausage, Thai transgenders, Thai democracy, Thai funerals, and my flip-flops (The latter when I mistakenly wandered off with someone else's shoes, during a bygone era when this country appeared to manufacture only one type of blue and white sandal.)
"Same-same, but different" is a particularly revealing phrase, and not just because of its exacting cuteness and convenient vagary. The Thais are open-minded sort of people in a very special location, sandwiched between two great, ancient civilizations (China and India).
Thai traditional culture borrows from both, but remains singular. And it doesn't stop there. Today's Bangkok is a subcultural sponge--soaking up art, music, fashion and food from America, Korea, Italy and Japan. But when you wring old Bangkok out, its contents are distinctly Thai.