Sunday, April 19, 2009

oo (อุ)

That's a bottle pot of "oo", an alcoholic treat from the Northeast of Thailand. I paid 160 baht for it...about $4.

"Susan Boyle Mother Tong Yaem" brand. Don't drink and drive. It's illegal to drink if you're under 18. Expiration date. Etc.

You've got to bust through the plaster seal before you can drink. It's a pain in the ass. It was the second time I tried the stuff, so I knew what to do...bring it down to a local eatery and let management deal with it.

Rice husks. I'll have to do some more research on the topic of "oo", as the stuff is still a mystery to me. Alcohol is a liquid, but it seems like the contents are not the least bit moist. You add water, wait 5 minutes, punch the wooden straws through the mass (difficult!), and suck.

Tasty stuff. Sweet and sour. You might compare it to sweet sake or, if you're already familiar with Thai alcohols, "sato". I'd say that it's more complex than either, however. I detected hints of cinammon and/or coconut, though I doubt any was added. Apparently, you can get "oo" in pineapple and watermelon flavors too.

It's not easy to find oo in Bangkok. This pot was acquired in roundabout fashion: a couple weeks ago a taxi driver and I found ourselves chatting on the subject of oo. He actually went out, bought a pot, and stowed it in his trunk, waiting for our next encounter. I threw in a 40 baht tip for the effort. He told me he found the stuff at an "OTOP" (one tambon/village, one product) shop in Bangkok.

Befriended taxi drivers, by the way, are awesome resources. I can't count how many times I've hopped in a taxi, told the driver to "take me to a good Thai restaurant", and had a great meal.


speakfreely said...

This sounds interesting, and reminds me of Tungba, that Tibetan beverage of fermented barley. Similarly to oo, one pours hot water into the grains, and sips the sweet/sour/malty alcoholic brew using a strainer straw (a wooden straw with the end plugged and many holes poked in it - the Tibetan equivalent of a bombilla. So, how does one pronounce "oo"?

KenG said...

Oh, yeah...I actually posted a bit about Tungba here: .

Oo is not so different. It's not hot and the flavors might be a bit more subtle. I guess the pronunciation is something like a staccato "goo". If you ever want to check it out, though, it's probably best to write out the Thai word (easy) or show a pic.

speakfreely said...

Thanks! I've been reading your blog from the present backwards after having stumbled upon your excellent "spiritual rationalism" entry, and had not reached the tungba entry yet. After a miserably failed experiment with millet and bread yeast, I spoke with the owner of a Tibetan restaurant in Charlottesville, VA who gave me some dried culture that she said would make tungba, but I'm flying blind RE technique. Do you know of any tungba makers who might be willing to share their secrets?