Ode to a Favorite Market Bag + a Splendid Poached Chicken Recipe

I said good-bye to a friend last week.  She had been with me for nearly as long as I’ve lived here in Thailand, accompanying me on nearly every significant market trip.   She was predominantly light blue and green in color and composed of an inexpensive vinyl / plastic weave.

She was the perfect market bag.  Sturdy enough to stand upright on her own while empty, yet flexible enough to mold around my legs on the floor of my motorbike – a cross between a basket and bag. Her handles were reinforced with a vinyl tubing and looped comfortably over my shoulder.  When new, she was bright and happy, the way I feel when heading to the market early in the morning.  She was ever so practical.

I would load this bag to overflowing time and time again with passion fruit, limes by the kilo, garlic ropes, bags of freshly cut fruit, mystery greens, fried chicken and pork, and the occasional bag of fried bananas, fresh coconut water.  Not eggs though – which were instead in a plastic bag slung “safely” over my handle bars.  It has hauled takeout lunches for 8 people, in environmentally unfriendly styrofoam boxes that were then bagged in plastic for good measure.  Sometimes this market bag-basket went with me to the Italian restaurant/deli in my hood to return with salami picante, mozzarella and a big ole bottle of red table wine, on the heels of a last minute decision to make pizza for dinner.  Once, this bag transported painting supplies, and white paint dribbled down the interior sides, staining it forever.

Eventually my favorite market bag began to show signs of wear and tear.  Some of its weaving came undone, and, while on the motorbike, the frayed edges would scratch my legs in that annoying way that happens with a new pair of pants, when the plastic piece of the sales tag is left behind to jab your lower back.

I looked for a replacement.  Not finding anything in the same style (styles, apparently even of plastic-vinyl market bags, change with the times), I settled on a somewhat similar shiny red bag.  It was too stiff though, and bulky, like dragging a trash bin around with me.  I used it once or twice, and then got rid of it.

So, I continued to push my favorite bag.   It’s ends frayed even more.   I noticed one of the handles starting to give out.  My boys by now had made clear that I need not bother being seen with them if I planned to carry it around.  Once, a wrinkled and toothless vendor at a vegetable stand laughed aloud, asking me point blank why I do not get a new one.  As my Thai language skills have never progressed beyond survival, I could only reply, “because I like this one.”

Finally one morning last week, the poor thing made its final excursion.  After stuffing it, as usual, at the stand which in addition to selling organic lettuces, reliably sells passion fruit and other green juice necessities, calamity struck.  The weakened handle gave out, like the hip on an elderly relative, and half my goods tumbled onto the street.  I swiftly loaded them back into the bag and gingerly placed the bag on the floor of my motorbike for its final ride home.

I snapped a farewell photo.  A Louis Vuitton, it was not.  But it is missed, nonetheless.

In the spirit of honoring of my workhorse of a market “bag-basket,” I share here the source of a favorite workhorse recipe in my kitchen.

This recipe is made in bulk about twice a month in my home.  It is Cook’s Illustrated’s, Perfect Poached Chicken Breasts.

The technique used (so be sure you follow it) ensures that the chicken breasts do not dry out.  The poaching liquid i composed of water mixed with the magical combo of soy sauce, garlic and salt.

Normally with Cook’s Illustrated, you need to buy the cookbook or pay to subscribe to their website to get ahold of their recipes.  I happened, however, to find this one republished on Epicurious here, free of charge.

Poached chicken breasts are endlessly versatile, and this is the best recipe for it I know.

For a very simple and delicious weeknight dinner, with leftovers that make a not-sad work lunch, lately I have been pairing the perfect poached chicken breasts with tzatziki sauce (and here is my favorite recipes for that) and an earthy quinoa tabouli, which I will share next time.

Perfect indeed.

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