The streets of Old Bangkok glisten with rain, giving the narrow Portuguese-built trader lanes a clean, freshly showered appearance.For a moment, the city seems content to enjoy the calm. Men linger in doorways to smoke cigarettes. Women peer through blinds before emerging on stoops. And intermittent beams of noonday sun cast random spotlights on noodle carts, spice stalls, and, briefly, a Frenchman holding two fistfuls of aniseed to his nose. He looks enraptured, as if seeking transcendence through scent. “Smell this!” he says, his slight French accent adding flavor to his words as he immerses my snout in the star-shaped spice. I inhale deeply, allowing the aniseed’s licorice-drenched bouquet to overpower the sweeter scents of turmeric, galangal, and cumin that drift up from nearby sacks. “You can buy these ingredients in New York,” explains chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, dropping the aniseed and digging into a bushel of cardamom, “but they might as well be different spices. Honestly, can you smell how fragrant these are?” It’s the olfactory equivalent of experiencing music live versus listening to it on your iPod: The smells are bolder, crisper, louder. As the cardamom’s gingerlike aroma penetrates my skull, I understand why the excitable chef once bought… Read full this story
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