Friday, November 9, 2012

Fug Tong, Fut Thong - Either Way, Say It Carefully

Kabocha Squash (Family Cucurbitaceae, Genus Curcurbita, Maxima species) in Chantanaburi province.

Autumn is the season you see the most squash varieties for sale here in the USA. Carving Halloween pumpkins and pumpkin pies may use up the biggest percentage of our total output here, but that's just a guess on my part. Personally, I'd rather have the pie than the mess from carving one just to put outdoors; seems like a waste of food to me.  Nevertheless, I've carved them out like the one below, shown here with a flash and illuminated by a couple of tea light candles.

I'm using this example because of a running joke about frogs I have with a Thai friend. The jack-o-lantern was my neighbors.

In addition to the orange, smooth skinned pumpkins there are quite a few other varieties available here, including the one up top that you're likely to see stacked up on tables in the Thai countryside in the first few months of the calendar year. Those are Kabocha Squash, of the Cucurbitaceae family, genus Curcurbita, Maxima species. 

This Thai Kabocha variety (transliterated as fak thong, fut tong, fug thong - take your pick) hold an especially long time and are a favorite addition to many Thai dishes: soups, vegetable dishes and desserts.  I've rarely met a gourd I didn't like, so I've enjoyed all of the above at different times. In the US you sometimes hear it referred to as a Japanese pumpkin, but I think most produce folks would agree that Kabocha squash is the most common name for it here, too.

Most of my Thai friends pronounce it something closer to "fut tong", and one told me the story of being led by his hosts around a produce market in Manila while attending a seminar in the Philippines and coming across these very gourds there.  When he pointed at them and said it out loud in Thai to identify them, his "hi-so" (high society level) hosts heard the word "fut" as something very different: as an English vulgarism meaning intercourse, also beginning with "F". You get the idea.

There were audible gasps from the Filipinos and my friend said he could tell his face was a warm red as he explained what he'd really said and tried to smooth over the misunderstanding.  He blushed again relating the story... but I got a laugh out of it.

No comments: