A Whole Lotta Yen Ta Fo

On Saturday I was fortunate enough to take part in ages-old Thai tradition: a yen ta fo eating contest. Yen ta fo, for those of you who have been living under a rock, is a Chinese noodle dish that is probably the most popular of all noodle dishes in Thailand, and has been mentioned previously here. A friend of mine was invited to take part in this contest--not necessarily because of his competitive eating skills--but rather because he was invited by the owner of the chain of yen ta fo restaurants who apparently needed a Token White Guy! The contest was sponsored by the well-known noodle restaurant, Yen Ta Fo Khrueng Song, owned by Ajaan Mallika, who also works at the school my friend works at.

Anyway, this is Kelly being introduced by two extremely perky TV hosts:

And no, he doesn't normally wear the apron and hat.

There were eight contenstants, and they had one hour to eat as many bowls of yen ta fo as possible.

One important ingredient in yen ta fo is a big fat cube of coagulated pork blood:

And lest you think eating a bunch of noodles looks easy, I should mention that the contestants had to eat the rot jep, "searing taste" noodles, with an almost obscene amount of chilis, as illustrated below:

This young man hiding behind a stack of consumed bowls is the eventual winner:

Here's last year's winner, who this year came in nearly last:

However it was Kelly who eventually did come in last... He was able to eat only six bowls, whereas the winner, a skinny university student, ate 12 bowls!

After the contest, everybody was given a popsicle, which I thought was a bit odd. When Kelly emerged several minutes later he said that the reason for this was so that everybody could use it to facilitate vomiting! He said backstage was a mess--not something I want to reflect on...