Squid are abundant in Thailand's waters, and the Thais have never been at a loss as to what to do with them. They are among the most popular of all seafoods and form the central ingredient in many dozens of dishes that range from street food to posh-restaurant fare.

Perhaps the first place you'll encounter squid if you're newly arrived in Bangkok is on a wheeled cart, complete with charcoal grill and what looks like a serrated mangle or clothes wringer. The squid themselves are dried, pressed absolutely flat, and clipped to wires like clothes hung out to dry. To serve a customer, the vendor takes one of the squid down, runs it through the mangle several times to make it pliable, then sets it over the charcoal to get toasted. It is presented to the eager buyer with a small plastic bag of thick hot-sweet sauce.

It makes a tasty snack, but to enjoy Thai squid in its full glory, you have to try some of the stir-fries, sour-hot salads called yam, and other prepared dishes that feature it. Plaa muek yat sai muu sab thawd krathiem phrik Thai is one of them worth seeking out, if you are a squid fan. Baby squids are stuffed with a seasoned ground pork mixture and fried in a skillet together with garlic and ground white peppercorns.

If that sounds too heavy, yam plaa muek, a salad-like dish made from sliced, cooked squid, lime juice, salty fish sauce, chilies, sliced onions, and an assortment of fresh green vegetables and herbs. Beyond these two standards there is wide repertoire of other squid dishes to ponder, including some Chinese noodle dishes like yen ta fo that are staples at any night market.

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