One of the most anticipated aspects of Thailand for us was the food! Universally praised by people of various levels of food expertise, we were excited to feast again after the mediocrity of Khmer cuisine. Starting the first night we arrived in Thailand, we found a corner filled with Bangkok street food – it had about 20 or so street food vendors in 10 meters of street. Standing at that street corner, we could turn 360 degrees and have 30 different things that we could be eating, if not more. There was bound to be something appealing for everyone.
For the exact location: eastern end of Rambuttri Alley (the road immediately north of Khao San Road, running parallel to it), intersects at a roundabout where the Bang Lamphu Bon Post Office and the southwest corner of Bavorn Niwet are located.
Who doesn’t know what pad thai is?? We long lost count of how many pad thais Carlos has had. You can’t miss it. It was a staple for us in Bangkok and Thailand in general. Absolutely everyone sold them, with egg, the meat of your choice, plus any extra sauces you may want to add on the side. Prices ranged from 40 to 65 baht (USD 1.33 to 2), depending on the meat.
The fun part was watching pad thai being cooked on the spot. While I’ve had many pad thais before, I’ve never seen someone making it from scratch. It seemed easy… but I’m sure it would be pretty hard if I tried, if only because of how many different seasonings were involved.
For those who have never had pad thai (you’re really missing out, go have one now), it’s a noodle dish. Soaked dried rice noodles are commonly stir-fried with eggs, tofu, a meat of choice (chicken, pork, shrimp), dried shrimp, bean sprouts, coriander leaves, plus a list of seasoning. Then it is served with a lime wedge on the side and chopped roasted peanuts on top. Needless to say, all the pad thais we’ve had were delicious, salty and a bit sweet (and sour if you like to add a good amount of lime juice). Nothing is more Thai street food than pad thai.
Chicken Noodle Tom Yam
I decided to try the chicken noodle tom yam food cart on a whim one day and couldn’t be happier. The lady took a bunch of thin, clear noodles and dipped them in a boiling pot to cook for 10-20 seconds. Then she took some spices/herbs from a pre-made pot, added pre-cooked slices of chicken, then put in the cooked noodles and added more boiling water. In only about a minute, it was ready. I knew it was going to be amazing immediately when she brought it to me because I could already smell the amazing flavours – you know a dish is going to be good when it smells good before you even taste it. I legitimately took some time just to appreciate the aroma.
Of course, it tasted exactly as it smelled – sour and spicy and salty, all in perfect balance. The tanginess of soup kept appetizing me as I ate. The spice level was just right for me – enough to stimulate, but not enough to overwhelm. What amazes me about soups in Asia is that they’re so packed with flavour, yet so light and clear, which really allows you to drink the whole soup without saturating your palate. All for only 40 baht (USD 1.33)!
A popular food stand in this corner served congee. For those of you who don’t know what congee is, it’s like a rice porridge or rice gruel. I had congee with pork and salted egg – it was classic congee, with pork balls plus a whole salted egg cut in half. There were other optional ingredients I could add on my own, like green onion, ginger, etc.
It was nothing super special, especially for me, I’ve had (and mostly hated) congee my whole life. As I get older I’m slowly liking it more and more. Nonetheless, it was a pretty decent bowl of congee for only 45 baht (USD 1.50) with a good number of pork balls. I can imagine this would be a filling breakfast or lunch for a lot of people (my mom would’ve liked this).
This one we also discovered on a whim. We saw a street vendor making tiny pancake the size of the palm of my hand, then putting coconut cream on top. They were then cooked until they’re taco-shaped. For 10 baht (USD 0.33), we thought we might as well give it a try.
I expected them to be salty and savoury, but they were actually quite sweet. I was also really surprised because I usually hate things that are made out of coconut or taste like coconut, but I liked this coconut egg. It only tasted a little bit coconut-y, mostly egg-y with honey. The coconut egg was a great small and sweet snack for dessert.
Coconut Ice Cream in a Coconut
Walking on Rambutrri Alley one day, we saw this guy wheeling a truck advertising coconut ice cream but didn’t think much of it… until we noticed what one person bought from him. It wasn’t just coconut ice cream, it came in a coconut, too!
This vendor not only served home-made coconut ice cream, he also cut fresh coconuts and served the small balls of ice cream inside an actual coconut for 40 baht (USD 1.33). We liked how cool it looked plus we ate pieces of real coconut along with the ice cream. Once again, I was surprised by how I enjoyed something made predominantly out of coconuts
While this was a brief introduction, it seems that the hallmark of Thai food is a complex mix of bold flavours all in harmonized balance. Thai food served on the streets was as authentic as it gets. We never felt the need to go to restaurants in Bangkok because street food was so good, so cheap, and made fresh on the spot. My favourite corner of Bangkok street food was a goldmine. Can’t wait for all the good food to come in Thailand!