The best way to understand the culture of a place and its traditions is by experiencing its cuisine. A kind of journey that appeals to the foodie in me. So as I packed for my trip to Thailand, I made copious notes on every thing I wanted to sample of its famed street food.
Called the “world’s kitchen” by some, the country is famous for a wide variety of exotic dishes. From its diverse vegetarian fare to the plethora of non-vegetarian dishes, the Thais love to eat, and they sure know how to make their food taste as great as it looks.
As a Bangalorean who stays on his own and who must decide on a take-away dinner much before the 11.30 deadline, Thailand had me spoilt for choices at 3 am, the time I landed in capital city Bangkok.
It was a revelation to see streets lined with small carts, both hand pulled and motorised, selling culinary delights that spanned simple fruit salads to exotic seafood . Bangkok obviously never sleeps. There are entire streets dedicated only to food, and the food that one gets here is not only pocket friendly, but also great to taste. Fifty bahts or about ` 100 is enough to guarantee a full meal. This includes the famous Thai sticky rice or Khaoniao, an array of sausages, grilled meats and seafood such as squid or crab and a sweet Khanom Mo Kaeng to round it off. The Khanom mo Kaeng is a simple baked pudding made of coconut milk, eggs, palm sugar and flour, sprinkled with sweet fried onions!
Other options are a Nuea ping or grilled beef or a steaming bowl of Khai Phalo or meat ball soup. Meats used in khai phalo tend to be pork or chicken wings. At one of the city markets, Jatujak, one can see people lining up, from dawn to midnight, savouring the various flavours. Jatujak also happens to be one of the major shopping destinations in the city, so one can enjoy a lot of fast food, literally, as the food here is fast moving, while shopping. The pork chops or Kho mu yang kratha ron at Jatujak were simply mind-blowing, served with homemade sauces blending in perfectly with the freshly grilled and succulent chunks of meat. Another simple Thai dish that must be given a try is the Phat Thai or Stir fried medium size rice noodles (sen lek) with fish sauce. Spicy on the palate, this dish is sure to make you want for more once you finish your first bowl.
The Damnoen floating market near Damnoen Saudak, near Bangkok, is a market on boats, located on the backwaters where locals trade items made from coconuts
and fruits such as the Durian or king fruit as the Thais call it. The Durian, which looks a lot like the Indian jackfruit, is an acquired taste. Its smell is known to remind people of wet socks and other unholy things. But if one can overcome the scent, it tastes really sweet.
The street food of Thailand, whether it’s in Bangkok, Phuket or Ayutthaya can easily give any gourmet restaurant a run for its money. The ingredients are fresh, sometimes alive, the dishes are made fast and with a lot of love, and served hot, with a smile and a pair of chopsticks. As George Bernard Shaw had said, “ There is no sincerer love than the love of food.” Thailand comes to you with love, of food and life.