It’s hard to justify cooking at home in Thailand when you can go to a local market and bring back dishes for $1-$1.50 in little plastic bags puffed up like balloons and sealed tightly shut with several deft twists of a rubber band. Take a short stroll past some side-street stalls, such as these in Bang Chak (or Bangjak) neighborhood, and you can see a greater variety of dishes than you might find on a typical restaurant menu. And it’s all cheap, fresh, and delicious.
I love this: KFG – Kentucky Fried Gai (chicken). Rates right up there with Starbung Coffee (sued)
The Colonel never looked so… er… villainous? Salaryman tie, punky hair, and a Wild West handlebar mustache.
Gui chai. These are fried rice-tapioca flour dumplings, commonly filled with Chinese chives, but here also with either taro or sort of pickled bamboo shoots. The vendor takes a scissors to them before putting them in a plastic bag for you to carry off. They come with a spicy sweet-soy sauce.
Deep-fried. Square-cut gui chai with Chinese chives.
Gaeng om. This is a Northeastern Thailand (Isaan) sort of curry, with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, chilies, some sort of greens, and sometimes some wicked fermented fresh fish sauce (pla raa). This one seemed to be vegetarian. Recipes around the web call for various sorts of meat, but my mother-in-law insists it is commonly without it. It is served with rice, but some eat it like a soup.
Fresh fruit is always in abundance. Pineapple, neatly cut up, watermelon, mangos both green and ripe, guava. I’d bet a baht the empty slot is for fresh papaya.
What’s a Thai open food market without donuts? Huh? These appear to be pretty good knock-offs of Dunkin’ Donuts/Mr. Donut — see that Chewisty (Pon de Ring, outside Asia) copy upper left. When Krispy Kreme opened in Bangkok, people would buy up large amounts of donuts and sell them in the street for those not willing to wait in line for over an hour for one.
Gai tod. THIS is the best fried chicken in all of Bangkok. I really tried it everywhere, I swear. But seriously, for 35 baht ($1.15) I get a plump and generally moist chicken breast with a subtle blend of seasonings in the batter that puts KFG to shame. He whacks it three times with a clever. Buy a little baggie of sticky rice for 10 baht more.
Kluay tod. Deep-fried banana slices, sometimes with sesame seeds. Frequently such vendors also sell fried potato wedges (mun tod) and sometimes fried taro (pheuk tod). The bananas are fantastic.
When you see Carnation, you are likely at a Thai iced tea (cha yen) and/or Thai iced coffee (gafe yen) stand. Two milks make their way into these iced drinks: evaporated and condensed, which means this is really quite sweet.
I always order my Thai coffee with less condensed milk, ie. less sweet (waan noi, little bit sweet). The coffee comes with sugar already mixed into the bag when we buy it as a bag of grounds. The vendor runs hot water through a cloth filter bag into a glass. Then the hot coffee and the milks are poured into a larger glass full of ice. The Thai, which is a particular sort of red tea, is made much the same way.
Khao man gai. Really moist boiled chicken meat sliced and served over oily rice with a few slices of cucumber, a sprig of coriander (cilantro) and a soy-based garlic/chili sauce on the side for dipping. It also comes with a cup of chicken broth. The chicken is traditionally from a capon (a castrated rooster) which might add a bit of vengeful pleasure to the meal. (Travelers who have learned the hard way that rooster crowing not beginning until sunrise is a complete lie know what I am talking about.)
Khao man gai is in essence of Chinese origins, Hainanese chicken, but is just a tad bit different. You can find the vendor with the cart that has the pale chicken heads hanging in it.
See the reddish orange strip of meat in the upper left? That’s pork. Khao moo daeng (rice with red pork) and/or Khao moo krob (rice with crispy pork belly). You can order them combined as well. Served over rice with a soy and oyster sauce, half a hard-boiled egg, spring onions, cucumber slices, and a bowl of broth on the side. A dipping sauce of Chinese black vinegar, dark soy sauce, and chilies gives it a bit of zip.
There are many many more dishes along here as well as a fresh vegetable and seafood market sprawling into the back alleys of back alleys. It’s not a tourist zone but Bang Chak Market can easily reached by BTS Skytrain from Bangchak Station. (map to Bang Chak Market)
See more Thai food posts!
You can also see some Thai food posts over at Tip’s Food and Travel.