CONFESSIONS OF A                                                                  
A San Francisco Girl's Down and Dirty Adventures in the Culinary Playground

Thursday, July 07, 2005

City of Angels, Part 3: Street Walker (Street Food -- Bangkok, Thailand)

On our first day in Bangkok, Fai took us to Chatuchak market (also known as JJ), which is like the Disneyland of street markets. It only happens on the weekend and there are 9,000 stalls. Really. No hyperbole here. Nine-fucking-thousand stalls. And as I've said before, more times than any of you really want to hear it, it was really damn hot.

Because of this hotness, our appetites had pulled a disappearing act unlike any other. But boy were we thirsty. I think I drank four bottles of water in our first twenty minutes at JJ (PSA: only drink bottled water that comes in clear -- not translucent-- bottles. Fai took it a bit further and told us to only drink water from 7-11's, where they also, curiously enough, sell dim sum). What a waste because by the time I got a clue, I discovered the wonderousness of the frosty beverages available to me at JJ.

First, Fai got us a young coconut split open and served with a straw. It was cool and sweet and gave my tastebuds a little more to get excited about than a bottle of water. That said, the fleshy part of the coconut is a little too slimy for my taste when it comes in that form, and it was also a little sweeter than I care for. Especially when my throat is dry as a sauna in hell.

After the coconut love, we had something so delicious that if I had known I wasn't going to see it again after that day, I'd have bought seven. It was a strawberry slushy. Simple enough shit: strawberries, ice, blender. And it was heaven. And, as you can tell, we totally abandoned our "no ice" rule six hours into the trip. And I got it all down the front of my shirt. Nice. Cost for both was about 10 Baht each.

Now the rest of our street food experience came at the end of our trip, when we realized "Oh shit, we need to eat more street food!" We had three days in Bangkok in the beginning that was comprised of mostly buzzed about eats. Then we headed to Chiang Mai and Koh Samui, and finally returned to Bangkok for our last day and a half. It was then that we got our street food on.

Our first night, we headed to the Siam (pronounced See-AHM) area to pick up some kickin' clothes we had made. We needed one more fitting so we ended up with nothing to carry. And we were so beat down at this point that we *almost* gave up and considered going back to our bombass hotel to order room service. We were walking on an overpass to the skytrain when I spotted it below on Phaya Thai Road. Hark, what light on yonder sidewalk breaks? It is the noodle soup man and I'm gonna get me some of that shit.

We walk up to the cart and point and sign and the noodle soup people point to the sidewalk and then we notice the tables and plastic stools and the sea of Thai people sitting at said tables and stools. It's a restaurant. In the street. I think I'm in love.

So we take our seats. I'm pretty sure I felt a breeze from the wind created by the simultaneous turn of the heads around us. One of these things is not like the other. Jon and I being that thing. No matter.

We get our soup. It has wide rice noodles and shrimp dumplings. It has tasty tasty broth. It has the one scoop of dried chilies that Jon dumps in. Then he turns to look at something in the (very dirty) street and I dump in two more scoops. Everything about it was wonderful, especially the fact that the usual odor permeating the city of Bangkok was mysteriously absent.

Now here's where we get either major kudos for being badasses or a smack upside the head for being jackholes. At these streetside tables you get little metal cups. And on those tables is a metal pitcher of water. And it's hot and I'm tired and I'm thirsty, so, really, why the hell not? What's the worst case scenario? I'm puking for a few hours? Small price. So we drank it. And we were absolutely fine. Cost for the whole experience: 50 Baht.

So with that under our belts, we felt ready to do the grand tour of street food on our last day. After taking us to the floating market (and eating noodle soup with pork balls on the skinny little boat), Fai drove us back to the city and to Chula 18th street in the area of Talad Suan Luang so we could pig out Thai style. He took us from cart to cart, fulfilling our fantasies.

Jon wanted Param Long Srong, which is meat, peanut sauce and spinich. In the states, it's usually made with beef or chicken, but the place Fai touted as the "only" and "most famous" place for the PLS made it with pork. We got me a tasty little packet of pad thai. Then we got some pork dumplings. And some pad kee maow for Jon (wide noodles, spicy goodness, brown gravy-ish sauce, pork and yummy yum yums), because he didn't have enough food already. We sat down at a place where Fai ordered two noodle soups and we began the chowing down.

I will never ever be able to eat pad thai again.

It was so good I don't even have words for it. Firm little tofu bits. Crispy dried shrimps. Chewy tamarind-y noodles. I. can't. breathe. because. it' And then there was the epiphany -- so this is what pad thai should taste like. And the pad kee maow kicked some serious ass as well.

The Param Long Srong was unreal. The peanut sauce was complex and silky, and, unlike the kind you get here, it was not made from peanut butter.

Let's take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we were eating in THE STREET. And it was a million times better than anything I've ever eaten in a restaurant in the US of A.

Afterwards, we had some ecstasy inducing coconut ice cream with bits of tasty weird stuff on top.

Total cost for all of that, plus a beer and two cokes: 200 Baht or about $5. Take that Ronald McDonald, you punkass bitch.

Dearest ones, if I ever go missing, you know where to find me. On a little plastic stool in Bangkok drinking the crappy water and eating the food of angels.


"To eat is a necessity. To eat intelligently is an art."
-- La Rochefoucauld


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Joy,
Just found your blog. I am having a great time reading about your trip to Thailand. I am Thai, and yes, the food is that damn GOOD!!! I'm stuck in USA and miss it dearly.

7/07/2005 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is what I miss the most about Thailand... street food street food!

I ate so well for a dollar or two EVERY DAMN DAY. Sigh. Makes my local $7.99 Green Curry Chicken luncheon special seem so un-special now. :(

7/08/2005 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I came across your blog googling things about food for my upcoming trip to Thailand and Cambodia...I think I found my lost twin in you....Can't stop reading!!

3/28/2008 12:48 PM  

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