Monday, April 23, 2012

Bangkok's Street Food

I had heard stories about Bangkok's street food before I arrived.  My parents had recorded a few travel channel shows for me, one of which was primarily devoted to fried insects.  (I haven't tried any yet.  One woman who sells them charges 10 baht per photo of her cart.  Savvy business move on her part!)  Bugs aside, I have been overwhelmed by the variety and quality of the street food in this city.  Here are a few things I've seen and tasted:

Keeping busy while waiting for dinner
Even before I left the US, I was excited to try Mango Sticky Rice.  I actually put it off for a few days after we arrived in Thailand because I was worried it wouldn't live up to my high expectations.  Happily, it is even more delicious than I had hoped.  The sticky rice is drizzled with sweet coconut milk and covered with slices of mango.  In one restaurant we tried, the rice was cooked with the coconut milk, creating a perfectly textured, perfectly flavored plate of deliciousness. 

A sticky rice cart where Eric picked up a late night treat
During Songkran, there were dozens of food carts set up near Khao San Road.  As Eric and I wandered through them, briefly avoiding being doused with buckets of cold water, I noticed tons of Thai teenagers eating something with soup spoons.  Later that weekend, we tried for ourselves the omelets on rice that seemed so popular.  They are simple but delicious, especially with some sweet chili sauce (my new favorite condiment).  Priced between 20 and 40 baht, these omelets are filling and probably relatively healthy.  At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

An omelet on rice at a street cart that sets up tables on the sidewalk
This is street eating at its classiest!
Everywhere I go, the smell of grilled chicken and pork skewers is amazing.  My hesitation to try them stemmed entirely from my American cooking standards.  How long had they been sitting there?  Could I eat something that hadn't been refrigerated all day?  Will grilling them really get rid of all the potential bacteria?  During Songkran, Eric and I split a skewer of chicken to go with our omelets on rice.  It was wonderful — the meat was tender, not dry as I had feared, and incredibly flavorful.  I'm seeking out more as soon as I can.

Pork and rice from a street stall in Bangkok
While walking on Silom Road the other day, I spotted a man selling something familiar.  The fried wontons looked like the Crab Rangoon that I frequently ordered at my hometown Chinese restaurant.  I got a stick for 10 baht to try.  The seller slid four little fried dumplings into a bag and poured a sweet sauce over them.  I bit into one and the texture threw me off entirely.  Eventually after examining a wonton, I realized that each little fried bundle contained a hard-boiled egg.  It was surprising and tasty!

I was so excited to try them, I forgot to take a photo until after I had already devoured one.
I still haven't identified this type of small egg, but they are one of my favorite dishes that I've found in Bangkok.  Fried in a pan filled with little indents, these tiny fried eggs arrive in a small dish with a skewer.  They taste slightly of soy sauce, which may be what is used instead of grease to keep them from sticking to the cups.

I'm going to do my best to recreate these back in my stateside kitchen,
but they may not have the cute half-sphere shape.
When we tried chicken on fried toast, Eric asked if we could try to convince the lady selling them to follow us for the rest of our trip.  It was that good.  I'm honestly not sure what all is in them — maybe people who've lived in Bangkok longer can identify them? — but it was a small piece of fried bread, about two inches square, with a dollop of creamy chicken and spices on top.  The woman served us five pieces on a styrofoam dish with a sweet sauce and cucumbers drizzled on top.  Unfortunately, we have not been able to find her again since Songkran ended, and I have no pictures of the dish.  If anyone has any tips, please comment immediately!

Bangkok has adopted several western street foods, possibly in response to the influx of tourists.  Eric and I have found kebabs everywhere, but at the end of Khao San Road, we also found a fruit shake/falafel stand.  Eric and I tried the falafel stand with happy results.  I don't think I've ever seen my falafel fried right in front of me, and it added to the experience.  The pita bread was much softer and fresher than I expected.  Definitely a dish to try in Bangkok!

They offer falafel, schnitzel and tuna salad—kind of an odd mix.
The banana shakes are delicious!
There are tons of other dishes that I haven't had the opportunity to try.  Walking around Bangkok is a wild mix of smells as I pass food carts, open air restaurants, and charcoal-filled grills.  There are cooked ducks hanging on stalls and huge pots of soup continually boiling, bakery windows filled with pastries and little coffee stands on wheels.  My appetite could keep me here indefinitely.

What are your favorite food discoveries?
Where have you found dishes you loved?


  1. Sounds yummy! Out of curiosity, how many baht are in 1 dollar? (I think you said the average dishes there were like $2 USD or something crazy like that?)

    In Paris, I loved the croque monsieurs (sp?) - basically a ham sandwich with cheese, but the cheese is on TOP of the bread, rather than tucked inside it. Very tasty.

    1. The current exchange rate is about 31 Thai baht to one American dollar. I've found the food in Bangkok costs about the same as the food in Siem Reap, Cambodia, but drinking here is much more expensive! I'm a little bummed that I left the 50 cent beers behind in Siem Reap.