Bangkok Food Tourism

I am a food tourist. Cultures have a lot to teach our taste buds. Bangkok is a dense sensory onslaught. Monks in rich saffron, tuk tuk drivers hanging, packs of students among hoards of international tourists and feral dogs weave and twist, elbow to elbow among hundreds of food stand lining every street, river, sidewalk, and corner during the daytime.  Stand in one spot, stretch out your arms and you'd be able to reach 5 different food carts all with several versions of some incredible dish you never knew existed. Its exciting. Mix with an enormous sweet icy Thai coffee and blast off.

I count 16 trays of... something.... curry? The variety is immense. And what's in each? Tens to hundreds of ingredients. You could spend a lifetime eating everything in Bangkok. 

Here is a great example of what the heck is that? I think its a banana leaf bowl with white congee looking stuff with more meaty brown good stuff. I didn't eat it. I want to go back and get it though.

Everything is neatly wrapped in plastic bags. Plastic bags may be an environmental scourge but they act as plates and bowls here. Its totally normal in Thailand (and here in Taiwan) to eat a bag of noodles. In hot subtropical climates plastic is reliably resistant to humidity, leaking, bugs, bad weather. I'm not sure what's in all the bags up there, but check out tiny white egg plants that look like eggs. 

Thai people are really laid back, and it makes eating strange and unusual foods all the more delightful. 

Food stand set up, functional, movable and interchangeable.

So let's look at what I ate. I woke up in Thailand after a late flight and 4 am hotel check in. I went straight for lunch finding a row of food stands between hotels and temples along a narrow river canal. Ordering food in Thailand is much easier than Taiwan. Only pointing is required where in Taiwan some questions usually need to be answered before you get your hands on the grub. I got this lovely bowl of fish stew adorned with scallion, steamed vegetables, rice and broth. Next to the food counter is usually a stand of 5-10 different condiments. I took some spicy soy sauce (the spicy table salt of Asia) and some brown sauce that turned out to be fermented peanuts. There are a ton of flavors to experience all at once. Due to the high quality and freshness you can pick each and everyone out. Sensory overload is no joke in Thailand. 

Most Thai menus state-side begin with pad thai. And it can be found everywhere in Bangkok, but mostly on the streets. Its a very casual food. Again it comes with a ton of stuff. What you have up top is noodles, cucumber shreds, bits of tomato, bean sprouts, and whole dried mini shrimp with a layer of scrambled egg on top. It is a perfect food. It also came with an entire scallion on the side, which I didn't know how to handle. Do you just chew it? See that lime? Its is not like any lime you have ever know, maybe. Its is the hulk of limes. It just dances sour and tingly lime flavor in your mouth. Oh that lime! I would tell you what this meal cost me, but you'd probably punch me.

A beautiful display of sushi. I will say the sushi in Taiwan champions this Thai sushi. But Thailand gets high marks for creativity, variety and presentation. From left to right, back to front: seaweed, tuna salad (with mayo, hey why not), something fishy covered in roe, salmon toro, squid, and quail eggs with mayo and row. Love egg sushi, its adorable.

Green papaya with tamarind and chili. Sour, salty and sweet flavors. It was okay. The long thin wood stick stands in as a fork.

This was a "Chinese style" meal, roasted duck over rice. I don't know why the rice is different in Thailand but its often larger, puffier and less soft with more of a ridgy texture. It reminds me of styrofoam. This meal came with some sauteed greens, pickled cucumbers and soup. The soup is just out of camera on the left. It was the simplified essence of what all soup should be. Hot clear water with animal fat, slices of onion and garlic. That's it, and grand it was.

Fried shrimp cake. Its 95% dried shrimp. Tastes great, but texture was gritty and dense. Came with pickled cukes. Always finish a meal with something pickled.

Its hot in Thailand. Cold drinks are needed. Here is a typical beverage cart with Thailand's typical 100 options. Lime juice and a tamarind drink are in the big containers. Did you spot the dog?

And Thailand makes great beers. Really nice pilsner and ale type beers. Refreshing and affordable. I fell in love with Leo beer not just because of its cheetah logo. It did have a smooth great taste. Thailand also makes Chang beer which might be the most popular. 

Club soda in a glass bottle. I inhaled it. Club soda I missed you so much. Taiwan needs to start making some Chang trade deals. 

More juices in squeeze-it style bottles. They sell a deep purple drink made from indigo colored flowers. Flowers can be seen in the bag at the right. It looks like kool-aid but tastes like fruity coconut water. Its hard to describe, but it was nutty and not too sweet. 

Food is constantly happening in Bangkok. Not just meals and snacks for sale but the actually ingredients in the said dishes too. Here you can see some chilies drying in the hot daylight. Who knows these chilies may be in a little glass bottle in your kitchen some day soon.

Ditto with the drying fish which is an important base ingredient in lots of Thai dishes is being made in the middle of a market. A little "street" flavor in every bite.

A first-timer in Bangkok I stayed in the Khao San Road, which is a popular backpacker neighborhood. Its a great place to meet other travelers while drinking beers on the side walk. This area is really touristy, and you will be bombarded by vendors trying to sell you embroidered bracelets with obscene phrases, fried insects, silly hats, LED toys, tailored suits, and passes to the ping pong show. The food in this area is not very good. Its only a 5 minute walk in any direction to quieter areas with less tourist oriented stands. Do not be afraid to eat off the streets and from open air restaurants. I have a sensitive stomach, and had zero problems. Be sure to carry some Imodium just in case.


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