Street Food in Bangkok
Almost everyone is familiar with the ordering process in restaurants. After being seated, a menu is handed to the diner and they choose what sounds appealing to them on that particular evening. On the other hand, dealing with eating at a street stall for the first time, can be a frustrating experience. A Westerner is usually unfamiliar with the language, frightened by the apparent lack of hygiene and
uninitiated on how or what to order. A tourist will bypass some of Thailand’s great taste adventures because they are too shy to take a shot at it.
You can see Thai food hawkers throughout Bangkok peddling their wares in many different ways: From a stationary stand, rambling along with a cart, walking with two baskets on a bamboo pole straddling their shoulders, or with only one large basket securely seated on the top of their head.
Give a careful look at the cooking equipment, it will give you a clue about which dishes each hawker is selling. The utensils generally found on hawker’s carts are as follows: A brass pan on a butane-fired burner, it usually contains a beef soup with pieces of beef or water buffalo, meat balls and various innards. Look for a brown clay mortar with a wooden pestle, used to make som tam (papaya salad) a fiery Northeastern dish from Isan provinces. A few other preparations are available such as spicy and hot ground beef, called larb nua. Deep wok-like frying pans with long handles are placed over charcoal or a butane stove; these pans are used to stir-fry, fried rice and fried noodles and they are also used for deep-frying. Enamel basins that sit on charcoal cookers are filled with simmering pig’s legs in brown sauce or red-dyed roast pork. Large aluminum pots with covers hold pre-prepared foods or used for storage for desserts. Large enamel pots hold noodles with fish curry sauce khanom-jeen narm ya.
Glass showcases used to display rice and cutup meats for fried rice; can be used to display
fresh fruit, or desserts. Hanging poultry suggests duck rice or chicken rice. Noodles come in various thicknesses and configurations and can be prepared either in soup or dry: sen lek small flat noodle, sen yai wide flat one, woon sen thin, transparent vermicelli, bah mee yellow egg noodle.
Steamboat, a pot with a charcoal compartment in the center with a cylindrical chimney is for keeping soup such as the popular tom yum or suki hot. Claypot is the best for slow cooking and you may order many different dishes cooked in this way such as claypot fish noodles etcetera. Condiments are always available in jars with spoons used to sprinkle and are important additions to the dish. Cut chilies in vinegar, ground dry chili, sugar, ground peanuts and soy sauce are always present on the cart or at small tables nearby. The following is a small sampling with a brief description of the many commonly found hawker dishes.
From glass showcases:
- Chinese chicken rice. Hainanese in origin, the rice is cooked in chicken stock and served sliced with the rice in a special sauce made with soy bean paste, soy sauce, ginger and chili.
- Red roast pork, a favorite dish found in Chinatown all over the world. Roasted and brushed with red food coloring it is sliced and put on top of egg noodles.
- White fish balls displayed in cases can be combined with any type of noodles either dry or in soup.
- Flour pancake rolls poh piah sod are good for a light hors d’oeuvre the filling is made out of cooked bean sprouts Pork and pork sausage, sliced omelette and wrapped in thin pancakes made of rice flour.
- Bamboo shoot salad, sup nor mai, papaya salad, som tam. Bamboo shoot salad has powdered roasted rice, and lime juice and fish sauce. Both of these dishes are very hot.
Cooked on a charcoal grill:
- Satay (chicken, beef or pork) served with a sauce made with cucumber, chili, vinegar and sugar or curry paste, peanuts, chili, coconut milk.
- Grilled dry squid. Dry squid is put through a miniature mangle and pressed and then grilled over charcoal. It is a most sought after street food.
- Thai sausages. Hot and spicy sausages can be either filled with beef or pork, glutinous rice and ginger. Also, there are plain rice sausages.
- Spring rolls and wontons, both fried and eaten as a snack.
- Fried fish cakes that are composed of pounded fish, chili, string beans and fish sauce.
- Deep-fried locusts ukan thodt are a popular snack.
- Deep-fried beetle, mang da (only the insides are eaten, you must pull off and discard the wings and upper shell). The flavor is delicious as these insects were feasting on a 100% rice diet in the north.
- Sugar-cane juice. A pressing device is used to extract the juice, then put into bottles and served cold with a straw.
- Longan juice is made out of the dried fruit by steeping in boiling water.
Hawker stands are literally almost everywhere. Popular areas in the tourist belt include Silom and Surawong Roads, Siam Square: Ploenchit Road, Klong Toey, Soi Nana, Chinatown, Sam Peng and Yaowaret.