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Street Food




Street Food in Bangkok
It's easy to catch a quick bite to eat in Bangkok – there are food vendors on every other street corner. They sell fresh fruit, freshly-squeezed juices, grilled meats and seafood, noodle dishes like pad thai, omelets, falafels, and more. It's all pretty good, and it's ridiculously cheap. Food stalls on the streets of Bangkok can look a little intimidating to foreigners, but they provide convenient, delicious and cheap meals to the locals. Wherever you go in the city, these food stalls are plentiful and very often you will find a high concentration of them in particularly busy areas. Some street vendors operate in groups, often in local markets, which means you can go to the same place every night and have a different choice of meal. Some even open around the clock. The main attractions usually include a noodles stall, a made-to-order food stall, and 'curry on rice' stall.

No matter where you go in Bangkok you’re sure to see local Thai’s sitting down on those little plastic stools by the road and enjoying some delicious dish with their friends. Everything from noodles to pork and chicken to seafood is on offer and all of it is quite delicious.

Knowing what's what is essential when eating from food stalls. You should be able to figure out what kind of food a particular stall is selling by observing the ingredients in the glass display window and the way they're being prepared. There are many kinds of noodle stalls available; chicken noodles, duck noodles, egg noodles with wonton and 'moo daeng' (red barbequed pork), beef and meat ball noodles, 'yen ta four' (noodles in red soy bean paste with fish ball, squid and morning glory) - the list is endless. The noodles themselves come in different sizes and shapes too.

Locals will probably be eating the cart's specialty, so if you're not sure what to order, don't be afraid to point. The following are a few common and delicious dishes you'll find in Bangkok.

Yogurt-fruit-muesli. Start your day with a healthy breakfast. Though western breakfasts with eggs and toast are available everywhere, also try the ubiquitous Southeast Asian blend of yogurt, fruit, and muesli. In Southeast Asia, fresh fruit, in any form, is a completely different experience than what you are likely used to.

Freshly squeezed orange juice. There’s nothing like freshly squeezed orange juice made from those tiny green oranges. Sweet, refreshing and healthy. Try and taste around; beware some do add sugar and salt, even though their signs say otherwise.

Dim sum, coffee, and soup. For a savory breakfast a bit off the beaten tourist path, try the dim sum and soup place on Phra Artit Road. Point your way to a few trays of dim sum (shrimp, pork, mushroom) arranged in a protective multi-level metal steamer and guarded by a little old woman. Charge yourself with an iced coffee made by the man of the house. If you’re still hungry, try the beef soup – served all day long by a friendly soup lady. They’ll even pack it all to go, so you can take it with you on the train or bus.

Som Tam Thai chefs use contrasting flavors to create balance in their cuisine. The popular green papaya salad is a good example, with dried shrimp, tart lime, salty fish sauce, crunchy peanuts, and long thin slices of green papaya. Pair it with sticky rice for a refreshing treat on a hot day.

Spring rolls, summer rolls, and gyoza. In the span of 30 meters, you can satisfy all manner of fried spring and fresh (a.k.a., summer) roll cravings. One stall offers fried Japanese-style gyoza pot stickers, fried cabbage and vegetable-stuffed spring rolls and shrimp-stuffed (tail on) shrimp rolls. A newly opened stand offers vegetable and herb-stuffed fresh rice rolls, served with soy, vinegar and pepper sauce.

Larb Another refreshing and flavorful shredded salad, larb (pronounced lahb) consists of ground meat or fish, lime, fish sauce, and a generous helping of aromatic kaffir lime leaves.

Green curry – vegetable or chicken. It ought to be against the law to get this much fresh food (meat and vegetable) in one dish for so little money. Unlike some of the street curries that sit and whose vegetables (especially the Asian eggplant!) get soft, this one is dangerously fresh and made to order.

Red Curry Chicken. No shortage of this dish anywhere. Take-a-Sit’s version stands out, particularly since it’s inexpensive and served in a pleasant, clean, air-conditioned environment. Ask for spicy or strong – they’ll oblige. The panang curry is also quite good here.

Shrimp and asparagus stir fry. Thin asparagus sprigs, shrimp and crushed garlic stir-fried and still crisp, served with steamed rice. Perhaps the best value made-to-order meal we found. The woman who makes it devotes half the preparation time to spooning out various condiments - fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and spices – into her wok.

Tom yum kum This delicious and aromatic water-based soup—flavored with fish sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and vegetables—is a local favorite. Tom yum goong, with shrimp, is a popular variation.

Panang fish curry. Panang fish curry filet with strands of kaffir lime leaf, served over rice. Its mild heat is balanced nicely by the tang of the kaffir lime leaf, the key to Thai cooking. This particular stall also offers about 15 different curries.

Kuay-teow-lui-suan, which resembled those Vietnamese fresh rice paper rolls, but used minced meat instead, as well as a couple varieties of hot sauce.

Roti. No visit to Thailand is complete without a serving of roti, the Malaysian style crepe-like pancake. Although the gooey, sweet variety is offered on every street corner in Banglamphu, pop into Roti Mataba for something a bit more authentic. There you’ll find a two-woman team – one flipping and rolling the balls of roti dough and the other cooking and stuffing it with fillings. For breakfast, order the banana-filled - sweet and soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, topped with condensed milk. In the evening, choose a savory variety served with your choice of Muslim and Indian curries.

Mango and sticky rice. The king of Southeast Asian desserts. A full ripe mango is paired with glutinous sticky rice and topped with sweetened coconut milk. This dish defied our sense of dietary control - we ordered it dozens of times. When choosing a stand, make sure the sliced mango is ripe and bright yellow/orange. If you get an off-ripe mango, the taste can be off-putting and the experience just isn’t the same.

Fruit Shakes. The shake-makers of Banglamphu don’t claim to save your life with the health benefits of their shakes, they just make them taste good (which often means some condensed milk is included). Get your bearings on Southeast Asian fruit shakes at the stand next to the 7-Eleven on Soi Rambutri, which offers more than 20 different varieties, including the standard mango, pineapple, watermelon, as well as the more exotic dragon fruit, guava, passion fruit, and Chinese pear.

Vegetable fried rice. Sounds boring, but it doesn’t have to be if it’s cooked fresh for you. Cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, garlic, and egg, all find room along with a simple sauce on top of a plate of rice.

Grilled red snapper and fried greens. Grilled red snapper, fried kale (a.k.a. rare greens), and fried morning glory. Fresh fish is fortunately available everywhere on the streets of Bangkok. And competition is stiff, so prices are appallingly low. Hot grills in front of the restaurant turn out buttery, light, and substantial snapper grilled enough, but not too dry. Once you try one of these, you’ll find it difficult to ever order an imported red snapper again. Side it with water-based greens for something light, healthy and unique to the Southeast Asian table.

Bibimbap. We’re always fascinated by experiences that allow us to try non-native ethnic foods. Korean food in Bangkok fits that bill perfectly. Check out the bibimbap, a mash of greens, vegetables, cooked egg, meat, and a spicy red sauce served with a collection of kimchi (pickled vegetables) and cucumber soup. One serving may possibly be enough for two to share.

Deciding what kind of noodles you want can be a daunting task as choices are so plentiful.

Pad Noodles come in many varieties at street carts, and vendors add their own twists. Noodle soups with meat or innards, though traditionally Chinese or Vietnamese, are common in Bangkok, as are pad khee mao (drunken noodles) with vegetables, shellfish, or meat, wok-singed and served without broth. If you're in the Old City, stop by Raan Jay Fai, an open air restaurant with legendary pad khee mao—decadently big rice noodles with river prawns and basil.

Sen Yai (rice river noodle): a wide flat noodle made from white rice flour
Sen Mii (rice vermicelli): a small wiry looking rice flour noodle
Sen Lek: a medium flat rice flour noodle (the same kind used in pad thai)
Bah Mii: an egg and wheat flour noodle (yellow in colour)
Woon Sen (glass noodle): a thin, wiry, transparent soya bean flour noodle
Gieow (wonton): boiled minced pork wrapped in yellow dough

Once you have a favourite kind of noodle in mind, the next step is to make a decision whether to have 'naam' (with soup) with it, or 'haeng' (dry). Now it's time to choose what meat you want in your noodles. Just look at the display and see what is on offer. The price varies from 20 to 50 baht and you can have it 'pi sed' (extra) by adding five more baht.

Now you have a bowl of noodles before you, you can start eating right away or add the condiments to spice it up a little. The condiments, aka the 'four flavours', are sugar, dried ground chili, vinegar with chili, fish sauce and/or ground peanuts. Adding sugar to noodles may be something of a novelty to you, but it's your chance to be experimental. Remember to taste the food before 'four-flavouring' it!

Yang Thais love these marinated meat sticks, grilled over charcoal. Pork is usually the tastiest.

Pan-fried, seasoned insects, such as ants, grasshoppers, and cockroaches, are popular snacks in Thailand. A plastic bag full of these crunchy delicacies will cost you about B20 or 50¢. To try your hand at insect-eating, start small. Little guys like ants are the most palatable, since they really just taste like whatever they've been flavored with (lime or chili, for example).

Cockroaches have a higher ick factor: You have to pull the legs and the wings off the larger ones. And stay away from the silkworm cocoons, which do not taste any better than they sound.

At fruit stalls in Bangkok you may find the durian, a husk-covered fruit famous for its unpleasant smell. In fact the scent, which is a bit like spicy body odor, is so overpowering that some Thai hotels don't let you keep durians in your room. But don't judge the durian by its smell alone: Many love the fruit's puddinglike texture and intense tropical flavor, which is similar to passion fruit. Buy one at a fruit stand, ask the seller to cut it open, and taste its yellow flesh for yourself.

Rules For A Safe Bangkok Street Food Experience

While the streets of Bangkok may be dirty and the air filled with smog (although better than in the past), eating at a street vendor in Bangkok need not be a worrisome affair.

Simply follow these suggestions and you should be fine:
Go where everyone else is eating. The locals know the good food stalls and the ones that make them sick. If you follow the locals lead you should be fine.
Make sure the food is freshly prepared. The food should be freshly cooked and not look as if it’s been sitting around for hours.
Thai food is notoriously spicy and hot. If you don’t want too much heat then order your food “mai ped”. This means “not hot” and the chili’s will be left out. On the other hand if you think the hotter the better then order the food “ped mak mak”. This should get you food that is extra spicy although I have had mixed results. I think that some Thai’s don’t really believe that farang can eat spicy food so even if you order it extra spicy they make it “mai ped”.
If you do get sick get to an emergency room. The hospitals are very used to dealing with food poisoning and will sort you out quickly to get you healthy. Thai hospitals are very cheap compared with Western hospitals so don’t worry about the cost. The street food in Bangkok was tasty and clean. If you're worried, simply select vendors that are cooking food to order. There may be a language barrier, but as long as you can settle on a price ahead of time (preferably via a local who does speak English), you'll get what you want by some pointing and a friendly smile.

Bangkok street food is some of the best and cheapest food in the world and I have yet to find anyone who doesn't like something on offer at the street vendors. The amazing variety combined with the delicious taste makes it an experienced not to be missed. So, next time you're in Bangkok pull up a plastic stool by the side of the road and have yourself a feast!

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