Street food is an integral part of the Thai lifestyle and it seems that wherever you point your eyes in Bangkok street food stalls are doing a roaring trade. The Thai are passionate about food and they’re pretty fussy eaters too so the vendors have to be on top form to make sure that they get the business and not the next guy. We arrived in Bangkok on the last day of Songkran which was a public holiday so there were hardly any street food vendors doing their thing. In fact the only places that were open were the “massage” parlors and they weren’t looking to satisfy the appetite I had. As Murray Head said, “One night in Bangkok makes a hard man hungry.”
The next day was a Monday which meant that we were even less likely to find street food. Mondays are street cleaning days so this is when the Bangkok street food vendors take their well earned break. Nonetheless, we were looking for some breakfast and found this guy who made a pretty mean pork omelette.
For 20 Baht, or around $0.70, we got a great pork omelette and rice which was enough for the two of us to get our morning started. It’s weird though because the Thai word for pork is “moo” which is a little counter intuitive if you’re English speaking.
I’m not even sure if the Thai actually have set times to eat because the food stalls were pumping all day long. You could walk a few meters and grab something small, walk on a few more and get something else, rinse, repeat. It’s like Bangkok is one massive buffet and everyone is invited.
While not technically street food the small “restaurants” along the street also serve great food, if a little more expensive. Even though the places look a little dodgy sometimes, the amount of locals that eat at a place are a good barometer for the quality of the food.
If you’re looking to get a real sense of a Bangkok there’s really nothing like sitting on little plastic stools, sharing a Phad Thai and a beer while the noise of the traffic and loud voices of locals compete with your conversation. This city has a great buzz going and I’m still trying to work out where they get the energy from to keep it up. Maybe it’s all the chili, or the fact that Red Bull was created here but I’m sure that the food must have something to do with it. I was a little disappointed that this guy was closed because it seemed as if his food had some clothes shedding properties and the April heat was making the naturist in me want to come out.
If you can read Thai and understand the magical properties of this guy’s pork please let me know. It’s killing me not knowing and I may come back just so that I can try it and see what happens.
The absolute best food we had in Bangkok was at a little place known as “The Pumpkin Lady” by farangs and “Poisien” by the locals. It’s a tiny place down a nondescript street near the Victory Monument. If you exit Victory Monument BTS station and walk until the monument is on your left you hang a right. After a few hundred meters turn left into Ratchawithi 6 and cross over the double lane road. After a few laundromats you’ll see the restaurant at the bottom of a white building with blue stripes. They’ve got an English menu but you still may need to use your charades skills to order because they don’t speak English.
I asked for a beer and even though they don’t serve alcohol our waiter ran down the road and bought one for me from the nearby cafe. We ordered Tom Yum Goong (spicy soup with shrimps, mushroom and lime) and Panang Moo (Pork red curry & peanut sauce) with a portion of rice. Everything was exceptional and the whole meal came to the princely sum of 165 Baht or around $5.50 including a beer and a bottle of water.
There’s so much good food to be had in Bangkok and so many cool places to eat you could write a book about it. In fact, someone did. Check out Mark Wiens’ guide to Bangkok street food at Migrationology. He has great tips on street food in other countries as well.
So the street food in Bangkok isn’t going to be exactly familiar to you and some of the hygiene practices may be frowned upon by the FDA but you just have to be a bit adventurous and try it. I didn’t like everything I tasted. The rice and pork sausage wasn’t great and the sago garlic balls were really strange but that’s what traveling is all about. You could just eat at McDonalds but if you’re only letting your eyes and ears experience Bangkok you haven’t really been there.