Sunday, October 11, 2009
Destination Thailand #1: Street Food in Thailand
Griddle of pad thai in Chiang Mai
Previously, I had written about the banh mi on the streets in Vietnam, but the crown of street food in Southeast Asia would have to be in Thailand. Some of the delicacies, and not so delicacies, were outstanding and easily better than any hot dog or halal cart you'd find in New York.
As you can imagine, pad thai is relatively prevalent throughout Thailand. While I'm not entirely sure how authentic it is, the country's reliance on the tourism industry means that there's likely to be a pad thai around every corner. This plate, from the above cart, was from the Chiang Mai Sunday Night Street Bazaar. A small town, if you're in Chiang Mai on Sunday night, you'll surely stumble upon it. The cart actually served two types of noodles. This is the thick type commonly seen in America, but they also offered thin noodles, which reminded me more of Korean jap jae.
A local student group sold homemade mochi with fillings of apple, blueberry, and strawberry jelly. Though admittedly I don't know if mochi is prevalent in Thai cuisine, they were delightful.
Often for a quick meal at home, I'd fry an egg with oyster sauce. With runny yolk on top of a bowl of rice, this is simple and satisfying. In Chiang Mai, I found miniature fried quail eggs. Packed with flavor and easy to pop into your mouth, these make a fast snack.
Satays and skewers are common in both Thailand and Vietnam. The flavors of the Thai skewer closely match the ones found in the appetizer section of local American restaurants. Often I found the satay with chunks of pineapple and a sweet sauce.
The smoothie lady from my "Fruits in Southeast Asia" post was also at the Chiang Mai street fair. But any of those dishes could be equally paired with a refreshing chrysanthemum tea served in a bamboo cup.
Upon arrival in Bangkok, we hit one of the temples for a mediation class led by a transsexual Buddhist nun. Though I don't think I got anywhere closer to enlightenment, I was certainly hungry after sitting on the floor with my eyes closed for a few hours. We walked near the river and found omelet rice with red pepper flakes and fried noodles that weren't pad thai. These noodles lacked the sweetness and tartness of tamarind, and reminded me more of yakisoba than anything Thai I've had.
Though technically not "street" food, I spent my one day on the Pattaya beach with fried rice and pad thai served under umbrellas on plastic furniture. Though the food was good, beware for the hidden "beach sitting fee" tagged onto the bill.
Of course don't assume that street food must be served on a street. I'd consider boat food off a neighboring boat grill in the floating market of Damnoen Saduak. Various dispensers of cooked and uncooked treats cruise by available to be flagged and patronized.
These glutinous rice balls filled with peanuts and served on a banana leaf came from the next passing boat. An old woman with a propane powered stove steamed these dumplings on the stern of her boat.