CentralWorld is buzzing with more people than usual at the moment because a fair dedicated to street food is being held there until Sunday (see Food, p20), attempting to cement Thailand as the hub of street food. The fact is we can celebrate street food all year round given the sheer number of food vendors in this city. However, for first-time visitors (or even some Bangkok khun noos) the street food scene may feel like unexplored territory. We are here to help with our very own guide to Bangkok street food.
SPOTTING STREET FOOD
Street food is humble, yummy and wallet-friendly. However, the very first step to appreciating street food like a true Thai is to be able to spot it. You wouldn't want to offend a chef by asking which roadside vendor sells his foie gras creation. Circle three of the following nine food items that aren't considered street food.
ANSWER: C, H, I.
PAIR THEM UP
Many types of Thai street food contain more than one element (and we aren't talking about the plastic bag or Styrofoam box they are served in). To test how savvy you are at putting your street food together, you should be able to recognise what food goes with what condiment and/or add-ons. Pair the items in column A with their complementary matches in column B.
GUESS WHAT THEY SELL
Advanced eaters of street food should be able to guess what kind of food these vendors sell just by their context. We've blurred out the items being sold, but use the hints we've provided to guess what each vendor is selling.
ANSWERS: A. Grilled egges, B. Moo ping and sticky rice, C. Patongko, D. Somtum, E. Fried insects, F. Grilled banana, G. Kluay kaek (fried banana), H. Khao gaeng (rice and curry).
Amid the barrage of street food vendors in this city, some have managed to stand out with good food and some, intentional or accidental, gimmicks. Here are our selected outstanding vendors.
There's a notion that Filipinos and Thais look alike. Well, in the case of New Look Chin Saeng Chan aka Manny Pacquiao Kuay Tiew Nue (5pm-3am. In front of Bangkok Bank in Hua Lamphong, Rama VI Road, 087-009-1593, B40-B60 per bowl), this notion is verified. You see, the owner of this stewed beef with noodles bears a striking resemblance to the world champion boxer. He can knock you out with a variety of aromatic cow treats from its meat, tongue, tendon and liver.
Sam Sam But Different (From 4pm. Chalerm Buri Intersection, Yaowarat, B40 per bowl) is a vendor of spicy salad with a secret ingredient. It is run by a Thai woman named Maem with help from her French partner Samuel Montassier. Samuel or Sam (number three in Thai) prepares spicy salads while serving hospitality. He greets his customers of locals and tourists and asks them to have a taste of his yum to make sure he makes the salad to their liking. The obvious draw is what a spicy salad prepared by a farang tastes like.
What draws people to Guay Tiew Heavy (8pm-2am. Charoen Rat Road, Thon Buri, 081-734-2974, B35 per bowl) is tasty stewed pork with noodles but there's also a side of show from its owner Ekkarin "Ek" Sae-guay who happens to look like Yuenyong "Ad Carabao" Opakul. He swiftly prepares noodles as well as strums air guitar with his noodle strainer every night.
Khao Gaeng Jek Pui (3:30-9pm. Mungkorn Road, 02-222-5229, From B30 per dish) offers good variety of curries but zero tables. Food from the 70-year-old footpath eatery is so good that people eat it while sitting on a plastic chair and holding their plates with one hand. Like any other khao gaeng eatery, you can pick up curries and rice in plastic bags to take home. You may want to make merit at nearby Wat Leng Nei Yee before visiting it so you may have a better chance of getting a chair.
Guay Tiew Kai Kham Fak (Tue-Sun 9pm-3am. Near Wall Street Tower, Surawong Road, 084-138-4079, B50 per bowl), which roughly translates to street-crossing chicken noodle, operates on a fascinating concept. The waiters take your order at tables set up on one side of the road. They make hand signs or shout orders to the cook who is on the other side. The waiters then have to risk their lives, aka crossing a Bangkok road, to fetch and serve your noodles while you're holding your breath. You won't find such dedicated service at any high-end restaurants and they don't even have service charge!
HIT THE RIGHT SPOTS
While it's true that every neighbourhood in Bangkok is bound to have some street vendors around, there are particular areas of Bangkok to hit if you want to go on an eating spree on a budget.
ARI offers good varieties of street food from savoury to sweet treats. Fourteen-year-old Pang Ya Ari (Mon-Sat 5-10:30pm. Opposite Ari Soi 2, B10-B15 per piece of bread with topping, B25 per drink) is known for its toasted bread with different toppings and sweet drinks. Try sliced toast with pandan cream and a cup of coffee made old-school with cloth strainer for a sugar rush.
YAOWARAT, Bangkok's Chinatown, is a bit of a hassle to get to but it's worth the effort for foodies as the street is teeming with vendors and shophouse eateries. Try roasted chestnuts and wash them down with pomegranate juice. If you get there early and want something a bit freaky, there are vendors who sell mantis shrimps. Jey Hua Krapor Pla Tae (7-10pm. Yaowarat Soi 11, Talad Kao, 02-226-3159, B40 per bowl) has served hot bowls of fish maw for almost 30 years. Jey Son Krata Ron (Tue-Sun 4pm-midnight. Between Yaowarat Soi 11 and Soi Mungkorn, B50-B100 per dish) offers sizzling noodle dishes. The highlights include noodles with water mimosa and stir-fried noodle Hong Kong style. Your noodles can be a refreshing dessert too as Mee Whan Jey Muay (10am-8pm. Yaowarat Soi 11) serves it alongside over 10 other ingredients from corn to water chestnut and ice.
Office workers on SILOM ROAD are blessed with countless street vendors. Try Bandit Kim Khao Man Gai Convent or Khao Man Gai Convent for short (Tue-Sat 6am-2:30pm. Soi Convent, 089-481-9892, B40-B45 per dish) for some juicy chicken over oiled rice and spicy dipping. After a night at Silom clubs and bars, eat your energy back at Moo Ping Hia Auan (Tue-Sun from 10pm. At the front of Soi Convent, 083-999-6997, B10 per stick of moo ping, B5 per bag of sticky rice).
You can still be economical while eating out in the Thong Lor-Ekamai area. Head to SUKHUMVIT SOI 38 for a serious selection of street food from khao moo daeng, som tum, rad nah and more. The shops start to pop up from late afternoon and remain open until a few hours after midnight. Hia Dam Pad Thai Fai Luk (7:30pm-2:30am. 02-379-3650, 084-160-5430, B60 per dish) offers sizzling pad thai with shrimps (not dried ones) and pad thai with glass noodle. Khao Man Gai Hia Lor (4pm-3am. 087-329-4336, from B50 per dish) has been in the business for over 20 years. Try a plate of boiled and fried chicken on rice.
Related search: Bangkok
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter