Let me get this out of the way immediately… from my experience no matter who visits Thailand the first thing they miss after the trip is the food. Yes with all the cheap shopping, nightlife, etc…. it comes down to the food. Why do you think you see a Thai restaurant on just about every block in any metropolitan city in the world (granted 90% of them are probably crap to me)? Yes (real) Thai food is incomparable. The latest trend I noticed in Thailand is the proliferation of Thai cooking schools.
Below I compiled many of the food related photos I took from this last trip. I frequently list tips and dish names so you know what to look for on your next trip here. The photos are laid out sequentially (as in all the Thailand blog posts) so you’ll get the whole story if you start with the first photo. Click on the image to enlarge with captions. Feel free to make comments, ask questions or need directions.
If you have not seen my previous pages on my recent Thailand trip, click on any of the following: Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai.
For the Adventurous…
So you just flew into town after a 20+ hour flight. You probably awoke from your slumber in your generic hotel room at 4 or 5am and you can’t get back to sleep. You’re jetlagged. You’re in a strange land. What can one do to cure this chronobiological problem? Don’t ask me I’m no doctor. But I do have tips on taking advantage of this situation. One of my favorite things to do is to go to a nearby open market, sometimes called a wet market or “ta-lat” in Thai, where the hustle and bustle happens in the early hours. My favorite place to go is the traditional open market located at Lumpini Park (the Central Park of Bangkok). Here you can watch locals haggling over produce, live crabs trying to make a run for it, groups doing Tai Chi and others having breakfast. This is a way to hit the ground running when you first arrive in Bangkok. Some may balk at this culture shock.
This is my kind of four star dining, plastic stools and vinyl table cloth
Here’s a vendor specializing in a breakfast rice porridge (more commonly known as Jok). This market is located just outside of Lumpini Park so these locals just finished their exercise.
If porridge isn’t your cup of tea then you can have a glass of fresh squeezed OJ
Grilled bananas or sweet potato can also be had. The grilling really brings out the sweetness. And yes the banana is yellow inside.
Mangoes and star fruit
Here’s the basic ingreidents to a Green Papaya Salad
The vegetables are super fresh
Rib meat on a hook. No refrigeration or sneeze guard needed. One thing I omitted is that it’s about high 70’sF with 100% humidity in Bangkok in the morning. I bet Anthony Bourdain would stay away from this.
Yes you can get fresh seafood. As in the meats, there’s no refrigeration. Food just gets sold quickly. Yup, this is what I grew up eating.
Pork Satay. Unlike the US they don’t typically use beef or chicken….only flavorful pork.
No time to cook? There’s plenty of prepared food to go. Say “hi” to the camera mom.
Or Tor Kor Market aka Millionaire’s Market
Here’s a super clean take on a talat (traditional market.) Or Tor Kor is located next to the famed Chatuchak Market (a great shopping destination that will be covered on a future trip) and is easily accessible via the MTS (underground train.) The reason it’s also known as a millionaire’s market is because you can find many items that might be out of season (fruits and vegetables) and hard to find elsewhere. Therefore things can be pricier here than elsewhere. But for the average western tourist it’s still a relative bargain.
The famous Durian, known for it’s pungent (to put it nicely) odor and heavanly flavor (to some). It has a hard spikey exterior and soft custard-like interior. Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to “completely rotten, mushy onions”. Anthony Bourdain, a lover of durian, relates his encounter with the fruit thus: “Its taste can only be described as…indescribable, something you will either love or despise. …Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”
Vibrant rambutan fruit. In the US it’s usually brownish and sad looking.
Mangosteen, more commonly known as Mungcoot to the locals.
Noi Na or custard apple
Yes there are more than one kind of pineapples. At least three varieties are sold at this stall.
Ka Nom a common Thai dessert served in a bowl with crushed ice. Each bag and its condiment can be had for under $2. This is probably my favorite type of Thai sweets.
To be honest, I cannot get over how clean this market is. In the old days these markets have sopping wet floors with repugnant oders.
These grilled giant prawns are amazing. They’re the size of my hand!
Little pickled crabs ready to be added to Som Tam or green papaya salad.
Raw oysters and mussels on a bed of ice. Anthony Bourdain once mentioned he was a little shakey with this sanitary condtion and wouldn’t touch it…
…little would he (see previous pic) know that these oysters are used to create one of my all time favorite dishes…
…fried egg cooked with oysters. This is heaven to me!
Wonderful looking curry.
Can you guess what this is? Vegetarians please turn away…. it’s pig’s feet!
Flattened grilled chicken.
This looks like a scene from the Iron Chef. These ladies are making Green Papaya Salad.
Can you find the tongue?
Jasmine Garlands. No you don’t eat this. Typically these are used as offerings in temples or to make the car interior smell nice.
The baby is not for sale.
For the Real Adventurists: Street Food
Get your Pepto-Bismol (preferably tablet variety) or your favorite diarrhea meds in hand because this is not for the weak stomached. But to get the real flavor (pun intended) of Thailand you need to hit the streets. No white table clothed eateries here. At best you’re looking at colorful cheap plastic stools and a flimsy metal table. At worst it’s walking food. My secret to good Thai food: The nicer the eatery, the worst the food. As a benefit it will also cost less.
This series of photos show street food at its best. The food is typically great, cheap and fresh. Just be sure to have your tummy meds handy just in case.
Be sure to grab dessert before it walks past you.
This is a typical open restaurant I like to eat at. This place is located near Bangkok Chinatown. Can you spot my parents?
Different ways to grill bananas.
This is what real fried bananas look like. No you don’t eat it with ice cream like you see in most typical Thai restaurants in the US.
Another fruit stand.
This is the traditional push cart vendor serving traditional coconut ice cream. They will also serve it in a hot dog bun. I caught this vendor at the end of his run so he was out of the buns. Only about 30 cents for this cup! Condensed milk and chopped nuts included.
You can find all types of snacks on the go.
Some vendors keep things simple.
Simply steamed corn
Food truck… Thai style. I think of it as micro food truck. Believe it or not this was parked on the sidewalk
Another tiny food truck. This one is giving away samples of it’s pork lunchmeat or sausage I think.
Other Food Related Images
Here’s a random sampling of food related images I took in Bangkok.
No I didn’t try this drink. My thinking is that I’m mansome enough as it is.
I was told this peach isn’t radioactive. But from the huge size of the fruit I had doubts about it. Unfortunately I didn’t get a shot of the fruit itself but believe me it was huge. It costs about $7.50 each!
Here’s a case of never judge a book by its cover. I tried this restaurant out and afterwards thought that I’ll never get that hour of my life back. The rule of thumb is the fancier the Thai restaurant, the worst the food. This is the most important tip I can give anyone.
Much like Zagat ratings in the US, when you see this sign with the bowl it usually means the establishment has good food.
This was a strange ice cream I found at the local mall. Coconut ice cream with what looks like a yolk in the middle. Yes it looks like I’m eating a frozen egg. But it was pretty good.
Typical napkin you’ll find at restaurant. Single ply and small. Good for only a single wipe. Blowing your nose with it will cause a big hole and a mess on your hands. My tip: go to Starbucks and grab a handful of US grade napkins. McDonalds will only give you one napkin at the counter.
For some reason moon cakes (a Chinese tradition) are popular these days in Thailand. You’ll never see a McDonalds serving this in the US.
Yes, ice cream mooncakes. Blasphamy!
Yes even Starbucks in Thailand has gotten into the mooncake bandwagon. Notice they have durian mooncakes. It costs about $4.
Grass jelly with brown sugar. This traditional sweet treat keeps you cool in the hot afternoon heat.
Mangos at my favorite mango sticky rice joint in the country located on Soi 38 in Bangkok. The next two photos are from the same location. Contact me for directions.
The mango sticky rice place (see previous pic) also makes fresh black, green and white sticky rice. All are natural colors. There’s nothing like freshly made sticky rice on this delectable sweet dessert.
This vendor (see previous two photos) also makes their own fresh coconut cream. If you get there around midnight, the cream will still be warm. The crunchy yellow bits are I believe toasted beans used as mango/sticky rice condiment.
You’ve seen most of these fruits in my previous photos. On the bottom are roasted coconuts. Imagine drinking fresh coconut juice but with a roasted flavor. Out of this world!
Yes there’s plenty of international food to be had but why bother?
Here’s a sign at the entrance of the BTS station. Notice the durian warning. More on that to come. And yes I did see security deflating a poor kid’s balloon. Wait, am I not supposed to take a photo of the sign?
This “king of fruits” is treated as an outcast in the public.
That’s one cheesy looking chip!
Here’s a Thailand branch of a famous Taiwanese dumpling chain. It’s soooooo good.
I love this dumpling place so much I included another photo. Anthony Bourdain says if you have to visit only one restaurant in Taiwan, make it this place (the Taiwan branches that is).
Heinz makes more than catchup in Thailand.
Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand. Like it’s surroundings it has a different food vibe compared to Bangkok. It has it’s own regional specialties not easily found in the capital city (and vice versa). With it’s slower lifestyle and tempered climate many restaurants are also open aired.
Kao Soi or curried noodles, this famous dish is popular with all my friends. This dish might be Burmese influenced.
Sai Ua or more easily known as Chiang Mai sausage is a favorite of anyone who tries this plate. My friends drool at the mention of this sausage.
Noodles in soup. Chinese influened dish.
Moo Satay or pork satay. Unlike in the U.S. this is a pork dish. There’s no chicken or beef. Remember only pork so if you’re a purist you know how to order this.
Khao Mun Gai or chicken with rice or Thai version of Hainanese chicken and rice or just plain good food. This dish is located in an area of Chiang Mai known for this specialty dish. There’s several restaurants lining this block that serves this.
One of my favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai. This casual eatery is located along the river. With it’s cool breeze, live music and great food….what more can you ask for?
Another view of Riverside restaurant. Yes you can eat on the boat lining the river. Next door is another great restaurant called Good View. Also a favorite of my friends and I.
Som Tum or green papaya salad. For travelers a good rule of thumb is to always remember to order dishes and mention for less spicy. But never order a spicy dish as not spicy. This just completely ruins the overall taste.
Gai Hor Bai Toey or seasoned chicken wrapped in padan leaves and fried. This local dish is just amazing especially at Riverside. You haven’t lived until you try this. No you probably won’t find this in the U.S.
Yes this is beer with ice. Believe me you’ll apreciate this on those hot evenings. The local beer is strong enough to stand up to a little ice.
Roti. This muslim streetside vendor serves up the best roti aka crepe. I’ve been getting crepes from this lady for years. One thing I noticed on this last trip is that Chiang Mai is now inundated with tourists from China. There used to be more locals and European tourists waiting in line for this treat.
My roti with egg, banana and Nutella. It doesn’t get any better than this…. until I visit the next street vendor.