Don’t Miss It!
One of the highlights of my time in Bangkok in November was a street food tour I took with Chef “Nut”. Nut is half Chinese, half Thai and has lived in Bangkok his whole life, and knows the streets like the back of his hand.
We started in Chinatown in late afternoon, stopping at a street cart that was already surrounded by people. We were dished up Bua Loy Nam Khing, a “snack” sweet soup of ginger tea, gingko nuts, black sesame dumplings and tofu custard. Slightly sweet, a bit crunchy, creamy, refreshing, it was all these things. Couldn’t stop eating it!
I knew my time with “Nut” was going to be well spent.
Next was another street cart that only makes green onion pancakes with chili sauce…Nut lamented that you can’t even find these anymore, it’s a dying delicacy but this one guy is still dishing them up in a little nondescript corner in Chinatown. Another winner. This was followed by Nut’s choice for best pork satay and pickled cucumber in Bangkok, a very clean and neat cart run by a wizened lady with bright eyes. Her satay could make you cry, in the good way.
After walking by the famous balcony from Hangover II, we continued down dark, narrow streets where stall after stall sells paper goods that you “gift” to a dearly departed and burn for them… there were paper LG refrigerators, paper Samsung TV’s, paper iPad and more. A knowing turn took us to THE place to buy “worker noodles”, a HUGE bowl of noodle soup for only 40 Thai baht (about $1.30 USD). Another street cart rigged to run on charcoal fire, operated by the same man for over 40 years who ladles up his home-made beef broth and hand-pulled noodles with a big smile and not a word of English. You would never find this place on your own, and if by some chance you did, you may just keep walking… big mistake.
We kept winding deeper into Chinatown until we came to Jok’s kitchen, Michelin-guide recommended for their handmade shrimp dumplings topped with fried garlic, which they made for us right outside on the sidewalk. Nothing like fresh ingredients cooked right in front of you and handed over hot and sizzling. Oh, the waft of that garlic…
Next stop was the “red stool place” Jek Pui made famous on an episode of Netflix ‘Street Food’ and generally regarded as the best curry in Bangkok. Giant pots of green curry with chicken simmer away, and are served with a sweet dried Chinese sausage to counter the heat of the curry. Eat like a local and just camp out on a red stool where you won’t get hit by a passing scooter.
Some Black Soy Sauce ice cream around the corner helped cool us off… I really wish I had also tried the “One Enchanted Evening” flavor of soft serve also in the machine!!
Our big stop to sit down and eat was at T&K Seafood, a multistory complex in the middle of the cacophony of neon-lit Yaorat Road. As evening begins, they start guerilla marketing their seafood by grilling and sautéing it right out on the street, on the balconies, wherever they can. There were fresh cockles in steel pans waiting to get steamed, barnacles, giant prawns, whole fish I’ve never seen before, all types of oysters. It’s absolutely crazy chaotic to get in, but with Nut it was not a problem.
Great seafood is not hard to get in Thailand, and the food here was insanely fresh. A starter of sour mango with fish sauce was mesmerizing. Tom Yum soup with sea bass and octopus, giant grilled river prawns with green sauce and sautéed morning glory with garlic, a staple Asian vegetable we really don’t know but should. I felt like Anthony Bourdain would have loved this place! No ambiance but the food was crazy fresh and good.
Now it was time for dessert, so on to the street cart with the long line of people stretching down Yaorat Road….it’s the Michelin-recommended cart for Pa Thing Ko,Thai doughnuts. Every culture has some kind of fried dough treat and the Thai are no different. But their light and airy Pa Thing Ko served with silky-smooth green pandan coconut custard dipping sauce is on another level.
But we were not finished! The finish had to be some mango juice and the best mango and sticky rice from a woman’s cart who Nut swears has the very best mangos in all of Bangkok. I do not dispute this. The mangos are literally perfectly ripe with no marks on them, and she peels them in front of you, served with perfectly sweet and sticky green and white rice. This pretty much puts to shame any version of mango and sticky rice you have eaten anywhere.
The End, finally.
*I would be happy to set up the same tour for you*