Street food culture defines the cuisine of a place. Townsfolk gather to partake in a grand meal with strangers. It is cheap, tasty and authentic.
Eating street food growing up was an adventure. I remember back in primary school, we were banned from buying from food carts on the street. We were warned that they were unhygienic, sanitation was not closely monitored. We could contract bacteria and viruses from those kinds of food. It did not make sense to the child in me. How could mango and shrimp paste, fishballs dipped in sweet sauce, candied fried plantain, ice scramble drinks be the devil? I was a good, diligent student, I always obeyed instructions. But I watched my classmates with envy as they enjoyed their street food treats.
When I began travelling around Asia, it dawned on me that street food can be safe to eat. And how much you can get to know a place, by eating the humble, hearty, delicious food on the street. My naivete melted away and my adventurous self took over. Don’t get me wrong though, I have not transcended to the bizarre side. But now, I would prefer to get sweaty eating in a food stall on the street or in a corner of a public market than in a swanky five star restaurant.
In keeping with Our Growing Edge‘s theme for July, TRAVEL, I dedicate my next series of posts, let me take you with me on various food stops, on the street, in the market, to taste their blockbuster noodle soups. It was as enjoyable to find them, as they were to relish them, down to the last drop!
It was in Bangkok that I first saw how vibrant street food culture can be. Street food is a worthy alternative for homecooked meals. Drones of laborers would swarm the streets during mealtime to satisfy their fix. It is commendable how the government has kept the hygiene and sanitation standards high to gain the public trust on food on the street.
During my last visit, I was looking for a good but cheap lunch within the vicinity of the International Convention Center. Nothing wrong with hotel food. The Empress, the Chinese restaurant at the Royal Princess Larn Luang, was topnotch and very well-known. But that day, I wanted to discover something new. Cheap eats that I can claim that I discovered on my own.
I researched on the Internet and saw that there was a public market nearby. For sure, I must have passed by it on my walk from the hotel to the convention center. But it was so difficult to spot. On the way back, I weaved through the alleys. I was firm with my resolve, I WILL FIND IT.
And there it was…
The Nang Loeng Market is a public market that has been in existence for more than 200 years. I’d call it a hidden gem, I had to thread through the walls enclosing it to find it. But I guess I just didn’t find the main entrance.
This market is open from 8am to 3pm. And when I got there, at 2:30pm, it was almost empty. My heart sank, finding it late in our trip and on our last day there. I could not accept that I won’t even get the chance to eat there.
I walked and saw stalls closed, and empty tables stored on the side. Everybody had left. I was late for the party.
But wait, is Lady Luck shining on me? There is still one stall left open.. I guess those who stay behind get the grand prize… Me as their last customer!
We did not know how to communicate. They did not know English. I did not know Thai. I asked for a menu but it looked like they didn’t have one. Hmm, now how do we proceed?
Mr. Head Chef just smiled at me. And then I raised my hand, and signalled my pointer finger, “one order, please”. He led me to sit in one of the tables behind his workspace. The biggest and deepest tin was filled with a boiling stock. There were the toppings on the noodle soup strained on the side, and perhaps cooked slowly, thanks to the steam. The smaller tins contained the garnishes. He began to work his magic.
This came piping hot on my table, rice noodles in a clear broth, with fish cakes, squid balls, pork balls, bean sprouts and spring onions. There was a condiment corner in each table of fish sauce, chili, sugar, etc. I started working on my soup. Slurp slurp away…
When my quick meal was over, I approached Mr. Head Chef and he took his calculator, typed in 20. So I paid 20 baht for this delicious bowl of soupy goodness. I asked him if I could take a photo, and he gamely posed for the shot.
I was a happy camper walking home. Like a scavenger who found gold in a haystack. Looking back, I want to share this treasure find
P.S. This article is also featured in Mytrendingstories.com.
This post is part of the monthly link up party, Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Sophie from Cooking Trips , and the theme for July is TRAVEL.
Royal Princess Larn Luang Hotel 269 Lan Luang Road, Pomprab, Samphanthawong, Bangkok www.royalprincesslarnluang.com
Nang Loeng Market Nakhon Sawan 6 Alley, Wat Sommanat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand