Those of you that live in Bangkok or have visited know that getting something to eat here can be a wildly different experience from going out to eat in the U.S. Certainly there are scores of very nice restaurants serving almost any type of cuisine you want. There are also the nice air conditioned sit down Thai restaurants, where you can get anything from pad thai to southern curries or northern specialties like larb which is a dish of chopped meats and spices.
If you’re willing to be more adventurous though and chance some additional assaults on your senses (and occasionally on your digestion) then you should do as Golf and I do and get your food from the Thai street-side restaurants. The food here is simple, cheap and usually quite delicious. The downside is that you eat sitting on a small plastic stool next to the road in the oppressive Thailand heat. Overall though it’s well worth it.
On this night we decided to do just that because we wanted something quick and cheap. There’s almost no part of Bangkok where you can’t simply walk out the street and within a few minutes find a vendor of some sort with a street-side gastronomic wonder. This is a true assault on your senses as you’ll have the heat and humidity, the loud noise of the traffic (some of the worst in the world), the chatter of those at nearby tables and passing by, the smells of the food from the vendor and other vendors nearby and finally the unfamiliar and often unbelievably spicy taste of the food you order.
While rice is a staple in Thailand, noodles are also very popular and there are loads of places serving many different varieties of noodles. You can get thin noodles and thick noodles, noodles made from rice flour or wheat, noodles in broth or dry, served with chicken, pork or beef. Some stands specialize in just one type, but others will make your noodles to order in whatever way you like. Here’s what you might expect:
You order at the “window” and the cart owner gets to work preparing the noodles, vegetables, spices and meat. Everything is freshly prepared while you wait and while I can hear you saying “Wait what about the meat just hanging in the window” I can assure you that it too is fresh and gets replaced quite frequently at any good noodle stall. Here you can see the nice lady who owns this restaurant preparing the pork (moo in Thai) to go into our noodles.
While they are preparing the dish you can have a seat and they will bring water and a very short time later your steaming bowl of noodles. Condiments such as sugar, fish sauce and chili’s are on each table and you can dress up the noodles to your own taste with these.
I know some foreigners would never consider eating at these streetside restaurants because they think that they are unsanitary, but truly they are not. You can see exactly what’s going on in the ‘kitchen’ so you know if the place is clean or not (can you say the same of most restaurants?). And if you choose a restaurant which has a lot of Thai customers your chances of safety and also a delicious meal are greatly enhanced. And if you choose wisely (no fried foods), they are low in fat and calories too. I know because I’ve lost about 10kg since we’ve arrived in Thailand. Granted some of that is from all the walking I’m doing, but part of it is due to the increase in fruits and vegetables in my diet coupled with a decrease in meats. Speaking of fruits, here’s what you can have for dessert and it will only set you back 10 baht ($0.33).
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