A change has come over me since being in this city. An already strong desire to eat – frequently – has intensified. Perhaps it’s an unconscious attempt to fit in with the locals, because people here seem to eat a lot. And so would any of us given the hissing woks flipping noodles along every pavement, the tiny deep fried doughnuts stuffed with coconut paste, the lemongrass flavoured soups and piles of juicy fruits (not the chewing gum. Although somehow it wouldn’t surprise me). There are so many food hawkers I am fully expecting to open the curtains one morning to find one cheerfully frying chicken on our balcony. And that would be the end of me.
Despite what must be a diet of at least 15 small meals a day, Thais are small. Many are pretty tiny in fact. Whatever their metabolic secret might be, I am not in possession of it. The most questionable of mid 90’s pop stars R Kelly best sums up my predicament with his sage words: ‘My mind’s telling me no(-o-o). But my body, my body’s telling me yesss.’
My body is winning and I’ve kind of gone for the fuck it mentality. I’m here now, and so I’ve been bloody well eating. A lot.
Here’s a tale of day with some damn fine eating.
The colonial moron
It was a day that began with refined conversation and spiritual pursuits.
Me: “Can I wear this Princess Leia gold bikini costume to the most important cultural site in Thailand? Matt? Matt? You should know you’ve lived here longest and I refuse to employ my own common sense.”
Matt (face buried in mobile phone, devouring news of Notts County’s latest calamity) “Hmmm? Grnds mmm.”
Who wouldn’t see this as endorsement?
I’m exaggerating a little, I was in a sleeveless top and jeans, but you get my drift. When we arrived at Wat Phra Keaw, I paid for my ticket, wrapped my shawl breezily around my shoulders and fully expected to waft past the guard, who practically clotheslined me (it must have been tempting) and sent me back half a mile to the main entrance to join the massive queue of tourist losers who haven’t learned to dress themselves.
Upon reaching the front of this queue I was issued with a standard starched shirt, demarcating me to others as, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the tourist losers who haven’t learned to dress themselves. Looking like a cross between Tony Hart and a Bon Marché advert, and with a steady stream of Matt’s mocking comments in one ear, I prowled Wat Pho and the Grand Palace in the searing heat.
As always, it was dazzling.
All that walking and ridicule was hard work, and so we headed to Chinatown for sustenance. There’s a lot of it about, as I mentioned. Carts loaded with fresh spring rolls and cauldrons bubbling with pork stock next to heaps of raw noodles and bean sprouts.
Matt led us to T&K Seafood, a street stall perched on a busy corner, almost impossible to pass by when you’ve seen the grilled tiger prawns they’re serving up to tables of salivating customers.
We devoured those same tiger prawns, and afterwards delicately extracted the antennae from between our teeth, and in my case, probably my hair. They were succulent and about as perfect as seafood gets, especially served with a plate of pad pak boong (stir fried morning glory), and jaew dipping sauce.
But this little excursion was merely a precursor to the main event of the day.
Tuk tuk food tour
A rather fine Christmas present from the in laws, we were booked onto an evening with Bangkok Food Tours. You spend a fair amount of time eating, and a fair amount of time clinging to the seat in the back of a dangerous vehicle, presumably with the desired effect that you savour each meal all the more for feeling like it might be your last.
There’s really not much to dislike about an evening where you’re basically transported between excellent Thai dishes. The beauty of doing this was that you get great recommendations of places to return to, and also end up trying things you normally only see as a selection of random ingredients on a hawker cart, like some sort of mouthwatering but impossible puzzle, and would never dream of trying.
- Khao man gai – rice cooked in chicken stock, served with chicken on top, and a delicious chilli based sauce
- Rad na moo noom – pork and Chinese broccoli with thick noodles in gravy. I don’t eat pork but it looked nice
- Khao niaow ma muang – mango with sticky coconut rice, one of the best desserts on the planet
- Khanom buang – crispy thin pancakes filled with coconut cream and shredded egg yolk
- The one, the only, pad Thai (see video below).
We took our lives in our hands, explored temples by night, and ate till we could eat no more. Toot toot.