Australia's favourite food blogger Not Quite Nigella, aka Lorraine Elliott, competes with the crowds to sample Bangkok's finest street food.
Getting lost on the busy streets of Bangkok is a relatively fun pastime. Once you secure your belongings, weaving in and out of the alleys and streets of this city is a great way to explore. On impulse, I find myself joining the crowds on the streets outside Siriraj hospital at Wang Lang markets. I had intended to go for a walk to find a place that could do foot massages but instead my nose twitches as I smell something delicious. I follow it towards a stand.
A women in purple Thai silk smiles. Her husband tends the stand. They're selling all sort of sticky rice goodies and barbecued Thai bananas in syrup. I point at the banana leaf wrapped items and buy two for 20THB ($A0.70). They have a sweet taro filling encased in sticky white rice.
I stop a few doors down when I see a man ordering some chicken rice. The vendor slices the hanging chicken with a cleaver and the juice from the chicken runs down onto her chopping board. It looks fresh and the stand busy. Street food is on the whole quite safe. One of the best rules of thumb is to patronise stalls with a lot of customers as the turnover will be high and food doesn't languish in the sun.
I take a seat and they bring the plate to me quickly. There is a small bowl of hot Thai chillies and chopped ginger on the side and I add the flavoursome sauce and the condiments on top and dig in. The chicken rice is wonderful and all intentions I had of just trying one piece and a mouthful of rice are dashed. I unwrap the other banana leaf package and eat that before getting up to pay for the chicken rice. It's 35THB ($A1.19).
I delve further into the market, dodging dark puddles from the rain. I watch as steam rises from the vents. There's the occasional grateful waft of air conditioned air from a clothing shop. But more food is what I seek. My hunger, suppressed only 15 minutes ago by gruesome images at the nearby medical museum, is now completely awoken.
These markets are known for southern Thai food. Red curry stink beans and spicy curries dominate. But since I've already eaten, I'm looking for snacks.
My eyes light up when I see lychees still on the branches and pineapple on sticks. The last time I was in Thailand, Mr NQN and I ate fruit greedily, as if we had never eaten it before. I'm one that often complains that fruit isn't sweet enough, but not so for Thai fruit. The lychees are enormous easily double the size of those that we get in Australia. They're juicy and sweet and I buy half a kilo of them for 130THB ($A4.42).
The same stand sells little rice balls that glisten like jewellery. I enquire about their price — 25THB ($A0.85) for half a dozen sticky rice balls and four large dumplings filled with a delicious savoury sweet fish and peanut-based filling. They stick a bamboo skewer in a lettuce leaf in the bag.
I walk past more stores, wishing that I had more stomach space to try more food. The pungent smell of fish in bamboo baskets arrests my olfactory senses while gleaming rings in gold sit in a pile waiting to be fished through. A hairdresser tends to her client's hair, while opposite, a patient customer awaits the presence of a palm reader.
A sushi stand does a roaring trade as eager customers pick out their sushi pieces. (I guess they didn't just visit the parasitology display at the museum with its dedicated stand on sushi.) Pink blushing apples are displayed beautifully. Fruit is incredibly abundant; there are snakefruit, durian, longans and pomelos...
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