Street eating in Thailand

I should spend some time writing about the food in Thailand. Sure, there’s quite a bit of thai food in Australia but it bears as much resemblance to the food in Thailand as well, Malaysian food bears to the stuff you get in Melbourne. There’s some resemblance but the variety and depth is absent.

Bear in mind though that due to budget constraints, most of the food we’ve been eating in thailand has been either from street stalls, very basic shops or from guesthouses. With the exception of Wat Suan Mok (if that can be called a guesthouse), the guesthouse food had been pretty forgetable, so I’ll focus on what I’ve found myself looking out for and looking forward to, in no particular order.

But before that, a note on eating from the streets. I’ve been eating indiscrimately from streetstalls, from vats of lukewarm prepepared food that have been sitting in tropical weather for some hours, from meat that has been bbqed and left exposed to flies, traffic fumes and fingers, from communal salads that have been pawed over by numerous other customers. There probably hasn’t been a single week where my guts haven’t felt a little funny but at the same time I haven’t been sick either.

Anyway, back to the list of edibles:

1. Thai street bbq. These little stalls bbq and deep fry everything from chicken drumsticks to frankfurters wrapped in bacon. I’ve had chicken satays, fishballs, garlic sausages and one memorable evening a skewer of chicken parson’s noses which i’d mistaken for chicken pieces. I’ve seen whole fish, liver and all sorts of other bits too. Whatever you order, it’s generally served with sweet chilli sauce and sticky rice. The Thais have certainly fallen in love with western style sausages and I’ve spotted a Thai-German sausage company.

2. Pawpaw salad. Traditionally, this goes with thai bbq as otherwise, you would be eating nothing but meat and rice. But people eat it by itself anyway. It’s quite simple – green pawpaw is shredded and then pounded in a mortar with fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chilli, peanuts and other stuff then served. It doesn’t that appetising but it is fantastic and quite spicy. I haven’t seen much of it in Melbourne but it’s everywhere in Darwin, possibly the SE Asian street food capital of Australia.

3. Thai mixed rice. These are thai bainmaries, covered pots or exposed pans of prepared dishes and there’s stacks of them. My favourites have been yellow bamboo shoot curry with chicken and fried pork mince with chilli, basil and lots of other stuff. I’ve had pork crackling stewed in syrup, congealed pigs blood jelly with vegies and other yummy things too. There’s always something new to try. The only gripe I have is that the servings tend to be small but then, the average cost is about 1 AUD or 30 baht including the free salad of greenbeans, beanshoots, pickled vegetables, cucumber and whatever else is in season at the time so I can’t really complain. It just means I get to eat a bit more often.

4. Pork hock and hardboiled egg stewed in black rice vinegar served with blanched kailan on rice. This is a chinese dish but is very common in Thailand. It’s the only thing I’ve listed that is not spicy. My chilli tolerance has also increased quite substantially because i’ve been making it a point to ignore the possibility of pain and just eat whatever looks and smells good.

5. Assorted sweets seemingly all based coconut and too much sugar. Some of these have sticky rice, others seems to be jelly based. They are very simlar to malaysian nonya sweets and malaysian sweets and so I suspect it is a bit of an acquired taste as I see very few falang digging into them.

I’ve also developed the traveller habit of hanging around food stalls waiting for a local to order something that looks interesting and then pouncing on the shop owner and pointing to that dish. It seems to work quite well.

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