Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tastes of Bangkok

It's no news that Thailand has great food. In Bangkok, I had the pleasure of trying Thai food with an unbiased perspective, since I really haven't had much Thai in the U.S. before - much to the surprise of many of my friends. In fact, I was able to try my first dish of Pad Thai here, which is probably the most well-known Thai dish in America.

The street food here is amazingly diverse. I saw vendors selling bowls of steaming hot noodles, various forms of fried meat, sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, sweet little donuts, as well as many types of fresh fruit smoothies.

Seafood was in abundance. When we visited the floating market, we saw stands selling whole fish, which appeared to be steamed, as seen below:

There were also little fried quail eggs and spring rolls, along with many many other stands that I unfortunately did not get photos of. Everything was very cheap, under 30 baht (~$1).

The streets of Bangkok are dotted with fresh fruit stands that offer succulent pieces of mango, starfruit, watermelon, pineapple, and other tropical treats. Some stands sell the fruit in bags for about $1, while others offer to create smoothies or iced drinks. On Saturday, I drank a delicious lime slushie made with fresh-squeezed lime juice. The next day, I chose to have my mango in its pure, unaltered form.

Served with sticks for easy, clean eating!

And the famous pad thai! I think it was pretty authentic, though I don't have anything to compare it to. The lighting in the restaurant was very dim so unfortunately the noodles do not look that appetizing, but trust me, it was very tasty. I believe everyone at our table ordered this dish with either chicken or prawns - the waiter must have thought we were typical Americans with an unrefined palate. But we just all wanted to see how pad thai tastes in Thailand.

I tried the spiciest dish in my life during this weekend - raw papaya salad from a very normal street vendor. The guy asked if I wanted spicy, and I said yes. I usually pride myself on being able to tolerate quite high levels of heat, which I attribute to my Hunan background (the province of Hunan in China is known for its spicy stir-fries).

I took a few bites right away and thought it was pretty tasty. Then the burn began. "This is pretty spicy," I commented, while taking a few more mouthfuls. Suddenly my mouth felt like it had caught on fire! During the next few minutes, I desperately hunted for bottled water in the crowded Sunday market.

Unfortunately, the Chatuchak market is the largest open air market in Asia - meaning there are lots of stalls and lots of people. I found a vendor that was selling water, but had to wait to get to the front of the line to pay. My entire mouth was tingling, burning, and I was sweating as well. When I got the bottle I chugged down the water, but it didn't help to soothe the heat at all. I wandered around in agony, claiming that my taste buds had all been killed, while my friend commented that a form of dairy might provide relief because of the lipid content.

The bad news - I couldn't find any dairy, since all the dessert stalls around us were selling fruit shaved ice instead of ice cream. The good news - after about ten minutes, the burn started to subside, and I was able to confirm that my taste buds were not dead by eating mango, pictured above.

It's too bad we only had two days to explore the cuisine of Thailand. The good news is, I think the Thai food in Singapore can be pretty authentic as well, especially since now I've developed a craving for it! But I will definitely be more aware of the spice levels.


  1. That story at the end is hilarious. Sorry, I can't stop laughing, really sorry. I had a terrible thought of asking for a photo of that experience, but then you were probably busy, what with pre-heating your mouth to stir fry temperatures... Once again, I'm immature. But I also wanted to say that these photos and stories are amazing. Reading this blog makes summer classes so much more bearable and interesting.

  2. Thanks for reading, Aaron! I'm glad you are enjoying it.

  3. Omg....If I tried that spicy dish, my tongue would be flying with tires. But that padthai looks tasty!! :)