Allan and Fanfan of Live Less Ordinary
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Wanderlust Blog of the Year ’13
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A reputation I suspect I have earned on my local Bangkok street food street. For two years now I have eaten on the same hidden back street of Bangkok – picking and unpicking favourites and eating around. While I try to be loyal to my street food vendors I also like to try new things. If I get bored of one som tam I move to the next. Each day I skulk past old vendors to find my new. Head down, playing with my phone, avoiding eye contact. “Kuey teow Kai?” – “Sorry love not today!”
Located in the busy Sukhumvit area of Bangkok my street food street goes unnoticed to any foreigner other than myself. Last week I saw the fist white face. A seemingly lost backpacker walks to the bottom of the cul-de-sac, decides he is lost and exits again at the top. I fought the urge to chase him off and to mark my territory.
11AM is my time on my Bangkok street food street. I can get in and out quickly unnoticed and unhassled. It is the quiet period before lunch breaks at local businesses and before the area floods with office workers. My occasional second visit is around 4PM. At this time local schools are out and the area has become a sea of pretty pink dresses and over-sized Ben 10 t-shirts. I have two favourite cheap eat restaurants on the street. The first sits close to the far end of the cul-de-sac (Image 1). This is where I buy my favourite Kaprao Moo Grob (Holy basil with deep fried pork belly). The second sits at the corner entrance with the main road (Image 2). Here my favourites are Kai Pad Prik Gaeng (chicken fried in chili paste), Moo Kratiem (pork with fried garlic) and Tom Yum (hot and sour soup).
The vendors in the food court originally sold from sheltered parasol umbrellas on the streets outside (as Gob below). Less than a year ago the food court was built and street vendors moved indoors. I am not a big fan of the food court. They have taken the street out of my street food. For locals it is a godsend. Comfortable seating, shelter from sun, cooling fans and convenient cooking booths. Here I get my Som Tam Korat (papaya salad), ao phet phet (extra hot), mai sai poo (without raw crab).
I have been introduced to many on the street. I cannot remember one name. This is normal for me. I often forget names of relatives. However, I have named them in my head. Grumpy, old lady, iphone, the guy. I have a soft spot for the lady below. In my head she is called Gob (Thai for Frog). For a year she served me the best Som Tam Korat before moving two stalls down to serve noodles. Now she tends to plop around in welly boots being cheerful and amusing the kids.
My Bangkok street food street is great for groceries. Noisy trucks arrive with bags of fruit and veg tied to the outside of the truck. Locals appear from surrounding housing pull bags from the side pay quick then disappear again. They often wear pyjamas or hair curlers. Here I grab my cheap 10 baht bag of mini cucumbers to feed our guinea pig for the week.
There is a happy, close-knit community on the street. Three stories high on each side the locals live in the top two floors as the ground floors facilitate small businesses. Restaurants, laundry services, storage warehouses, home offices. At the far end of the cul-de-sac is a large spirit house. Locals arrive from the top road by motorbike and the occasional car. Workers from nearby services and massage parlours sneak in by a hidden alleyway linking the main Sukhumvit 23 Road.
There are thousands of similar streets and communities dotted all over Bangkok. They generally go unnoticed by busy lives of expats or untrained eyes of travellers. My Bangkok Street Food Street is located in the central area of Sukhumvit 23 (2nd right then 1st right). It is a five minute walk from the Asoke Skytrain Station and Interchange and a stone throw from my condo. During the day chili peppers dry on chairs and bikes on the pavement facing the entrance.
“Here he is again. 11AM. Right on time. The promiscuous street slut jumping from one food to the next.”