In most countries, masked men surrounding a car would end in soiled drawers. Not in Bangkok. In Bangkok, it ends in tasty finger-licking treats. These masked men weave between cars selling delicious bags of deep-fried bananas (kuay tod or kuay kaek) which would be better known as banana fritters in the west. However, the Thai interpretation is tougher and chewier and uses local plantains, which are like short, fat bananas. Tourists feed them to elephants.
So these masked men are normal Thai folk. Nothing sinister. They wear masks to protect themselves from car fumes which is normal for many outdoor jobs in Bangkok e.g traffic police, motorbike taxis, and construction workers. Bangkok isn’t great when it comes to air pollution.
The Kuay Tod Transaction
Sign language. Fanfan puts one finger up to indicate one bag. The masked man puts up two fingers to indicate 20 baht. Wind down the car window, hand over 20 baht, he passes a warm bag of deep-fried bananas. The masked man then hurries to the next. There is a short space of time before green lights show and the line of cars move on.
Roadside Shop Fronts
The deep-fried bananas are sold from roadside shop fronts found near traffic lights. They are cooked in batches and then quickly taken to the streets by the masked men and sold while still hot. The batter is flavoured with the flesh of brown coconut (maprao), palm sugar and sesame seeds. They could do with a drizzle of syrup or condensed milk for the sweet tooth?