A reputation I suspect I have earned on my local Bangkok street food street where 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, so if I get bored of one som tam stall I move to the next. This means, each day, I will skulk past old vendors, to find something new, with my head down, playing with my phone, and avoiding eye contact. “Kuey teow Kai?” – “Sorry love not today!”
My Local Street Food Street
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 first white face, a seemingly lost backpacker who walked to the bottom of the cul-de-sac, before realising he was lost, and exiting again from the top. I fought the urge to bark at him, and give chase, as a way to mark my territory.
The Daily Routine
11:00AM is my first visit to my Bangkok street food street, where 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 would be at around 16:00PM, when the local schools are out, and the area has become a sea of pretty pink dresses and oversized Ben 10 t-shirts.
On the street I have two favourite cheap eat restaurants, the first sits close to the far end of the cul-de-sac (Image 1), and 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), with other favourites like Kai Pad Prik Gaeng (chicken fried in chilli paste), Moo Kratiem (pork with fried garlic) and Tom Yum (hot and sour soup).
The Shiny New Food Court
The vendors in the food court originally sold sheltered beneath parasol umbrellas on the streets outside (as Gob below). But less than a year ago a food court was built, and all the street vendors moved indoors. I am not a big fan of the food court, as they have taken the street out of my street food.
At the same time, for locals, it is a godsend. There’s comfortable seating, shelter from sun, cooling fans and convenient cooking booths. This is where I now get my Som Tam Korat (papaya salad with pla pickled fish sauce), ao phet phet (extra hot), mai sai poo (without raw crab).
Meet the Locals
I have been introduced to many on-the-street vendors, and their families, and friends of friends, yet cannot remember one name. This is normal for me as I often forget the names of my own relatives. However, I have named them in my head. Three of my regular vendors are Grumpy Lady, iPhone, because she has an iPhone and The Guy, because most vendors are female.
But I really have a soft spot for the lady below, who in my head I call Gob (Thai for Frog) as she does remind me a bit of a frog. For a year she served me the best Som Tam Korat before moving two stalls down to serve noodles. Now she just 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 to pull bags from the side and pay quickly before disappearing again. They often wear pyjamas or hair curlers.
I grab my cheap 10 baht bag of mini cucumbers which will feed our guinea pig for the coming week.
The Shophouse Community
There is a happy, close-knit community on the street. Three stories high on each side, where the locals live inside the top two floors, as the ground floors facilitate small businesses. Restaurants, laundry services, shops, storage, home offices…
At the far end of the cul-de-sac is a large spirit house. Locals arrive from the top of the road by motorbike, the occasional car will disturb everyone. Workers from nearby services and massage parlours sneak in by a hidden alleyway linking to the touristy Sukhumvit Road areas.
My Bangkok Street Food Street
There are thousands of similar streets and communities dotted all over Bangkok. They generally go unnoticed by the busy lives of ex-pats or the untrained eyes of travellers. My own 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 just a stone’s throw from my condo. During the day, chilli 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.”