Where did we leave off on our midnight food tour of Bangkok last time? Ah yes, eight very full bellies and only half way through the tour! Luckily, our next stop wasn’t to snack but instead to walk through Pak Khlong Talat, Bangkok’s famous fresh flower market. Interestingly, the best time to visit a flower market is after dark as the flowers are traded when the temperature is cooler keeping the stems fresher. Our late night walk through the colourful, fragrant booths was nothing short of enchanting.
Midnight Food Tour Continues: Longong & Chang Beer
Once we emerged on the far side of the market, we were treated to taste of Longong procured by our guide from the local food market adjacent to the flower stalls. Longong are a tropical fruit with a soft edible centre that have a sweet citrus-like flavour. I was fascinated by the opportunity to try a fruit of whose existence I’d previously not know. Sadly, while watching vendors set up their food stalls, we noticed one fishmonger whose boxes were stacked on the road being spoken to by some police. As we watched, the police took the vendor’s wares, put them in a pickup truck and drove off. Being confused about what had just happened we asked our guide if the police were helping him move and she sadly informed us that this was simply part of doing business in Thailand, at times the police will ‘confiscate’ items as bribes. Having lost all his stock, the man would have had no fish to sell at the morning market. As someone who knows how hard it is for small-scale, food business owners to make a living even in Canada, I was deeply touched by his desperate situation.
With these thoughts in mind, we walked on and entered the peaceful, quiet grounds of Wat Pho, a world apart from the bustling streets. It was a magical spot to visit at night with it’s stunning stupas, gently lit against the night sky. Soon after we were treated to another beautiful view of the night sky, this time from the rooftop patio of the Bitter Duck bar. As we sat overlooking the Chao Phraya River, enjoying a cold Chang Beer (55฿, $1.51US), it was the perfect setting to get to know my fellow travellers.
Pat Thai: Thin Fried Noodles
After a lot of food, a nice walk, and a digestif, a less intrepid eater might have forgotten about our final stop and already be dreaming of bed, but not I! Our fifth stop was to feature the absolutely classic Thai dish – Pad Thai (Pat Tai) and I was excited to get my hands on the real thing. Upon arrival we were told we had the choice between two preparations: original or egg wrap. Wanting to have the most authentic experience, I choose original, but truthfully, after sampling both, the egg wrap was far superior.
Original was served with vermicelli-sized rice noodles, very tiny pieces of tofu and the defining element, freshwater shrimp. Freshwater shrimp are minuscule but impart a very fishy taste to the otherwise fairly bland dish. I added plenty of chillies, peanuts, and lime to mine. The egg wrap version was served with thicker noodles, fresh saltwater shrimp and wrapped in a very thin omelette. I was surprised to learn that the slight reddish colour of Pad Thai has nothing to do with the tomato-based blasphemy eaten in the West, but is actually the leaching colour from the large shrimp. A plate of seriously delicious Pad Thai is consistently one of the least expensive street food options and can begin at 30฿ ($0.83 US).
As we were finishing up our last bites, our stomachs once again filled to the brim, and saying goodbye to our wonderful guide, the skies suddenly opened and it started to rain torrentially. We all jumped into our tuk tuks and sped across the city back to our respective hotels. What a dramatic end!
My overall impression of the Bangkok Four Tour was a positive one. I found it to be extremely well organized and the local guide to be friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. I appreciated that there was a focus on connecting the delicious food to a rich cultural and historical context. At 1700฿ ($45 US), I initially felt it was quite expensive since the price of food in Thailand is very low. However, over the course of four hours I was able to discover two previously unknown dishes, learn more about a familiar one and see Bangkok in a unique way, all for the price of a restaurant meal back home.
Food is an essential part of the Bangkok way of life and having a local guide introduce me to the city’s best haunts was worth the expense. My time with Bangkok Food Tours nicely complimented my aimless street wanderings, my mall food court meals, my market grazings to gave me a rich, varied view of the Bangkok food scene.
Have you ever tried Thai food? What’s your favourite dish? Let me know your recommendations in the comments below!
Now It’s Your Turn! Get out there and try some Thai food! Seriously, if you can visit a Thai restaurant near to where you live, I highly recommend it. Almost every Thai restaurant I have been to outside of Thailand was owned by an expat Thai family who prepares their traditional dishes with lots of love. Now you likely won’t get a plate of Pad Thai for less than a dollar – for that you’d have to visit Thailand itself!