I arrived in Bangkok excited to try some authentic, delicious Thai dishes. But in a city with a dizzying array of eating opportunities, it was hard to know where to begin. When a quick online search revealed that Bangkok Food Tours offered small, tailored tours of Bangkok’s famous food scene and received consistently good reviews, I was sold. The hardest part was deciding between a day walking food tour, or a nighttime tuk tuk food tour. I opted for the night tour to avoid Bangkok’s oppressive heat and truthfully I fancied zooming around the city after dark!
Best Eats Midnight Tuk Tuk Food Tour
At 8pm, I found our meeting place outside at an easily accessible BTS (Bangkok Transit) Station. Our intimate and friendly group consisted of a couple from Scotland, a couple from Colombia, two friends from the States and a solo Thai woman as well as our lovely local guide. Since I was also travelling alone, I was paired in a tuk tuk with the Thai lady who turned out to be a guide from a food tour company in Chiang Mai! It was lovely having the opportunity to learn a bit more about Thailand from a local.
Before I delve too deeply into the details of the belly bursting array of delicious food we sampled that night, I have to admit that I wasn’t the best budding blogger on this particular tour. While I furiously scribbled notes as we whizzed around the city, I failed to capture many key details like the names and locations of the restaurants (oops!). While I tried to artistically capture alluring photos of the food, the combination of a low light and rush to keep up with the group left me with blurry, unflattering photos. Alas, I will strive to improve and for now the restaurants featured on this tuktuk food tour will remain a secret!
Khao Mun Gai: Hainanese Chicken
Our first stop was at a restaurant known for it’s Khao Mun Gai, which translates literally to “chicken oily rice”. Khao Mun Gai is an example of Thai Chinese fusion that is very popular in Bangkok. Our guide tells us that upwards of a third of Thais have Chinese ancestry and that Chinese customs are deeply integrated into Thai culture including food. Interestingly, this is also a common dish in Singapore and Malaysia under the name Hainanese Chicken (named for the Hainan province in China).
When the dish was served it seemed somewhat plain at first glance, but our guide explained that its beauty lies in its simplicity. The dish consists simply of boiled, salted chicken and jasmine rice cooked in chicken stock. Accompanying the dish is a spicy dipping sauce composed of ginger, thick soya sauce, garlic and chillies. Additionally, it is served with hot, rich chicken stock apparently to refresh the palate. To start, I try the chicken and rice without the sauce and find that while the flavours are subtle, they are absolutely delicious. Our guide notes that the best versions are made with the highest quality chicken, a fact that is true for most food but is magnified here as the flavours of the chicken are not masked. I can see why many Thai consider this dish comfort food.
Khoa Mun Gai can be found all over Bangkok from street vendors and restaurants at pretty much any time of day or night. While the exact recipes can vary slightly, the overall meal is consistently the same – chicken, rice, sauce, soup. A plate of Khao Mun Gai will run you about 40B ($1.10 US).
We also got to sample Som Tam a delicious, spicy, raw papaya salad. As I would learn during my cooking class in Chiang Mai, it is made with green papayas, tomatoes, green beans, roasted peanuts and chills. Somewhat strangely and without explanation we also got to share a whole, baked Tilapia. It was stuffed with leaves, baked in a salt crust and tasted lovely but I was never clear on the connection to Bangkok’s food culture. Unfortunately, in this instance, our guide was busy ensuring everyone was served simultaneously and was not available to provide an answer.
Guay Tiew Kua Gai: Thick Fried Noodles
After all that eating, you wouldn’t be amiss in thinking that the tour had concluded, but this was only our first stop! We piled into our tuk tuks and rushed off to Yaowarat, also called Chinatown. The next restaurant was by far my favourite as it combined an exceptionally delicious dish and a behind the scenes look at how the meal was made. As soon as we arrived we were lead through the restaurant and right out the back door! We found ourselves in an alleyway where three large, open charcoal fires were blazing. It soon dawned on me that we were in the kitchen and we were about to watch the creation of Guay Tiew Kua Gai, a fried noodle dish. We cozied up as close as we could to the huge, fiery braziers and watched with rapt attention as a chef prepared our dishes to order.
He started by ladling a dollop of pork belly fat into the steaming wok. To this he added chopped chicken coated in a secret spice, closely followed by a large helping of fresh, wide rice noodles. This was left to sizzle until it began to smoke, at which point a cracked egg, a dash of soya sauce, a handful of chopped green onions and cilantro were added in quick succession. It was served to us steaming hot and with the usual Thai condiments of soy, sugar, chilli & vinegar so we could customize the level of salty, sweet, spicy & sour in our individual dishes. Yum!! A bowl of Guay Tiew Kua Gai is available on the street for about 40B ($1.10 US) and I highly recommend you try it!
[bctt tweet=”The best meal of my life cost $1.10 in an alley in #Bangkok. Find out what it was!” username=”globallocavore”]
At this point, we’d eaten two full dinners and I wondered how we’d be able to continue. Luckily, we were in for a break and some time to digest. What came next on our tuktuk food tour will have to wait for another post…
Have you ever taken a food tour and what delightful dishes did you get to try? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Now It’s Your Turn! To find out more about Bangkok Food Tour‘s offerings, visit their website. I paid 1700B ($45US) plus tips to both guide and drive for my four hour tour. Considering the wealth of knowledge and huge quantity of food provided, I’d say it was money well spent. This includes transportation for the evening, more than seven foods to try and one alcoholic drink. After that one tour I had a better understanding of Thai street food and how to order so I was able to get most of my meals for less than $2 which led to big savings overall.
Not in Bangkok any time soon, why not sign up for a local food tour in the city where you find yourself. Food is a great way to discover new areas even if you call that area home!