Bangkok comes as Thailand’s brave new face – a crazy confusion made up of screaming traffic, shiny new multiplexes, and cosmopolitan hues thrown in with devout Buddhism. The inane warmth of the locals is known to be exemplary. Not to mention the beguiling customs, the amazing festivals, and the giant array of culinary adventures. But all this has been said enough times. For me, few things define a locale’s true culture as well as its food. Beyond the classic restaurants.
For some pure gastronomical delights, it is important go beyond fine-dining. Often, the taste tends toward culinary depravity when infused with the city’s intoxicating lights, sounds and scenes. Best get down to the streets and the markets.
It is by far no easy task to list down Thailand’s best local food joints. However, I can safely say, for this, the best place, without doubt is Bangkok. Lets face it, the depths of Bangkok are certainly taking their time to surface on the world directory. Here is traditional travel – no websites, a few misplaced telephone calls and a lot of travel-thirst.
Victory Monument (Anusawari Chai Samoraphum)
There’s a pun intended here – it is said that even though one may be victorious, one has to surrender. At the Victory Monument, you surrender to food. A round-a-bout that is so stocked with street food it is hard to imagine if have one has not seen it with his own eyes.
There is the boat noodle alley (a definite must), the seemingly endless lines of food pushcarts, and, looking for a legend by the name of “Pumpkin Lady” makes it worthwhile. Not far is Phahon Yothin Soi 1 (พหลโยธิน ซอย.1) – yet anther magnificent food location. The food scene here runs from morning to night – hence, it makes sense to get the other things ticked off the list for the day before coming here.
Yaowarat (Bangkok Chinatown)
Ah yes, the Chinatown. I often wonder, is there any major city that does not have one? Known here as the Yaowarat, it offers a curious cuisine – not entirely Thai and not anywhere close to authentic Chinese. But yes, the balance is godly. While here, its easy to wander – just follow your nose; the streets are parallel and it is difficult to lose the way.
The kuay jap noodle soup or the amazing road-side buffet are both fantastic! For a semi-indoor experience (the lane and its different flavors are right off the threshold), there is the Jaow Restaurant. Best time to visit is in the evening to late night.
A little different from its peers, this place is not flanked by a teeming metropolis. Well, at least not entirely. The greenery is plush in the Dusit area of Bangkok. There are gardens, canals and parks that make the neighborhood quite endearing
Locals swear that the current ruling emperor of Thai food, the roasted duck, hails from the Ratchawat Market. The many restaurants lined along the streets are known for their Kobe Beef noodles. Look out for the men in shower caps who dish out stir fried curry sharks that are to indeed die for. Best time to visit is at lunch or early afternoon
The Thai Airways’ main office
Quite intriguingly, one of the least known among the visiting foreigners, but prized among the locals, are the many stalls near the Thai Airways’ main office in Bangkok. Surprisingly, this area made it to the Food & Wine magazine’s 2007 “Go List”. The yam makhua (salad of grilled long eggplants topped with tiny dried shrimps) is divine.
Food, unlike music, has boundaries. But just like music, it blends in with the soul like nothing else.