Street Food Tour 2019, via the year 1919! Everything available 100 years ago, and cooked as it was 100 years ago, was on the menu last night as we toured around and in Chinatown. But the first stop was, as with everything in Bangkok, a Buddhist Temple….the Golden Buddha Temple Syelendra. Inside is housed a 6-ton golden Buddha, which was concealed with plaster for 200 years to hide its true value.
After that is a photo down the main drag in Chinatown, with the already-not-very-wide streets cordoned off to set up….food stands. We passed hundreds of them, most involving rice in some form, and lines in front of many of them. Our tour guide, Alex, knew the tastiest and most popular dishes, and deftly guided us through the mobs to attain our Foodie Nirvana. First, though, photos of some of the narrow alleyways of Chinatown, empty markets that bustle in early morning but look forlorn at night, and just before the food photos, an abandoned, moldy-surface hotel where it is said people died from drug overdoses and other…things. Alex said it might be haunted, as women have been seen staring out the windows, and he has been thinking about adding a haunted sites tour to his itinerary. Most of these places sure were creepy, but they are in Alex’s hometown and stomping grounds, so we felt (mostly) safe.
On to the food! In order, you can see excellent satay with peanut sauce; then, a dessert soup, flavorful ginger broth with sesame balls…when bitten into, the balls tasted like exploding peanut butter in your mouth! After that is a surprise!…Michelin-rated Thai donuts with a coconut dipping sauce that was just heavenly – word was out, though, as the line waiting for this delicious treat was extremely long. The photo of what looks like tacos were amazing to taste, as they are called, for lack of a better translation, Thai pancakes. What looks like grated cheese is sweetened pumpkin, and what looks like sour cream is a coconut marshmallow-y cream. The “taco shells” are very very thin and crisp crepe-like pancakes, and it all works together very well. The last of the foods we ate is extremely popular here…sticky rice and mango. The sticky rice has sweetened coconut milk in it, and with the fresh mango, it is simple and so, so good.
Okay, on to the most interesting part of the evening! You can see salted fish being grilled, and then what looks like an attack of alien lobsters! And, oh yes, the stand with insects of all kinds….roasted worms, larvae, grasshoppers, and scorpions on a stick. We watched a couple order a scorpion and proceed to give it to their little girl like they were presenting her with a lollipop. As you can see in the photo, she put it up to and around her mouth while everyone took photos. Then, the vendor asked for it back, ripped off the stinger, and gave it back to her. The girl wasn’t particularly horrified by the scorpion itself…just sort of indifferent. The couple also ordered a bowl of grasshoppers, of which you can see a close-up. I said to the woman, do you like eating them? She made a face and said, they are terrible…they are for my husband! Our guide Alex asked if any of the four of us on the tour wanted to try a grasshopper, and we all declined, grimacing. But then brave Lauren, an ER doctor in New York City, said she was game! She held the roasted grasshopper-on-a-stick, peered at it, gulped a little, and asked if she should bite some off. Alex said, just go for it….ALL of it! She said, so you just want me to eat the whole thing all at once!??? Yes! So you can see the six photos of the evolution of her getting it into her mouth, chewing, and swallowing. In the fourth photo in the sequence, you can see a little bit of grasshopper leg sticking out. What a sport! She said it mostly tasted like soy sauce, was quite crunchy, and wasn’t so bad. We reminded her that she was eating lungs, heart, brains, its digestive tract, etc., and she said….ugh, don’t tell me that before I’ve even swallowed!
It was a fun, and interesting, night. Except for the bugs, everything was “normal” food…chicken, pork, donuts, soup, fruit, lots of rice and coconut, salad. All dishes could be made more or less spicy, depending on taste. We all tried the Thai hot chilies, and they left some burn in your mouth, but weren’t too bad overall. And again, they were present on all the tables so that you could add them as you wished. This was our 25th food tour in cities around the world, and like all of them, the guides really work hard at diversity and local, unique dishes that taste good. A great way to see, and eat your way through, a city.