Chilies are tossed deftly in, along with dried shrimps and shards of green papaya. She gives it all a good bash around with her lightweight wooden mortar and pestle, you know the kind used by Thai cooks specially for Som Tum. She seasons the mass inside with sugar, fish sauce, lime juice and extends a tiny portion out to the guy in front of her. He tastes it and murmurs something in Thai. She then shakes in more fish sauce and lime juice, customizing the seasonings to each customer's preference. The whole scene is vibrant, a host of condiments strewn everywhere, various punchy smells permeating the air with smoke rising from the grill.
That's the beauty of Bangkok. Everywhere you go, your senses are awakened. In the back of a tuktuk, you feel like you're flying, weightless, with the night breeze beating against your skin and your hair, the driver speeding and weaving wildly around the traffic. In the eateries, you see containers housing the tiny, purple-tinged thai garlic, vibrant pickled chilies, lethal dried thai chilies, fish sauce and sugar. You can almost taste the flavours. You smell the breath of the wok, its flame-kissed scent rising outwards as you hear the street vendor assuredly knocking things around a well seasoned wok.
Here's a random, non-ordered list of things I've enjoyed eating & purchasing in Bangkok... I hope you guys find some joy, like I did, from it..
1) Seafood and Rice Fish Soup at Kim Po Khow Tom Pla. Slices of smooth butter fish (Apparently if you eat too much of it, your poop turns orange-y. Go google and don't ask how I know.), scored squid rings, tender prawns and grains of rice suspended in a light yet flavour-packed seafood stock. When you enter the shop, you see these stock pots filled with prawn shells and fish bones.. Already promising.
P/S: I have a recipe for a dish like this in my second book, out endApril 2020... ;)
2) Ning's Mango Stand at Thong Lor. Mangoes JUST at their peak of ripeness - that is sweet and firm, not mushily disintegrating into shreds. They're plopped on top of perfectly cooked sticky rice, drizzled over with a salty coconut cream and for texture, some crunchy mung beans.
3) Southern Thai Food at Khua Kling Pak Sod. This is a VERY spicy place. Apparently, one of Gaggan's favourite eateries in Bangkok. They serve these rice noodles known as "Kanom Jeen" that's made with fermented rice to go with their curries. The deep fried fish with chilies and garlic above was just freaking spectacular. The garlic was fried so well, had a tinge of sweetness to it and they basically made it rain beautiful garlic all over the fish. Have you had a fried fish smothered in so much garlic before?
4) Stock up on Juice & Rice at Siam Paragon's Marketplace. They've got this rice counter where you can see all these various types of rice strains from different regions. Makes it a blast to explore. I love to stock up on red, pink and new rice here. The quality of the rice that they curated for this section is really pretty good...
AND JUICE! They've got a huge juice section but this is our favourite brand. Certain blends have got avocado juiced in with them resulting in a thicker consistency. Drink bottles of these there everyday and you'll come back glowing with a shine in your hair!
Also, while you're at the supermarket, stock up on
- Thai chili flakes (lethal but good!)
- Fried garlic chips or cubes. They look way better than the storebought fried garlic chips you normally get.
- Tamarind Snacks. Dried tamarind with plum powder. They're seriously addictive.
5) Speaking of snacks. This Rice Cracker from Phufa at Siam Discovery is one of my favourite rice crackers. The rice here is airier and crispier, not as dense as other varieties. And they drizzle over a sticky caramel fragrant with sesame. Pictured: Me buying up all the stock there on a latest visit.
6) ThongSmith Boat Noodles. They've got many branches around so it's pretty easy to find. Splurge on the wagyu slices, it's totally worth it. The bowl comes with gelatinous tendons (they're tender too), brisket and beef balls.
7) This hipster area where Roast is. The Commons! They've got a hipster food court on the ground floor with tons of shops where you can get your fill of coffee, this Iced Matcha with coconut water (which I LOVED!) and there's a killer ice-cream shop somewhere there too.
8) Baan Family Restaurant for a nice, cozy sit-in meal. I love their dry-aged beef Kra Pow and the Brown Jasmine rice they use!
9) Have Fun Exploring the place! Many of the most beautiful moments when traveling, or in life, are unplanned (there's a pregnancy joke in there somewhere). A good mix of planning and going with the flow serves the soul best. So revel in the unknown and the detours this adventure called life takes you.... Hey, It's a beautiful mess..