Roadside Buffets

The "curry rice" stand on Methenivet Road

While researching the street food book, I spent a lot of time formulating some sort of tried-and-true criteria that could be used to determine the kind of “street food stall” perfect for the book. I did this because I got a hella annoyed at stories that would claim to explore “Bangkok’s most authentic street food”, and then take you to the Food Loft at Central or something. I mean, I like the food there too, but come on. You are supposed to “suffer” for street food. You are supposed to wander aimlessly in the street as people say “there she goes again, that farang” and pretend you don’t understand, acting out the role of “clueless foreigner” in this bizarre trade-off people call “social discourse in Thailand”. You are supposed to sit at a rickety stool as the sweat pours off your face and people point and laugh and say, “Look at how uncomfortable she is! So funny!” or they politely pretend not to notice, which might be worse. Street food is an enterprise where the awards are commensurate with what you put into it. That’s just the way it is. (I know. We are all now wandering aimlessly down the length of this paragraph, wondering “When does this road end? The book did say it was supposed to be RIGHT HERE…”)

The thing is, I hardly had the wherewithal (or the stomach, to be frank instead of Glutton) to explore all the kinds of proper street food stalls that there are in Bangkok. That included aharn tham sung (made-to-order stalls, marked by raw ingredients arranged in front of the cook) and khao gub gaeng (“curry rice” stalls, marked by ready-made curry vats arranged in a row in front of the cook). I did briefly discuss, amid all the purple prose, the awesomeness of made-to-order stalls in a post here. Now, I’d like to talk about the tantalizing roadside buffet that is the khao gaeng stall.

Of all the stalls out there (except for maybe the nam kaeng sai, or iced dessert stalls), curry rice stalls are the most inviting Thai stalls around. Their purpose is to beckon to the grumbling stomach — here, you could be having this RIGHT NOW — instead of suggesting the promise of the future, as a made-to-order stall does. It appeals to the immediate in all of us, which is why our book features a particularly famous one on its cover (Mae Malee at Aor Thor Kor).

That said, there are so many stalls out there, on practically every street corner, most offering a variation of the following: green basil curry, usually chicken and/or chicken feet; stewed bitter melon stuffed with minced pork in a clear broth; stir-fried long beans in red curry paste; some sort of stir-fried Mama noodle or glass vermicelli with pork and chilies; stir-fried veggies; fried pork with garlic and black peppercorns; and fried eggs, yolks ready to break open at the slightest slash of a spoon. If it’s a particularly good one, you’ll also get maybe a yum (spicy sour salad), usually seafood, a gaeng jued (bland clear broth soup to counteract the spiciness of everything else) and something cool and ornamental, like kai luk kuey (son-in-law’s eggs, which are deep-fried and slathered in a sweet sauce. I once wrote a story about Thailand’s “foreign son-in-laws” for, oh, let’s call them Schmeuters, and my editors misunderstood and thought I was referring to “luk [something else]”, which was really, really annoying. Minds in the gutter, much? Anyway.)

Because I love eggs: krapao at a made-to-order stall

You might be wondering where the best place to find a khao gaeng stall may be. I would once have said the one on Sukhumvit 24, across the street from Emporium, but it has since disappeared, taking its green curry spaghetti with it. So let’s go with Krua Aroy-Aroy (it’s a favorite of Ferran Adria’s, after all!) at Thanon Pan, across from Maha Uma Devi Temple (Wat Kaek), 081-695-3339, open 8:00-21:00 daily. The laminated menus are gone! The massaman curry and nam prik platu are still there … just don’t order the nam ngiew (I’m sorry. I can’t help myself. It’s a sickness).

14 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, curries, food, food stalls, rice, Thailand

14 responses to “Roadside Buffets

  1. RichP

    Hi there! I enjoyed your book, and now I’m wondering what other curry stalls you’d recommend.

    I’m living on Sukhumvit and havent come across too many khao gub gaeng. (I did find a great massaman near chinatown though). I’d love to find some decent massaman, penang and green curries without having to trek to far across town – do you have any recommendations?

  2. Jake

    I’m arriving back to Bangkok after a bunch of years in Latin America and so looking forward to EATING again. I stumbled on your page and have been drooling ever since. Can’t wait ge get your book and dig in. Thanks.
    Eat well
    Jake

  3. isaac

    Hey Bangkok Glutton

    What book is Puk and Sam talking about? is it your own published book on the street food ? I would most want to get one, can you point me to your book reseller location or where I can get more info on your book !

    • So sorry about slow reply. Have been busier than I thought I would be! Please drop me a line if you have problems finding the book in the bookstore. I know Orchid Books at Silom Complex, 4th fl. will have it for sure (as well as Luxx XL, a hotel on Lang Suan). Have a great trip!

  4. Chissa

    Ordered Amarin Thai take-out after reading this. Curry is my comfort food! Where can we get good panang?

  5. Oh you’ve got me craving Thai food again, your photo brings back the rush of fried egg over fresh rice with some arse-kicking chilli and fish sauce. I don’t think there’s ANY decent Thai food on this island (but we do have three volcanoes around here).

    Looking forward to some pigs brains and more good food soon!

  6. Puk and Sam Wickson

    Maew,
    I bought one copy of your book the day we bumped into each other at the mailbox at the Emporium. We found it very useful. Well done and congratulations!!!!!!!

    xoxo

    Puk and Sam

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