I always say I hate shopping, but that’s not true. I love shopping for food. I will happily use up the same amount of time usually spent staring at my phone on a couch at a Uniqlo somewhere, surfing through the aisles of a grocery store and looking through all the canned goods instead. You find out a lot about a place from the produce, condiments, and ready-made food on offer in its markets. And no question that food makes the best take-home souvenirs.
The raan khao gang, or “curry rice” stall, is the best approximation of the shopping experience that Thai street food has to offer. Vendors offer you a plate of rice (or, if you are in a southern Thai-type place, your choice of a plate of kanom jeen or fermented rice noodles) on which you have your choice of stir-fries, soups and curries with which to paint your blank, white “canvas”. I have usually seen a total of three toppings max, but theoretically, the sky is the limit. Sometimes, everything looks so wonderful that it’s easy to imagine having it all.
Which brings me to the stretch of street on Thonglor across from the police station labelled “Thonglor Pochana”. Sure, there is a Chinese-style rice porridge (joke) vendor and a great grilled pork collar (kor moo yang) guy and some nice-looking Chinese dumplings for sale if you get there early enough in the morning. But the real stars of this open-air block — the only block of this type left on a very expensive road, mind you — are the khao gang stalls who give pedestrians plenty to ogle on their way to work.
The thing that invariably reins me in is when I find something at a curry rice stall that I won’t usually find anything else: call it the “specialty of the house”. When I say “specialty of the house”, I mean that no matter the season or what’s on sale at the Klong Toey market, that one dish will be available, rain or shine. At the very decent one near me, the khao gang lady’s specialty is braised pig trotter on rice (khao ka moo). At the first of the three curry rice vendors at Thonglor Pochana (the one closest to Petchburi Road), the specialty is even harder to find: yum hoo moo, or a very serviceable pig ear salad.
This is a dish that always brings me back home, when my dad would get pig’s ears on the cheap from the local butcher, blanch them, and them toss them with some fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, coriander, onions and chilies and call it a day. Here, she tarts up her salad with some tomatoes, cucumber and spring onion, creating something a little more robust (and watery) — a nice counterpoint to all the spicy, greasy stuff elsewhere on display.
These ladies (because curry rice vendors are almost invariably ladies) start selling from 6 in the morning to when their food runs out (usually around 2 in the afternoon). In order to “shop” to your heart’s content, weekdays (when the morning commute is in full swing and office workers are looking for some cheap nosh) are your best bet.