We are people of freedom. We love freedom. Except when we don’t. At those times, we like to be told what to do. Even if we pretend we don’t.
Some street food vendors understand this. Customers are like unruly children who need to be guided and occasionally scolded. The way to stand in line, the way to order, where to sit: sometimes, you need to be told these things.
The formidable woman who shepherds the tourist hordes at SabX2 (4/32-33 Petchburi Soi 19) is one such person, a lady who can be counted on to tell you what to do — in English, because most of the people in line with you (or possibly all) are from somewhere else. But no matter where you are from, the rules are the same for all of us: stand behind the yellow line; form one tidy queue; sit where you are told with no arguments; wait for the lady to give your order; wait for your dish, which must come in the order your request was placed; be open to being moved if more people come in; be considerate of the other people waiting in line after you.
We thought the shophouse might be difficult to find, but of course that was not the case, since the line into the shop stretched out along soi 19. The unusual name SabX2 is because this vendor has two specialties: egg noodles (bamee) and pig’s trotter on rice (khao kha moo), braised with the addition of ovaltine powder to enhance the pork’s sweetness and richness. Both dishes cost 100 baht apiece, but diners pay extra for egg noodles in soup (bamee nam). On a recent visit, the bowls of egg noodles outnumbered plates of the pork rice, but only just.
You are not coming here for Thai smiles. You are coming here to eat and nothing but. That means that if you have to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with a total stranger, with someone’s spit-out pork knuckle bones in front of you on the steel tabletop, you will. It’s not all a scene out of Oliver Twist, though. One of the men working there rushed to give me a plate of the last pork leg rice (by noon, they only had kaki, the fattiest part of the leg, on offer), earning him a reprimand from the lady because I was served before my dining companion’s egg noodles and wontons with barbecued pork were ready. Moral of the story: come earlier for the pork leg. It takes longer to run out of the egg noodles.
Another conclusion: a mean mommy fosters a sense of community. We got to know our dining companions, Singaporeans eager to try out some Thai street food. When we left, the line was as long as the one we saw when we arrived, stuffed with people waiting to be told what to do.