I was hospitalized recently for salmonella and I gotta say, it’s like restaurants are taking revenge on me for writing about street food so much. It is the second time I’ve gotten seriously ill from food — not on the street, mind you, but in an air-conditioned dining room with a dress code and old aunties who look askance at your Uniqlo/Marimekko muu muu because hey, you just want to live your life. This time, it was guay thiew nuea sub (rice noodles with minced beef) topped with a nice raw egg that felled me. I spent the rest of my week eating plain rice porridge in a hospital room and feeling sorry for myself.
Needless to say, when I was finally discharged, I wanted to be really careful, because I was not eager to relive that experience. It wasn’t spending the whole day in the hospital that got me down, or even the loneliness, since nurses are bustling in at all hours to take your heart rate and oxygen levels. It was the gloom that descended when it got dark, and even though my husband was staying with me, I still dreaded falling asleep in that hospital bed. I don’t want to repeat my stay in the hospital any time soon. Time to head back out onto the street.
I am going over final edits on the third iteration of my Thai street food book. This was a book that was supposed to have come out earlier this year, but, as with most plans that were hatched for 2020, it was inevitably delayed. Going over the entries, I was struck once again by how many great places there are in Thailand still (and how many more could have been named). One such place that I had not been to for several years now is Rot Thip Yod Pak in Baan Mor (02-223-4562, open 8.30-17.00 daily).
Baan Mor is the old center for electrical appliances and car parts in Bangkok, and it still has that same chaotic, anything-goes vibe. Multi-colored wires hang into the street, pirated DVDs lurk past open doorways and bad techno music pounds the eardrums. It is like the Asian equivalent of Mos Eisley, but without any cool jazz bands or decent drinks. You can, however, find a vibrator and all the lady-focused porn your heart could ever desire. To get here, you simply need to exit the Old Siam shopping center from the McDonald’s side, cross the street, walk through the market for 50 meters, and turn left into the open shophouse room with the light blue walls.
Here at Rot Thip Yod Pak, the Chinese-inspired dish guaythiew lard na (rice noodles with gravy) is the typical calling card, although their khao na moo grob (rice with crispy pork) is also popular. The last time I went here, I focused on the lard na with crispy egg noodles (sen mee grob), but today, I want what would amount to comfort in a bowl. I order the lard na sen yai (thick rice noodles in gravy) instead. This is my comfort in a bowl, the thing I used to get when I was by myself in college and needed a taste of home in the only Thai restaurant near campus.
It arrives to the table like a soup, murky and gelatinous, a single slab of pork visible, obscuring the green fronds of Chinese kale beneath. Set out in front of me, it visibly jiggles. It resembles a nightmarish caricature of the Blob, only edible. Luckily, with a judicious sprinkle of pickled red chilies in vinegar, it tastes a lot better than it looks.
“The Coffin Dance” is blasting in the alleyway as I depart, but I don’t care. I leave in a better mood than when I arrived. I don’t even feel like I need to go to the hospital. Isn’t that all any of us ask for?