Category Archives: shopping

Take a Big Bite out of …

... this sai oua?

It’s finally happening. Unless lightning strikes me down as I walk down the street (no, even then, it will still go on), the very first Big Bite Bangkok will be unfolding in front of Maduzi Hotel on Sunday, January 29, from 11-2. Yes, it will be in the blazing heat of midday, but there are umbrellas, and vendors will stage a fight to the death over the two berths in the leafy shade over on the balcony (not really). Speaking of vendors, we have some great ones: the yummy NY deli stylings of BKK Bagel Bakery, aromatic coffee from Roast, some toothsome smoked ham from Soul Food Mahanakorn, scrumptious goodies from Birds in a Row, the delicious bounty of Adam’s Organic, and (my mom’s really excited about this one) awesome stuff from Vietnamese & More. We’ve got great veggie Indian and intriguing Sri Lankan fare, donated (read: free) homemade beer (supplies limited, so hurry!) and, yes, even I am getting in on the action by selling sai oua (Northern Thai sausage) hot dogs.

There is no required entry fee, but we would love a donation of 200 baht if you can spare it. This will go to the charity In Search of Sanuk, a great organization helping families in need.

Parking is limited (think nonexistent), so take the Skytrain if you can. Make sure to bring your shopping totes too, and your own utensils and plates wouldn’t hurt either (although I am bringing some, so don’t worry about it bringing some sort of awful camping-style event where we make you reuse dirty napkins from 2009).

To get there: Get off at Skytrain Asoke exit and take exit 1 leading through True Building. Walk down Rachadapisek towards Benjakiti Park and Queen Sirikit Convention Center, past the entrance to Sukhumvit Soi 16. Once you pass soi 16 and the bus stop, look to your left for a wooden gate and painted “Maduzi Hotel” sign.

Hope to see you there!

 

6 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, charity, food, markets, shopping, Thailand

Markets: The Train Market

A bar at Thalad Rot Fai

Life would be much easier if everyone just did what I say. Because I am the expert of everything forever! So when I heard the cool, fun Ratchada Market was being cleared against my innermost wishes and desires to make way for another iteration of the “Night Bazaar” (TM) — where Thai people smile Siamese smiles and coconut shell figurines can be had for a handful of coins — I was crushed. (By the way, that’s true, isn’t it? Because I haven’t checked, since everything that everyone says is always true, all the time! Santa Claus lives! All you need is love! Thailand is a democracy!) Update: The Ratchada Market exists! A couple of blocks down. At least, that’s what I heard!

I first heard about the Train Market (“Thalad Rot Fai” to those of us, uh, In The Know) from a guy from freaking New York who said, “Have you ever heard of the Train Market?” Because I am known for my witty repartee, I said: “Huh?” But it turns out the Train Market well and truly exists, on Saturday and Sunday nights from 8pm-1am, across from the Chatuchak Market (MRT: Kampheng Phet), and has existed since late last year. Kudos to me for discovering it last week!

The Train Market sells everything you expect to see at the Ratchada Market — sneakers, skinny hipster tees that only fit Japanese people, retro tchotchkes that would never look good anywhere — and then some: retro furniture that would never look good anywhere, and lots and lots and lots of alcohol. Lots. This appears to be the main point of the Train Market. You cannot go for long without bumping into a gaggle of people behind a table made out of an antique door, downing slushies smelling of fruit and gasoline. One of these places is called “I’ Tui Indy” which perfectly encapsulates all the values of the Train Market: irreverent rudeness and an independent spirit. Plus, their drinks are the strongest of the entire market, hints of moonshine with the special aftertaste of drain cleaner. This is truly a special place.

Ai Tui

You can characterize the Train Market as sort of L-shaped, with one side more devoted to actual buying (but both sides widely featuring alcohol). People who probably hold down office jobs during the week (I haven’t checked, but that’s what I heard!) spread their wares on the ground on a blanket, or if they are more serious, in little makeshift booths, and you are supposed to haggle (I, uh, forgot). If you look closely, you can come across little gems that will “pull the room together”, but I am not gifted at looking, or closeness. I did, however, come across some wildly inapprioriate t-shirts for babies, one of which I will share with you here:

Creepy baby's tee

Given that everyone at the Train Market is cool, young and good-looking, you are probably asking yourself, “What is Bangkok Glutton doing there?” I could very well ask myself the same question, especially after getting hungry (walking and looking is hard work), because, as everyone knows, cool, young and good-looking people don’t really eat (again, that’s what I heard!) So noshing options are limited, unless you are planning a “liquid dinner”. One bright spot is an aharn tham sung (made-to-order) stall called Raan Khao Khong at the far end of the “L”, with an especially pretty young cook whose picture I failed to get here:

Raan Khao Khong

Aside from that, there is the inevitable coconut drink:

Coconuts

And the hard-to-mess-up crispy pork:

Piggy porkiness, or is that porky pigginess?

What more could you ask for, really? At least, out of all the things that you’ve heard of.

7 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, food, food stalls, markets, pork, shopping, Thailand

The other Chiang Mai

Rot duan at Suthep Market

Sometimes you don’t feel like treating Chiang Mai like a non-stop food safari. Sometimes, the usual parade of big names — Huen Phen, Lamduan Faham, Samerjai, OMG! — makes you feel all weary inside after thinking of the inevitable throng of people in line for a bowl of khao soy. And sometimes, you just want to eat where all the other jaded Chiang Mai-ers eat.

Because sometimes, Chiang Mai people are sick to death of aharn nuea (Northern Thai food), just like how Hua Hin people get sick of crab (unbelievable, I know, but it happens). And when that happens, they go to places like Yen Ta Fo Sri Ping on Suthep Road, where the chipped plastic bowls feature al dente thick, thin or glass vermicelli noodles liberally swimming with a garishly pink, chili-flecked seafood sauce crowned with a single, perfect fried wonton (35-40 baht).

Sri Ping's yen ta fo

There is also the requisite tom yum noodle (30-40 baht) and egg noodles with red pork and dumplings (40-50 baht), but nothing is as deliciously saucy as the namesake yen ta fo, a dish sure to get on your shirt and all over your face. And yes, I did rub my eyes after eating, and yes, severely regretted it for hours afterward.

I would argue that the namesake dish at Guay Jab Nam Khon Sam Kaset, right by the city’s monument to the three kings, is not the best dish here, although it is light and peppery and includes plenty of luk lok, a sort of soft porky sausage (50 baht). The gow low (broth without noodles) centers on a richer broth that tastes of beef and plenty of coriander (50 baht), and the khao moo krob is as good as anything you would find in Yaowaraj: a mix of crackle and fat, a thick sweet sauce enveloping the rice grains (50 baht). What can I say? I really like sauce.

Crispy pork rice at Guay Jab Sam Kaset

But if it’s something light and fresh you desire — Thailand via Hanoi rather than Hong Kong — there is always Raan Fer Wiengjan on Rachadamnoen Road. You have your choice of chicken (30-40 baht), fish (40-50 baht), tofu (30 baht), and the Northern delicacy moo yaw (30-40 baht), a pork “pate” originally created by Chinese-Thai chefs seeking to replicate French meat terrines.

Pho moo yaw

Vegetarians, don’t despair: Chiang Mai is thinking of you too. Or, specifically, Raan Jay Yai on Nimmanhaemin Road is. Anything on the regular menu can be made “jay” (a stricter Thai form of vegetarianism), including great versions of khao kluk kapi (rice fried with “shrimp paste”, 35 baht), guaythiew kua “gai” (noodles fried with a chicken substitute, 30 baht) and pad see ew (stir-fried noodles in soy sauce, 30 baht).

Jay Yai's pad see ew

This is all well and good, but did you really think I went to Chiang Mai without having ANY Northern food at all? What am I, an idiot? (Don’t answer that). Of course I went, and filled my face with nam prik ong and thum kanoon and sai oua and shrieked and gurgled as every Northern dish passed me by on the way to someone else, and wished myself stuffed full of everything that was good in the world. So that is how I found Haan Tung Jieng Mai (Northern dialect for Raan Tung Chiang Mai) on Suthep Road by the Chiang Mai University campus.

Khao pad nam prik num at Haan Tung Jiangmai

It’s a typical aharn tham sung (made-to-order) stall, but made achingly cool by the scraps of paper doodled by bored university students coating the tables and the kitsch-retro furnishings. That said, the food is solid, if slow, including rice fried with young green chili dip, pounded young jackfruit, and a nam prik ong that tasted suspiciously like shrimp paste (in the landlocked North, most recipes call for tua now — fermented beans, or nam pu — the juice of pulverized rice paddy crabs, instead of kapi).  Plus, there was a perfectly cooked kai ped yang matoom, a duck egg boiled just enough so that the yolk is “sticky”, like rubber sap.

No, our trip wasn’t all about food. I DO have other interests, you know. For instance, the PURCHASING of food. That is where the Saturday morning organic market off of Nimmanhaemin Road comes in. Organic producers of vegetables, fruit, rice and ready-made foods meet once a week to sell their bounty to the general public, and it’s a shame something comparable isn’t happening in much-bigger Bangkok.

Whole-wheat salapao at the organic market

Food for thought, maybe, for an organized and responsible food lover? (Not me). Maybe, just maybe, we can bring in something from Chiang Mai that doesn’t involve hastily-taped cardboard boxes and a few anxious moments by the baggage claim carousel.

Or maybe not.

@anuntakob and @aceimage caught haggling at Suthep Market

10 Comments

Filed under Asia, food, food stalls, markets, noodles, Northern Thailand, pork, rice, shopping, Thai-Chinese, Thailand

Veggie delite

Papdi chat at the India Emporium

On a recent trip to Ayutthaya to buy sausages (I know what you are thinking, that I have no life, but did I mention that these are GERMAN-STYLE sausages?), I encountered something very troubling and did something totally out of character. At the restaurant, there were many dogs, but one was tied up and two little boys were trying to force the poor dog into a tiny little cage, prodding her with sticks and occasionally giving a kick for good measure.

This is not something I want to see while I am trying to stuff my face with frankfurters and deep-fried pork knuckle, or anything else, for that matter. I tried to intervene several times, chastising the boys and looking to their freaking PARENTS for some back-up. Finally, after forcibly removing the stick from the boys and yelling at them to STOP, I asked the parents why this dog was tied up.

Apparently, the dog was “bothering customers” by being overly friendly, and so rather than letting her “bother” customers, they tied her up. Somehow, the thought that seeing this defenseless animal abused might bother their customers did not occur to anyone. Or that having their kids disciplined by some random stranger was a bad thing. This trip made me rethink a few things, namely: 1.) the “evil” of corporal punishment on obnoxious, mean-spirited kids, 2.) whether I can ever go back to that restaurant again, no matter how good the sausages are supposed to be and 3.) if I can’t stand to see animals being mistreated, what about the meat that I eat every day?

So I’ve been trying to eat less meat, and I haven’t exploded from yearning or frustration yet. What has helped: the southern Indian (read: vegetarian) stand at the food court in Pahurat’s India Emporium (561 Chakapet Rd., 02-623-9301), a magical place promising gastronomic delights of all descriptions — Thai and non-vegetarian included — but brimming (unusually, for a place like Thailand) with all matter of vegetarian dishes and flavors.

Truth is, real vegetarian (when it’s not Buddhist Lent) is hard to come by in a country where fish sauce is part of the essential flavor profile (although I did meet two Thais the other day who found fish sauce “smelly” and used light soy sauce and salt instead. What is this world coming to? Next thing you know, chilies will be too “spicy” and Tabasco will be considered living on the edge. Thailand: the Erie, Pennsylvania of the future.)

So being a vegetarian here can be a bit of a chore, especially if you want to eat on the street (which explains why a lot of people go pescatarian when they live here). And while the food court at India Emporium is hardly the sweltering, National Geographic-worthy adventure that a trek into, say, the side-streets of Yaowaraj can be, it IS in one of the most exciting neighborhoods in Bangkok — full of color, interesting smells (not ALL unpleasant) and food you won’t easily find anywhere else. A case in point:

Masala dosa

These thin crepe-like dosas are made fresh before your eyes and stuffed with masala and, if you like, cheese, before they are served with a vegetable soup, yogurt and chutney. If, say, you went crazy and started ordering everything you saw because you were so moved by the color and chaos of the surrounding neighborhood and also got lentil fritters, soaking in a red-tinged vegetable broth, and papdi chat, puffy air-filled bits of dough slathered in yogurt, coriander chutney and tamarind sauce AS WELL AS a lovely rasmalai (cottage cheese dumplings in milk with almonds) and a double order of gulab jaman (uh, too sweet here, not aromatic with cardamom like it should be), the nice young man at the counter won’t bat an eye or judge you (too much) for your Gluttony, not at all. No, he’ll be fine and you can go on living like you are completely normal. For realz.

Veggie soup

So, India Emporium food court: the place of non-judgmental face-stuffing. And, much of it is vegetarian. Also, no crappy 7-year-old sociopaths. These are all good things.

8 Comments

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, food, food stalls, shopping, Thailand

Weekend Warriors

I’m going to take a little moment to say something, and then people can throw rotten tomatoes at me. I am sick of the World Cup. And no, it doesn’t have to do with the fact that the US got kicked out (ha ha, get that?OK, maybe it has to do with that a little bit) or that people I know to be dyed-in-the-wool Americans are walking around saying “football” instead of “soccer” (even though that is pretty annoying). It’s just that it’s dragged on too long, for FOREVER, and these people could be Martians playing petanque on the moon for all I know. Go…Uruguay? Whatever (people of Uruguay, please don’t be mad at me! Sports-based fatwas are against the law in Thailand. I looked it up).

I could go on and on (and on, I know you want me to) about things I’m sick of, like poncey “Thai” cafes that serve cake and “Twilight” (I’m really playing with fire here now, I know). But some things I want so much more of, like achingly cool weekend nighttime markets that sell  retro clothing, throwaway kitsch and unusual snacks, all courtesy of people who are moonlighting as street vendors in their spare time.

Wall of sneaks at Klong Tom market

The area is called Klong Tom, and it’s located between the Ratchadapisek and Lard Prao MRT stops. By day a test course for Bangkokians hoping to get their drivers’ licenses, this patch of land comes to life on Friday and Saturday nights as Thais scrape off their daytime office disguises in favor of second lives as T-shirt designers, vintage sneaker aficionados, or potato chip entrepreneurs.

The “Cocktail” bartender-type flinging coffee mugs into the air instead of bottles of rum might be the first indication that this isn’t any old kind of flea market. Then comes the merchandise on display: at first row upon row of hubcaps and unidentifiable car equipment (I know, I’m such a girl), gently segueing into food stalls hawking air-dried beef or chicken buried in cumin rice, rack upon rack of tiny vintage dresses, and tight-fitting boy shirts with the sleeves rolled up.

But a few favorites stood out: first, a tiny “pub” run out of the back of a wheezy Daihatsu, serving nothing but different types of home-made soda: lichee, green apple, grape, blueberry. I ordered a glass of strawberry and managed my way through most of this super-sweet concoction, hypnotized by the bright colors and whirling lights.

Care for a soda?

And the food: there’s a lot of it. Fried chicken, fishcakes, meatballs, it’s all there, a moveable feast. But my favorite would have to be the N&N Potato Twist truck, which uses a nifty little gizmo to craft potato “twists” from the tuber, deep-fries them, and then shakes these twists in a can with the seasoning to come up with tom yum, BBQ, cheese or sour cream potato chips, all in a matter of minutes.

Potato "twists" in the making

On a night when England was playing someone, this market was packed, filled with like-minded souls who couldn’t have cared less about the “footy”, who Cheryl Cole is, or what John Terry did. I’m sort of sad that I kind of know these things. It is space in my brain that I could have used for something like math. But, thankfully, I won’t be hearing about them for much longer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Asia, Bangkok, food, food stalls, markets, shopping, Thailand