Lights, music, an atmosphere of merriment and the constant whiff of delicious Thai food permeated the streets of Khaosan road on the night of 14th February. Valentine’s Day was being celebrated in high spirits in the bars that lined every street. There were so many people partying in these bars that there was no room inside and the revelry eventually spilled out onto the streets. It was a teaser of the mad nightlife that Bangkok is known for.
But what caught my attention was the ever present smell of barbecued meat and every time it entered the nostrils, my stomach responded with a growl. I don’t really consider myself as a foodie and while I enjoy a good meal and by most standards, have a good appetite, I am far from being a connoisseur of food. Thailand’s street food though had my palate going on an overdrive.
We landed in Bangkok at 12.00 in the night after a draining 8 hour halt in Kolkata. Sleep deprived, we somehow kept ourselves awake till 5.30 a.m. when the bus service supposedly started. We got a bus at 6.00 a.m. and in what seemed like an hour were dropped off at Khaosan road. The hotel where we had made our reservation would let us check in only at 12.00 p.m.
By now, I was not just badly craving sleep but food as well. We dropped off our bags in the hotel lobby to get some breakfast. As we were walking on Soi Rambuttri lane, my friend Neeraj who had stayed here a year back remembered a stall where an old man sold noodle soup. We walked to that stall and it was the same person whom my friend had met a year ago. We saw the few who were sitting there having a delicious looking soup with meat balls on top. We ordered the same.
The Thai pork meat ball noodle soup adorned with herbs and condiments was the perfect breakfast. The chicken broth was lip smacking and combined with noodles, sliced pork meat and tender meat balls completely satiated my hungry stomach. We usually washed away our breakfast with passion fruit juices or flavored milk available at any 7 – eleven store.
Dinner in Khaosan road meant Chicken or Egg Pad Thai with chili flakes, crushed peanuts and soya sauce as toppings. And when we ventured out in the night, a midnight snack of Grilled Chicken and Chocolate Sandwich was customary. If Khaosan tickled my usually indifferent palate, Chiang Mai drove it into a frenzy.
Situated in northern Thailand and close to Myanmar, Chiang Mai is a food paradise. One can literally do a food tour in this place for weeks and still miss out on places to eat. Once you enter the old city of Chiang Mai through any of its walls, you can see streets filled with cafes, restaurants, eating joints and bars. But like I had experienced in Khaosan, the best food was always on the streets.
A scrumptious breakfast in the morning was Khao Suey, a signature dish in Chiang Mai – noodle soup with fried noodles in chicken with a coconut curry broth. Google search led us to SP chicken, a famous restaurant serving Isaan (North-East Thai) style roasted chicken and they served it with delicious sauces. I could barely walk after gorging on a full plate of roasted chicken with sticky rice and Som Tam (papaya salad).
On other days we had rice with traditional Thai red or green curry along with fried egg on top. But nothing could beat the evening street markets of Chiang Mai. With an array of delectable dishes laid out in front of you, there was no escaping its savory charm.
Dessert was the best banana chocolate crepe in all of Chiang Mai, said the newspaper clipping on their stall and I wouldn’t believe otherwise. On days we were a little less prudent, we had Banana & Nutella crepe and it was just mind blowing.
The streets of Pattaya were as tempting with an assortment of grilled kebabs. While walking along the city, we found a lady selling chicken kebab by the beach. In a single bite of the mustard laced kebab, we had become her loyal patrons.
The stalls in Sukhumvit on the other hand catered to us with mouthwatering chicken noodle soups and Khao Man Gai – a traditional Thai dish of rice with boiled chicken, served with chicken broth and cucumber on the side. Sprinkled with spices, the Khao Man Gai acquired a taste of its own and became one of my favorite dishes.
I traveled for close to 2 weeks in Thailand experimenting and relishing a variety of Thai dishes. This was the first time that food was the constant thing on my mind during a trip. For the uninitiated like me, exploring the culinary world was a new experience. In my 4 years of travelling, I have been to many places and got an opportunity to taste a variety of cuisines, but never have I been as delighted as I was in Thailand.