One Night in Bangkok: Discovering Thai Street Food Through a Helpful Host

Eating like a local in Soi 38. Powered by Airbnb.  
The neighbourhood of Soi 38 in Bangkok is beloved by the locals—and revellers on Sukhumvit Road—for dishing out Thai street food from sunset until early morning. Photo: Madeleine Deaton/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
Bangkok street food sticky rice

Bangkok’s food markets will leave you spoiled for choice. After an evening of gorging on pad thai, shrimp cakes and pork belly, ask for sticky coconut rice with mango for a sweet finish. Photos: Matt Preston/Flickr/Creative Commons (Market); Dennis Wong/Flickr/Creative Commons (Mango sticky rice); pittaya/Flickr/Creative Commons (noodles); Krista/Flickr/Creative Commons (rice basket) (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

The makeshift food courts we visited were crammed with plastic tables and rickety benches seating diners from all walks of life. Men in suits on their way home from work, clubbers lining their stomachs before a Friday night out, multi-generation families, and backpackers all ate cheek by jowl.

At our table, vendors swarmed around with large menus–some in English, some with pictures. I could discern oyster omelettes, skewered pork belly and seafood soup on the menus. A wizened little man in a sleeveless white vest and billowing pyjamas caught our eye. Pointing to his menu, he firmly said, “Tom yum! Thai people love.” Holding up four fingers, he said, “Sweet. Sour. Salty. Spicy. That is tom yum.” His disarming manner won us over, and soon large bowls of the aromatic soup arrived, heavy with prawn, chicken, beef and pork.

We sampled other delights too: glistening glass noodles with shrimp and crabmeat, tender pork belly skewers with crunchy bokchoy and morning glory, and what was advertised as “blazing pad Thai from the winner of a Thai cooking contest”. We washed it all down with sweet coconut water. We rounded off our meal with the sticky mango rice that Nate recommended, and paid for our meal. Our host was right about binge-eating without breaking the bank: The night had set us back by about 500 baht (₹946) per head.

Soi 38 swings into action only after 6p.m. and operates until the wee hours of the night. Sadly, plans for a new luxury condo in the area are underway, meaning that many of the vendors are in the process of shifting location or shutting shop. I later found out that the street had inspired restaurants in Washington D.C. and Adelaide in Australia. And if hadn’t been for my Airbnb host, I probably wouldn’t have discovered it in the nick of time.

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  • Malavika Bhattacharya is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, culture, and food. She travels for the outdoors: to dive deep in the Indian Ocean, crawl through caves in Meghalaya, and hike through the Norwegian fjords.

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