Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eating out in Bangkok

I'm blogging up a storm today, but I have time to kill till my train leaves, so I wanted to make one more Bangkok post.

Although Bangkok has a lot to offer, amazing history, a swinging, liberal nightlife, world-class shopping, the highlight for me has been the street food. Every corner, alley, and road is populated by a small army of push-carts and hole in the wall restaurants that dish up a spectrum of Thai cuisine. Different places specialize in different things; some carts only dish up phat thai, or duck soup, whereas other's specialize in seafood, or coffee. Moreover, this is a city which sets it watch by its meal times. The same cart might serve different things at different meal times, and one can almost track the time of day by sighting the change meals dished up on the street. Morning time, with the busy Bangkok commute (easily reminiscent of NYC), sees carts dishing up fresh fruit, fried dough, buttered toast, iced Thai coffee, a panoply of seafood curries, smoked fish on skewers, and much more, all of it in small plastic bags, ready to grab and go. As the day wears on, the same stalls might switch to a different sort of dish or cuisine altogether, and as such, may attract a different set of Thais, and the same switch may happen at dinner. Probably the most spectacular items are those with the seafood. The amount of seafood that Bangkok consumes is dizzying (I wonder if it's even ecologically sustainable). Fish, crabs, shrimp, prawns, lobster, squid, octopus, eel, seaweed, you name it, they serve it, at almost 80% of the stall.s

I've never seen a city with such a culture of cuisine. Most remarkably, Bankokians know they're spoiled for choice, quality, and price (meals are ridiculously cheap; I can have two entrees, and a drink for 100 baht, or about $3), and as such, plan they're day around meal times, often trying to squeeze in four, even five meals. They'll exchange the locations of favorite stalls, plan outings for food, and make office outings for lunch. It's a wonder there are so few fat Thais.

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