A Pedacito Of Street Food In Thailand
Updated: Jun 2
My introduction to street food was the jarring term "street meat" from my TEFL course. The author of the text took for granted that readers would intuitively grasp what the term meant, despite the fact that the closest you come in America to Thailand's street food is food trucks.
Street food in Thailand, much like hot dogs in Thailand--what they refer to as sausage: for example, "pizza with sausage" is really pizza with a hot dog, is ubiquitous.
Most often the food cart is attached to a motorbike. Sometimes, you'll see stands that aren't attached to motorbikes, but these are nowhere near as prevalent as the motorbike version.
The carts stake out a territory, such as a lucrative bit of real estate near a school. They then wait for the customers to walk over or pull their motorbike startlingly close to their cart.
Inevitably, when a new snack arrives on the scene, teachers will be seen bringing the snack back to the office, which will lead to the question of where the teacher got the snack.
You'll usually find the carts outside of 7/11s, but will encounter them in front of restaurants, down side-streets ("Sois"), and next to the beach. They mostly sell one form of meat or another.
There are barbequed pork, which tends to be fattier than other options, grilled chicken, a medley of hot dogs, squid (in both the fresh variety and dried kind, which makes an excellent snack for stray cats), and crab sticks.
Some carts also sell internal organs on a stick, and as fans of internal organs will tell you, it's an acquired taste. What you will see most of the time, though, is fried chicken. Upon leaving America, someone commented that I would be eating pad Thai all the time.
It would have been more accurate to say I'd be eating fried chicken all the time as you are always within spitting distance of fried chicken.
Once, I brought fried chicken to school for the stray dogs that lived there. However, this resulted in one of the more aggressive dogs attacking another dog over the food.
I was alerted to the fight/assault when I, and I'm sure anyone that was on campus that day, heard the blood-curdling cries of the dog that was currently in jeopardy of getting bit in the throat. I didn't bring food for the stray dogs again.
Some of the meat carts also sell sticky rice. Sticky rice is somewhat misleading as it could be better described as "gummy rice" as it is quite chewy. It is also called "glutinous rice," but no one in Thailand has ever called it that in my presence.
This type of rice is popular throughout Asia, specifically South East Asia, and is often paired with pork on a stick but is also served with sliced mango as a type of dessert that comes with a creamy, sweet coconut sauce on top.
You will also see these beige-colored balls of meat that can be either pork, chicken, or fish but look identical in shape and color regardless of what animal the ball consists of. Like most street snacks, these balls come skewered and are then put in a small plastic bag with sauces.
You can also find carts that sell fruit such as watermelon, pineapple, papaya, jackfruit, and sometimes, durian, the pale-yellow fruit that can smell so bad they are barred from most airports, malls, and hotels. The fruit is kept on ice and the seller will chop up your preferred fruit in front of you.
There is also corn, various types of noodles, French fries, and, if you're lucky, you'll find what amounts to a miniature shish kabob with meat, peppers, tomatoes, and pineapple on them.
Street food is incredibly cheap, and you'll frequently see bags of street food hanging off people's motorbike handles and people eating from the telltale street food plastic bags in their cars.
If you are so inclined, you can have several different courses by sampling different carts, including dessert. That is, some vendors sell desserts such as roti-- a thin, crepe-like pancake that can be served with condensed milk, or Nutella, but can also be served as more of a small quesadilla, packed with cheese, meat, and pickled vegetables.
Some carts act as miniature ice cream trucks and are more mobile than the other carts. You will hear them playing iconic ice cream truck-style music and see them all over town. In fact, some ice cream carts will make the trek out to national parks for people to grab a cone after playing in the rockslides all day.
I don't remember if an ice cream cart was around the day I slid on the wet rocks and faceplanted into a rock, which cost me the corner of a canine and led to a golf ball-sized lump growing on my forehead like a poor man's horn, but I'm pretty sure it would have come in handy for icing my monstrous head bump.
Street food is really a smaller version of Thai markets as the food that is sold on the street is also found in the markets. They are great if you want to eat on a budget or just want a quick snack.
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