The Good, the Bad, and the Strange

Going to the market is an everyday event for me in Thailand. The grocery store is a long bike ride and carrying too many items on my bike is an inconvenience. Not to mention my apartment lacks a stove, microwave, or any type of device that makes food hotter. Given the abundance of cheap street food and a culture that prides itself on prepared cuisine, my apartment’s lack of food preparing appliances is not uncommon. So everyday I can choose between buying food from a street vendor and sitting on their lawn furniture, or hunting in the market to take a bag of food home.

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I usually get out of work at 3:30 to 4pm with plans to meet my expat friends for dinner around 7 to 7:30pm. Like most people I want to have a bit of a snack when I leave work, so I frequent the market for this mid-afternoon meal. This gives me an opportunity to try exotic foods as well as practice my Thai.

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I have recently learned how to ask What is this? In Thai, which is a very useful phrase for a trip to the market. However, I am not good at understanding the vendor’s response. Which makes the phrase far less useful. Because of this I often have to play market roulette.

Most often I get some sort of pork or chicken stir-fry style dish, but on my more adventurous trips I pick things at random. Sometimes randomly pointing at a dish turns out well, other times not so well. The following three foods were all picked within the last week. I have labeled them Good, Bad, and Strange, but know that all have a very different taste than anything you would get in the US.

 

The Good

A Thai ice cream sandwich. A delicious sugar bomb with no nutritional redeeming qualities. This is a white hot dog bun topped with sticky rice and vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with peanuts and drizzled with condensed milk. At a price of 10 baht (30 cents) it is way too easy to rock two or three in one sitting. Plus the cold ice cream is great here in the tropics.

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The Bad

I bought a bag of this mix thinking I would get some sort of fried, crispy noodle pieces stuck together with chili paste. I was mistaken.

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When I got back to my apartment I noticed the crispy noodle pieces had a strange texture. Further examination was required. I then realized that the fried pieces were actually lightly battered minnows. This was after eating 7 or 8 of them. I’m a little slow sometimes…

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I know some people dig their anchovies, and I suppose everything is potentially edible, but I was not having the minnows. The sobering realization of what I was eating was enough to kill my appetite.

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The Strange

This last one was bought from a pastry shop right by the market. From the outside it appeared to be a stuffed donut. My first bite told me otherwise.

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The pastry had the taste and texture of a plain dinner roll. The top was coated with hyper-sweet large sugar granules, and a thick cream. The inside was filled with steamed corn.

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No explanation, I think the Thais just love corn.

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4 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Strange

  1. “The sobering realization of what I was eating was enough to kill my appetite.” Yes, I think any adventurous eater in Thailand has had a moment or three like this. In Chaing Rai a friend and I went to a food plaza for dinner. While we were looking at the steam trays all the girls behind the tab looked at us a chattered wildly in Thai. I assumed it was about blue eyes or something. They pulled another girl out of the back of the building who came up and asked us in English what we wanted. As we went through and chose 3 dishes for our plate she would say “no, you don’t want. Thai specialty, offal.” or “No. that is offal.” I loved that she knew this English word and used it profusely. And I had had offal (and some very small mammal) in Cambodia and it was not my favorite. Good post. Made me laugh and reminded me of how different it is over there. Have fun!

    • Thanks Mike! I have a similar method of using one or two Thai words to the point of exhaustion. Makes me feel like I am actually communicating with all the market vendors rather than just pointing. And I wish they would label some foods as “offal” rather than make me guess and check.

  2. Stay adventursome. Eventually, you’ll know how to sort through all of this…. most of the time.

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