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Sour Sausage Vendor (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

On the Grill

Sour Sausage Vendor

Sour Sausage Vendor

This picture shows a common sight in Thailand – a street food vendor with a very basic set-up:  it can be relatively inexpensive to set up as a vendor. The picture was taken in front of a historical ruin in Ayuthaya.

Sour sausage, in this case, Stuffed Sour Sausage with Sticky Rice (Saigkrawk Naem) is a fairly common street food. It’s a simple recipe – ground pork, cooked rice and salt, mixed, stuffed and left out several days to ferment. The vendor also gives you a bag of condiments to be eaten with each bite of the sausage, typically peanuts, sliced ginger, whole Thai chillies (prik kee noo) – you bite off as much as you want – and often cabbage.

Kasma has blogged previously on street food: Delights of Thai Street Food. On our website, see One Soi’s Street Food Scene and Thai Fast Food: Crowded Sidewalks and Waterways.

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Egg On a Stick (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Yes, They’re Eggs On a Grill

Eggs On a Stick

Eggs On a Stick

Yup. They are grilled eggs, in the shell, skewered. I’ve never tried them but will one of these days.

Last week’s Wednesday Photo featured Food On a Stick. This week shows more food on a stick, in this case a somewhat unexpected food.

You never quite know what you’ll see in a Thai market.

Kasma has blogged previously on street food: Delights of Thai Street Food. On our website, see One Soi’s Street Food Scene and Thai Fast Food: Crowded Sidewalks and Waterways.

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Delights of Thai Street Food

Kasma Loha-unchit, Saturday, June 13th, 2009

“Thailand is one big open-air kitchen!” exclaimed a friend and cooking student as he summed up his impression of a country so overflowing with an abundance of street and market foods. Indeed, for the curious and the adventurous food-loving traveler, the festive ambience and irresistible sights and scents of foods of all description, cooking to perfection along the sidewalks and in bustling open-air bazaars – and even on wooden boats paddling around canals – stand out among the most lasting memories.

Southern-fried Chicken

Southern-fried Chicken

Feasting one’s way around Thailand is a very easy thing to do, even for someone on a shoestring budget. The only requirements are an adventurous spirit, courage to disregard health authorities back home and a good sense of judgment to make wise selections from among an overwhelming number of vendors and hawkers. 

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

Foods hot off the grill, frying pan or steamer, wrapped and roasted in leaves, cooked to order in boiling hot broths, or tossed in woks surrounded by leaping flames, are surely safe to eat. Plenty of garlic and chilies serve as natural antiseptics and, when you do get the occasional run and tummy ache, drink plenty of refreshing coconut juice and munch on the creamy flesh of fresh coconuts, which work wonders in returning your GI tract to normal. 

Snacks in Banana Leaves

Snacks in Banana Leaves

Your rewards are heavenly delicious morsels enough to make you sweat with pleasure and a dose of soulful appreciation when the exchange is consummated with a smile of content. For nothing can endear you more to the people of this land than your willingness to try and your ability to partake of the same foods they do.

Besides, sitting on rickety stools at worn-out tables, shaded by brightly colored tarps or oversized parasols, immerses you in the very heart of everyday Thai culture. It’s a great setting to people-watch, to mingle and rub shoulders with natives from all walks of life and, perhaps, to strike up a friendship of a lifetime. At the same time, you are entertained by dramatic cooks and may even gain a precious cooking lesson at no extra charge. The invigorating atmosphere, the piping hot food exuberant with flavors, the mouth-watering aromas and much more, add up to an exotic experience you won’t likely forget for a long time to come.

Street Food Tables

Street Food Tables

Indeed, on one of the travel groups I led through my homeland, seventy-five meals and countless snacks later, one woman insisted that the most memorable dining experience in her life would have to be the extended breakfast we had at one of the rural floating markets. 

That meal started off while we were being paddled around in a small wooden boat, gliding from one boat vendor to another, sampling sweet and savory coconut rice hotcakes, fried bananas, grilled pork on skewers, grilled coconut pancakes, pan-fried mussel cake and leaf-wrapped and taro-stuffed sticky rice roasted over charcoal. Those were just the appetizers for this early morning nibbling affair. 

Grilled Coconut Pancakes

Grilled Coconut Pancakes

Later, we sat on low wooden stools on the steps of the boat landing, slurping on hand-held bowls of hot-and-sour noodles, while watching the noodle maker in the wooden row boat churn out effortlessly one bowl after another of delicious noodles. In the background, colorful boats hawking fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and a tempting array of other snacks paddled by endlessly to complete the picture.

Just as if all that wasn’t enough, later the same morning, we stopped by another town with a wonderful open-air marketplace. Stalls upon stalls offered up, among other things, sensational sticky rice roasted in bamboo, lusciously sweet jackfruit, crispy grilled pork chips, spicy fried fish cakes with cucumber relish, exceptional pork-stuffed dumplings, superb duck soup noodles, tasty grilled turmeric chicken, perfect golden ears of charcoal-roasted corn and marvelously nutty fried grasshoppers. She only wished she had a stomach large enough to sample them all! 

Making "Boat" Noodles

Making "Boat" Noodles

Though the numerous meals we had at many fine restaurants were exquisite and beyond comparison, it was the delightful experience of eating our way along the streets, canals and marketplaces of Thailand that stood out the most and was preserved in more than its share of colorful photographs – of both the extraordinary food and the smiling faces of the Thai people. 

Grilling Sticky Rice

Grilling Sticky Rice

 So, on your next trip to Thailand, don’t just curiously walk by the countless street and market stalls without succumbing to sweet temptation. After all, Thailand does have cleanliness standards higher than many other developing countries. Use your discretion, be a true gastronomic soldier always ready to eat and have an experience of a lifetime!

Our website has some articles on street food. Check out One Soi’s Street Food Scene and Thai Fast Food: Crowded Sidewalks and Waterways.

Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, June 2009.

Food On a Stick (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Food On a Stick

Street Food on a Stick

Street Food on a Stick

Nearly every Thai market or area with street food has a stall with food on a stick for sale. Our very first Blog entry, The Other Side of Thai Food, included a picture of wieners and little kitty faces on a stick.

The above picture shows a fairly typical selection – it includes hot dogs, various fish balls (in many forms), pork sour sausage (there are at least two kinds above) and more. You’ll also see more specialized stands, such as one that as squid on a stick or (check back next Wednesday) eggs on a stick.

Kasma has blogged previously on street food: Delights of Thai Street Food. On our website, see One Soi’s Street Food Scene and Thai Fast Food: Crowded Sidewalks and Waterways.

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Roasted Pork (Wednesday Photo)

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Roast Pork For Sale

Roasted Pork at Aw Taw Kaw market

Roasted Pork at Aw Taw Kaw market

In nearly every market in Thailand you’ll find a display of roast pig for sale such as this one, photographed at Or Tor Kor (or Aw Taw Kaw) Market in Bangkok – It invariably has the skin on, crispy from the roasting; next to the skin is a good sized layer of fat before you get to the meat underneath. It’s sold by weight. If you get the smaller, bite-sized pieces (such as in the lower center), it’s placed in a plastic bag and you’re given a sharp, long skewer to use to stab a piece  and also a smaller plastic bag of chilli-dipping sauce.

Thai people, like most Asians, love pork. 

Or Tor Kor (Aw Taw Kaw) Market in Bangkok (near Chatuchak Market) is a fabulous market, well worth a visit (don’t eat beforehand). You can read our previous blog entry on Pad Thai at Aw Taw Kaw (Or Tor Kor) market.

This photo continues with last week’s pork theme.

The Wednesday Photo is a new picture  each week highlighting something of interest in Thailand. Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Street Food Congee (Jook, or Johk)

Michael Babcock, Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Jook (really pronounced johk) is what the Thai people call congee: we’ll use that term interchangeably with congee and rice porridge. It can also be called khao tom, which literally means “boiled rice.” In general, jook is always made by boiling the rice grains in water from the start; khao tom is sometimes made by adding already cooked rice to boiling water and it can tend to be a bit lighter.

Nearly every neighborhood will have some place where you can get rice porridge, at least in the mornings and often, also, in the evening. As you walk down Sukhumvit Soi 105, which is known as Soi LaSalle (pronounced “La-Sahn“), as you approach Soi 10 . . . 

Soi LaSalle, Soi 10 Sign

Soi LaSalle, Soi 10 Sign

(Click on an image to see a larger version.)

. . . you’ll pass a row of street food stalls under a roof. On the end you’ll notice a fairly typical-looking Thai street food stall.

Jook Shop on Soi LaSalle

Rice Porridge Shop on Soi LaSalle

The  shop  sells rice porridge, known in China as congee and in Thai as jook. If it’s morning-time or evening time, the shop is likely open; jook is eaten mainly as a breakfast food or, alternatively, in the evenings. Kasma says that it is considered a good cure for a hangover so after late night drinking, a jook shop is a popular destination. It is made with delicious, healing bone broths and this helps to account for it’s efficacy in helping ease the pain of too much booze. Kasma’s family owns a condominium in La Salle Park, right at Soi 10. We had noticed that the two tables here were often full and we also saw people lining up to get jook to go (more later). One morning we decided to give it a try. The proprietor, the paw krua (male cook, literally “father of the kitchen”), Noo (pronounced in Thai with a high tone), already recognized us from our many excursions out to graze the different food stalls on the street.

Assembling the Jook

Each bowl of jook is assembled to order. The first step is to move the boiled rice into a dish, as you see here:

Making Jook, Step 1

Assembling Rice Porridge, Step 1

This is really step 2 because the rice mixture he’s putting in the bowl has already been diluted. He’s previously boiled up a large pot of rice and water (the large pot to the left, above), which is very, very thick, and has cooled. He’s taken some of that mixture, diluted it with pork broth, and then heated it up on a burner at the front of the stall:

Heating Rice Porridge

Heating Boiled Rice for Congee

Now it’s time for the rest of the ingredients.

Jook Ingredients

Congee Ingredients

Here you see the view from the front of the stall. At the top are raw chicken eggs to the left and duck eggs (the pink are salted) to the right. The ingredients on the lower shelf, from the middle back and clockwise, are ground pork mini-meatballs, pork liver, shredded ginger, sauted mushrooms and chopped green onions. One other ingredient, fried wonton skin, is not visible. The sauted mushrooms are an ingredient I’ve not seen in jook before. It makes the bowl very tasty.

Adding Ingredients to Jook

Adding Ingredients

Noo quickly adds them all to the Bowl. Egg, by the way, is optional when you get jook. Depending on the shop, the egg will either be raw or partially boiled. The boiled rice mixture is fairly hot, so the idea is that the egg will cook further after it’s been added to the bowl. The eggs at this shop were partially soft-boiled, though the white was not yet cooked all the way through. So here’s the bowl as Noo served it. The yellow bits are deep-fried, crisp won-ton skin; they give a a crunchy texture to the bowl of jook.

Jook, Ready to Eat

Rice Porridge, Ready to Eat

Once a bowl is served, you have the option of balancing the flavors to fit your own tastes.

Condiments for <em>jook</em>

Condiments for Rice Porridge

The glass jars above contain, from (our) left to right: ground, dried chillies; sugar; chillies in vinegar; fish sauce. They can be used to make the jook spicier (hotter), sweeter, more sour or saltier, to the diner’s personal preference. Sugar can also be used to balance and bring out the flavors. These 4 condiments (or slight variations) are also served with noodle dishes – Thai people learn from a fairly early age how to balance and harmonize flavors, a skill that we westerners mostly have to learn later. (See Kasma’s article Creating Harmonies with Primary Flavors.) Then you mix up the bowl as below and dig in! The slightly yellow cast comes from the mixed in egg yolk.  You might also enjoy the blog entry on Thai Cooking with Jam, Sauce or No Sauce?

Mixed <em>Jook,</em> Ready to Eat

Mixed Congee, Ready to Eat

Jook To Go

Jook, like all other street foods, is also sold “to go.” 

Buying <em>Jook</em> 'To Go'

Buying Rice Porridge 'To Go'

Assembly is much the same, except that the ingredients are mixed in a metal cylinder that will be used to pour the (steaming hot) mixture into a plastic bag, the container of choice for to go food. 

Assembling <em>Jook</em> 'To Go'

Assembling Rice Porridge 'To Go'

Various other ingredients are placed in a separate plastic bag so that they won’t go soggy. Here’s the complete package that we took home for Kasma’s sister. There’s at least 5 plastic bags here – Thailand uses a lot of plastic bags!

<em>Jook</em> 'To Go'

Rice Porridge 'To Go'

So if you’re ever happen by Soi Lasalle Soi 10 in the early morning, I highly recommend Noo’s Jook. It’s flavorful and delicious, with the mushrooms adding a wonderful flavor not usually found in rice porridge. You’ll get a nice smile from Noo as well!

<em>Noo,</em> Maker of <em>Jook</em>

Noo, Maker of Congee

You might also enjoy Kasma’s article Enjoy Congee (Rice Porridge) and can also try her recipe for Rice Congee with Pork (Kao Dtom Moo).

Written by Michael Babcock, April 2009.