The Astronomer and I started our second full day in Bangkok with another run around the man-made lake, while Lush indulged in a two-hour long, full-body massage. We headed out of the hostel around noon to explore the Royal Palace, Chinatown, and whatever else floated our boats along the way.
Sukhumvit Soi 11, the alley in which our hostel was located, is packed with food vendors practically all day and night. Even when we weren’t looking to eat, there was always a delight that temptingly caught our eyes.
While walking to the skytrain station, Lush picked up a bag of mussels sautéed with vegetables and chilies (20 baht). The seafood salad was sold pre-portioned and at room temperature. It was a bit too spicy for me, but Lush enjoyed it thoroughly because her palate is cut out for that kind of stuff, whereas mine just burns.
The Astronomer and I kicked off the day with a fried tamarind fish with rice (40 baht), which was sold next to the mussel salad vendor. The fish’s crispy skin absorbed the tamarind sauce like a sponge, while the white flaky flesh was moist and fresh. There was something about the fish’s residual oiliness mixed with the tangy tamarind that was so awesome!
Two skytrains and a water taxi ride later, we arrived in the vicinity of the Royal Palace. The water taxi dropped us off in an extensive outdoor food market. Even though we ate merely a half an hour ago, we were game for more.
Lush grabbed a rum raisin waffle that reminded The Astronomer and I of the wonderful Belgian waffles we used to eat at Bonte in Philadelphia. The crispy and flaky specimen was the first of many more Bangkok waffles to come
The Astronomer spotted a tub full of chicken drumsticks resembling his favorite Chinese-American dish, sesame chicken. He ordered a plate with rice and announced that they met his expectations–the sweet and sticky flavor was classic and unmistakable.
I had a Barry Schwartz moment as I perused the selections on hand at a rice and fixins stall.
After a bit of hemming and hawing, I settled on the Thai braised pork belly with hardboiled eggs (25). The appearance of “Thai Pakow” bore an uncanny resemblance to thit kho, one of my all-time favorite Vietnamese dishes. The pork pieces were smaller than the ones in thit kho, but just as tender. Although I wanted to love it, the dish’s overwhelming sweetness was too much for me. I guess syrupy meats just aren’t my thing.
While the Astronomer ate his chicken and I ate my sweet meat, Lush sipped down a cool glass of Matoom juice (10 baht). Matoom is Thai for bael fruit. It was sorta sweet, sorta sour, and 100% hydrating.
For dessert, Lush and I visited a man with forearms of steel.
He served us up mini-scoops of coconut ice cream topped with lychees, pineapple and corn nibblets (10 baht). Ever since my friend Britta told me about the corn ice cream she sampled while studying abroad in China, I’ve wanted to try the unorthodox combination. The verdict? Not bad at all. I’d buy a quart of cornbread-flavored ice cream with corn nibblet swirls any day.
From the outdoor market, we headed to the Royal Palace, where our eyeballs and skin were seared from the shiny buildings and relentless sun. The sites were beautiful but draining.
After we left the historic site, we meandered toward Chinatown. Not having stuffed our faces for at least three hours, we were ready to eat once again. Our first purchase of the evening was half a kilogram of Man Plums (60 baht). A cross between mangoes and apricots, these little plums were simultaneously sweet and tart. I do love trying new fruits!
Just a few steps away from the Man Plum dealer, we spotted a woman making several varieties of roti using eggs, bananas, sugar and condensed milk.
We opted for the basic roti made with an orange-colored “butter,” condensed milk and sugar (7 baht). The roti were served hot and crispy off the pan and wrapped in butcher paper to absorb the excess grease. The roti’s texture was a cross between naan and chapatti, while the sweet and creamy innards were nothing short of dreamy.
Even though I had a disappointing experience with grilled bananas the day before, I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I knew I was in for a treat when I saw a small crowd huddling around this vendor.
The hot-off-the-grill banana (5 baht) was firm but ripe and served with a caramelized palm sugar sauce that was salty and sweet. The combination was lovely.
As soon as I polished off the hot banana, I purchased a Thai iced tea (13 baht) to wash it all down. Served with crushed ice and a straw in a plastic bag, the tea was creamy and sweet as can be. The tea may have been too sweet for some, but it was just right for me.
Still on the search for a killer plate of Pad Thai, we stopped for dinner at Thip Samai (3/3 Mahachar Road, Phone: 022216280), an eatery specializing in the famous Thai noodles. I arrived at our destination not the least bit hungry, but still in the mood to feast—that can’t be healthy.
We shared one order of the restaurant’s special Pad Thai, which came with giant prawns, cuttlefish and green mangoes (120 baht). Bean sprouts, peanuts, fish sauce, hearts of palm, and limes were served on the side for diners to garnish.
This was perhaps the best Pad Thai I ate in Bangkok, but it wasn’t nearly as good as what I’ve eaten in the states. I wonder if the Pad Thai that I fell in love with is actually an Americanized version…probably.
We also shared a plate of the traditional Pad Thai (25 baht). It was pretty much the same as the special featured above, minus the juicy shrimps, cuttlefish, and mangoes.
As a follow-up to our Pad Thai-fest, The Astronomer ordered a huge bowl of wontons (40 baht) from a vendor nearby. Lush and I both frowned upon eating Chinese food while in Thailand and didn’t partake. The meaty dumplings and savory broth filled up The Astronomer’s bottomless pit for the time being.
As we walked toward the metro station to jet home, we stumbled upon a ginormous nighttime market selling food, electronics and junk. The market spanned at least five city blocks and was frequented mostly by locals. Even though The Astronomer was already full, the squid on a stick (20 baht) looked too irresistible to pass up. The squid was cut up into rings and served in a plastic bag with a chili sauce. It’s texture was Phu Quoc-tender, but the sauce wasn’t up to par.
Liana purchased a pomegranate sweet (20 baht) that was served with crushed ice. Whereas Vietnamese che is sweet and refreshing, I found this Thai rendition quite tasteless.
The Astronomer’s final treat of the day was a rainbow ice cream (10 baht). The flavors advertised included chocolate, orange, pandan, strawberry, and coconut. The ice cream turned out to be cold and sweet, but the flavors were nothing more than food coloring.
We went to bed satisfyingly stuffed.