Taste two sides of Thai street food in Bangkok

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Great Escape -

IT’S MID­DAY IN BANGKOK AND EV­ERY­ONE is con­tem­plat­ing the most im­por­tant de­ci­sion of the day: where to go for lunch. Some peo­ple will head to a back­street noo­dle stall for pad thai; oth­ers might dine in an old-fash­ioned shop­house on khao soy, a meaty pork broth, or kôw pàt, Thai-style fried rice, sit­ting on plas­tic chairs be­side the pave­ment as tuk-tuks and taxis buzz past. For din­ers at TheCOMMONS, the choice is more in­ter­na­tional, as this com­mu­nity space of­fers a smor­gas­bord of cuisines within its brushed con­crete walls, along with a yoga stu­dio, play cen­tre and a rooftop gar­den with grass lawn. Founded in 2016 by a Bangkok-born sis­ter and brother, Vicha­ree and Varatt Vi­chit-Vadakan, TheCOMMONS is lo­cated in Thong Lor, a neigh­bour­hood known for its trendy bars and high-rise apart­ments. ‘The idea be­hind TheCOMMONS was to pro­vide space for restau­ra­teurs and pro­duc­ers who would oth­er­wise strug­gle to pay the city’s ris­ing rents,’ says Wit­sawawit Chantawee­som­boon, or Tam, who works as a barista at Roots Cof­fee, TheCOMMONS’ in-house espresso bar. ‘It’s like be­ing part of a big fam­ily.’ A more tra­di­tional ver­sion of street food is on of­fer at Rot Fai Ratchada Night Mar­ket, where ev­ery evening rick­ety stalls fill the for­mer train yard and ven­dors cook up caul­drons of noo­dle soup, their hiss­ing woks filled with fried rice, green chill­ies and shrimp, plat­ters stacked with ra­zor clams, mus­sels, cock­les and soft-shell crabs. At one stall, din­ers sam­ple chicken skew­ers in a spicy peanut sauce. Next door, the chef stirs a vat of deep-fried fish­balls, while his wife fries up house crick­ets, bam­boo worms and gi­ant wa­ter bugs to a crunchy crisp, and tosses in salt and spices. It’s loud, chaotic and packed with of­fice work­ers, teenagers, sight­seers, fam­i­lies and lo­cals, all ea­ger to taste the evening’s of­fer­ings. At her curry stall, Kanok­wan Te­plert cooks recipes handed down from her mother and grand­mother – dishes like khua kling, a fra­grant dry meat curry, and gaeng phed gaang, a spicy red curry cooked with co­conut milk. ‘Peo­ple travel from all over Bangkok to eat our cur­ries,’ she says. ‘We give them the home­cooked taste they re­mem­ber from their child­hood.’ As night falls and neon lights be­gin to blink over­head, din­ers mi­grate south to­wards Yaowarat Road, a traf­fic-thronged thoroughfare in Chinatown. Here, street carts spe­cialise in Thai-Chi­nese cui­sine – crispy-skinned roast duck, spicy cur­ries and steamed pork dumplings. Smoke plumes out from the can­vas awnings and the warm air is thick with the aroma of bar­be­cu­ing meat, hot oil and fry­ing spices. By dawn, the din­ers will have eaten, the streets will have been swept and the stalls will have pulled up their shut­ters – but to­mor­row night, the feast will be­gin again.

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