Musings: Food Observations in Bangkok Part I

So as some of you may or may not be aware, I'm currently in Bangkok- one of my favorite cities in the world. There's a little bit of work stuff involved as to why I'm here but it's mostly just for fun and rest. It's been two years since I last stepped on Thai soil but things here are just as awesome as I remembered and still hot, hot, hot.

Perhaps due to the heat, I'm stuffing myself constantly with food. Not only is the food cheap here but it's just so dang good. I have yet to come across a Thai dish I haven't liked and I'm all the more fortunate because I have so many good friends here who are always taking me to eat some of the best local food there is. I'm already anticipating returning to Seoul weighing a few kg more but hey, no regret while I'm here. I say, bring on the next meal!

My camera is already filled with endless photo pictures which I hope to get around posting on FB or something (realistically this will probably be done in a few months or so... haha). But here's some observations I've been making and a few pictures to go with them.

View from Octave Bar



Sweets, Desserts and Drinks

For all of Korea's diverse cuisine, its desserts and drinks aren't exactly an inspired category. Sure, you've got your ddeok varieties (rice cakes), some traditional crackers, shikhye, sujeonggwa, and such but they aren't eaten on an everyday basis by most Koreans and, rather, more often consumed at special occasions or gatherings.

Here in Thailand though, desserts, sweets, and beverages are an atypical food that can be consumed breakfast, lunch, and dinner. "Let's go for some coffee" is the typical phrase said after a meal with friends in Korea while here I'm always surprised to hear my Thai friends saying at meal time they want to save room for dessert.

Everywhere you go, the desserts and drinks menu around here is quite extensive, sometime just as varietal as the main dishes and sides. From cakes to fruit-based desserts to different juices, Thailand can only be a paradise for those with a sweet tooth.

Coconut is heavily prevalent in the local desserts here as are other fruits such as mango and jackfruit. To be honest, I love me some fruit but I'm not too crazy about fruits and such with "earthy" flavors like coconut, taro, etc. But when you feel like you've walked around in a sauna with heat lamps turned on, bring on the sweet goodness- whatever flavor they may be.





 As much as I dislike dried coconut *shudder*, fresh young coconut is always such a great thirst quencher. All them natural electrolytes and sweet/salty goodness beats your gatorade and bottled coconut water any day. It's really in the Bangkok humid heat that the taste is unbeatable and unforgettable too.


I drink less coffee here since I'm always drinking away on other local stuff but coffee is also very good and very cheap here. Starbucks is my go-to chain coffee store in Korea but here there's absolutely no need to step into one since any local eatery, coffee store or dessert store will have some very good coffee at some really low prices. I should say, syrup is considered a given in all coffee drinks here, including regular black coffee it seems, so if you like your coffee pitch black, and bitter-strong (like my soul) then you should always preface it to the person taking your order around here.


I'm not a fan of cocktails in general (unless it's a freshly made, ice cold mojito...) but damn, does Bangkok make some great cocktails in general. Cocktails are usually made with a heavy hand on the alcohol here (just like how I like'em) which is good for me because I always send back cocktails if they're not strong enough (kind of an asshole move, I know, but I swear I always ask nicely). They also make use of local fresh ingredients like lemongrass, passionfruit, etc, and are quite innovative.

Passionfruit cocktail

Real bits of thyme inside

I was particularly impressed with a bar called Vesper near Silom which was just perfect in ambiance, creativity, and taste. They really make it a point to let you enjoy a full experience with your drink order with fun twists like oak smoke in a glass, edible "sea foam", and even alcohol  "high tea" for sharing.  It's slightly a bit louder than I would like in terms of noise level but everything else is excellent here. Their drinks menu, divided into appetizers, mains, etc, is as fun to read through as are their drinks. The servers are great and very helpful too!

Smoke!

Alice's 'Drink Me' Potion

"High tea" with a buzz

"The Hunt" with natural wood smoke, port, and chocolate cigar

I'm not a big desserts fan but even I can tell desserts here are done quite well. Whether its a fruity, creamy, chocolaty or whatever-y dessert flavor you're craving, you're spoiled for choice in this category and glitzy Thong Lor has some excellent places.



Even the neighborhood Swensens can be a great place to try desserts that are Western or Thai-based.


I've been thinking why Bangkok is so big on the sweet flavors and I've been theorizing it's the sweltering, humid heat around here. Many of my friends know elsewhere I rarely eat desserts or sweet drinks but when I'm out and about here and sweating away, I can actually feel my blood sugar levels dropping and I find myself actually seeking out something not only cold but sweet....which is why I find myself so often buying things like iced tea, juices, ice desserts and such.

I suppose it's that longing for something refreshing and sweet even in Korea's summers that draws folks to get pahtbingsoo all the time. As amazing as the hot dishes are in Thailand, the desserts and drinks are also quite amazing so give them proper attention while you're here!

Where are the Chopsticks?

"Asian food" for Westerners usually conjures images of Chinese take out boxes and wooden chopsticks but some may be surprised to know that chopsticks are less prevalent on the table when it comes to many SE Asian countries.

Here in Thailand too, the preferred choice of utensils for eating are a fork and spoon. The utensils are held in both left and right hands with the fork usually being turned sideways to help scoop the food from the plate onto one's spoon and then eaten. Of course, chopsticks are still used in Thailand too but usually with noodle based dishes.


Chopsticks have always been my favorite utensil to eat as I love the flexibility and control I have in eating, whether I'm picking out the things I want to eat to spearing things if I have to (though this latter use of chopsticks is usually frowned upon). So it always initially takes me some getting used to at first with the good ol' fork and spoon when I'm here. On the other hand, I think the few seconds more it takes in the eating process with a fork and spoon as well as the use of both hands somewhat gives you a little bit of leeway to think about and ponder more on what you're eating as you concentrate on getting that morsel of food from plate to mouth. It's a bit more labor intensive but perhaps that's a good thing to prevent me from stuffing my face even faster were I to have chopsticks on hand...

Me after inhaling my third plate of food at a local market near Chong Nonsi.
Were I armed with a pair of chopsticks, I'm sure I would have inhaled the food in 80 seconds or so. Good thing the fork and spoon slows me down to 2 minutes or so haha.


The Exotic and Strange Fruits of Thailand

Thanks to multiculturalism and growing demand for international cuisine, you can get a taste of most major international cuisine and a taste of their respective unique flavors in Korea too but fresh fruits and vegetables from abroad are difficult to come by and/or expensive...

...which is why I've thoroughly been enjoying myself gorging on the various fruits of the region.

Passing by a fruit stall here, you almost would think some alien had crash landed on Earth and were selling food from his/her native planet. The fruit here are incredibly diverse in color, texture, and size.

Bananas, pineapples and mangoes are just about the only things most Westerners might recognize at a fruit stall here.

Some of the unique fruits I've had so far include:

Salacca. These oval-shaped fruits grow in clusters and are covered with a really spiky hard shell. I tried peeling one to try but ended up only being laughed at my yelps from the spikes on these little buggers. Inside, however, is a soft, and yellow fleshy fruit which has a really bold and sweet taste. The taste is difficult to describe but almost tastes artificial and reminiscent of a candy flavor. 

I'm eager to try some more but darn those spikes!

Salacca. These guys definitely makes you work to gobble them up.

Longan isn't exactly the sexiest looking fruit there is. It almost looks like mini potatoes growing together in a bunch.


But give them a little pinch on their ends to peel the thick skin and you'll uncover a morsel of goodness inside that's really sweet and juicy with a wonderful fragrance. The seeds are really bitter however... like grapefruit peel x 10000000000000000000000 so make sure to leave those out!


And of course, mangosteen. They've begun making a showing in Korea too (like at the recent wedding I attended) but never are they fresh like they are here.

I happen to come right in mangosteen season apparently which is why they are so prevalent right now in Bangkok's marts and stalls.


I love the rich red hues of the skin when you peel the shell and the glowing white fruit nestled inside.


Among the fruit variety, mangosteen definitely is one of the beauties and provides as much pleasantry to the eyes as in its delicate, sweet taste.


Sometimes it tastes apple-y, other times pear-y, other times like a gorgeously scented flower. But man, are you a real stunner, mangosteen. God must have really put in a little more time and effort in your creation.


More observations to come!

Comments

  1. 5555 You're Thonglor Namja ^^"
    Have you try DURIAN yet? Now it's durian season! Durian will make your body hot (with high calories!) and make sure you have mangoesteen to cool down
    Warning!!!-don't drink alcohol after having durian
    Have fun and enjoy King and Queen of fruit! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. 5555 You're Thonglor Namja ^^"
    Have you try DURIAN yet? Now it's durian season! Durian will make your body hot (with high calories!) and make sure you have mangoesteen to cool down
    Warning!!!-don't drink alcohol after having durian
    Have fun and enjoy King and Queen of fruit! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gym! Im about to try Durian now! Ahhh but I had alcohol before... if I die its Pops fault! Ill update with my first Durian experience soon....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good to see you enjoy Thaifood and thaifruit ...I'm your thai fan on this bloog...and hope you enjoy more day here ^^

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi I can't remember the name of it but that's not longan.. Google long an again to see how it really looks like.

    ReplyDelete

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