Street food in Thailand

My trip to Thailand was full of culinary delights, the majority of them being from street food vendors. During our trip, the girls and I ate from several street food vendors (not enough in my opinion). The majority of these street food vendors were in Koh Samui, as we spent the most time there on our trip.

Street vendor selling banana roti in Fisherman's Village, Bophut, Koh Samui
Street vendor selling banana roti in Fisherman’s Bay, Bophut, Koh Samui

This street vendor was the first of my street food adventures in Thailand. Banana roti was one of the most popular street food items in Thailand we saw it in every location that we went.

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The street food was hitched to a scooter, which was the primary method of transportation for the food and their vendors. I still find it amazing that the sellers are able to lug around these heavy makeshift kitchens on the side of scooters.

Banana pancake with sweetmilk (40 baht)
Banana and coconut pancake (40 baht)

Street food in Thailand is ridiculously cheap. I paid 40 baht (just over $1 AUD) for this banana and coconut pancake. One thing I find fascinating about street food is being able to watch your food being prepared in front of your very eyes.

The banana pancake was pretty much a classic roti, with slices of banana folded throughout the middle, topped with dried coconut flakes, and drizzled with condensed milk. The roti was thick with a firm texture, accentuated by the soft, warm pieces of banana and mild sweetness of the condensed milk. My only complaint was that there weren’t enough coconut flakes for me to be able to taste them. It was pleasant to eat, but not good enough for me to buy it again.

The second item of street food I ate was a savoury dish. It was the best dish overall that I ate in Thailand, and it only cost 70 baht.

Salad with skewers for 70 baht
Salad with skewers for 70 baht

The skewers were also available on their own, with a spicy dressing that the vendor would put in a plastic bag. I opted to get mine with a salad and picked out several different kinds of skewers, including chicken, pork and fish. The woman’s English skills weren’t proficient enough to tell me some of the other kinds of meats that were being served, so technically I could have been eating anything- it was all delicious though. The salad was fresh and dressed with a spicy sauce with hints of chili and fish sauce. It was extremely spicy and J only ate a few bites before giving up because it was too spicy for her. Mine was so delicious I finished it all despite perspiring heavily throughout eating it.

Although I found the idea of having a makeshift kitchen hanging off the side of a scooter quite nifty, it also proved to be a problem as these street food vendors were in the habit of moving around to different places often. S had been about to buy her own bowl of skewers and salad when the woman selling these just drove away in a matter of 2 minutes.

Mine and J's bowl of salad + skewers
Mine and J’s bowl of salad + skewers

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Different kinds of meats on skewers
Different kinds of meats on skewers

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Street vendor from which I ate the best street food in Thailand
Street vendor from which I ate the best street food in Thailand
Skewers from street vendor in Fisherman's Bay
Skewers from street vendor in Fisherman’s Bay

 

 

Salad + skewers being prepared
Salad + skewers being prepared

Regrettably, I only got to eat this dish once. I did try looking for it again, but didn’t see this woman in Fisherman’s Bay again, and nor did I see any similar street vendors in Koh Samui, which was unusual as there were usually many similar street vendors selling the same foods; I saw at least 3 different street vendors selling banana pancakes per day.

Later that evening, the girls and I went to the night markets in Chaweng- the nightlife area of Koh Samui. In addition to food, there were also stalls selling clothing, cosmetics, and electronics.

Unlike the other street food vendors that we had seen in Koh Samui, the street food at Chaweng night markets were set up on tables, denying the vendors the ability to drive away- this made us feel all the better, knowing we could take our time to select food if we wanted.

Night markets in Chaweng, Koh Samui
Food stalls at Chaweng night markets, Chaweng, Koh Samui

The food here was cheap, starting from about 10 baht per item. There were also chairs and tables arranged for customers to sit and eat at. The food stalls at Chaweng night markets had a setup that was more like table service at a restaurant. We ordered at the stall of choice, but were told to take a seat and that the food would be brought to our table. We paid when the food was served.

Chaweng night markets
Chaweng night markets
Dinner at Chaweng Night Markets
Dinner at Chaweng Night Markets

I saw a stall selling skewers (my favourite) and decided to get crocodile and chicken. I am still in doubt as to whether I really ate crocodile that night though- as there were no crocodile skewers on display at the stall, I have no idea what it was meant to look like. The server at the stall pointed to the chicken skewers nearby and said he would make the crocodile skewers like that for me.

Skewers on display from the stall I bought from
Skewers on display from the stall I bought from- crocodile not on display
Crocodile skewers looked strangely like the chicken skewers marinated in yellow sauce on display at this stand
Crocodile skewers looked strangely like the chicken skewers marinated in yellow sauce on display at this stand

In addition to the crocodile skewer, I also ordered some chicken marinated in a red sauce.

Chicken I ordered from the night markets
Chicken I ordered from the night markets

The chicken I had ordered was de-skewered when it was brought to me, and served with a salad and sweet chilli sauce on the side. The sweet chilli sauce was unnecessary though, as the chicken was already marinated in a sweet, mildly spicy sauce. The salad was garnished with a thick, creamy mayonnaise. The chicken on its own was 40 baht.

Crocodile that strangely resembled chicken
Crocodile that strangely resembled chicken

Now came the confusing part. When the crocodile was presented, I noticed that it looked almost identical to my friend’s chicken skewer. It was all the more confusing as the two kinds of meat are said to have a similar texture and taste. My crocodile skewer cost 90 baht. The meat was thick, succulent and a little chewy. It tasted pleasant, but my stomach felt a bit queasy at the thought of eating crocodile, and the skewer was difficult for me to finish.

To this day, my friend and I still don’t know whether she ate crocodile or whether I ate chicken.

Street food in Thailand can differ depending on the time of day. At night, the most common street food being sold is charcoal grilled meat skewers, which I had the opportunity to eat on several occasions after clubbing.

Assortment of skewers at a street food vendor in Chaweng, Koh Samui
Assortment of skewers at a street food vendor in Chaweng, Koh Samui

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The kinds of meat on offer ranged from beef, chicken, pork, fish balls, sausages, and had some stranger cuts of meat as well, including chicken heart.

Cooking the skewers
Cooking the skewers
Bunch of skewers including sausage, chicken, chicken heart, and pork
Bunch of skewers including sausage, chicken, chicken heart, and chicken thigh

The bunch of skewers above cost me 140 baht, if I remember correctly. The skewers were all delicious and flavoursome, except for chicken heart. The texture and flavour of the chicken heart was a bit too strong for me, so S ended up finishing it for me.

Another makeshift kitchen perched on the side of a scooter- it never fails to amaze me!
Another makeshift kitchen perched on the side of a scooter- it never fails to amaze me!
Street vendor selling noodle soups in Fisherman's Bay, Bophut, Koh Samui
Street vendor selling noodle soups in Fisherman’s Bay, Bophut, Koh Samui

I was lucky to come upon this street vendor selling noodle soups in Bophut on our last day in Koh Samui.

Soups were split into different sections
Soups were split into different sections
Various condiments were also available
Various condiments were also available

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There was another customer who was being served his noodles by the vendor, while I looked on in curiosity and fascination at the contents being ladled into his bowl. I asked the vendor what the dark liquid was, to which he chuckled and replied “blood”. He must have seen the grimace on my face because he then followed up quickly by saying “delicious!”

I don’t know what animal’s blood they were serving up here, but I’d had pig’s blood before and didn’t fancy it that time so I decided to skip it on this occasion. The vendor’s English was limited, so this is another one of those scenarios where I have no idea what I was really eating- but hey, it was delicious, like he assured me it would be.

The soup had a thin, watery consistency with a mild meaty flavour. There were pieces of meat (could have been chicken or pork) with fish balls and bean sprouts. The noodles I had picked were vermicelli, although the vendor had another two kinds on offer as well. I paid 40 baht for this and was completely satisfied with what I had eaten.

The finished noodle soup, topped with bitter melon slices
The finished noodle soup, topped with bitter melon slices

In hindsight, despite the horror stories I had heard about street food in Asia, I never once got sick from eating street food in Thailand. All the street food I ate on this trip was ridiculously cheap and delicious. The only regret I have was that I didn’t get to eat it every day.

4 Comments

  1. I love street food! Can’t wait to eat it in Thailand when I’m there next month!

    1. You’ll have a ball with all the street food available 🙂

  2. I’m a fan of the banana pancakes too, but they often use the same flattop for sweet and savory pancakes. Let’s save tuna and honey for another life…

    1. Haha indeed they do! My friend ate a savoury pancake just after my banana one had been made though and thought it tasted fine.

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